Archive for Communication

4 Reasons Why Customer Service Is Clumsy On Twitter

May I not help you?

It’s a customer service rep’s nightmare. Twitter. I can imagine this poor guy in front of his computer screen, blood pressure rising as the customer service Twitter feed that he is supposed to oversee updates itself as fast as his heart is beating. This is the problem that is probably going to shorten the lifespans of a lot of customer service reps whose companies have decided they want to ‘Go Twitter’.

But why is Twitter such a bad tool for customer service?

1. Twitter is Low-Bandwidth

A high-bandwidth medium, like the telephone, can convey the richness of an exchange between a customer service rep and the customer. Emails and help forums come a close second, with high capacity for textual explanation without the need to link to generalised help pages that leave the customer scouring for relevance.

Twitter is primitive: in the sense that everything is in a linear, simplified textual flow with no direct, one-step way to solve any technical problem more complex than ‘restarting the program’ or ‘going out and smell the roses’.

2. Twitter is Misunderstood by Companies

Some companies see Twitter as a quick fix to brand and relationship building – a magic pill on a magic bandwagon. Too often, they do not understand Twitter enough or plan strategically (as they would have in other things) because they think that they can just jump right in and then feel around only afterward. Without strategic planning prior to a commitment to social media, resources are not going to be optimised. You get 7 staff to deal with 17 tweets per minute, and suddenly a 30-minute call on hold actually sounds good to the customer.

3. Twitter is Misused by Customers

Increasingly, customers are thinking that Twitter is the Holy Grail for customer service. It is not. Just like how monorails are not the pinnacle of public transportation excellence. Some customers just cannot peel themselves away from the illusion that Twitter can provide a ‘one-on-one’ customer service experience. Others equate the ease of twittering to the ease of feedback for the company in question. Customers get complacent, unreasonable and irresponsible: those who have once bothered to Google now treat Twitter like Google and expect the same (if not higher) quality and promptness of response. Worse, Twitter’s 140 character limit encourages superfluous complaints that have not gone through much thought in the minds of the customers typing those tweets. It poses a real nightmare for reps: how to separate real concerns from the lazy ones.

4. Twitter is not made for Customer Service

In customer service offices around the world, elaborate and complex software programmes and sorting systems actively classify and categorise incoming customer service enquiries. Twitter? Enough said.

Convenience is bad rationale for a primordial way of conducting customer service through Twitter. It’s like jostling with thousands in a crowded room with the customer service rep trying too hard to stay alive in the middle to answer queries well. Good customer service is worth the salt that more traditional modes of communication can offer. Once again, it is wise to bear in mind that Social Media channels are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, especially not when it comes to building good customer relations.

The fallacy of automatic confidentiality statements in company email

It is a standard measure taken by all organisations big and small around the world, but having confidentiality statements attached to outgoing emails by default may in fact be “dangerous”, according to Mark Cenite, Acting Division Head of Communication Research at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (SCI) in Singapore.

Cenite, who holds a Juris Doctor degree in Law from Stanford University, said that “such blanket statements may be rendered redundant” on the grounds that it had also previously been attached to emails that contain non-confidential and trivial information.

“Legally, since the statement appears on every single email, it loses its function to indicate and classify which messages are truly confidential and is of little help,” he said.

According to Cenite, who teaches the fundamentals of confidentiality law to SCI undergraduates, maximum legal protection for sensitive information in emails can only be obtained when senders manually and explicitly indicate the confidential nature of the email.

This can be as simple as typing the word ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ at the beginning of the confidential message.

The lack of utility of the blanket statement, Cenite said, could also “give a false sense of security to people who are communicating confidential information”.

Despite the limited legal value of the measure, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore had decided to automatically attach confidentiality statements for all outbound staff and faculty emails from October 6 onwards.

Chew Kheng Chuan, Chief University Advancement Officer of NTU, said the “incorporation of confidentiality statements into emails will remind faculty, staff and recipients the basic privacy expectations that are part of accepted best practices.”

To this, Cenite said: “(The school) is following a norm but that might not be very helpful.”

He proposed a way to better protect the confidentiality of emails.

Cenite said: “Rather than pursuing the blanket approach, I would suggest that they (the school) educate faculty and staff on the basics of confidentiality or give them tips on how to distinguish confidential information.

“It is not a very difficult thing for any organisation to do,” he said.

The trouble with 2012

On a 20-feet wide video screen plastered on the side of a grey-walled building in the heart of Singapore’s shopping district, images of a crumbling Christ The Redeemer and other world landmarks in the process of being mangled beyond recognition are played, over and over again.

The cities that were being swallowed up whole become numerous reflections on the many irises of those caught in the assault of doomsday imagery.

Around the world, this scene repeats itself regularly. From neon-doused Tokyo to faded and nondescript suburban malls across America, people stop to take in the bombastic trailer of 2012 that often comes with full sound – hard to ignore even if you do not like it.

Millions of cinema-goers worldwide are exposed to that same trailer every day.

Online, there is a burgeoning discussion about the significance of the ancient Mayan calendar end-date occurring on December 24, 2012, which a growing community quite solidly believes denotes the end of the world.

This is something that according to Roland Emmerich, director and co-writer of 2012, used as “fact” in his film.

The 53-year old German, who had helmed Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, said the year 2012 phenomenon on the Internet inspired his latest movie.

Referring to him and his production crew, Emmerich said: “We thought ‘wow’, this is a really great thing because if so many people believe that the Earth ends (sic), it kind of somewhat correlates and connects (the audience to the film).”

He added: “Recently, there is a pessimism in the world like there is no glorious future, so (audiences) are kind of drawn to end of time scenarios.”

Herein lies my worry: with filmmakers like Emmerich pandering to pessimism and negativity and with audiences oblivious to their intentions, films like 2012, even without explicit sexual acts or acts of violence, contribute negatively to society.

While I understand that it is not the role of creative arts to maintain social good, it is important to note that such films cannot be considered art, nor is figuring out how to aesthetically make skyscrapers fall particularly creative.

Nor is entertainment about feeding peoples’ fears and making many feel uncomfortable.

In making 2012, Emmerich and his team displayed ambivalence toward audience well being – based upon firm theories of social psychology – and plump for big box-office gains.

The most elementary of the social psychology theories is perhaps the self-fulfilling prophecy. On a personal level, the notion of future events being biased towards how we view them is at once both compelling and convincing. Collectively, individuals may risk being influenced to commit to negative decisions to the detriment of their communities.

Owing to this, pessimism and negativity do not deserve confirmation, most definitely not on a mass medium. Those with strong beliefs, principles and faith systems will not be affected by 2012’s doomsday scenarios, but those who are down and out and wandering in need of help could certainly use some positive reinforcements rather than being fed constantly with negative, insidious ones.

More complex is how the portrayal of human life as inconsequential may impact audience psychological well-being. This is an interesting direction of study for communications scholars. I remember the disgust that is Transformers: two full-length movies that degrade human beings to the role of props.

The Day After Tomorrow was a fine cautionary tale about global warming, albeit blighted by an array of scientific inaccuracies. Independence Day was a well-executed science fiction film whose plot served as a stirring metaphor for overcoming adversity. By the looks of it, I cannot see any redeeming message about 2012; I can only see it earning a hell lot of money at the box-office.