Social Media & Public Customer Service

There’s obviously more to running a business’ social media account than there seems to be. Otherwise we’d all be at it. But it seems that some businesses don’t really get it. I think it’s one of those things that your business either does, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then (maybe) you’re missing an opportunity and (almost certainly) you will make some people on Twitter very annoyed:

“OMG! Like, [Brand X] isn’t even on Twitter! Talk about backward! Ugh!”

Those individuals are perhaps forgetting that there’s a whole other world out there that doesn’t rely on social media in the same way that it relies on oxygen, and gets on with life just fine.

But if your business does do social media, then the expectation is that it has to be all in. There is no halfway house here. That’s even worse than not doing social media at all. And you’ve got to do it correctly. History is littered with horrendous social media own goals from just about every company ever, as the hoards of Offendatrons seeking outrage at the slightest misinterpretation or misplaced word in those 140 characters are ready to jump – loudly – all over your case.
Yes, social media is the public face of your company to anyone using Facebook or Twitter, and if you mess up there, you mess up in front of (potentially) hundreds of thousands of individuals, some of whom may once have been future customers.

Oops.

Fortunately, there’s always another social media outrage bus to jump onto, and the public’s memory is short, meaning that these ‘scandals’ don’t last long.

But what if you were to use these facts to your advantage? What if you were to brand all your company’s easily-distinguishable, bright red vehicles with your twitter handle, inviting public engagement, and then used the public face of twitter to appear caring and on the ball when negative comments came your way, but then – once people had swiftly moved on – actually did nothing about addressing the problem?

Step forward then, catchily-named Sport 24 hrs Taxis – they’re @Sport24hrsSA on twitter. And I was “rather disappointed” by the quality of the driving and maintenance on one of their vehicles last week. When I contacted them on twitter, they replied within 5 minutes. Evidently, Sport 24 hrs Taxis are one of those “all-in” companies who “do” social media.

1Fullscreen capture 2016-03-23 093954 AM

Impressive response time. And  taking it private sounds like a plan, because actually no-one else really cares about the outcome, which will surely be something along the lines of “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”, right?

There was a hitch though – Twitter rules mean that I couldn’t DM them (send them a direct message), because they didn’t follow me on the popular microblogging service. Silly people.

Still, there are other ways to get in touch with me, as I let them know, (right after I had made the kids some dinner):

Fullscreen capture 2016-03-23 102840 AM.bmp

And so they got in touch with me and they said “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”.

Except: no.
No, they didn’t. 

I’m here to tell you that once their public facade had appeared caring, helpful and concerned, I’ve not heard a single word from them on any forum. No contact whatsoever. I’m using this blog to let you know that as far as I’m aware, they’ve done absolutely nothing about the broken brake light on Taxi 26, nor have they addressed the issue of the driver using his phone and weaving all over the road at 80kph past UCT. Because surely if they had done anything about it, they would have dropped me an email or contacted me on twitter to tell me that they had. No?

So, if you publicly comment on a company’s service on twitter and they tell you that they are going to follow up, please hold them to their word and make sure they do.

And, don’t be fooled by a company responding promptly to and promising to follow up on a negative comment or observation on twitter, because the quick public response followed by fokol aksie in private approach is all too easy to use when you want to make it look like you care, but you actually don’t give a toss.

Drink water fam

It has been a thoroughly depressing start to the year in South Africa: the economy and the currency are tanking, the exam results weren’t great (allegedly), the heatwave and drought are biting, farmers are suffering, prices are rising (and seem likely to rise further) and all in all there seems to be a very limited amount to look forward to right now.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the “speak first, think later” nature of social media, Facebook and Twitter have reacted poorly, with arguments over everything – some reasonable, many not – as the under- and over-sensitive members of society continue to find myriad reasons to offend and be offended. And if that wasn’t enough, the whole situation is generating thinkpieces and open letters like there’s no tomorrow.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?
Actually, won’t someone please just. think.

But there are still occasional gems if you’re willing to wade through the BS. The heatwave is hitting our neighbours in Botswana too, and the government there is warning their citizens on twitter:

Fullscreen capture 2016-01-08 084850 AM.bmp

I’m not sure that the science is absolutely right (in fact, I’m pretty sure that the science is absolutely wrong), but it does get the message across, which is the important thing.
And, because the sun actually is technically a bit closer to the guys in the picture, if you have such beasts in your back garden, make sure you look after them too.

Outrageous

It’s all the outrage these days to be outraged about things. It’s driven by social media, and fuelled by the websites of the local tabloids and the brain-dead, act-first-don’t-think-later people who populate those places. It seems that people are almost going looking for things to become upset by, a sort of Münchhausen’s Syndrome for the modern generation. And the things that people are getting outraged by are getting smaller, pettier and ever more difficult to predict.

We had this over a misread price label, we had outrage over the outrage over the reaction (or lack of reaction) to the Paris attacks, we’ve had people trying (but not really succeeding) to light outrage fires, and we’re going to have outrage over something else today. Probably.

But I got thinking (foolishly) about the stuff that we haven’t had outrage over yet. Stuff that, given the current climate for instant up-in-arms-ism, you’d have thought would have set the masses off.

  • The carbon footprint of the light aircraft that flies over Cape Town during rush hour, and over Newlands during rugby and cricket matches, towing a big advertising banner behind it.
  • The company that it advertises on the big advertising banner it tows behind it 90% of the time, which is a lap-dancing club.
  • People wasting water. As the so-called “water crisis” bites harder in SA, why has no-one come up with the #watershaming hashtag yet? When we had no electricity, people were quick to point out those being wasteful. With water shortages in 4 (is it 5?) provinces already, why has the same not happened with water?
  • The police vans that push their way through the traffic on the M3 each morning, taking inmates from Pollsmoor prison to court.
  • iTunes. All of it.

And that’s just for starters.

I’m both surprised and irritated that these things haven’t been considered adequate fodder for widespread outrage. Not least because I’d like to see something done about iTunes.

This weekend: observations

Social media hasn’t been a pleasant place to be this weekend. That’s why I’ve pretty much avoided it, dipping in only occasionally to get the latest updates and to see what other people have been saying; sitting on my hands, merely observing. I don’t have the answers to the sort of thing we saw happen in Paris on Friday evening: I’m actually pretty sure that no-one else does either. But social media, with its instant, apparently consequence-free soundbites is hardly the best place for sensible discussion on big matters like these. It has, however, proven to be an interesting social experiment and a wonderful indication of people’s humanity, or lack of it. Some of the stuff I’ve seen has been fairly repugnant – it’s made me reconsider some people’s previous statements on many other things, and it has given me some insight on how I should view their future viewpoints as well.

Specifically, I’ve seen that France, as an example of “The West”, “deserved it”.
I’ve watched as people have suggested that it would be right to use nuclear weapons against IS.
I’ve seen, countless times, that the media only concentrate on violence in “The West” – ignoring the events that occurred in Baghdad and Beirut. On that, perhaps stop watching Western media, in much the same way that I stopped watching Look North when I got fed up just hearing what was happening in Leeds. I’m quite sure that Iraqi, Lebanese and Middle Eastern media generally have disproportionate reporting as well. Go watch them for some of the time. But honestly, don’t watch Western TV news and use Western-based social media the day after the biggest attack on France since World War 2 and expect to hear about much else.
I noted, with some dark amusement, the suggestion that Britain should “ban the burqa”, citing examples of the Netherlands and France as leaders in this policy. Yes, and that’s worked really well in at least 50% of those nations.
I’ve been told, over and over again, from every side, how I should react, what I must and must not say, what’s acceptable to think and what is not. No, thank you.
I’ve seen incredulity that a passport could have apparently survived a suicide bomb. People seem to think that everything nearby simply ceases to exist. Science says otherwise.
I’ve watched as the traditional conspiracy theorists theorise conspiratorially: it was a false flag, it was Israel, it was merely a government plot to push for more control in their homelands, more bombing abroad, more restrictions on immigration.
I’ve seen people say “don’t blame religion”. No. Of course, don’t blame every individual from one one specific religion, but please don’t insult me by telling me that I must pretend that religion has nothing to do with this.

As I have said, I don’t have the answers. But, importantly, neither do any of those other people who have been sharing their differing opinions. That’s not to say that they can’t do so. I’m lucky enough to come from and to live in countries which allow their citizens to speak freely. But after watching the hateful exchanges on Facebook and (more so) Twitter this weekend, I’m reminded of the old adage: Speak Only if You Can Improve Upon the Silence.

I didn’t believe I could, and so I chose to keep quiet. I wish a lot of others had done so too.

Flight tips for idiots

Overshare. No, I’m not (just) talking about the locker room conversations about the after-effects of your recent curry, I’m talking about the stuff people choose to post on their social media accounts.

People have amazing lives, don’t they? The happy happy joy joy stuff that gets shared on Facebook tells us so, be it yet another amazing dinner at that amazing restaurant, the amazing results of your amazing child at their amazing school, or the amazing trip to that amazing place that you’re about to take on that amazing plane. We’re all guilty of it to a greater or lesser extent.
But overshare can be dangerous – be it sharing pictures of your children (I think that this one is a bit dramatic, but that’s more down to the extrapolation by the author; the points within are valid) – or, as Brian Krebs told us recently – putting a photo of your boarding pass onto the internet. Because then people can find out loads about you, just by using the barcode and an online barcode reader like this one.

Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day).
I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.

The Star Alliance, by the way, is a group of 27 member airlines, offering mutually beneficial deals to passengers using their services. It has nothing to do with Darth Vadar. Yes, I was also disappointed.

No-one is going to be able to kidnap your children if you share your boarding pass, but with full access to your travel plans, they could easily change details of your flights, steal frequent flyer miles or work out when you are out of town. And together with that photo you shared of your amazing new 72″ TV, that last one could be valuable information.

The thing is, it’s rather unlikely that anyone would ever use this information against you. But without victim blaming, if they did, you should be fully aware that you could have stopped it happening by just not showing off about your amazing trip to New York.