My window to the world

The broken help desk problem (Twitter will not fix it, you have to do it from inside)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Aug-2011 12:23

Social media Online channels cure everything! Twitter Social media help is here for you!

Twitter is a 140 char medium, and it seems people can't just get a tweet for what it is trying to convey (a personal opinion). Some people take it as a personal offence if something bad regarding an industry or activity is said - even when not directed at them. And some people expect a dissertation in 140 chars. So here is my "extended version".

It started when I posted this tweet: "Most annoying sentence used on Twitter is 'Sorry, how can we help?'... What about start with better, faster customer service to everyone?"

This is what I think. Extending that sentence, service providers' help desk experience is so broken that people gets to Twitter (and other venues like Facebook, Geekzone, etc) to complain, and only then get some action from the online team that rush with a "Sorry you are having problems, how can we help?".

My tweet came from years of reading about help desk interactions on Twitter and Geekzone. Mostly of what I've read are horror stories. Usually there's a long wait (45 minutes is not unheard of, sometimes hours), a promise of a call back (that never happen), fault details that are never logged and when customer calls back the help desk says "this is the first I hear about it", the "Contact Us" pages that are supposed to get people in contact with the Help Desk via email, but no replies even come back and so on.

So, my thought on "how can we help" is still "improve your customer service experience and make it work". This is not for telcos only, but all industries.

After my tweet, I got a reply from Paul Brislen, TUANZ CEO: "because usually that's the first time you hear the customer has an issue. Blissful ignorance before that point."

It may be. Sure, there are some cases in which customers don't even take the time to call the help desk. But that's not always the case.

Why would some customers go to online channels first instead of calling the help desk? Because they suspect no results will come out of that contact, and a friend of a friend told her "to post on Twitter, it's like a priority queue".

To the customers: this is the wrong approach folks, because it's not helping the provider to "build a case". If you call the help desk and get a call logged, then with time there's a wealth of knowledge that can help everyone else.

To the providers: if customers call the help desk, but nothing is logged, then the help desk is not helping themselves (except for creating the illusion of "quick resolution" and "high number of cases closed")*.

Customer service using online channels (I dislike "social media") have a seemingly priority tag assigned. Sorry, but it looks like they are there to put out fires so their reputation is not too damaged.

Of course online channels can be used, for example as crowdsourced data sensor network, allowing providers to collect data indicating something is wrong. For example Telco A sees a wave of people complaining about broken services, for example slow iTunes downloads or intermittent problems accessing This is probably faster and more accurate than their own data sensors in pointing out a bottleneck to the local distribution network, or a problem with their proxy servers.

Strangely I don't see this happening much, yet. If it is then it's not publicised.

There are many problems with "support" on Twitter and other channels. Authentication is one - how do you know this is the customer who can actually take actions on this account? Or how do you even know this is the actual customer, not some impersonator? Then it's the technical problem, because it's really hard to get some meaningful troubleshooting information on 140 characters. But most importantly it is probably extremely hard to scale support on Twitter.

So, please fix your help desk. Provide excellent customer service, then I'd really believe you are using social media online channels for things other than putting out fires.


* Some time ago there were reports of mobile data connection problems with Vodafone and subsequent discussion. I might be wrong (Vodafone welcome to post in the comments), but from what I found in talking to people, customers would call to log a fault, help desk would ask the customer to turn off the handset, remove the battery, wait five minutes and turn the phone on again. It would always "fix the problem" so no no fault logged. In my opinion the mobile operator missed the important information that a lot of people, with different handsets were having connection problems. It wasn't just one model. It wasn't just in one specific location. It was spread across the country. Until someone wrote about it with detailed information and then there was a scramble to get things fixed. This is just an example of not using the knowledge collected from help desk contacts for its advantage.

I’m on heello too

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Aug-2011 11:16

Yes, it's true. The Twitpic crowd has launched You can find and follow me at

P2P will not be illegal in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Aug-2011 14:56

I've seen some comments around saying P2P is illegal come 1st September and the new copyright law is enacted.

To be clear: P2P is not illegal. It's the distribution of copyrighted material without the proper rights to do so that it is.

P2P can also be used for software distribution as well as distribution of content that is no longer copyrighted, or content whose authors decided to make freely available (even if they still retain copyright).

Here are two web sites where you can find content legally available through P2P (torrents):

500,000 replies in forums and the winners...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Aug-2011 12:24

When I started Geekzone a few years ago I didn't think I was going to meet so many good people around here.

With time and the help of an entire community, in special our volunteer moderators, Geekzone managed to capture a good audience in New Zealand and overseas. Numbers continue to go up, and discussions in our forums continue to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every month. Those visitors come mainly from New Zealand, but also from U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK and smaller numbers from other countries.

I managed to make new friendships that span the globe. People who I've met over the years in our pizza evenings, coffee meetings and conferences everywhere.

When I saw we were approaching 500,000 replies in our forums, I contacted some of the local telco/tech companies and passed the hat around, asking for some prizes to distribute. The response was really good as you can see below

I intentionally did not announce there would be prizes, because we wanted some genuine post to win. Also we decided to give some "consolation" prizes to people who got close to 500,000 but not quite. So here are the winners and prize list!
To all three winners congratulations, and to everyone else thank you from the team for making Geekzone a great place.

Old UPS out, new UPS in: Eaton

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Jul-2011 20:19

In the last two months a couple of my Belkin UPS (800VA and 1200VA) died. More likely the battery needed replacement anyway. But couldn't come in worst time - with all the power cuts in Wellington due to heating requirements because of the extreme cold, our desktops here at the Geekzone Home Office had a bouncy night...

So  decided to let me try a couple of their UPS. One small Eaton 3S UPS and the rack mounted/tower Eaton 5PX 1500.

While the Eaton 3S was easy - plug to the wall and plug the couple of devices to it, the Eaton 5PX is a different beast altogether. First it comes in a 35 Kg box. The box comes with sliders and feet, so you chose rack mounted or tower form factor. It's a bit noisy because of a fast fan. But it packs a punch. Just look at the LCD pictures for the up time lower in the post:

Will be using these for a while here and see how they perform...

Atlantis space shuttle: thanks for all the fish!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jul-2011 22:06

Amazing infrared shot of Atlantis (NASA Space Shuttle) after its last landing just few minutes ago:

And a side shot:

Well done Challenger, Endeavour, Discovery and Atlantis. Well done to the crew and control. Amazing to have seen the first flight, and to have seen the last one, over 29 years of space exploration.

Scope of New Zealand copyright law changes limited to P2P file sharing

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jul-2011 11:59

Sharing a release received from InternetNZ today:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) has obtained clarification from the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) that the intention of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 is to cover copyright infringement by online file sharing using peer-to-peer protocols only.

The new notices and penalty regime introduced by these amendments is not intended to cover video/music streaming websites or online file lockers.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar says, "What this means is that watching videos on YouTube or via blinkx, streaming music from Grooveshark, and downloading from online file lockers like MediaFire and 4shared will not be subject to the changes introduced by the amendments to the law coming into force on 1 September 2011. MED's confirmation addresses some of the questions that arose when we were looking at the law changes in detail".

"It keeps the scope of the changes narrowly focussed on copyright infringements by online file sharing via peer-to-peer networks and applications. This will be welcomed by many people. However, despite the intentions behind the law, the definitive interpretation will come from decisions made by the Copyright Tribunal and Courts if this aspect of the law is ever tested."

"Streaming websites and online file lockers typically provide copyright owners with a more direct means of enforcing their rights.

Generally, this is achieved by copyright owners providing a notice directly to the website that infringing content is appearing on the site and needs to be removed. For example, YouTube has tools like Content ID and a Copyright Verification Tool that enable copyright owners to easily identify, control, and even remove their content from the site."

"This clarification doesn't mean that copyright infringements by means other than peer-to-peer applications and networks aren't covered by the Copyright Act. The Internet Service Providers' liability provisions inserted by the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 of general infringement (92B), storing infringing material (92C), and caching (92E) still continue. Rights owners can continue to seek enforcement through the Courts. However, they can't use the new streamlined provisions of sections 122A to 122U for alleged infringements relating to Internet Service Providers' storage and caching of infringing content."

"This is a good time to emphasise that peer-to-peer technologies aren't in themselves bad. Quite the contrary. These technologies provide significant advantages for many legitimate uses, such as eliminating the single point of failure typical of client-server systems and distributing computing resources. For example, peer-to-peer technologies are extensively used by popular services like Facebook, Skype and Twitter as well as for efficient data distribution in scientific research and Linux distributions. So blocking peer-to-peer protocols rather than focussing on copyright infringement in response to the law changes is a bad response."

Explanatory note

"Streaming" is a technique for transferring data so that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream. This allows a person to start watching online, say a video or TV show, without waiting to get the whole file. Typically, streaming is used in a one-to-many situation. "Peer-to-peer" on the other hand is a distributed architecture where peers are both consumers and suppliers. People can connect directly with other people and is therefore used in a many-to-many situation.

Examples of peer-to-peer protocols include Gnutella and BitTorrent.

Popular peer-to-peer software includes uTorrent, BitComet, FrostWire, Ares, LimeRunner, and Vuze.

Online file lockers are ways for storing and sharing a wide variety of files online. Examples of online file lockers include MediaFire and 4shared.

How Leica lenses are made

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Jul-2011 11:58

A brilliant video showing the technology behind the manufacture of Leica lenses. It explains why lenses are still so expensive:

The (no) joy of FedEx logistics

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Jul-2011 10:31

A friend sent me a box via FedEx. She's in Hawaii, where FedEx must have a hub. I think so because every time I track a FedEx parcel coming to New Zealand it goes through Honolulu before landing in Auckland.

When she sent me this parcel from her home state I thought "great, this will be even faster than other parcels coming from one of the other continental states". Just look at the picture, and  you will see how wrong I was:

FedEx logistics crazy routes...

Yep, from Hawaii, to two different locations in California, then back to Hawaii before coming to New Zealand. What a waste of time there. I guess it will not make it to the estimated delivery date, FedEx?

The HP Discover Blog Index

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Jun-2011 16:00

HP invited a group of bloggers (including myself) to attend the HP Discover 2011 conference in Las Vegas. The infrastructure provided was incredible: accommodation, transport, special blogger lounge on the exhibition floor, communications, gatherings, reserved seats to all keynotes (including power and ethernet connections), plus the opportunity to meet many HP and partners' executives at the lounge during "coffee talks" available to our group only.

The number of posts still coming out of the group is quite large. So I decided to put together a "link blog". The DiscoveringHP is a meta blog listing all posts I could find, coming from this group, plus a blogroll where you can find your way to their blogs' main pages.

I understand some are still working on other posts, and I will update the DiscoveringHP blog with more links as they become available. I will also try and keep it alive during the upcoming HP Discover 2011 event in Vienna (Austria) - the European version of HP Discover.

freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

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