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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 smh.com.au? 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.



Other related posts:
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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


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

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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