Why are corporations so paranoid, Telstra?

Telstra screenshot: click to embiggenWith all their constant worrying about whether people would recommend them or not, like this example from Telstra, I’m starting to think that most big corporations are paranoid psychotics — and not in a good way.

The other day I conducted a perfectly routine transaction at a Telstra Shop. I cancelled a mobile broadband service and replaced it with a different one. As with many businesses, my visit was followed up with a brief survey, “Please tell us how you feel.”

There were four questions, but none of them actually asked me how I felt:

Is your new Telstra service working? If you answer ‘no’ to this question, we will present you with options to get in contact with Telstra to resolve your issue on the next page.

OK, that’s fair enough. You need to know that the customer has a working broadband service. But the other three?

When you consider all aspects of buying and connecting your service — how likely are you to recommend Telstra to a friend or colleague?

Thinking about your in-store experience, how likely would you be to recommend the store to a friend or colleague?

What are the most important reasons why you gave us this score?

Guys, this goes way beyond “Does my bum look fat in this?” This is self-obsession. “What are you going to tell people about us? Why, what did I do?”

These constant questions about likelihood of being recommended are a sign of paranoia. I don’t care how you feel, I gave you money. Recommending you or not just isn’t a KPI for me.

How about you ask questions that reflect the customer’s needs and aspirations? Or even just concrete questions about how long I had to wait, whether staff were polite, or whether the service meets my needs?

Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids

[This is a slightly edited version of the article written for “Stories: from The Local Government Web Network”, issue 3, August 2011, which was distributed at the LGWN’s conference in Sydney on 18 August. Some material in this article also appears in Tweeting your way out of Paranoia, the closing keynote presentation I delivered.]

If you’re not yet at least experimenting with Twitter, the real-time social messaging service, you should be.

Suppress the corporate paranoia. It’s a lot easier than you might think. And while Twitter does get far more attention than its relatively small size might suggest — truly active Twitter users number perhaps 20 million globally compared with Facebook’s 750 million active users and counting — it punches well above its weight in terms of connecting with influential community members.

Twitter may not ever become the core real-time service used by the masses. Or if it does, it may only be for a few years. You only have to look at the last decade to see the then-leading MySpace surpassed by Facebook in 2008, just four years after Facebook was founded. Google’s launch of Google+ in June this year has generated plenty of speculation that the search and advertising giant’s foray into social networking will in turn wipe Facebook off the planet. Who knows?

There will always be some real-time social messaging service, however. Whether that’s Twitter as a stand-alone service, or whether we all end up using a real-time component of Facebook or Google+ or something that has yet to be deployed — none of that matters. The principles and practices of real-time messaging will doubtless end up being much the same.

Anything you might do with Twitter will be easy to migrate to any other real-time messaging system. The lessons you learn will carry across too.

Continue reading “Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids”

Tweeting your way out of Paranoia

I was invited to present the closing keynote at last week’s NSW Local Government Web Network Conference in Sydney. Give ’em something light at the end of the day, I was told.

Here’s the result.

My argument, such that it is, is that corporations like local governments avoid change because they’re paranoid, so they need to get themselves some mental health. I present an anonymous theory about “The Three Pillars of Mental Health”. Twitter, I then argue, is the perfect low-risk exercise for a government starting to involve itself in social media and social networking to start overcoming that paranoia. I then present some suggestions for how they might tweet.

Tweeting your way out of Paranoia from Stilgherrian on Vimeo.

The articled I mentioned in the video, the one I wrote about using Twitter, is Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids.

The Flip Video delivered fairly shitty footage of me speaking, as you can see, so I decided to keep the slides in screen for most of the time instead. James Purser recorded the audio.

Priority Club: so far, a frustrating loyalty scheme

Priority Club is a loyalty scheme for hotels including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and others. So far, my experience has been frustrating.

I joined around a year ago because I sometimes stay at Holiday Inn properties. The other day I finally got around to making sure all my previous stays were listed on my account and earning loyalty points. It turns out that most of my stays aren’t eligible. Some loyalty.

First of all, they rejected one stay because it was back in July 2010. “The Terms and Conditions of the Priority Club® program states that adjustments to accounts will not be made more than 60 days after the statement date,” they emailed. Yet their website allows you to go to the effort of entering claims going back a year. And then have them rejected.

“As an additional courtesy to our members, we will try to research stays up to six months past the current date (rather than the statement date) for possible credit,” their email also said. “Unfortunately, the stay in Potts Point, Australia in July 2010 does not fall within these guidelines and is ineligible for credit.”

So it’s either 60 days or 6 months, depending on their… mood? I’m confused.

I emailed Priority Club to say this was… Well, I said, “Gee thanks. That really makes me feel welcome and that it was worth my time doing the paperwork.” Their reply said that the reason the July 2010 stay wasn’t eligible because it was too cheap. “You did not earn credits from the said stay as the room rate was steeply discounted,” the wrote. Indeed, it was a cheap lastminute.com.au Secret Hotel deal, where you only find out the name of the hotel once you’ve booked so their brand doesn’t get publicly associated with cheapness.

In order to get credit for your stay in any of our hotel chains, you must pay a qualifying rate. Qualifying rates include the Corporate Rate/Flex Rate, Best Breaks, Great Rates, AAA Rate, AARP Rate, Government Rates. The rates (including the 21-day advance purchase, weekend web savers and internet saver rate) offer a discount of up to 60% but also carry coding which automatically earns Priority Club credit.

On the other hand, the non-qualifying rates include the Industry Discount, Employee Discount, Internet Rate (third party website or pre-paid channel), Entertainment Rate, etc. Priority Club® Rewards does not issue credit for room rates that are discounted more than 30% off the hotel’s regular room rate.

So there you have it. Now I’m both disappointed and confused. Like who the hell pays full rates for hotels?

A final irritation was the mismatch between Priority Club’s friendly application form and the clumsy bureaucratese of their emails. That’s hardly unique to them, of course. So many businesses only apply the Magic Make-It-Clear-And-Interesting Communications Stick to marketing materials, not their routine workflow communications that customers end up seeing far more frequently. But it didn’t help.

Links for 11 June 2009 through 13 June 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 11 June 2009 through 13 June 2009, gathered with tenderness and love. Especially love.

  • The Poll Cruncher | Pollytics: How trustworthy is the result of an opinion poll? This handy little tool allows you to enter the sample size and the result, and it gives you the margin of error. Assuming, of course, that the poll was conducted randomly and ethically in the first place.
  • What’s Your Professional Reputation? | Pollytics: Possum interprets the latest results from the Roy Morgan poll of public perceptions of ethics and honesty for various professions. As usual, newspaper journalists and car salesmen are down the bottom. Possum creates a nice little interactive graph showing how the result have changed each year since 1979.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four turns sixty | Inside Story: Brian McFarlane’s take on the 60th anniversary of the publication of Orwell’s classic. Somehow, while talking about film adaptations and connections to Phillip K Dick, he completely fails to mention Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
  • Dear Global Service Direct, where is my Snuggie? | Crikey: Crikey‘s coverage of their interactions with the Snuggie has the potential to become quite obsessive. In a good way. However this silly exchange of emails with Snuggie’s sellers contain one of the best customer service responses ever: “I wish I could do more but I am just a pawn.” Also, a graph.
  • From little things… | RN Future Tense: This episode of ABC Radio National’s Future Tense included an interview with ActionAid Australia’s Archie Law about Project TOTO, as well as some great stuff about innovative uses of telecommunications technology in Kenya and India. Internet via bus, anyone?
  • William Langewiesche on Somali pirates | vanityfair.com: Feature article on the incident where French luxury cruise ship Le Ponant was targeted by Somali pirates.
  • louder than swahili: The blog of Pernille, a 37yo Scandinavian woman who’s been living in Tanzania since 2007, and most recently before that spent 26 months among Sudanese refugees along and across the Ugandan border to Southern Sudan.
  • A Never Ending Race | absolutelybangkok.com: Bangkok in 2015 is a paranoid short yarn from Yan Monchatre, a French cartoonist and illustrator who’s resident in Bangkok.
  • The First Few Milliseconds of an HTTPS Connection | Moserware: A deep, deep explanation of what happens when your web browser creates an encrypted connection to a website.
  • mHITs: An Australian company providing the technology to pay by mobile phone. Currently seems to be limited to food and drink, and to a handful of venues in Canberra and Sydney.
  • The United Republic Consulate of Tanzania Consulate: This is, I hope, the official website of the Consulate for Tanzania in Melbourne. It’s not particularly reassuring when the home page’s title bar reads: “::Welcom to Company Name::”.
  • Rise of online mercenaries | Australian IT: Steven Bellovin, professor of computing science at Columbia University, predicts the rise of online mercenaries using techniques going back 200 years to letters of marque and reprisal, where governments commission somebody to attack another government’s assets with perfect immunity under law. The story’s a couple weeks old but still relevant.

How Dell fixed my monitor order

Dell logo

Last week I posted a long, angry piece describing how Dell screwed up an important order. Well, important to me. Pissily tiny to them. Within hours I received a phone call from Winston Robins, Dell’s Purchase Experience Manager for Australia and New Zealand.

What immediately impressed me is that he’d actually read what I’d posted, here and on Twitter, and instead of glossing over the mistakes he seemed genuinely interested in finding out what went wrong.

The short version is that the monitors I’d ordered were delivered as quickly as possible after that, and Winston kept me informed of progress at all times. He acknowledged Dell’s mistakes, and said the staff responsible were “coached” — which is a nice little euphemism, eh?

So what went wrong?

Continue reading “How Dell fixed my monitor order”