Over the last few days I have been relatively quiet on this blog, more than anything else because I have been doing plenty of thinking, along with drafting a bunch of blog entries, on venturing to re-design and redefine the corporate workplace as we know it seeing the huge impact social computing is causing on how we get work done. I already ventured to share some of those insights on previous blog posts, as you may have already noticed, but I’m now ready to share plenty more. So it’s time to pick up my regular blogging schedule and get down to business. How about if we take a look at the state of one of the most powerful use cases and success stories behind social networking and social media out there, Customer Service, and see whether we have got another winner or not… Hummm … not really. Colour me an skeptic then: “I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me” [by Charles Townshend]
For a good number of years, actually, for as long as I remember, my all time favourite default Web browser has been Opera. I know that may sound as pure heresy by those who live on Internet Explorer, FireFox or Chrome, for that matter, but, it’s true. I have always been in love with that browser from the very first moment that I used it on Windows and now on Mac. Something that I cannot say for any of the others, as they have taught me, over the course of the years, to not trust them much for doing an effective job or for making my Web work any easier. Opera did though.
For those folks who may not be familiar with Opera it’s that massive swiss knife-like Web browser that allows you to do a bunch of various different tasks and activities without leaving the application itself: email (Ha! Before you run into the wrong conclusions, like when I mentioned this over on Twitter, I still use *personal* email for private exchanges, specially, with those folks who loathe social networking tools or for those other who haven’t bought into it just yet, but it’s still my personal email, not work related); newsgroups and forums; Internet Relay Chat (a.k.a. I.R.C.); RSS / Atom newsfeeds; torrents, etc. etc. It’s all you need in a browser to help you become a powerful knowledge Web worker. And it works. It *does* certainly work. Till you lose 7 years of history.
That’s right! Last week, I got a prompt to upgrade Opera v 11.62 to v 11.63 on the Mac through the Mac App Store. Free upgrade, as usual, rightly embedded into the App Store experience for the first time *ever* and ready to take the plunge. And there I went, and there I lost 7 years of both personal and some work related stuff. Ouch!!! The upgrade went all right, or so I thought. No glitches noticed and in a matter of minutes I was upgraded. The problem though became apparent when, after starting the browser, I could have access to everything (Bookmarks, links, speed-dial options, etc. etc.), except the Mail folder. The folder that contained all of those personal private email messages, several hundreds, if not thousands, of RSS feed items, newsgroups, forum posts, and so forth. All of that completely wiped out. Gone! 1.76GB of data smashed as if they never happened.
Initially, I thought that the folder may have just been misplaced, or it may have been located elsewhere, but when trying to use Grand Perspective and WhatSize I just couldn’t locate that 1.76GB of disk space anywhere. Just anywhere. I looked and looked for a couple of days and nothing to be found. All deleted. Wiped out. Completely. No more available and slowly entering into panic mode at that time! One of the reasons why I have delayed blogging about it because you know how it goes as one of the golden rules for blogging: never blog when you are upset or angry. But I was. I *certainly* was. Right there, last week, I was prompted to upgrade to a new version of my all time favourite browser and right there it managed to destroy that trustworthy relationship of the last 7 years. Panic mode growing stronger by the minute. So I turned to Opera’s customer service hoping they might be able to help out. But, no, they couldn’t. In fact, they didn’t. Or worse, they never ever even responded! Talking about the power of Social Media in providing good customer support / service… Not!
I opened a Forum post at the Opera Forums for Mac users. 4 days later I’m waiting for the first response / reply from any of the support folks from Opera itself. Nothing has happened so far. So in an effort to get back to normal, I decided to reach out to them on Twitter and experience their customer support through social media channels. Just as inexistent, and still waiting for a response through a Mention, Forum Reply or whatever else. Yet, nothing:
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) April 19, 2012
I know at this point in time most of you folks may have been thinking that I’m making too much of a fuss with all of this, since I could just fire up my most recent copy of my data stored in my Time Machine, copy it across and move along. I did do that already and I managed to recover almost entirely from it, having lost only two weeks of data, but I still think it’s beyond the point. If I am a customer, and end-user of your product, and I have run into trouble because of an upgrade you are advising me to take upon, the least I’m going to expect is for you to be there when I need you. When I need your help to get me back in business, because something may well go wrong, like it did. What I was not expecting at all was not perhaps a feedback comment that I had too much of bad luck, but the fact that there hasn’t been a single reaction, *at all*. Again, talking about customer service in the era of Social Media engaging through social channels. Colour me skeptic once again, because it’s just not happening!
And Opera is not just the only recent occurrence of this lack of customer service through social channels. In the past, and just through my own personal experiences, although my good friend Euan Semple has also got a recent, rather interesting, upsetting story on poor quality customer service from an ISP provider: Orange, other businesses like Delta Airlines, Movistar, Swisscom & NH Hotels have been running into the same issues of poor customer service and they have never gotten in touch. Months have gone by without anything happening and, at this point in time, I won’t expect a response either. And the same would apply for Opera. Thus just like I did with all of those businesses (No longer flying with Delta, no longer supporting Movistar, no longer staying at NH Hotels who employ Swisscom as their wi-fi providers), over the weekend I recovered fully from the huge mess the upgrade caused and I have now stopped using Opera altogether and have moved on to RSS feed readers, specific mail clients (Sparrow), and both FireFox and Chrome as my new browsers.
Now, I know I won’t be trusting them to do the right job, since they never have done it properly in the first place, the browsers, I mean, but I already know that. I’m on guard with both of them and keeping an eye on my data to ensure it’s all there in a consistent manner. However, I trusted Opera. I have trusted it for over 7 years to do the right thing and it has done so all along, but for one instance where a big mess was caused the last thing I expected was a lack of response. Not a single comment, not a single reaction. Sorry, but that hurts. Customer loyalty takes years to build effectively, just as much as trust does, but it just takes a split second to destroy and to not recover it again. So time for me to move on and don’t look back, since they have done so just the same.
I can imagine that plenty of businesses are buying into the whole mantra of using social media to be closer to their customers and help support them accordingly. The thing though is that you eventually need to do that. If you are going to be there, be there, be willing to actively listen to not only the wonderful, positive feedback that you get from your customers about your products, but also the rough commentary, the constructive feedback that people share kindly with you without expecting any kind of compensation except than you fixing your own problems with your products so that they can be happy customers again. If you are only willing to listen through social media to the kool-aid and how great your products are, you are just use social technologies as another marketing thingy, whatever name you would want to insert there, and we all know how much we, dear customers, loathe that kind of cheating behaviour. End result? What I started this blog post with:
“I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me”