The Trials and Tribulations of a Mobile Knowledge Worker in a Social Business World

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo and The Friar in the SpringHere is an interesting study that I have just bumped into a couple of days ago, and which may resonate with plenty of folks out there on the relevancy of Social Business in today’s corporate world. It is not a pretty one, for sure, but rather revealing perhaps on what’s still ahead for most of us, and a clear indication we are just barely getting started with our journey to become successful social businesses: 70% of social media complaints are ignored

In the world of the Social Web who would have thought about that, right? Well, perhaps time for a wake-up call for all of us social computing evangelists… Change is not happening as fast as what we would have thought and perhaps that is ok. It will take time, we all know that, but will we be ok about it though? About the fact that we may not even be able to witness that final business transformation we have been eagerly anticipating all along after all?

That is one of the reflections that has been in my mind over the last few months and interestingly enough it keeps coming back as soon as I embark on my next round of business trips. Like today, on my way to London, to participate and present at the rather intriguing Social Business Strategy Summit and then flying to Milan over the weekend to participate on the event of events on Social Business in Europe: the Social Business Forum 2012

Why does that reflection keep coming back then every so often nowadays? Well, as you may have noticed, once again, I have failed about keeping up with my usual regular blogging schedule over here on this blog. It’s been a few weeks since the last time that I have shared an article over here and although things at work are now more hectic and buzzing than ever (Specially, as we keep seeing how more and more executives are finally diving into the world of living Social, “dragging” along their teams and own networks), the main culprit, once again, has been my traveling schedule, not because of traveling itself, but mainly because, once again, I continued to fail on staying connected to keep up with my blogging and other social networking activities.

As you may remember from my last blog post, I mentioned how I was on my way to Rotterdam, to present at the IBM / NLLUG Social Business event (Along with visiting a couple of customers in Utrecht to talk about adoption of social networking tools, networks and communities); then from there onwards to lovely Seville to participate and present at the first edition of the event “Congreso de Empresa 2.0 y Social Business – El Presente de la Gestión Empresarial“, which was, by the way, a beautiful experience, not to mention spending a few days in such a stunning city as Seville is. And, finally, make my way to Barcelona, where I took a couple of days off to unwind and recharge my batteries to finish off the business trip with conducting an IBM workshop for managers on Why Social Business, Why Now and How to get started

Phew! All in all, 7 different social business events in an 8 day long timeframe. Rather hectic, I can assure you all, but what an amazing experience! My head is still spinning, for real, with the great amount of ideas I have been munching on as a result of some wonderful conversations throughout the entire time! And I am certain over the course of the next couple of weeks plenty of those ideas would be making their way into several blog posts over here :-) 

So, why am I becoming increasingly skeptic though about the role of social media in the corporate world, specially, when I am on the road (Although not to the point of becoming a curmudgeon per se perhaps, I can imagine some people may perceive it that way, alas), and certainly starting to question some of the motives of those “so-called” social businesses? Well, probably because of a worrying issue that keeps growing further along over time: not walking the talk when being consistently confronted with bad customer service after having had some of the worst customer user experiences

Social Business is a whole bunch of different things, indeed, perhaps far too many which may well be a bit of a problem initially as well, but one of the main key major traits is that one of businesses becoming more customer centric improving tremendously their own overall customer experiences engaging in meaningful conversations out there on the Social Web to try to address and fix their problems. Yet we bump into studies, like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this article, where 7 out of 10 complaints raised through social media are just basically ignored. Don’t you think it leaves plenty of ground to question those claims from companies stating they walk the talk when living Social, yet, time and time again they keep failing to deliver? Yes, they make me question it, too! 

And that is exactly what’s happened to me in the last couple of weeks, while I have been on the road, that, once again, both hotels and ISP providers have kept failing to deliver on their so-called promises of being successful social businesses. Starting in Rotterdam itself, where I stayed 4 days at a rather nice, cosy hotel, the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy, but with quite an appalling experience regarding their Ethernet service. Yes, I get that, as a hotel, you may not want to provide free wifi / Ethernet connectivity to those mobile workers constantly on the road, because you may not make enough profit out of it, which is something I would debate, too, specially, after the superb blog post put together by my good friend Neville Hobson on this very same subject.

But I *do* have an issue with it when you charge me 15€ per day for an Ethernet connection that doesn’t even reach 0.5 mbps download and then you claim that’s the standard service to stay “connected” after being told off by a customer support representative somewhere in India that is all I am going to get, including questioning my English skills to comprehend the situation. Welcome to the wonderful service of Quadriga, the Ethernet provider from the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy. 

Want to know more about the story? Oh, don’t worry, there isn’t much left… It just ended up right there! No further discussions to compromise on providing good quality service for 15€ per day fee. Take it or leave it. I gave up, eventually. I had a superb time while in Rotterdam, for sure, enjoying some pretty amazing offline social networking interactions, but both Quadriga and the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy are now on my growing black list of service providers to avoid and hotels to never go back to. Life is just too short to have to put up with such an utterly disgraceful and disappointing customer service on all grounds. And, don’t worry, this would be another “social media complaint” that will go by pretty much ignored, because I don’t expect any response any time soon. Why bother, right? After all, I am just a customer. #lesigh

Ok, time to see things improved, then! Off we go to Seville, to attend and present at the rather energizing and inspiring #e20Biz event, first edition of many more successful years to come, I am sure! and there we are at the conference event venue, the Hotel NH Central Convenciones, ready to get started with the event, when, once again, we all got hit by the next round of awful customer service. This time around by a rather well known ISP provider from yours truly, since I have put together a couple of blog posts about their horrendous customer service in the past. Of course, I am talking about Swisscom.

As you may well know by now, Swisscom is the provider of the wifi services to all NH Hotels, and it has been a few years since the last time I stayed at one of those hotels, after some disappointing experiences. But this time around I decided to cut them some slack, once more, and give them another chance, why not, right? Well, big mistake! Not only are they continuing to provide some rather poor service to their customers for a rather pricey fee, but this time around they were also the main providers from the conference event wifi and it was just what you might not have been expecting: non-existent!! 

And while talking to the event organizers, who did their best in addressing the issues, we found out that they payed big bucks, and I mean big bucks!!, for a wifi service that even at our very own homes is much much better! Why do we keep putting up with this? Seriously, who do they think we are? Wouldn’t you think that after having paid a rather expensive hotel room, even pricier wifi connection for what we got, we would deserve better? Apparently, we don’t, because their only response, several hours later than expected, was only a timid tweet that got through advising on what we have already done a few times earlier on in the day and the rest of the conversation died off right there! Not surprisingly, since I wasn’t already expecting much more from Swisscom in the first place. They know better, but they consistently keep failing to deliver. Go figure. 

So what did I do then? Did I give up on that one, too? Yes, I did! In fact, I gave up on both Swisscom and NH Hotels a long while ago and that experience in Seville just confirmed why those two companies are also on my black list of service providers to avoid, and for a good reason. Thus I decided to go local, since I was in Spain; I decided to rely on my 3G connection for my iPhone and iPad and on my 3G USB modem or my Mac. And while I was expecting a good, reliable connection, the results were different, much different!

There I was, struggling, once again, even with my own 3G options, but this time around a bit worse, since the 3G USB modem is not my own, but from the company that employs me, IBM. For the entire remaining of the week and even when I went to Barcelona for the following 5 days I kept failing to get consistently connected after experiencing some rather poor performance, right at the city enter from both Seville and Barcelona. How can that be? I mean, I know for sure that my company is paying big bucks, once again, to allow its mobile employee knowledge workers stay connected, while on the road, and we can barely make it, since Movistar‘s service barely provided more than 1mbps download / upload. Yet, it doesn’t happen. Time and time again we have to keep up with the frustrating experiences of staying connected and eventually give up (before we would go all go crazy to no avail).

Once again, that is exactly what I did! Over the course of the last couple of years I have learned to tame myself with the frustration, trying to stay connected reliably while I am travelling, since I have come to the conclusion it is no longer worth the fight and it is starting to become, even, rather unhealthy. So I decided to switch off completely and enjoy something that I am starting to appreciate more and more by the day: talking more to people offline and nurturing those offline social interactions. Over time, not only is it proving to be rather a healthier activity, but overall I am finding it a whole lot more refreshing and energizing altogether! 

And, for that, I would have to thank, and very much so!, plenty of my physical social networks for coming to the rescue of this poor mobile social networker, who can no longer keep up with the virtual world, while on the road, because it just dies a simple, uncomplicated death. And in the mean time 7 out of 10 social media complaints go by unanswered and pretty much ignored! There is Social Busines and customer service for you, going down on a rather dangerous spiral of no return apparently.

And you know what is the worst part of it all? One thing that I never expected it would happen in today’s rather interconnected, distributed, pervasive world, specially, in the Social Web of today: that, more and more, I am starting to feel rather disconnected from the virtual social networking world with the growing feeling of disappearing into thin air, because I keep failing to resurface into my virtual social streams, to the point where some of my closest networks are starting to question where I am and what I have been doing. So much for all of that “narrate your work”, “working out loud” and “observable work” mantras, eh? #lesigh

Well, I am right there, for sure!, it is just that while I wish I would be more active sharing openly plenty more of my knowledge, experiences, skills, abilities, know-how, and whatever else around all things social, including getting involved in multiple conversations where I feel I could add my two cents into the online dialogue, I keep finding it’s not happening as often as I would have hoped or wished for, and somehow I am starting to suspect it’s becoming rather damaging for my own online digital social presence out there. At what costs? I don’t know, probably you folks would be in a much better position to judge that than myself, but somehow I sense I may not recover from it in a long while seeing the way things are moving on, as I keep reflecting on it while putting these few words over here on my way to London, then Milan, then Boston (mid-June), then Madrid, Barcelona, Seville again till mid-July…

Finally, after such a rather lengthy reflection (Thanks much for sticking around this far!), that I needed to get out of my chest before it becomes rather unnerving and unhealthy, you may be wondering whether I am expecting to see any kind of reaction, or even a slight service improvement, from both the hotel business, as well as the ISPs, in general? Will they ever become successful social businesses? I have no doubt they will, eventually, perhaps in the next few decades, but for now please do allow me to remain skeptic about it, because I just don’t see it, despite their claims they are getting there. For as along as their social media complains remain ignored and neglected, nothing will change. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Perhaps time to move on?

Thus, my dear European Union, since those businesses aren’t doing much to change the situation, due to their ever growing monopolies, and since countries have got their hands tight up in the process, what are you going to do to empower your mobile knowledge Web workforce to remain productive and help them get you out of the disgraceful econoclypse you have been experiencing in the last 4 years and still going strong? What do we, European netizens, need to do to wake you up and help us help you get back on track by empowering us to be productive and rather effective, even while we are on the road? Tell us, we are eagerly awaiting. Please, tell do us soon. We can’t wait much longer…

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