Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Always a Matter of Trust

I'm confused. I love technology, but it confuses me. And what's worse is that the more confusing the idea, the more driven I am to uncover the answer to the question of why. 

Take Quora, for instance. After it popped up on my horizon of particular interest, I joined the network to investigate further. My investigating puttered out quickly because a fine-tuned architectural taxonomy is nearly nonexistent and user-friendliness was apparently not a design consideration, in my own humble opinion. (Note: it was redesigned since I joined and reports say it encompasses more user attributes from popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, probably because the founder came from Facebook, or because nearly every living organism is on Facebook whether or not they admit it. That's a fact.)

Really though, it's because I just don't get the stupid questions people ask.

  • Why don't bananas taste as good when they are put in hot oatmeal?
  • Why don't they get rid of the taste of alcohol in liquor?
  • Why do babies cry?
  • Why is the sky blue and not green?

And then it hit me. I'm getting the "stupid girl" content because I haven't participated enough in the Quora network to deserve "SMART" content. Ahhhh, I get it. I'm impressed by that. And not just because Quora runs on a Ubuntu operating system either (you know, the one that is free so that everyone in the world can be peppered with stupid questions until they, too, become irritated and lose interest.) I'm impressed by that because I'm competitive in nature and want to challenge myself and Quora, to see if I am what I think I am. Am I really interested in the evolution of nano-technologies or do I really just care about the oh-so-perfect balance of cheese to noodle ratio in lasagna? And really, why DO babies cry? But I digress...

The problem lies with our ADHD-diagnosed society and our addiction to use technology for managing our growing symptoms of less time + less attention + more work = less happiness vs less work + more attention + better work = more happiness. Additionally, with competitors like ChaCha, and Yahoo Answers added to our everyday social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, Quora has a difficult story to sell. They invite people to submit questions and answers that are ranked according to clever algorithms and special ranking systems and that is very impressive, indeed. But the truth is, 95% of what people pose in these forums appear to be something that could be adequately answered by throwing up a new Facebook status or tweeting out an S.O.S. I'm making up these statistics, but I would bet that less than 5% of the content is actually professional expert driven Q&A. Which brings me to one very serious conclusion:

As much as we Google it, put it up in Facebook and Tweet it out, we still don't trust technology to add real value to our everyday lives in real and measureable ways.

We want our most serious concerns addressed by humans; doctors, scientists, politicians, police, teachers, bosses, architects, hostesses, neighbors, nurses and legal counsel. We want data and numbers and proof and word-of-mouth and we want it all now.

You can Google it now, but you will need to wait your turn to see the doctor. Sometimes that's helpful. Other times that's the worse thing you can do.

All in all, technology is nice. But people are critical.

And trust is such a necessary ingredient that I bet that's the reason those bananas taste different in the hot oatmeal. Someone didn't trust that they could, and then BAM, they didn't.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RIP Music Man Dick Clark

From Time to TMZ, Dick Clark had no enemy. 


How do paperback novels affect social media?


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Delightful Customer Service vs Simply Surviving: A Case for Both

There is a reason why customer service sucks at the DMV, post office and local courthouse. Because it can. And you, the customer, can do nothing about it except smile and suffer through. And then, when you are in need of their respective services again, all you can do is survive all over again.

And we have grown comfortable with this standard of customer service from businesses we can't live without.

That's the key performance indicator in all good customer service strategies; to avoid making the customer simply survive and instead aim to delight. If being "delightful" is your customer service philosophy, likely you are closer to success than failure. If not, you better hope you are in the utilitarian services industry and not a business where people have a choice. Case in point; a little day spa in Peoria, Illinois that I unfortunately had to survive recently.

Five Senses Spa and Salon may be one of the few self-proclaimed spa and salons in the city of Peoria, but they are not the only spa, and certainly not the best. [I recommend a very affordable Natural Concepts Day Spa or Serenity Spa if you are in Peoria. Otherwise, Bliss Spa in Chicago or Grove Park Inn near Asheville, NC happen to be among my favorites of all time.] My recent experience at Five Senses spa left me reeling with a want to share my horrific story with all those who would listen. But not just because it was awful, but because it's a real testament to how social media is customer service and customer service is indeed, social media.

After a totally undesirable evening that left my feet sore [the staff uses thick rubber dish-washing gloves for pedicures], my integrity bruised and my new leather boots in ruins, I had plenty of time to think about letting this one go; chalking it up to a very unhappy spa owner and a naive business owner, not to mention super harsh chemical products instead of the lovely organic skin-softening spa products they sold me on. Instead of surviving this unfortunate, unnecessary event, I asked the spa owner for help on how to fix the leather on my [brand spanking new John Fluevog] boots. The owner of Five Senses basically told me that the paperwork I signed waived my rights and that "buyer beware."

That's not something you want to hear after paying for a certain service and getting something else entirely (a chemical burn on fine leather). But when the owner provides the same level of customer services as an overworked, underappreciated DMV worker, it's all I could do. I tweeted about it, I posted pictures in Facebook, I added comments in FourSquare and Yelp and more. That's the power of social media; allowing disenfranchised customers the right to warn friends before they too become victims of poor customer service; or worse. Compounding social media's effect is certainly word of mouth, and that will never change. People are people, after all, and people talk. Customer reviews, peer reviews and personal stories help to form opinions where advertising and marketing pale in comparison.

The good thing to come out of this experience is a story I can share.When the post office worker treats you like a number and barks orders in your direction, there is no point in taking it personal. But when a retailer or a business or a spa treats your money less important than the next dollar walking through the door, the point is to take it personal and social media provides that right.