Live tweeting from the call queue: a study in consumer activism

In covering the ongoing AFACT v iiNet case in the Federal Court, local journalists such as The Australian’s Andrew Colley and ZDNet’s Liam Tung have caused some controversy by live tweeting from within the courtroom. While broadcast journalists in Australia are not allowed to report from inside courtrooms, the Federal Court has decided it’s up to individual judges if they want to allow live coverage on Twitter.

In the same spirit, yesterday I called Toshiba tech support for help on a very minor issue with my laptop. Ideally I would have preferred to email a question and then get annoyed when no one responded (59% of companies don’t respond to email queries, you know). But Toshiba doesn’t give you the option; just a phone number and a postal address. So I called, and it quickly became apparent I wasn’t going to get anywhere fast. Because I had nothing better to do while waiting on hold, I started Tweeting:

  • I am currently caller 57 in the queue for Toshiba tech support. 57! Customer service FTW!
  • Enjoying Toshiba’s commitment to customer service; I am now 43rd in the queue after 10 minutes.
  • “Challenges we all face are the future and the environment” – who writes these on-hold scripts? 26 min and counting. Yay Toshiba!
  • “An uguarded MFD could be an easy target” – so true! Celebrating the first half hour of Toshiba’s customer love.
  • “In this oversaturated market, good quality in LCD TVs stands out”. Toshiba has stopped telling me my position in the queue. 47 mins.
  • Do on-hold music composers proudly call their mothers to say, ‘Hey ma, my music was used in Toshiba’s HOUR LONG CALL QUEUE’?
  • Oh wow! An hour and five minutes on hold and I get put through… to a voicemail system. Bad Toshiba. BAD BAD BAD TOSHIBA.

While I was on hold, the system repeatedly gave me the option of giving my phone number for someone to call back. I did not use this option because in my experience, nobody ever calls back and it’s just a way of shortening the call queue to improve ‘performance’ statistics.

My live tweets were attracting a fair bit of attention and a few retweets. Jonathan Crossfield suggested I invent a hashtag for live-tweeting a call queue, which I did: #YourCallIsImportantToUs. Guess it hasn’t caught on yet.

I tried calling again later in the same day, but things were even worse than the first time. Once again, the live stream tells the story:

  • Just call me glutton for punshiment: round two of Toshiba #YourCallIsImportantToUs Why can’t I email my question?
  • OK, forget it. 75 callers in queue. Have used callback facility. Now holding breath until someone from Toshiba calls.
  • [Two hours later] Still holding breath waiting for Toshiba to call back. Evidently they don’t monitor Twitter. Turning slightly blue.

First thing this morning, someone called. It was Toshiba’s PR manager, who admitted something was not right with the call centre and this was a cause for concern over at HQ. She got my problem fixed immediately. Happy me, but what about the 74 other p0or bastards in the call queue?

I might be a relatively well known tech journalist in real life, but on Twitter I am not hugely influential (no matter what Topsy says); I have a modest following of a smidge over 500 people. But thanks to the magic of retweeting by ZDNet Australia (1700 followers) and  Jonathan (more than 2400), my whinge was now reaching an audience of thousands. So did I get a call back because I complained a lot, because of who I am, or because some fairly influential people took up my cause?

Some conclusions and questions:

  • Big companies: if you under-resource your call centres, you reduce costs but risk pissing off customers in a really big way. This isn’t as easy to get away with as it used to be because consumers have ways to hold you to account.
  • If you want to reduce your call queues, provide an email support option and actually respond to queries when they come in. Why does no one understand this?
  • Consumers: many big brands (or their PR firms) monitor what’s said about them on Twitter. They’ll call you back a lot faster in response to bad publicity than for regular tech support.
  • If you’re influential on Twitter, or have friends who are, complaining loudly and rudely in public about poor service gets results; we’ve know this for a couple of years now. But if you’re not as famous as Michael Arrington, or even me, how effective is this technique?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Zvi says:

    Mr. Mehlan — tre tre funny

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s