Customer Service in Social Media

I am sharing with you my own personal experience of the impact of social media in customer service. Now my experience of conventional customer service was very poor, but via social media it was excellent.

Firstly a little bit of background.

I am a T-Mobile customer and have been a customer of theirs for about 6 years, when I decided to purchase my very first blackberry, when the Blackberry Pearl was released. I was with Orange ever since I became a mobile phone user, so it took a lot of convincing for me to move to another network.

The service I had received from Orange was superb.

Anyway I made the jump and that was it. I was equally impressed with T-Mobile's service and their agents did an excellent job. So it all worked out for me. I was a very late adopter in the Blackberry market, but felt with the smaller phone my wait was justified.

Now fast forward to September 2010 and for my Birthday I treated myself to an iPhone 4, and had an early contract upgrade, which was a real gift.

All seemed to be well and my first bill was a bit of a mess coming out of one contract and starting a new one. Anyway I decided to leave it for a few months and review it again to make sure all was well. I don't get paper bills, so I get a monthly text to let me know that the bill is ready online. I don't know about you but when I get that message I don't immediately jump online and check my bill so I ignored it for a few months. I did notice that although I am not a huge user, the bill appeared high so decided to investigate further.

I then discovered they had been overcharging me ever since my changeover for Blackberry Booster, which of course I did not need or indeed use on my iPhone! So I decided to call.

I will just summarise this quickly as I want to get on to the social media bit.

I initially phoned their customer services and connected with the Philippines and it was not a pleasant experience at all. Basically I could not hear them properly because of the line quality and on top of that the agent would not allow me to speak and if I did speak she would repeat back what I had said to make sure she understood what I had just said. This meant a lot of wasted 'yes that is correct' sentences on my part.

After a long while, when she finally realised she could not solve my problem, she ended the call by saying she would send my account for re-calculation.

I decided to share my frustration on twitter and I received a nice response from T-Mobile.

In the end I had to email T-Mobile to get them in the UK to call me to sort it, which in fairness they did quickly.

My bill should now be showing the correct figures. OK when I did check a few days later, surprise, surprise it did not. Better still they had given me an early termination penalty for cancelling my Blackberry booster. I have not had a Blackberry for 4 months now! After sorting that with the Philippines again, they confirmed all should be well. However my bill online was still incorrect, so I resorted to Twitter.

What I received from T-Mobile via twitter was a very fast and satisfactory conversation that was resolved to my satisfaction, whereas the initial telephone conversation I had was far from resolved.

For me it shows that Social Media can work and have significant impact on the Brand, providing it is done well and T-Mobile have done this very well on this occasion.

Email in praise of faggots cooks up an offal storm!

My Father-in-Law got involved with the 'Internet Law' and consequently managed to get on page 3 of the Daily Telegraph. His name is John Sanders. Below is the article by Martin Evans of the 23rd February. When Dudley councillor Pat Martin used her official email to chat to a friend about favourite childhood foods, she assumed no one would mind. But within hours of sending her innocent message, she was being warned by her bosses about using offensive language that could contravene the council’s code of conduct.

Confused, Mrs Martin, who served as Dudley’s mayor between 2009 and 2010, investigated further and discovered that, in discussing the famous Black Country dish of faggots, she had set alarm bells ringing. While in Dudley the term is universally used to describe a traditional meatball delicacy made from offal, the word has a wholly different connotation in other parts of the world. In the United States, where Dudley Council’s internet security software is designed, it is a derogatory term for homosexuals.

Mrs Martin immediately contacted the council’s IT department to assure them her conversation had been entirely innocent. But she said it highlighted how political correctness was being applied to the most mundane of situations.

Problems began when Mrs Martin received an email from a friend, John Sanders, prompted by a letter he had recently had published in The Daily Telegraph. Mrs Martin said: “I emailed him to congratulate him. The letter was about the availability of Gentleman’s Relish and we began discussing traditional foods from our childhood. “John mentioned his father’s hot-cross buns and his mother’s faggots. I didn’t even use the word, but when I replied the email was picked up by the Sophos internet security software. “I received a warning about using profanities, I was very puzzled, I had no idea what it was referring to.” The council’s IT department explained that the Sophos software was an American system and faggots was on its list of profane words.

Fortunately, they saw the funny side and accepted that the system was not necessarily tailored for the Black Country dialect and its local delicacies. Mrs Martin said: “It was quite funny in the end but it does highlight how innocent things can get blown out of all proportion.” Mr Sanders, 76, a retired solicitor whose original reference to faggots sparked the confusion, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard. My mother’s faggots were a real speciality. I think if she was alive now she would find it hilarious to think of her recipe causing all this fuss. I think it is a case of common sense not being applied. Something that is becoming more and more apparent these days.”


I have recently become an Ambassador for Kemp Hospice in Kidderminster, a great charity who add 'quality to life' for people that may have an illness that reduces their quality of life. They are a great bunch of people running it and an even greater bunch of people volunteering. I spent a few hours getting introduced to their warehouse, where they sort through all their donations and decide what's suitable for the shops or not. It's been a real eye opener, as I have always wondered about the workings behind the scenes in charity shops. And although we have seen Mary Portas doing her magic on a famous charity chain of shops in the UK, it is still a real revelation to see and hear what happens.

One thing is for sure, they need more volunteers, as there is lots of sorting to be done. So I wanted to share a few learnings from my time in the warehouse.

Separate clothes between really good and really bad, assume something that looks worn is in the really bad category. Kemp only wish to sell really good quality clothing and something that either looks badly worn or is soiled goes to rags. Now here is the great news, there is money to be made out of rags and this is a great reason to send all your clothes into charities. But to help them, please sort your clothing into 'really good' and 'really bad'. That way the volunteers do not have to do as much sorting. They still need to check it but it makes the job a lot easier.

Unless shoes are brand new or hardly worn or vintage, send them all to the shoe bank on refuse sites. There is something not so pleasant about wearing second hand shoes is there? I know some people will and need to but the idea is to get the quality of merchandise as good as possible in charity shops. It means that we can rely on getting some great bargains in charity shops and give the rest of the high street a run for their money.

Kemp have some great ideas for their shops in Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport-on-Severn, which means a better look and feel for customers.

Then there is eBay and they will soon, with the help of 'yours truly', be selling on eBay too. And after investigating this inside eBay I also learnt that when anyone sells on eBay, they can nominate to make a donation from their sale to their chosen charity and eBay will discount your insertion fee by 50%. Now that's something to consider, as it's a win win.

I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours sorting through items for sale and making sure that only the best goes to their shops for those customers keen to look for a bargain.

I am sure I will share more in the months to come.

Human Capital Checklist for UK plc

From the Ninth Annual People Management and Development Barometer Report Highlights of recent CIPD surveys

Resourcing strategies and objectives Fifty-six per cent of survey participants reported having a formal resourcing strategy. The top three resourcing objectives were attracting and recruiting key staff (79%), enabling the achievement of the organisation’s strategic plan (59%) and meeting the future skills requirements of the organisation (47%). However over half of the organisations surveyed said the recession was having a negative impact on their resourcing budget for 2010/11. More organisations said that they would be focusing on developing talent in-house and retaining rather than recruiting talent this year compared with last year. There are some indications that efforts to reduce recruitment costs will be made as more report they are reducing reliance on recruitment agencies.

The good news is fewer organisations said they would be implementing a recruitment freeze in (22%). More (65%) expected to continue to recruit key talent/niche areas (53%). Nevertheless the outlook appeared much bleaker for the public sector, where particularly large proportions are anticipating recruitment freezes (51%) and reducing the number of recruits they hire (68%).

The volume of applicants for vacancies has increased. Seventy-six per cent of employers have noticed an increase in the number of unsuitable applicants and 32% reported that there were too many suitable candidates to choose from. At the same time, 41% reported that competition for talent was greater as the pool of available talent to hire had fallen sharply. As in previous years, the majority of turnover is attributed to employees leaving voluntarily. The voluntary turnover rate reduced substantially in the manufacturing and production sector (2010 survey: 2.7%; 2009 survey: 7.7%).

Employee attitudes and the recession In all, 19% of respondents say it is likely or very likely they could lose their job as a result of the recession, a slight increase from the previous quarters figure of 18%. There is no change in employees’ attitudes towards the labour market, with just 10% believing it would be easy or very easy to get a new job if they lost their current job. The proportion of employees saying their employer has made redundancies as a result of the economic downturn has fallen very slightly to 30%. There has also been a continuing trend by employers to cut back on training. Pay freezes also continue to be more widely reported, with 43% of respondents saying their organisation has introduced a pay freeze, up from 40% last quarter. Only 21% of respondents are currently looking for a new job with a different employer. However, over a third (37%) would ideally like to change jobs within the next year.

Key findings Senior HR people identify the top three organisational priorities to be managing costs (73%), growing the current business (65%) and focusing on customer need (54%). The proportion of employers that expected staff levels to increase against those that expected them to decrease improved to +12 in the three months to December 2010 from –3 in the three months to December 2009. However, employers are less optimistic about the medium-term outlook. The proportion of staff that expected staff levels to increase against those that expected them to decrease is +1 in the 12 months to September 2011.

A year ago the CIPD forecast that 2010 would be a better year for jobs than either 2008 or 2009 as the UK economy gradually began to emerge from the deepest and longest recession since the Second World War. By this they meant a relative improvement, with employment falling by less and unemployment rising by less than during the recession. In the event, however, 2010 turned out to be a much better year for jobs with the number of people in work increasing and unemployment starting to fall. Despite this they expect 2011 to see a return to falling employment and rising unemployment though we do not envisage the deterioration in labour market conditions being anything like as severe as during the recession. At the same time they expect that, as in 2010, average earnings will increase by less than price inflation resulting in a squeeze in workers’ real incomes. Our longer-term forecast in turn indicates that labour market conditions will remain weak in 2012 before starting to recover more robustly in 2013.

The most frequently cited causes of recruitment difficulties were lack of specialist skills (67%). Between 2009 and 2010, the proportion of organisations reporting retention difficulties decreased from 69% to 55%. Labour turnover for all UK employees averaged 14%, down from 16% in 2009.

Types of jobs and pay prospects for 2011 They feel that even if 2011 turns out to be a ‘jobs-light’ rather than a ‘jobs-loss’ or ‘jobs standstill’ year, the chances are that the bulk of any new private sector jobs will continue to reflect the experience of 2010, with part-time and temporary jobs in the majority. Moreover, the bulk of workers will feel a squeeze in their living standards, with pay rises still relatively modest against a backdrop of higher prices for many essential products and services, higher taxes, the availability of credit still tight and the likelihood of falling house prices.

Even on the relatively more optimistic OBR jobs forecast, unemployment will act as a tough constraint on pay rises which are unlikely to outstrip price inflation. 2011 will, like 2010, be a year of real pay squeeze for most workers, especially those in the public sector. A ‘jobs-light/pay-tight’ year is probably the best we can hope for, which will make for another challenging

Key human capital benchmarks (UK averages) Recruitment and staffing Labour turnover 16% Organisations making 10 or more staff redundant 33% Organisations experiencing recruitment difficulties 68% Organisations experiencing retention problems 55%

Social Potential

Is social becoming your current ritual

Your escape into techno digital

Deciding to leave human interaction behind

Excited of what knowledge you might find

Searching for strangers who you consider to befriend In exchange for compliments and the latest trend

Spend some time becoming knowledgable and wise

As more questions appear they will cause you strife

When the time is right and you want to sleep in the night

Give me a call but only during the day And I will dissolve all your worries away

Social may well become the spice of life

Consider the consequences now with your coach at Staying Alive!

The Domino Effect of Leadership

The first time I was exposed to the concept of leadership, apart from in my parental home, was at primary school in Amsterdam, when the teachers had put together a huge presentation about the holocaust and a display of the most horrendous images I had ever seen so far during my young life. It certainly made an impression on me and has stayed with me forever. I guess that was the objective.

Of course the leader that caused this according to my teachers was Hitler. Now Hitler is probably the most famous leader of all time, not because of the good he did, but because of his terrible deeds. Everyone does forget that his actions were duplicated by many of his officers and followers, who copied his behaviour and his actions in great detail.

In this short piece I would like to engage you to think a little bit about leadership. In particular the effect leadership has on the people around you. We are all leaders, whether you think you are or not. Your actions and your behaviour have an impact on how others behave around you.

I would like you to have think about the most senior leader that works in your organisation or a leader that you have worked for at some time in your life. More than likely you will have had either a great or not so great experience. And more than likely you will remember the experience. Most leaders that we have worked for, maybe not even directly will be memorable to us. Consider for a few minutes those leaders that have had the most impact on you.

Now just take one of them and consider what it was about her/him that made it so memorable for you.

Now can you remember who this person's leader was? What was your view of her/him at the time?

Can you see any similar behaviour patterns between them both. Consider just even one and you will see that there will be some similarities in their behaviour.

Humans more than any animal on this planet copy their fellow humans in their behaviour. Why do you think it is that daughters and sons end up being so very similar to their mothers or fathers. I am sure there is lots of research on this subject.

Anyway what's the point of all this I hear you say? Well, in terms of leadership and those at the most senior positions in corporate life, they have very little idea the impact they have on those around them. Their behaviour literally will shape the way that people will ultimately behave. If you are an encouraging and sympathetic leader, you will encourage those traits of those around you and indeed it will filter throughout the entire organisation. If you are an autocratic leader, maybe moody and short tempered, guess what? The same traits will develop of those that report to you and very likely to the rest of the team below them.

Quite worrying don't you think? Well it's also an opportunity to self reflect and examine your own behaviour and look around you and consider all the people who have made an impact on you during your life, your parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and most importantly the person you are or have worked for.

My message is for all leaders and as you are a leader in some way in your life, please consider how you behave towards the people that have to take your lead, whether it's your own children or people that work for you. The way that you act, the things that you say, your written communication have a major and significant impact on the people around you.

And more importantly if you lead a large group of people and are a CEO of a major organisation your people will copy you starting with your immediate reports and although it will water down somewhat, it will still filter down to all the layers within the organisation.

That's why I have called it the 'Domino Effect of Leadership'

I would love to hear about your own experiences.

In between me writing this article, I watched a programme on BBC 4 about the Brain with Michael Mosely and found that he was confirming my theory and that this was put to the test in 1961.

In 1961 Albert Bandura conducted a controversial experiment known as the Bobo doll experiment, to study patterns of behaviour associated with aggression. Bandura hoped that the experiment would prove that aggression can be explained, at least in part, by social learning theory, and that similar behaviors were learned by individuals modeling their own behavior after the actions of others. The experiment was criticised by some on ethical grounds, for training children towards aggression. Bandura's results from the Bobo Doll Experiment changed the course of modern psychology, and were widely credited for helping shift the focus in academic psychology from pure behaviorism to cognitive psychology. The experiment is among the most lauded and celebrated of psychological experiments. Here is a video clip that shows the experiment.


Will I be a good blogger?

I have never done it...done what?? Blogging! I have resisted it for years, something about my past life I think.  I did a past life regression once, whether you are in to that or not, and found out that I was a famous author and my works had been stolen.  There was no internet in those days, just paper and ink I guess and once someone grabbed those writings, that would be it!  No back up copy, maybe the loose thoughts of what was in your brain, would be all that you had.  You also did not sell books in those days, you would use your writings to carry out lectures and hope that some of it would stick with the masses.  Bizarre that I would have that thought, so somehow this had an impact on my life in the 21st century and I have not been sure if it was worth writing at all. They do say don't they that everyone has a book inside of them. Now, I am not sure anymore whether people will still wish to read books in the future or am I being naive?  With the explosion of technology and pads and smart phones everywhere you look, twitter, facebook, youtube and blogging sites, why would you have to read a book from cover to cover, when you can learn so much more in soundbites?  I am sure the bookworms amongst you will be shouting and screaming, NO!  And I would have to agree that there always will be time when you just want to get lost in someone else's world and their brave journey, because for some reason someone else's journey is so much more interesting then our own.

Well I have decided I am going to have a go and do some writing, about what I have no idea yet.  My initial view is that it is going to be a mixture of my own philosophy and technology.  I know its a strange combination but they are both dear to me and I believe there is a lot to be said about how we as a human race are combining the two in the way that we conduct our lives these days.  They are totally inter-related and have a major impact on each other.  How exactly I need to figure out as yet, but I am sure it will come as I start typing inside this lovely blog.

I am looking forward to it and I am equally looking forward to your views and comments, as a good conversation and debate will be fun as well.

Ok that's all for now.