Social Media Social Good – Just a Second

Category: Social Media Social Good Series

Bad customer service comic

We all have those expressions that drive us nuts. For me, it’s “just a second” and “reason why.” The latter is simply bad usage of English and redundant. Either “reason” or “why” is sufficient. Try it and you’ll see, and agree. But, “just a second” has ramifications well beyond poor grammar. No, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a regular annoyance that relates to something long gone from our world — customer service.

Just a Second

With everything technological and just about everything else in which a person requires assistance there is the inevitable phone/voice menu that we must navigate. While we struggle with these completely annoying and oh-so-often confusing disembodied instructions, we are usually subjected to repeated commercials from the company. Also, outrageous delays AND the occasional – all too often – disconnect from which, if we have the patience, we have to begin it all over again.

Some of us just press “O” as often as we can, hoping to circumvent the menu but that rarely works anymore. When there isn’t an appropriate voice prompt or “menu item” for our issue, we have to guess what might eventually get us to a “live” human who may be able to help out. That is when the inevitable “just a second” or “just a sec” comes to play.

Customer Service comic

First, by the time they’ve uttered those lying words, we’ve already logged in untold seconds – actually dozens of minutes more often than not – and now we’re expected to believe it will actually be just ONE second! Call it my quirk, but it bugs me to no end. “Just a moment” is slightly more truthful, though the best of all would be the truth, “Can you please hang on for a very long time while I take my lunch break and likely disconnect you after 30-plus minutes?” Of course, we are never actually asked if we mind waiting another “moment,” “second,” or longer.

This is very similar to calling doctors’ offices and getting the usual response when the phone call is answered – “hang on.” That usually happens without the person even waiting for us to say, “okay.”

Cartoon about customer service

Now, I’ll leave all the other ubiquitous annoyances to another column such as speaking with someone in another country who is completely unintelligible, though terribly polite. “Terribly” being the operative word when faced with that circumstance. I’ll also leave it for another day, the wonderful and common scripted answers that bear little or zero relation to our questions.

Social Media actually coined the phrase, “Best Practices” and many of the people I either socialize with or work with online do employ many such good behaviors. On the other hand, the notion of getting a returned phone call, a prompt reply to an email, or an answer to any business proposal seems to have gone the way of phone, elevator, and gas station attendants/operators: long gone, long forgotten.

Death and Customer Service comic

The real question is why has this all changed so dramatically? And why has it changed so dramatically for the worse? Technology was supposed to make our lives easier. Do you find life easier today? I sure don’t. But, hang on just a second while I think about this a bit more…

Check out any/all of the other Social Media Social Good columns!

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  • KelliSmithgall

    It’s somewhat of a lost art form that is for sure!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      But I give good #CustomerService, don’t I @KelliSmithgall:disqus????

      • KelliSmithgall

        Well……hmmmm……”hang on just a second while I think about that……”of course YOU deserve the EXCELLENCE award :)

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Thx @KelliSmithgall:disqus – I know a very cool guest coming to my radio show August 15!

  • http://www.patrickkphillips.com/ Patrick

    Impatience has never been at a higher level.

    Nowadays, when people call and get a voicemail, some won’t even take the time to leave a message, assuming that you will see that they called and just return their call on your own. A friend of mine told me that his daughter got mad when he didn’t return her missed call. “You didn’t ASK me to call. Leave me a message next time.” That was his response, but as you can guess, it didn’t go over very well.

    Somewhere along the way with regard to technology, there was a major shift, but one that is still never talked about: it used to be that technology was designed to make our lives easier by doing things we wanted to do faster or better. Then, one day, the shift happened and a new element was added: technology first required us to change how we do things, then, after we relearn our paths, technology steps in to help us complete the task. In some ways, it’s more efficient, but for me, when I have to alter my way of doing things to satisfy technology, something’s wrong with that picture.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Kids absolutely don’t use voicemail – but I don’t think it’s impatience, @Patricksplace:disqus – just their “best practices.” Wonderful point about how technology has been shifted to make our lives more difficult is many ways!

  • David Weber

    Your observations are very much on target.

    I do recall, however, hearing the term “best practices” a couple of decades ago (’80s, ”90s), before social media was on the radar. I think it was a companion term with “benchmarking,” which meant the process or task of identifying best practices to emulate.

    “Emulate” was a vocab word for me in seventh grade (’64-’65) and meant, essentially, imitation on steroids. My next encounter with the word was when I first was exposed to the computing world in the early ’80s, when “emulate” meant one system or device that through some sort of magic became compatible with some other, maybe newer, system.

    On the other hand, I just consulted the 1973 dictionary I keep on my desk, and for “emulate” the definition related to computers and computing is offered as a secondary one. So I guess it has long been used in the computing world.

    Oh, my, but is customer service AWFUL! I am certain every reader here can tell horror story after horror story about it. It is to the point at which I choose an organization to do business with almost exclusively on how good, relatively, its customer service function is. Of course, with many or most organizations, we have no choice but to deal with them (e.g., a utility company, one’s primary-care physician) and simply have to suffer through bad customer service.

    What I find remarkable is how everyone who does customer service (CS) poorly surely himself or herself must face bad CS just as often as any of his or her victims … I mean, customers! … do. My suspicion is that at the top of an organization’s hierarchy sits an executive (or a team of them) who, because of socioeconomic status, can afford to buffer themselves from bad CS. And in that way, such persons don’t “get” what it’s like to deal with the bad CS that their organizations offer.

    To conclude, I will submit a brief anecdote about OUSTANDING customer service…a story that could serve as “best practices to emulate” (we should be so lucky). In 1985 or so, my parents visited me in Tokyo, where I worked at the time. My mother purchased a stylish (and pricey) small umbrella from an outfit called Hanae Mori. When she got home to the U.S.A., she decided she didn’t like the pattern and wrote or telephoned me in Tokyo to ask if I could arrange for a trade-out.

    I contacted the Hanae Mori organization to inquire into this. I spoke with the sales manager, who turned me over to Suzuki-san, a subordinate (whose English was much better than my Japanese). Suzuki-san asked for my mother’s address, to contact her directly and get me out of the loop, which was fine with me.

    A couple of weeks passed. I then received a long letter from Mom in which she detailed all of what transpired. Suzuki-san had contacted her within a day or two of being handed the task. In a detailed, scrupulously neat handwritten letter, S. told my mother there would be no problem, send the unwanted umbrella back to Hanae Mori and choose a preferred pattern from the several offered. The patterns to choose from were carefully hand-drawn at the bottom of the letter, in colored pencil, very neatly and attractively! (In those days, Japanese schools required drawing to be studied in several primary grades, so many Japanese were at least fundamentally competent illustrators.) In a letter she included with the return, Mom specified which pattern she wanted; and not too long after, the new umbrella arrived, carefully wrapped and accompanied by a thank-you note from Suzuki-san.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      That story is hard to even imagine today, @disqus_IeGo6Zakqo:disqus – and I’m so glad that other than the one column you so very well disparaged, I’m getting your positive reviews on many others!

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