One of my photos

I would like to tweet about this ‘ere dead parrot

May 21st, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Technology · 2 Comments · Life, Technology

An interesting article on the BBC News site today about using Twitter to complain about things. Amongst other things it says:

According to a poll of 2,000 people by the communications agency Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research in April 2012, 36% of people had used a social media platform to contact a big company and 65% said it was a better way than call centres to get in touch with companies.

I think I can vouch for that. Last week I reported to Virgin Media, via the special dedicated number listed on their website, that their street cabinet in our road was damaged. The website and phone line both say that they will try to attend within 48 hours. One week later and the cabinet still looked like this:

Virgin Media street cabinet 7 days after it was reported by telephone

Virgin Media street cabinet 7 days after it was reported by telephone

So, on Monday I tweeted the picture above, making sure I mentioned Virgin Media because I knew they would have a PR department that would have all mentions of them flagged up.

Fairly soon after that I had a reply tweet from VM asking for details. On Tuesday the cabinet looked like this:

Virgin Media street cabinet, 24 hours after it was mentioned on Twitter.

Virgin Media street cabinet, 24 hours after it was mentioned on Twitter.

OK it is a bit of a botch job. It could have been the work of a neighbour (but why would they wait a week before doing it?) but more likely a VM engineer. They quite often do this sort of repair, and I am hoping it is temporary while they schedule a proper repair.

Part of this may be down to the fact that the whole interaction is in full public view, and I am sure that is a contributory factor, but there may be other factors at work here.

First of all, it may be that only a small percentage of people with a complaint take it to social media. If everybody did it then maybe the customer services/PR people manning the Twitter consoles would not be able to cope and reply so promptly to such things. In other words, the phone lines may be understaffed for the volume of calls they get and maybe the Twitter team are over staffed at the moment for the current flow of complaints. If everyone resorted to Twitter then you could probably get through to the help desk straight away.

I suspect that this sort of passive-aggressive approach of not complaining to a company but complaining about them in such a way that they will see it is a good trick for now, but only while it is still an exception. If it became the norm it would stop being so effective, so make the most of it while you can.

Actually I felt a bit guilty about it all. While I have never been an engineer I have worked in engineering environments. I can just imagine some poor sod working in an office who is trying to task engineers to fit repairs around all the scheduled work, and then some self-important customer services type who knows nothing about the operational side comes along demanding that a job get prioritised for political reasons rather than technical ones.

I know how I would have felt when I ran an engineer-tasking department, so I felt like a real queue-jumper.

Part of me felt that if Virgin Media either employed more engineers, or an operations manager who organised them differently, or gave the engineering department enough resource to do more scheduled maintenance and proactive work then the problems wouldn’t happen in the first place and they could cut back on the complaints department to fund it.

Surely the fact that they have a web page and a phone line dedicated solely to reporting damaged street cabinets is a sign that it happens far too often.

Anyway, it is fixed for now, but this is the second time this year that the doors have been hanging open on that box so I am sure it will happen again before Autumn.

The best part of the whole story is when it looked like VM thought I had done the gaffer tape repair when I posted the second picture and replied:

Hi Andrew, Thank you again for this. I have reported it to the relevant department. Look like we could do with employing you to be honest!

The irony being that I did actually apply for a job at Virgin Media’s predecessor Eurobell, albeit in the IT department. Had I been successful then I could well have ended up in the operations side dealing with this sort of thing. In hindsight it was a lucky escape for me.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Skuds Sister

    There is always the option of complaining/commenting to a big company via social media. I know I asked Sainsbury some questions about some poor customer service recently and got a very prompt reply. I hope it wasn’t just being passive-aggressive but just using another avenue. I know I would always like to respond as quickly as possible to any such query on our work Twitter account (which I mainly deal with)

  • Skuds

    I forgot to mention: the cabinet was properly fixed on Friday 23rd while we were up the woods with the dogs.