After being the recipient of tweets, email, comments under blog posts, and other online communications that miss-the-mark, I’m constantly struck by how often I take things the wrong way and end up calling someone to ensure I didn’t misconstrue what they were intending to say and to gain a better understanding of the point they were trying to get across.
This sort of miscommunication is becoming more problematic…not less…especially as real-time communications occur with services like Twitter. Add to that a limit in the number of characters these services allow us to use and you can see how challenging it is to convey any kind of deep meaning using real-time communications.
My son had an assignment for English class that had the following thought provoking table showing how easy it is to make a statement and have it come across COMPLETELY WRONG depending upon the emphasis of one specific word within that statement. You’ve probably seen this sort of stuff before, but it never hurts to be reminded how ONE WORD can completely change the context of your communication.
Think about this the next time you’re ready to click “send” on that tweet.
|WHAT I SAID||WHAT I MEANT|
|I didn’t say she stole my money||Someone else said it|
|I didn’t say she stole my money||I didn’t say it|
|I didn’t say she stole my money||I only implied it|
|I didn’t say she stole my money||I said someone did, not necessarily her|
|I didn’t say she stole my money|
I considered it borrowed, even though she didn’t ask
|I didn’t say she stole my money||Only that she stole money|
|I didn’t say she stole my money||She stole stuff which cost me money to replace|
Ever since companies like Comcast used Twitter (e.g., @ComcastCares, see BusinessWeek article) for timely response to customer inquiries or issues — before those issues blew up and hurt their brand or as ways to build goodwill with the influencers and early adopters — other organizations looked to this effort and undoubtedly saw the benefits.
Best Buy rolled out something called “Twelpforce” as a way to leverage employee assistance with customer inquiries (see Techcrunch article). Unbeknownst to me, Radio Shack has done the same thing with “The_Shack“, a Twitter account clearly monitored for keywords as you ‘ll see in a moment.
I’ve been skeptical from the get-go on these efforts, since it’s extremely difficult to explain anything but the most basic questions when one has only 140 characters with which to ask it. Like instant messaging, frustration grows quickly when several messages have to go back-n-forth in order to clearly communicate the essence of the request, and this is the #1 reason I expect most Twitter “help” efforts (like Twelpforce and The_Shack) to fail unless steps are taken to move an initial query offline, or be able to add audio or video to the clarification.
CASE IN POINT: IPHONE HELP FAIL
On Friday I did a podcast recording with the Blue Mikey, a microphone that connects to the bottom of my iPhone and works great, but realized that my shotgun microphone at the office (with its 3.5mm plug) would’ve been 5x better with so many people standing in a circle as part of the podcast. While I completely understand separate microphone use in the headphone connector on the iPhone is not supported, several people have taken apart cables and created their own connector to allow the use of these 3rd party microphones.
So I went to Best Buy in Eden Prairie, MN to explain the need and see if they could help. Complete cluelessness and only one blueshirt had any interest in helping out. So I jumped in my car and started to head for home, but pulled over and did the audioBoo recording on my iPhone below. Lo-and-behold, Radio Shack’s The_Shack sent me an @ reply asking if they could help.Direct link to the mp3
So I thought I’d do an experiment: ask the same question to both Twelpforce and The_Shack and see how fast they respond AND to see who “gets” the essence of what I was asking for and exhibits a willingness to help. To say I was disappointed in one of them would be an understatement.
After the jump, you’ll see the chronology of how this went down and see who — Best Buy or Radio Shack — ultimately prevailed by at least giving me an accurate answer, though not a solution (which I’m still working on). It points out how and why Twitter help is fraught with issues and may very well cause more frustration and problems than it alleviates.