And now a totally off-topic raging rant about Facebook

Just about every website under the sun does at least the bare minimum for social media integration and sets up both a Twitter account and Facebook page. The Twitter account was a piece of cake and thanks to the totally awesome Twitter Tools plugin, I can get a weekly digest of interesting broadband news to publish here on the site. Aside from that time where it wouldn’t post anymore (which I suspect had to do with my slowly dying server at my old host), it’s been easy and mostly headache-free.

Facebook, however, seems intent on cheesing me off. Quite some time ago, I setup a group more-or-less around the website. I quickly realized that its usefulness was very limited since any member of the group had to actively keep checking back to see what changed. That even included me as the group admin, not a pretty setup. The obvious way to go seemed to be to setup a fan page and tinker with that.

So way back in August, I went to setup the fan page and was promptly auto-rejected by their Smarter-Than-Me code because my page name had “excessive capitalization”. I can see why; a lot of spammers and scammers like page titles like “FREE IPOD FOR LIFE OMG!!!!1!!!one!!!” to try and grab your attention. The form, though, provided the option to submit documentation that what you asked to use is legit. I figured “hey, using UTOPIA’s own website, its Wikipedia article, and a newspaper story with my website name ought to be enough, right?” It also seemed to imply that a human with soft skin would actually look at it, logically deduce that I was a real person with a real site, and get things moving for me.

Silly me.

Instead, I’ve been through the various circles of support hell that so many web companies have been getting infamous for. The first e-mail got a generic canned response of what the web page had already told me. A response to that got me the same e-mail, copied and pasted, that I had gotten in the first place. When I replied to that, I didn’t hear anything for over two months despite sending repeated e-mails. I finally got a response that they had reviewed and approved my request. Happy happy happy! Joy joy joy! All I had to do was go attempt to create the page again.

Except that it didn’t work. That was back in October. I’ve been e-mailing them since then to try and get some kind of action, but I might as well be tossing coins into the fountain of my local mall. I sent more e-mails today in the off chance that maybe, just maybe a real live person with skin and organs that eats and breathes will see it, take pity on me, and maybe let me make the page with the right name.

And I can already here you folks out there saying “dude, it’s free; shut your pie hole.” To which I have to say, so what if the product is free? That’s Facebook’s decision to offer a product for free. If it’s crap, so I lose the ability to complain because it’s free? Of course not. And… it’s not free. I’m sending my website subscribers over there to get their data mined so that the latest FarmWarsVille game can hawk virtual crap to them. If anything, Facebook should be doing its darnedest to get more content and pages, not put up barriers to getting it done.

And sure, I could use an improperly capitalized name, but that would look really low-quality and likely be confused as not being the real deal. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. That includes setting up a proper fan page, not a make-do hack.

If any of you knows people at Facebook or has some idea how to find a human that thinks instead of a script that doesn’t, please let me know. I’m ready for this frustration to end.

Is Twitter for Customer Service or Damage Control?

Comcast has gotten a lot of praise for their Twitter customer service team and I don’t doubt it’s been responsible for their sharply increased rating on the American Consumer Satisfation Index (ACSI). I’ve used their team myself to resolve problems that support doesn’t or get quick answers to service questions. While I think they’re doing a valuable job, their function has been misidentified as customer service.

In my mind, customer service starts the minute you initiate contact to resolve an issue. You have an expectation that when you call in, you’re going to walk away with some kind of resolution. When you get conflicting answers from a CSR or don’t get your problem resolved by tech support, you’re not getting good customer service. By the time you’re venting on your blog, on a forum, or on your Twitter account, the damage is done: you got poor service.

When the Twitter-based customer service ninjas swoop in to try and get the problem fixed, they’re in full-on damage control mode. This isn’t to say they aren’t doing a great job of cleaning up messes; they are. But the core problem, that the customer service team failed to deliver, still hasn’t been fixed. I often don’t bother calling in with problems because I know I’m going to spend half an hour rebooting everything to have them blame my router, demand escalation, sit on hold another 15 minutes, and then face getting disconnected. It’s a lot easier to either complain online or seek out the Twitter folks to get things done.

This lesson is an important one for other service providers as a lot of former Comcast customers I’ve spoken with have sworn off ever going back because of customer service issues. Many Mstar customers have been in the same boat. Even though XMission’s DSL service is slower than Comcast and sometimes a bit more expensive, customers are fiercely loyal because the service is, by all accounts, awesome. It’s not because they’re using Twitter, it’s because they don’t have to in order to resolve customer issues.

Mstar Customers on iProvo Lose Access to E-mail With No Warning

As further evidence that the transition of iProvo’s Mstar customers to Broadweave is filled with potholes, I’ve heard that Mstar abruptly shut down customer e-mail addresses without any warning or notification from either Mstar or Broadweave, the company who bought those customers. Combine that with a total lack of notification on billing changes (Mstar is reportedly still getting payments from customers they no longer service) and it appears that the highly-touted customer service Broadweave promised has ended up a dud.

I guess George Stewart picked a good time to leave the city council, now didn’t he?