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Edit/Undone – Part 2

This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post Edit/Undone Part 1.  

“I don’t remember how to do long division”.  The other day, while in the lunchroom, a co-worker’s innocent comment incited a challenge.  Casting our minds back to our elementary school days, those of us who had gathered for lunch set out to re-discover a lost skill.  Slowly, almost painfully, we worked through it together, writing out the solution on paper.  A minute later, we arrived at our answer.  “We did it!” was quickly followed by “Why did we ever learn this?  It’s so pointless”.  A smartphone was quickly produced. “My teacher always said we’d never walk around with calculators in our pockets.  Hah.”

Does this story give you pause?  When I look at youth just 10-15 years younger than me, I see even more differences.  Teenagers seem to have abandoned the English language entirely, preferring “textese” to coherent sentences (can nybody srsly read dis stuff?).  The generational change that has occurred from my generation to the next, when compared to my parent’s generation to mine, is staggering.  In a few short years, these kids will be entering the workforce.  Does that scare you?  As an employer, how do you feel about hiring someone whose idea of a conversation exists in 144 character increments?  I’ll admit, at first, the idea makes me cringe.  But after thinking more deeply about the topic, I realized that this is a typical generation gap, just different; and while scary, I take comfort in the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Why is this change happening so suddenly?  Technology.  Throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched technology steadily replace the skills of yesterday.  No need to read a map, plug in your GPS and it will tell you when to turn.  Have trouble spelling?  Spell checker to the rescue!  Barely passed your road test?  Not to worry; cars now park themselves, avoid collisions, and apply proper braking pressure (what could go wrong?).

Technology has enabled us to do things easier, and faster.  It’s like steroids for generational change.  As we accomplish more in less time, we have more time to do more things, so we add more to our plates.  But then we feel a time crunch, and once again try to make everything more efficient.  We are always looking for a way to do more.   But it means we also have to know how to do more as well.

It’s simply not possible to know everything these days.  It’s been said that a single edition of the Sunday times has more information than the average villager would get in a lifetime during the Middle Ages.  How do we cope?  We abandon knowledge in exchange for knowing how to find it.  We don’t need to know how to do long division; all we need to know is to use a calculator (or a smartphone) to find the answer.   The emergence of the “open book test” in the last 10 years is a perfect example of this trend.  We prioritize “searching” over “knowing”, and traditional skills are thrown to the wayside.

Because of this, business owners may be wary of the young employee, regarding them as undisciplined, clueless, or distracted.  In reality, they are just differently adapted, just as you are differently adapted than your grandparents were.  Try to challenge assumptions when evaluating the newest generation.  Is it true that youth have worse customer service skills due to less face-to-face interaction?  Or are they more socially attuned thanks to social media?  Is it true that they not able to focus on details in an information-overloaded world?   Or are they free thinkers, able to make new connections in a sea of data?  Younger people bring new skills and priorities to the workplace; employers need to recognize what they bring to the table, and then support them in areas where they may lack – just like everyone else.  They may just be your best chance of success in this quickly evolving world.

Like it or not, there is no CTRL-Z for change.  Srsly.

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed society?  Are you apprehensive about the younger generation?  Or do you see their unique skills as an opportunity?


Retailers, social media, and lessons from the “bashtag”


Last week, I witnessed a Twitter slaughtering unlike any other.

A telecom carrier was advertising their newest promotion on Twitter via a promoted trend, which encouraged twitter users to tweet directly to their campaign using a hashtag.  It was meant to inspire discussion about the new service, but it quickly evolved into a PR nightmare.  Tweeters used the hashtag a “bashtag”, and instead used it to vent their customer service issues.  Thousands of them.  It was an absolute bloodbath, and it embodied every business’s worst social media nightmare.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of the product, the perception of the carrier or the wisdom of the Twitter campaign; when it comes down to it, any retailer using social media faces the same risks and online backlash.  For me, this example raised the broader issue of how retailers should respond to negative feedback in social media.

In this case, the carrier provided an excellent example.  Customer service reps did a superb job of responding to complaints, using the “acknowledge publicly, fix privately” model.  Reps replied to tweeters directly and encouraged them to privately send details of their complaint so it could be addressed.  General complaints were responded to positively, and tweeters were thanked for their feedback.  I don’t envy those reps, but they handled an extremely difficult situation well.  And most importantly, they provided an excellent counter-point to complaints about a lack of customer service!

This is customer service in the 21st century.  Reactions on social media are unpredictable, and oh-so-public.  Just remember, your responses are public too, so use that to your advantage to restore your company’s image.  At the end of the day, that’s what people will remember most.

How do you address negative feedback on social media?

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