This is a customer service story that reads like a southern states fairytale. As they say in Georgia: ‘Y’all ain’t gonna believe this shiiit’.
Letter to LinkedIn: Let me state a bias up front. I initially liked you a lot. You seemed like ‘Facebook’ for grown ups, helping me get my ‘profile’ onto the WWW (Want Wide Wallet). Recruiters or clients could track me down at the flick of a switch. If Barack needed a trouble-shooter, voila. Like a Navy SEAL, I’m available 24/7. But I’ve an admission to make. Some of our initial ‘romance’ has started to dull. I secretly fear that our affair may be coming to an end. Here’s what happened…
Profile Strength: We stared off so good. I put all my data on line and kept it up to date, diligently filling in all the boxes. As a reward, you gave me an ‘All Star’ profile rating. On one level this was good fun. I can live with mild flirting. But, then your contact started to become more intense…
Groupie Status: You kept asking me if I wanted to join groups. They sounded high powered and attractive. Organisation Change Experts. CEO’s For Change. I dutifully signed up to overcome my FOMO anxiety (Fear Of Missing Out). Next thing I knew I was part of a ‘team’ of 2,478,937 like-minded individuals who wanted to share innermost thoughts on ‘policies for staff behaviour at the annual Bar-B-Q’. Turns out that a lot of people around the world are ignoring the plea from the drinks industry to ‘use alcohol sensibly’. And, based on the quality of the inputs, a lot of people in those CEO forums are hoping to become CEO’s circa 2045. There’s no barrier to entry and no-one is moderating this stuff. I started to ‘ungroup’.
Stalking You? Then I started getting messages about ‘who’s being viewing my profile. In response, I did what any egotistical, Alpha Male would do; downed tools immediately and gawked. I even got to snoop on ‘who else’ was being looked at, benchmarking if they were ‘similar’. When people were looking up Change Agents it was a rush; but it was a bummer when they were checking out Mildred in the canteen, even if her side profile is a tad more attractive than mine. If you are fundamentally nosey, paranoid (or both) the notion of who’s been looking at your profile is intriguing. But, here’s the kicker. Does it move the needle forward in any way? Absolutely not. It just decreases productivity looking at this crap. So, stop teasing me by telling me that ’20 more people’ had a peek at my profile in the past 3 days. If I want a diet of trivia, I will pursue it myself. If anyone actually wants a real-life conversation, they will send me an email or go completely caveman and phone. If they just want to flute around on the net, endlessly looking at other people’s profiles, I don’t want to talk to them anyway. Why don’t you monitor their usage and tell them to get a real job!
I Endorse You: Then LinkedIn came up with a new innovation. Every time I switched on my computer you informed me that someone had endorsed me. Hey, I’m on dodgy ground here. It seems like the height of bad manners to be cranky when someone is saying something nice. This is exactly why the word curmudgeon was invented (a person who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains). But, this new feature quickly got out of hand. So far, this week I’ve had 21 endorsements (it’s only Friday; that statistic might improve). I don’t wish to be boastful, but I’ve had tons of endorsements from people I’ve never actually met. Under this heading, LinkedIn lists my ‘Top 10’ skills; thank you for the confidence boost. Then you helpfully go on to list my ‘next 40 skills’ alongside another slew of endorsements. That narrows it down to 50 key skills – but hey – who’s counting? The sheer genius of this system is that I’ve been endorsed for skills I don’t actually possess. MBTI and Employment Legislation are just 2 cases in point. Perhaps I should study both, to be ‘aligned’ with my LinkedIn profile? Now I don’t wish to be cynical, but… I suspect that a lot of people who endorse me are hoping that I will, in turn, endorse them. Maybe we could have some sort of mass-endorsement party (MEP) in Brussels with loads of foam and Heineken thrown in to liven things up. I’ll bring the guitar and play American Pie – it’s always a winner at that sort of night out (Oops! There goes my next bunch of endorsements).
Birthday Boys: You’ve really gotta love these LinkedIn folks. I recently attended a training seminar on a day that happened to be my birthday. Now, trust me on this. At 57, you stop eating birthday cake and horse into all kinds of roughage (I’ll spare you the details). My new BF (best friend) is not Black Forest, it’s Bran Flakes. During the coffee break, the entire ‘class’ sang Happy Birthday – courtesy of LinkedIn telling them it was my big day. OK, OK. I know that I should have adjusted the privacy settings. But here’s the point. Why do you have these stupid settings anyway? Are your customers so ‘needy’ they want to announce to the world that it’s their special day? If Linda and the kids remember my birthday, that’s a bonus. But I don’t want people singing Happy Birthday to me on the bus. Maybe I’m on a wrong tack here. Perhaps I should remind everyone about that historical moment when I entered the world and all of mankind took a giant leap forward (nope, I don’t think so either).
Happy Anniversary: Then the lively souls in LinkedIn came up with yet another innovation. They must be eating porridge and blueberry’s every single day. “Tom O’Neill is celebrating 33 years working in Dublin City Council. Say Congrats”. This particular message raises a number of very troubling issues (a) should I congratulate Tom on his loyalty or commiserate with him on his total lack of ambition (b) why has Tom not been able to escape? Has he never heard of ‘tunnelling’? It worked well for the POW’s in the 2nd World War (c) Who cares about Tom anyway; I’m trying to get on with my day. Your real friends know about your life. The only people who send you ‘congratulations messages’ about anniversaries or new jobs are management consultant’s, insurance brokers and people ‘in between’ jobs i.e. someone trying to sell you something.
What Happened? So, who came up with LinkedIn’s ‘stream of contact’ strategy? While I have no insider trading, I’m guessing 3 possibilities. The first is that someone in LinkedIn found a ‘Customer–is-King’ manual. The offending paragraph read: ‘Some companies ignore customers and forget to keep in touch. It’s a mistake. Think of your customers as Swans. Now, get out there and mate for life’. Perhaps someone on the LinkedIn Marketing Team went to Hollywood Ink and had this ‘mate for life’ message tattooed across his forehead – backwards – so he could read it each morning in the bathroom mirror. It’s now part of his daily KPI’s to think up a new ‘customer contact’ method. The final possibility is that the LinkedIn HR department recruited a summer intern (the CEO’s niece) and invited her to a brainstorming session on ‘client bonding’. Seeking to impress, this kid came up with a slew of whacky ideas around ‘staying close to the client’. Because she happened to have the same surname as the CEO, her ideas became official policy. But that’s just my guess. There’s probably a rational explanation, somewhere?
LinkedIn Pulse: And so it continues….I’ve recently been made aware that there are certain ‘must-reads’ for a man of my station. The only ‘must’ here is that I must have been ignoring this stuff for years (so far this week, there are 13 ‘Must Reads’ that I’m struggling to get to; it’s a terrible dilemma). Now guilt has been added into a rich mix of feelings about LinkedIn. They are right about one thing – my ‘pulse’ is starting to race as we speak…
I have a message for LinkedIn. Why don’t you behave like a Prostrate Specialist. When I need you, I’ll be in touch. In the meantime, leave my in-tray alone. And here’s a free piece of consulting advice. If you want to know what your customers want, just ask them. Is it possible that you are getting confused between customer service and covert selling? They’re not actually the same thing.
But, I suspect, that you are not getting confused at all. This lovebomb marketing with customers is deliberate. That’s what’s really annoying. Until we meet again (which, I suspect, will be very soon)…
PS Lighter Notes:
First Tiger Woods. Then Lance Armstrong. Now Oscar Pistorius. I think Nike should start telling their athletes “Just Don’t Do It”
From Sean O’Connel: I said to my wife: “We’ve been married 14 years and in all that time I haven’t been right once, have I?” And she said “15 years”.
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