Writing about Google and Facebook over the years, it has become common to receive comments and emails from people desperate to get in touch with the companies.
Messaging a journalist is usually a last resort, a desperate step when you've received every variation of an automated response that a chatbot can puke up.
The great irony is that big tech companies are venerated as the masters of customer experience and held up as an example Kiwi businesses should follow.
There is merit to this: they're damn good at connecting us to each other and to terrible Adam Sandler flicks with just a simple few clicks.
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But that only applies when their services work as they're meant to. The moment things go wrong, all that celebrated commitment to customer experience quickly falls to pieces and you're left longing for the days when human help was only an 0800 number away. When that happens, all the adulation heaped upon the tech companies starts to look like hollow lies.
Want evidence? Look no further than a string of recent news stories featuring the masters of tech.
In late October we reported on a Dunedin restaurant which was blocked four times on Facebook for failing to meet community standards. Facebook's customer care team offered little information on why the business was blocked, meaning the owner simply had to endure the 14-day stand-down period each time.
A Stokes Valley man this month had a 20-day nightmare trying to get his faulty Tesla Powerwall system back up and running. Through his desperate efforts to contact someone at Tesla, the man found there was only one Tesla engineer in New Zealand – and he happened to be abroad for two weeks.
Local publishers have also chased their tails when it comes to Google, which has a history of storing cached versions of articles even when suppression orders have made it illegal to publish that information. More recently, local news company BusinessDesk has had an ongoing battle to get registered as a legitimate source of local news despite operating as a wire service for years.
Spinoff managing editor Duncan Greive also recently had a series of struggles, which ultimately led to him seeking advice from Twitter, of all places. Greive had been locked out of email service Mailchimp and was desperately looking to get back in to send a newsletter to his database. He told the Herald it took 18 hours before he could finally hit "send", by which time some of the stories had passed their sell-by date.
"Eighteen hours is a long time in media," he says.
PSA if any of you use or are considering the shitshow that is @Mailchimp please run screaming in the opposite direction.— Duncan Greive (@duncangreive) October 14, 2019
We linked the the Booker prize odds in today's Bulletin and they unilaterally canceled our account.
No appeal, no helpdesk awake.
We out. You should be too.
The customer experience from that billion-dollar business was so average that Greive has shifted his account to a much smaller alternative provider called Substack, which gives him almost-immediate human customer service whenever he has an issue.
Add to this all the stories of customers being charged exorbitant cleaning fees on Uber or Airbnb, and you have a pretty decent spread of tech companies not delivering on the hefty promises of their hype.
The reason for poor customer service is that all these businesses have a limited presence in this market. And unless you're a giant organisation spending a hefty sum every year, you're unlikely to receive the type of customer service that has long been the cornerstone of New Zealand business. And this problem isn't going away.
The more integrated our lives and businesses become with these tech giants, the more pronounced these issues will become.
The tech companies are quickly becoming akin to utilities in that they enable our marketing, our communications and how we travel from A to B. But they still function like startups, focused entirely on chasing revenue and innovation.
What's lost in that never-ending pursuit is that the smaller businesses that rely on them are left wandering in the dark whenever the tech lights go out.
So the next time someone tells you to be more like tech giant when it comes to customer experience, ask if by that they mean not replying for days and then sending a generic response on why the service didn't work.