System failure and fuzzy thinking.

I have been looking for an excuse to write about a number of negative call centre and customer service experiences I have had recently. I didn't want to just have a rant, although I felt like it, but to find something more interesting in the stories. And guess what - it's social computing!

What frustrates me the most, is a feeling that no one really cares about any problem I have. The ownership of my problem is is not owned by any particular person, but by the system, by the database. There is no room for imprecision, either my problem fits the precise path, or it doesn't, and if it doesn't I might as well give up. Only on very rare occasions do I get to deal with a grown-up, someone empowered to make decisions, to listen to my problems and do something about them.

Now don't get me wrong, I realise there needs to be some sort of system. It just needs to be a system that can accommodate and tolerate fuzziness. This is where social computing steps in. Giving the people stuck in the system some means of talking to each other, some means of noticing things and passing on that noticing to each other would allow for much more learning to be built into the system and much more subtlety to be available to those working in it. Whether it is a forum on which to discuss things that go wrong, or a wiki on which to discuss the things that go right, it doesn't really matter, just so long as there is a place for people to share what they are learning.

I don't doubt for a moment that there are complex heuristic technologies built into the systems that the helplines deploy but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about a much messier, much more human "ooh that's interesting" sort of learning. The sort that humans can remember and apply when talking to other humans!