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#MissingThePoint: Companies alienate customers with Twitter bots, scripted responses



From upset consumers whose gadgets broke prematurely to stranded air travelers stuck on the tarmac, Twitter has been an effective outlet to publicly shame companies, sometimes resulting in VIP treatment.

Those days may be over.

Some recent incidents suggest tweeting is starting to resemble being stuck on hold, or worse yet — trapped in an automated telephone system pressing #1, #2, or #3.

Image: Missing the point

NBC News

The most extreme example involved Bank of America’s @BofA_Help account, which last month repeatedly responded to a vitriolic cycle of foreclosure criticism with robotic-sounding, “Please let us know if you need assistance,” messages. Public embarrassment soon followed. When an account called @OccupyLA wrote, “You can help by stop stealing people’s houses!!!,” @BofA_Help responded, “We’d be happy to review your account.” And on it went from there.

Frank Eliason, often considered the founder of Twitter-based customer service as the voice behind @ComcastCares and author of “@YourService,” said the latest trend is “breaking my heart.” (NBC News is part of NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast.)

“Companies are really looking at this more as a PR play as opposed to fixing the root cause of the problem, and that makes me really sad,” Eliason said. “Companies do not want to talk to you, and it shows. The fact is most do not want to tweet with you either.”

Cheesy stunts
As the Twitter customer service channel has matured, companies have turned to automated “bots” and scripted responses, ruining the personal touch that had made Twitter help so valuable, Eliason said. Rather than trying to be purely helpful, and enhance customer relationships, Twitter has become the land of cheesy public relations stunts, such as Chipotle faking that its account had been hacked to gain more followers.

“They haven’t devoted the staff it would take to respond in real time with real answers,” said Carri Bugbee, a social media expert, discussing Twitter failures in general. “Whether it’s a bot or a person with a script, it’s a failure, and it’s tantamount to outsourcing customer service to the lowest-level employee.”

There’s a pretty straightforward reason that Twitter help might be in trouble. When the channel was narrow, and the number of potential users was small, a single tweeter like Eliason could handle the volume. As success stories have proliferated, more consumers have tried, forcing firms to replace single agents with teams and processes.

In other words, the personal touch is hard to scale.

“Obviously, large companies that have a lot of relationships to manage are looking for ways to make it scale, to automate, but it really doesn’t work,” Bugbee said. “(Companies are) looking for cheap or easy ways to do things that aren’t cheap or easy.”

Making things worse?
Social media is hard work, and many companies aren’t getting it right. Simply Measured, which studies Twitter response, says 32 of the Interbrand top 100 companies have a dedicated customers service Twitter handle, meaning they have gone over and above the others to invite tweets.

Even among those 32 Twitter-focused firms, performance isn’t great: The average response time to a tweet is 4.6 hours, and the average response rate is 45 percent, says Nate Smitha of Simply Measured.

“We have seen those continue to improve every time we take the study,” Smitha said. “But the numbers do come across as low.”

Of course, simply responding to a tweet doesn’t equal a successful customer service exchange, as Bank of America proved. In fact it’s easy to imagine that companies targeting improved response metrics by using bots or scripts actually make things worse.

“Those canned responses have to go the way of the past because (companies) will become a laughingstock … and it will reach Wall Street,” said Marsha Collier, author of several books on social media customer service.

Turn down the temperature
Failures come when company cultures won’t allow Twitter agents to do the right thing, limiting their responses to scripts and legalese.

“These are large corporations who [are] bogged down in silos, who do not give their social media team the latitude to decide on the fly how to handle things,” Collier said.

Collier says good Twitter responses also require deft hiring. Twitter agents must have a good sense of humor, be willing to take a punch, and be artful in written responses, she said — a skill set over and above what companies are used to hiring in call centers.

Studies show most consumers who take to Twitter are already angry — they’ve probably tried and failed using traditional channels — so being able to deftly turn down the temperature of a conflict is a must.

“You have to know customer service, but you also have to understand marketing, understand corporate communication, human resources — you have to understand all these components,” she said.

‘One of the crowd’
But Collier disagrees that Twitter help is dying out. The mistakes, she says, are a bump in the road.

“I argue that it isn’t a death knell. We are observing an education,” she said. “We are in our infancy … We will always have examples of companies that don’t do it right, but the tools are getting better and better.” Tools like HootSuite help firms do a better job of not missing angry tweets and managing responses, she said.

Still, Eliason is worried because he thinks there’s only one way for Twitter help to work — when consumers know they are working with a real human being who genuinely cares about their problem. And it also helps it the person behind the accounts is, as Eliason puts it, “humanized.” When he tweeted for Comcast, he would also tweet personal pictures and thoughts, and just generally act like any other Twitter user.

“I was one of the crowd,” he said. “There’s an aspect to that that is actually important if you want to be a trust agent … it’s about being one with the community, not being the center of it. ”


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Google faces a fine of up to $11 billion for the way it ties Google Search and Chrome to the Android mobile operating system.


Google’s Android mobile operating system is based on open-source software, but some of the most useful parts of it – Maps and Search, for instance – are proprietary, and the company makes sure that anyone wanting to use those features has to use other services that make it money too.

If an investigation by the European Union’s antitrust authority finds that that behavior constitutes abuse of a dominant market position, it could expose Google to a fine of up to $11 billion.

While the fine won’t have much effect on Android users, device makers or service providers, the legal remedies that usually accompany such findings could mean bigger changes to the way Google licenses Android, and in particular access to its search tools and Play store.

If Google were forced to change those agreements, it could become easier for major phone manufacturers to sell devices with “forks” of the Android software that provide better security or privacy than Google’s default, or to include search engines or browsers better suited to the needs of businesses.

What the Android antitrust case is about

What most people see as the Android operating system is part open source, part proprietary. AOSP, the Android Open Source Project, is the core software that handles interactions with the phone hardware and allows calls and internet access over the wireless network. Anyone can use and develop it.

However, another key component is GMS, Google Mobile Services, which Google describes as “the best of Google.” It’s the part of a phone’s software that most people think of when they talk about Android, and includes Google’s voice-controlled mobile assistant; Maps and the Chrome browser; as well its Gmail, Youtube, Photos and chat apps. Most crucially of all, it includes the Google Play store, giving access to millions of other apps, games, movies and TV shows, music tracks and magazines.

You don’t have to pay to use or distribute GMS, but you do have to enter a license agreement with Google. Those agreements are at the heart of the case.

When did the EU start the Android antitrust case?

In April 2015, the European Commission opened a formal investigation into whether Google had breached EU antitrust rules by entering into anticompetitive agreements or abusing a possible dominant market position. Such actions could have hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, applications and services to the detriment of consumers and developers of innovative services and products, the Commission said at the time.

Android is the most-used mobile OS in Europe ahead of Apple’s iOS, as it was when the Commission began its investigation. Since then, however, two other competitors have dropped out of the smartphone software market: Microsoft Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS.

  • The Commission focused its investigation on three allegations:
    Whether Google illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services;
  • Whether Google has prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install its applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called “Android forks”) on other devices, thereby illegally hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and mobile applications or services;
  • And whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications, services and/or application programming interfaces of Google.
European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, announcing formal antitrust charges against Google in Brussels in April 2015.

Has the EU formally charged Google?

In April 2016, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent Google a “Statement of Objections” – formal charges that it expected the company to answer. It accused the company of a breach of EU antitrust rules, abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.

Google, it said, had implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. That strategy meant Google Search was pre-installed and as the default or exclusive search service on most Android devices sold in Europe – and also prevented rival search engines using competing mobile browsers and operating systems to enter the market.

It also accused Google of giving smartphone manufacturers and mobile network operators financial incentives to exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices, or of making such installation a condition for access to the Play store.

A Statement of Objections is a formal document issued by the European Union’s antitrust authority, the European Commission, in cases of anticompetitive practices or abuse of market dominance. It sets out how the Commission believes a company has breached EU law, and gives the company a chance to defend itself, either in writing or in an oral hearing.

The next steps

If, after reviewing the company’s response, the Commission still feels it has a case, it either invites the company to make formal commitments to remedy the situation, or it publishes a decision of its own imposing remedies, a fine, or both.

There’s no deadline for the Commission to complete its investigation, but indications from Brussels are that it will publish a decision in the Android case before August 2018.

In the Google Android case, the Commission could theoretically fine it up to $11 billion, or 10 percent of parent company Alphabet’s $110 billion worldwide revenue in 2017 – but recent antitrust fines have come nowhere near that level.

There’s a separate investigation ongoing into the company’s AdSense online advertising service, looking at the restrictions it places on the ability of third-party websites to display search ads from its competitors. That could expose the company to a similar-size fine.

And, of course, the Commission has already hit Google with one antitrust fine, for abusing the dominance of its search engine to promote its own comparison shopping services. That cost it $2.7 billion in June 2017, around 3% of its prior-year revenue.

Other recent fines for abuse of a dominant market position are in the same ballpark. In January 2018 it fined Qualcomm $1.2 billion, or just under 5% of annual revenue, while Intel’s $1.3 billion fine in June 2014 represented about 3.8% of revenue.

Given the nature of the Commission’s complaints, it could impose remedies requiring Google to change the way it licenses the GMS add-ons to Android, including its search engine and the Play store, or seek commitments from the company that it will make such changes.

That could mean mobile phones with access to the Play store, but with some other search engine or browser set as the default in place of Google Search or Chrome, appearing on the market from major manufacturers.





Source:  Computer World

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Samsung is back with its Samsung Carnival offers and discounts on smartphones, headphones, and speakers. While the company hosted the sale on Amazon in 2017, it brought the Samsung Carnival to Flipkart earlier this year. The sale features offers and discounts on several Samsung Galaxy lineup of handsets and other products. The latest sale on Flipkart started on Tuesday (June 12) and will go on till Thursday (June 14). Notably, the discounts come alongside other exchange benefits and no-cost EMI schemes. The major Galaxy handsets that are available with discounts during the latest sale include the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy On Nxt, Galaxy On Max, Galaxy On5, and Galaxy J3 Pro. Also, there are offers on Smart TV models, refrigerators, and other electronic products. It is worth noting that the ongoing Flipkart sale on Samsung products also provides 10 percent instant discount on HDFC Bank debit and credit card transactions as well as EMIs.

During the Samsung Carnival sale on Flipkart, the Galaxy S8 is available with a Rs. 12,000 discount and is priced at Rs. 37,990. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S8+ is available with a Rs. 10,000 discount and will cost Rs. 43,990. Additionally, the Galaxy On Nxt 64GB inbuilt storage variant comes at a price of Rs. 10,900, down from the launch price of Rs. 17,900. Also, the 16GB inbuilt storage model of the smartphone can be purchased with a Rs. 2,009 discount, priced at Rs. 8,990.

Interested buyers looking for an affordable Galaxy model can go for the Galaxy J3 Pro 2GB RAM/ 16GB storage at Rs. 6,690, down from the launch price of Rs. 8,490. Flipkart has also listed the Galaxy S7 Edge 32GB variant at Rs. 32,900, down from the original price of Rs. 41,900. The smartphone had received an official price cut in February and is formally available with a starting price of Rs. 35,900. Also, the Galaxy On5 is available at Rs. 5,999, down from Rs. 8,990.

Apart from the discounts on smartphones, the Samsung Carnival sale on Flipkart features consumer durables as well, including the 32-inch Samsung 32J4003 Flat HD TV that is available at Rs. 16,999. Also, Samsung’s Smart Convertible 5-in-1 Refrigerators are available for purchase with prices starting at Rs. 16,040.

The Samsung Carnival sale on Flipkart also features discounts on Samsung headphones and speakers, up to 50 percent discount on Samsung mobile accessories, cases, and chargers, and up to 40 percent discount on select Samsung monitors. Notably, the Gear Fit 2 Pro is now available at Rs. 10,990, down from the launch price of Rs. 13,590.

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