Why I’m Tired of #Fail

We use the word “FAIL” with such abandon today – even with a taste of vindictive enthusiasm – and often in the instant someone or something rubs us the wrong way, most especially a business.

We have microscopic levels of patience that match the brevity of our status updates, making showpieces out of brands’ missteps, sometimes deserved and sometimes incredibly petty and reactionary.

There are most certainly failures of customer service, product, and corporate responsibility that are egregious, and I’m not talking about those. But the focus on those problems that ARE “epic” is diluted in the sea of flippant verbal retribution that’s leveled at companies simply because we have a mobile app at our fingertips and a moment of frustration.

When was the last time you simply asked a company for help instead of impaling their head on a virtual Twitter stake for all to fear? Used their Facebook wall to lodge a level-headed complaint or inquiry that gives them an opportunity to be helpful instead of on the defensive out of the gate?

What’s our role in helping companies improve based on crafting our feedback with the same care and attention we’d want the companies to demonstrate to us as customers? In other words, if we want them to listen, perhaps we need to be conscious of putting better and more useful information out there for them to find.

As advocates of the very technologies and ideas that we’re asking companies to use, we need to deliver input that’s relevant and conducive to companies’ identifying and addressing the problems we have, even when that input is negative. Fixing a problem requires understanding the cause. Sometimes, an individual mistake or bad judgment call by a customer service employee is just that, and we need to differentiate between inconvenient and unfortunate incidents by companies and recurring problems that are systemic.

Is It Just Us?

My friend Tom Webster said in our Twitter conversation on this topic: “The 10% who create content don’t speak for the other 90%.”

Point being that our online fishbowl illustrates this tendency more so than the rest of the universe, and that most people express their frustration differently, if at all. This is true. But businesses are watching, paying attention to us, the squeaky wheel brigade. Partially because we’ve told them they have to, partially because there are good businesses out there that care and want to demonstrate that they’re paying attention. And there’s a very real sense that the 10% will become proportionally more significant as time goes by.

One reason we have a credibility problem in this space is the carelessness with which we sometimes wield the very tools we’d like companies to adopt and value. We want them to be thoughtful and responsible but as individuals, we lash out at everything that doesn’t suit our fancy. And we wonder why companies are reticent and reluctant to jump in with both feet?

I’m all for demanding a high standard of service, for insisting that brand promises get fulfilled, for returning value in exchange for the money that we as consumers invest in a business. That is, to me, utterly without question.

But when there are shortcomings, we need some critical thinking around the threshold between a mistake and an epidemic. I wish we’d think a bit more about how we express our concerns if we’re serious about a business hearing us, understanding the underlying issue, and responding. Temperance still has a place in the business world, and can still get things done.

We talk personally of embracing failure as a learning experience, but we so easily brandish the scarlet letters of #FAIL for others. Do we love watching things burn so much that our best and most valuable contribution is to help toss another match?

I’m curious about whether you feel this, too. What am I missing? When do you feel compelled to cry fail? Sound off in the comments.

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