Monday, February 22, 2010

Are You Ready to be Judged on Twitter?

Last weekend, I took my five-year-old to the Royal Ontario Museum for the afternoon. On the way home, we caught the subway at the Yonge/Bloor station and had the pleasure of interacting with a wonderful ticket-taker. She playfully flirted with my son, talking to him about Valentine's Day, let him turn the ticket lever and even gave him a heart-shaped chocolate. He was thrilled and my faith in TTC customer service was renewed a little. I immediately pulled out my Blackberry and tweeted about my positive customer service experience.

If you live in Toronto, you'll know that our public transportation system (TTC) has taken a beating lately for shoddy customer service. While the organization's approach to service has never been stellar, riders frustrated with a recent fare hike, have taken matters into their own hands by posting photos/videos of napping ticket takers and drivers taking seven-minute coffee breaks while riders steam on idling buses. These photos have ended up on the front pages and home pages of media outlets.

By and large, these public "outings" have been supported by Toronto taxpayers, many of whom have grown weary with years of indifference and rudeness on the part of TTC employees. Protests from the union and its members fell on deaf ears because for the most part, TTC ticket takers and drivers have done little over the years to endear themselves to the people they serve and so, when they most needed support, it just wasn't there.

Many TTC employees complained that they were being held to a higher standard because they are public employees and that riders don't know the story behind their rudeness or apathy. Their union decried the nastiness of riders snapping photos and sharing them with the world. The general reaction was basically - if you do a good job and you're pleasant you won't have anything to worry about.

Personally, I don't think it's unreasonable for public employees to be scrutinized by the public. People who work in the private sector are scrutinized by the clients who pay their salaries so why should it be any different in the public sector? While the government jobs may not be glamorous (although some are) they are secure positions with decent pay and good benefits and don't seem to be tied to the ups and downs of the economy. There just doesn't seem to be any reason for them to be so unpleasant.

My experience with the pleasant ticket-taker got me thinking, what if we were all judged on Twitter? What if we all did our jobs knowing that, at any point, someone might tweet about our poor attitude or our great service. Would we complain that it wasn't fair or would we relish the opportunity to be publicly praised for our good works? If I knew that my clients were going to tweet about my company's level of service on Twitter, I might be inspired and encourage my staff to go above and beyond and see who could generate the most positive buzz. We all have off-days and we would hope those wouldn't be the ones that would be profiled but if they were, we would just have to try harder to gain back the trust of our publics.

Are you ready to be judged on Twitter?


  1. Even after 20+ years as a college professor, I've felt stung by anonymous comments posted (for all the world to read) on the Rate my Professor website. Then, facebook arrived. Students began sharing comments (sometimes as class was in progress)on various professors' performances. This was in addition to students providing formal written feedback at least three times per semester. So, I received lots of comments on how my clients perceived my level of service. Did their feedback improve my performance? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Did I expect that feedback should be part of my job? You bet. Tuition fees are high. Students expect a good quality of service.

  2. Thanks for sharing Christine. I'm sad to hear that students share comments on the teacher while the class is in progress especially since the point is for them to learn and that's probably hard to do if you're busy writing. I spoke at a college class recently and I have to admit I was unnerved that so many of the students were tapping away on laptops and cell phones while I poured my heart out up at the front. I guess you need a thick skin to be a professor these days. While my interaction with clients is different, they are not shy to provide feedback and like you, I just accept that it's part of the job.