The free ride in social media is coming to an end

As Twitter continues to edge towards more of a business model that will offer something close to a premium level offering, something else caught my eye this week and it was this…

Ning announced that it was doing away with its free product and forcing its existing free networks to either make the change to premium accounts or migrate their networks elsewhere. They also announced that the company has cut almost 70 people —accounting for over 40% of its staff.

In case you don’t know what Ning is:  It’s a service that allows people to join and create social networks. Ning currently has more than 1.9 million Ning Networks created and 40 million registered users.

About 6 months ago, I mentioned on a panel that the free ride of social media had to end at some point. People need to make money with this social media stuff and hopefully it is not a model based on traffic/advertisers.

This is only the beginning.

When employees don’t care about customer service…

So I had a nearly catastrophic event happen today. If it were not for me trusting my gut it would have ended badly.

Let me tell the story.

I had to meet a client at a local restaurant in Naples, Florida. I had a lot of things with me that I had to hand off to them and thus was a tad bit harried. Plus the fact that I was running late for another appointment meant that the normal focus was not there. Keep in mind the word focus.

I met the client for a half hour then dashed off to the other meeting and finally made it back to the office at 4pm. As I was unloading, I noticed that I was missing my thumbdrive.  On this thumbdrive is everything. Now granted I do have copies of everything on the thumbdrive, it’s just spread over 2 machines and 2 external drives-so that little 3 inch long, black USB drive is my one stop shop for docs and what not. It’s vital.

It was missing and panic set in.

I backtracked and concluded that it had to be at the restaurant, so I decided to call them. Here’s how it went down.

Me: Hi I was wondering if you could do me a favor…I…

Them: Hold please

Me..Ok

5 minutes later

Them: Hello? (In a thick foreign voice)

Me: Hi was wondering if you or someone there could do me a favor. I think I left or lost my flash drive in the chair near the fireplace. Could you look for me?

Them: A what?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair i was sitting in near the fireplace.

Them: What?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair I was sitting in near the fireplace. It’s either in the chair or table.

Them: Ok.

5 minutes later

Them: (A new voice) Sir we couldn’t find it.

Me: Do you know what you were looking for? I mean that seemed awfully quick.

Them: Sure, but we couldn’t find it.

Me: Uhhh, OK. Can I give you my name and number?

Them: Sure hang on. (another 5 minutes)

At which point I had to repeat my phone number at least 4-5 times and wondered whether she really wrote it down. I say thanks and she says, “Yep”.

I got off the phone and thought to myself, that a) they didn’t look,  b) nor did they care to look, and c) nor did they really know what they were looking for and d) could care less.  I decided right then and there to make the drive back over and look for myself and this is what I saw when I went back to my chair.

Is this thumb drive hard to see? on Twitpic

Look closely. Understand that my camera phone is not a high rez camera but come on-Is this really that hard to see here? What do you think it looked like in person? Talk about being mad, lucky, relieved and disappointed all in one fell swoop! Customer service indeed. I know they are a restaurant but come on help me out here. It would be no different if it was an iphone- the fact of the matter is that they did not look. They didn’t care and thus when employees don’t care about the customer, or customer service, you’re screwed.

Yesterday afternoon, I really wanted to name names and based on a very large group on Twitter, I was given the green light to do it, but that’s not really my style. I will say this, there is chance for this restaurant to get it’s act together. We’re not talking about food quality here, but we are talking about an experience that a customer could share with others.