Why LinkedIn Customer Service Is The Ultimate Oxymoron.

4134793-neo+of+matrixTurns out there’s good news, there’s bad news, and there’s LinkedIn Customer Service. At least, this was the discovery I made after an excruciating 25 minute long phone call with a LinkedIn “Customer Service” representative (and I’m using the term loosely), who, after making me more or less jump through hoops and barrels for a half hour of my life that I’ll never get back in a frustratingly futile attempt to troubleshoot what I had thought was a fairly straightforward and simple issue, had the audacity to tell me, just when I was about to snap, that she had some “good news…”

This ‘good news’ mantra, it seems, is part of their conflict resolution script, as I was offered similarly spurious “good news” during each of my previous two attempts to resolve a technical issue – better known as a “bug,” if you want to get all technical and stuff – that has rendered my subscription nearly unusable throughout the past year.

The situation, despite all the “good news” from their CSRs, has yet to be resolved, of course, which I’d consider, on sum, to be very bad news – at least in terms of my ability to leverage the service I’m paying for to recruit candidates and build a pipeline. They say you get what you paid for, but the truth is, even though I still haven’t cancelled my premium subscription with LinkedIn, I can’t help but feel decidedly like I’m getting a bit screwed.

After the most recent round of “good news” ended up, inevitably, with no news and no resolution, I hung up the phone, finally fed up with the inability of a company worth over $15 billion to find what should have been a fairly easy fix to a fairly simple issue.

I took a deep breath and racked my brain in search of the perfect pop culture reference to describe the surreal experience of having to deal with the inevitable ineptitude of recruiting’s version of the Death Star.

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LinkedIn Customer Service: Swallowing The Red Pill.

The possibilities, really, are endless. LinkedIn could be seen as “The Ministry of Truth” meets “Big Brother” from 1984, with its institutionalized lying and intrusive misappropriation of member data. It could be the Yellow Brick Road, a golden path for shareholders who inevitably will pull back the curtain to realize that this has all been a bad dream. It could even be Alice in Wonderland, where you’ll never know where the Rabbit Hole you’re following truly leads – only that trouble, inevitably, seems to find you. Only I’m pretty sure a pipe smoking caterpillar or a talking Walrus probably were less confusing to Alice than the contradictory messaging and asinine assurances I received every time I contacted LinkedIn about the issues I was having.


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I know I, for one, felt a little like Mr. Anderson as I sat there on these endless and increasingly absurd calls – I wondered whether I should take the red pill or the blue pill, really, because either way it felt like there was some sort of glitch in the Matrix surely only I could see. I felt that, like Neo, if I were to choose consciousness instead of blissful ignorance, I’d see that the LinkedIn I’d taken for granted was, in fact, some sort of dystopian illusion leading to some sort of sinister agenda and the sort of secrets you realize, only too late, that you don’t really want revealed.

But I chose the wrong pill, and the result was an experience that led me to believe that not only is the very concept of “Customer Service” a distinct oxymoron at LinkedIn, but that behind their Matrix lies a hidden agenda that’s only visible to the fortunate few who can read the underlying code that’s more or less imprinted everywhere.

LinkedIn, it seems, doesn’t really care about delivering any sort of service or support to their customers. Instead, their only real job is protecting recurring revenue and trying to present up-selling as the only solution for what’s really broken instead of trying to fix existing errors and deliver on the value they’ve previously promised their paying customers.

That is to say, LinkedIn would rather convince its customers that its problems come from paying too little a premium for utilizing their premium services, and the only real resolution is to pony up even more money before getting a fix that’s any more than false promises and empty assurances. I, for one, am fed up, and wondering how we got here in the first place – how, exactly, LinkedIn took a fairly staunch advocate and paid user and, in the matter of months, torched all the bridges – and goodwill – they’d built up over the years with this particular recruiter.

I never thought it would be possible for me to feel this way about a product I used to be such a champion for, but then again, it’s only when a problem arises that you truly see what’s behind the proverbial curtain. And the truth is, that curtain is covering up a whole lot of crap most recruiters – or users – never see.

Hell, I used to be one of them.

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Meeting Agent Smith: A Glitch in the Matrix.

That was until that January day, not all that long ago, when I had noticed a decided discrepancy in the search results I was seeing between my personal LinkedIn account (aka LinkedIn for ‘regular humans’) and those search results that displayed when I was logged in with my LinkedIn Recruiter license. Realizing that something wasn’t right, I spent several hours scouring the LinkedIn ‘Help’ portal, which turned out to be false advertising, since I couldn’t find any semblance of help for any issue even remotely resembling the issue I was having.

So, I decided to submit a customer request online via-email, thinking surely someone at LinkedIn would quickly respond to a paid customer and get the issue resolved – much to my surprise, my first attempt at contacting them went unanswered. I’d more or less forgotten about this unrequited request until weeks later, when this recurrent problem resurfaced, and I spent even more hours trying to track down a telephone number in the hopes that this time, I could get through to a live person and hopefully, finally resolve what had become a pretty major product pain point.

Now, we can all agree, LinkedIn makes sourcing candidates fairly simple and straightforward, but if you want to test your true sourcing mettle, I’d suggest seeing if you can track down any sort of direct dial information for the company or its “Customer Service” function.

After a lot of digging, I somehow stumbled upon a link leading me to an “online chat” function with LinkedIn’s customer service team – I’m guessing it’s basically some sort of bot – which, like a mirage, appeared to come and go every time I tried accessing someone on the other end. Finally, I was able to get through and pull up a chat window with a rep, and explained my situation in great detail – only to be told that they couldn’t help, and immediately disconnecting me. So, the second attempt turned out to be as futile as my first. Well, third time’s a charm, right?

So, I got back into their online chat functionality and this time, actually ended up encountering an agent who was trying his best to help resolve my issue, but communication using the chat client proved to be kind of an issue, since I had to upload manifold screenshots to properly make my point and demonstrate the problem I was having. Once that had been effectively conveyed, the CSR admitted, to his credit, that I was indeed experiencing a bug – a glitch in the Matrix, no doubt:

Agent: Hopefully, we will have this returned to functionality soon.

Me: I hope, or from my perspective a refund is due; I’m paying for that functionality, not simply for viewing people’s profiles. That I can get from an unpaid account.

Agent: Yes, I do understand, but as I mentioned, for right now, the good news is you are still able to see the profiles, and we now know you can see them on the other filter on the left side of your screen…

Me: This isn’t good news. If this isn’t resolved, I will try to escalate.

Agent: The good news is that we’re working on a resolution and will have an answer for you shortly.

I waited, but not surprisingly, the answer I was promised never came. I had swung and missed a third time, and this strike out didn’t sit well with me. So, having threatened to try to elevate the issue if it went unresolved any longer, unlike LinkedIn, I decided to stay true to my word and see what I could do to move this up the LinkedIn ladder.

I burned one of my InMails contacting a Global Operations Executive for LinkedIn, based out of what I assumed to be corporate headquarters in Mountain View, with the hopes that his title and proximity to power would finally result in some sort of resolution.

This global exec passed along my information to the correct parties, he told me in a much appreciated and properly prompt response, and would be hearing from someone who could help.

The Trinity Project: Bullet Time.

bullettimeA few days later, on February 16, I was contacted by what LinkedIn refers to as a Corporate Escalations Agent (CEA1) and had to again reiterate the issue I was having, complete with documentation and a full explanation of the situation and its (lack) of resolution to date. The CEA responded by telling me that my issue would be researched, and as soon as they had found a fix or workaround, they’d immediately let me know and contact me back.

Not surprisingly, I never heard anything further from them, so after waiting about a week for this “research” to run its course, I decided to reach out yet again to see if they were any closer and to ensure they hadn’t forgotten my problems or swept them under the rug.

As helpful as the CEA1 tried to be during this second exchange, I was ultimately told that the “bug” I was – am – experiencing didn’t impact enough users to warrant a resolution. This would have taken resources and bandwidth away from more pressing problems, and that was how I was left – in the cold, still having the same problem I’d been having for months – only now, I knew that there would be no quick fix, nor any fix, really.

Not at least, it seems, until the problem became more pervasive or impacted more people.

Until then, it seems, my options were to deal with it – and I’m still dealing with it, even if I continued, like an idiot, to pay for a premium product I can’t actually use, which was their recommended recourse, of course.

Here’s the official ‘party line’ from LinkedIn’s “Customer Service” point person, full of false assurances and frustratingly ambiguous put offs:

“Just like everything there is a life cycle, and as we get higher priority bugs solved the priority of this bug will rise. (Which is exactly what we want!) Until we do get this resolved, please continue to use the workarounds that you’ve specified because they are fantastic ways to get around this bug that I hadn’t even thought of! I do understand how cumbersome this is and really do appreciate your patience while we work through it.”

Incidentally, the first CSR I contacted through the chat function found out about this ‘investigation’ through the CEA1 who was my primary point of contact, and sent me a separate note:

“My apologies as our technical team is still working with our engineering team to get this fixed. Unfortunately, I do not have an ETA for a fix at this point … In the meantime, the good news you are still able to view the profiles and conduct your searches as you would before.”

And there you have it. Now, I’ve got to admit, the “good news” on my end was my decision to stop paying for a premium subscription, even though I wasn’t formally cancelling my license – hey, I had warned them I’d be doing this, and unlike LinkedIn, I believe in making good on my word – credibility counts in recruiting, you know.

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Revolutions: Morpheus Rising.

Once I had made the decision to stop paying, however, and let them know why I was doing so (again), I received an almost immediate response, via email, from a brand new Corporate Escalation Agent – this one, I assume, outranked my original contact person, since they were no lowly CEA1 – this, my friends, was a CEA2.

The email was sent from an anonymized address that read, “GCO Campaign,” which, in this political season, made me immediately throw up my guard. I don’t know about you, but beyond basic recruitment marketing or ad spend, I associate the word “campaign” these days with political fundraising or the upcoming election, since this sort of spam regularly clogs my inbox from a variety of causes and candidates, all unsolicited and none of whom, really, I support. But, seeing this originated with LinkedIn, I decided to open this one instead of deleting it like usual. And it turns out that this time, they actually had a solution for me.

In the email, they offered to cancel my Recruiter account (which I’d effectively done) and grant me an “upgrade to our Executive Level Plan which will offer all the features of Recruiter … operated through your personal LinkedIn profile and eliminate the separate dashboard and your troubles with our search functionality.”

OK, I thought, this might possibly work, although making the switch meant also losing the data from my Recruiter account, which I was reluctant to do.

I responded to the email – twice, in fact – demanding a further explanation of what, exactly, they meant by their vague promise of “all the features” that they were offering in this new package.

I’ll give you one guess as to the answer, but something tells me you probably already know that “all the features” meant “more or less none” of them, save one – that, of course, was continued access to InMails. Yeah, InMails – exactly what I didn’t necessarily want or need, the least effective part of the platform, was being dangled to me as more or less my only option. Now that I’d pulled back the curtain, I figured out what I should have known a long time ago – LinkedIn could care less about my data, my workflow or my recruiting needs.

Nope. It only wanted me to keep the revenue flowing in, and saw my value to shareholders, not as a recruiter reliant on their product to deliver as promised. In other words, I was getting screwed, but that was OK, as long as I kept paying for the privilege. Which, for the record, I’m done doing, and hope that most of you feel the same way, too. No one should have to go through the frustration of finding out the only thing behind that firewall, turns out, is smoke and mirrors.

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LinkedIn has proven for small business customers or non-enterprise buyers like myself – and like I’d suspect, an overwhelming percentage of their paid users – have little value to them whatsoever, and the costs of proper customer support are higher than the potential costs of customer churn, should problems arise. This, unfortunately, seems to mirror a trend we’ve seen most multinational organizations embrace – and let’s tip our hats to AT&T for being “The Architect” who designed this model of “pay up or shut up,” it seems.

If anyone at LinkedIn cares to step out from behind the curtain and provide me (and the recruiters reading this) with an actual solution instead of the “good news” that I’d found a workaround to work around their bullshit, then I’d welcome an explanation. Until then, I’ll continue to warn every recruiter I know who has a premium license for LinkedIn to make sure they know exactly what it is they’re getting for what they pay for. If they don’t really have a good answer, well then, I’d encourage them to think long and hard about taking that red pill or just swallowing the placebo being offered in the form of “good news” from Mountain View.

Because ignorance in this case just might be bliss – and finding out the truth (or finding a resolution) will inevitably lead you down a rabbit hole. And if you go chasing rabbits, you know you’re going to fall – and the pills that LinkedIn gives you, don’t do anything at all.

neilAbout the Author: Neil Elenzweig currently serves as Principal and Managing Partner for Divergent Source Group, which specializes in executive search for the built environment, conducting strategic recruiting and professional placement for the architecture, design, building materials, commercial real estate, construction and related manufacturing industries.

Neil brings over 20 years of sales, business and product development in the construction and building materials industry to his recruiting practice. Neil has worked on projects ranging from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas to the decorative physical security upgrades at the United Nations, among other major capital projects.

Prior to assuming his current role, Neil worked in a niche recruiting firm, leading both business development and managing full cycle recruiting and search for manufacturing and engineering clients across the United States. While as a true recruiter, Neil is never not working, in what passes for spare time, he does enjoy eating dark chocolate, drinking red wine or vodka, chowing down on funky food, speaking his mind, networking and occasionally stirring the pot and pissing people off.

Follow Neil on Twitter @Recruiter_Neil or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Neil Elenzweig


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