by Dennis J. Pitocco, Featured Contributor
An Open Letter To Linkedin Customer Support
Dear Customer Support:
AS A LOYAL MEMBER AND OWNER of over two dozen Groups with an aggregate membership approaching 44,000 Members, I am writing you on behalf of our communities in hopes that you can respond to us all with a level of authentic customer sensitivity by reviewing our concerns carefully and responding with a natural sense of urgency.
From day one, our Group Managers have embraced a precise set of Group Rules and I (as Group Owner) have personally taken great care to ensure a consistent level of high quality “topical” content, high quality professional membership, and constructive engagement. Our quest has been to distinguish “our Groups” from the many others who are plagued by absentee management, spam and complete lack of anything resembling moderation or rule enforcement. We believe that our rapid growth (despite exacting boundaries) has confirmed that our commitment of time and attention to this “road less traveled” approach has merit.
Despite our very disciplined approach discussed above, we are increasingly faced with challenges borne not of management lapses or the absence of moderation, but rather of your “technical glitches,” algorithms gone awry, and sudden emergence of the dreaded “blue moderation box.” Not a week goes by now without dozens of our Members questioning us as to why WE are restricting their access, blocking their posts, or simply ignoring their attempts to actively engage in our many professional communities. Why have WE placed them in a Moderation Queue? Why are WE marking their high-quality posts as spam? Why are WE flagging their content for “not being relevant?” Be assured that virtually every one of these esteemed Members have contact you folks (Customer Support), only to be redirected back to us, having been enlightened by any number of incorrect or inconsistent responses, to include:
“Content can be flagged by all group members, managers and owners. Our spam filters will not cause you to go into moderation across all of your groups, however it can prevent the discussion from being posted.”
“If you are in contact with the group owners and/ or manager of the groups you are a member of, you can ask them to allow you to post without moderation. Feel free to send them this link with instructions on how to change posting permissions.”
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. I understand the challenges this presents for you, which is why I made sure to convey the impacts of this to our engineering team for consideration. We are always making changes to enhance the member experience and feedback on those changes lets us know what is working and what is not working.”
“To prevent any unnecessary flagging of spam, I strongly recommend that you manually share updates with one group at a time. There are certain ways spambots input information into groups which the system has adapted to recognize. So, we ask members to use certain guidelines in submitting content so they don’t have submissions caught in the spam filter either.”
“I understand your concern. Please keep in mind that if you have ever previously posted in other groups, this content can be flagged from previous posts, whether the post was created 2 days ago or 2 years ago.”
“If you’re experiencing issues posting in your own group, please try a different Internet browser and sign into your account (Chrome 34 and higher are not supported in Groups).”
“Your posts may have been identified by our content filters which could result in them being published on the Promotions tab or not at all.”
“Don’t put the link in the “Title” field when posting a discussion. The link must go in the “Body” field.”
“Make sure the title of the discussion doesn’t exactly match the title for the linked page. For example, if the link title is “New Healthcare rules” ” the discussion title should be something like “New rules for healthcare”. This simple change will help keep your discussions from disappearing.”
“Enter at least some text in the “Body” field along with the link. You can put something like. “This is new.” or “This looks interesting.” This helps the system recognize you’re a human and not a spambot.”
In Good Company? (Adventures Of A Group Owner)
The above responses go on and on…. While you may question the credibility of the Member or their posting behavior, allow me to confirm that they are indeed, in good company, as I personally have been victimized by the dreaded “blue moderation box,” and moreover, have been completely “locked out” of Linkedin (more than once) for weeks at a time. And just like our valued Members, I have very diligently opened tickets with your team, only to experience what can best be characterized as the most deplorable, non-responsive and arrogant “service responses” possible. As one whom has operated within the service industry for over three-decades, I’ve learned that the sign of a great company isn’t simply how they perform in a “business-as-usual” environment, but rather how the react when things go wrong. Suffice it to say that Linkedin Customer support has failed miserably in this regard, based on the speed of, lack of, consistency of and caliber of response experienced by me firsthand in recent months. All as a result of following the required Customer Support process. Some examples to illustrate my point:
My Message to Customer Support: I’ve had an open case now for circa 2 weeks, where my Account is fine in the morning and then restricted around NOON for the remainder of the day. As a Group Owner with thousands of Members, I am unable to manage and moderate my Groups with this never-ending issue. Please seem my Open Support Request, which I can no longer Access.
Customer Support Response: I’m sorry for not having a quick answer about accessing your LinkedIn account. I’ve forwarded your message to another group for additional review and advice. We’ll be in contact with you as quickly as possible but your issue may require additional research, which may extend your wait time.
You can always check the status of your ticket by moving your cursor over your profile photo at the top right of your LinkedIn homepage and then selecting “Help Center”. From there, click “Support History” in the top left to see the status of any tickets you’ve submitted.
My Response: I am unable to respond to your Response given that I don’t have Access. I am keenly aware that this issue has happened in the past and consistent with the past episodes, I have promptly responded with confirmation that there are no actions whatsoever on my end that are purposefully taking place to trigger a Restriction. As a Group Owner with dozens of Group Managers and Moderators, I am extremely sensitive to complying with the Linkedin User Agreement. As a consequence, I’ve waited two (2) weeks to learn that a problem not caused by me is triggering a problem that I am therefore unable to resolve. Many of my Managers and fellow Group Owners have experienced this identical issue, and we simply can’t understand how a “High Restricted” status solves the problem. My Groups have gone un-managed and un-moderated as a result of this action which conflicts with our well-established discipline of daily moderation, fresh content, etc.
Bottom line – I am perplexed and frustrated by this unilateral Restriction, absent any discussion whatsoever. As in the past, I am ready, willing and able to respond positively to any steps that must be taken on this end to ensure that this issue isn’t triggered. I’ve repeatedly asked for guidance and responsiveness and have received nothing but adverse warnings. I’ve committed many times to adhere to the Linkedin User Agreement and am recommitting here if that’s what it takes to restore my Access. Please advise as to next steps!
Customer Support Response: We are reaching out to you because we’ve detected an excessively high number of member profiles or pages that are being viewed through your account. We also see that this behavior has occurred many times over the course of your membership with LinkedIn. In order to protect you and our members, your account has been restricted. Please respond to this message and identify any parties, processes, or software involved in these activities that are contributing to the excessively high number of page views through your account. We have also detected an excessive number of unique logins over a very short period of time which indicates scraping of LinkedIn data. Please note that this is not permitted under our User Agreement.
As a result, we’ve suspended your account.
My Response: I have reviewed the Linkedin User Agreement (again). My comment regard inability to respond to this Ticket was directed at being unable to Login to Linkedin Customer Support. I have exhausted by my ability to explain that I have zero Plug-ins, third-party services, etc. connected to my Account. My posts are consistently created via the Linkedin Share Bookmarklet installed within my various Browsers. Certain topics (Articles) are posted to specific Groups based on the content & Group Profile. Broader topics (e.g. Leadership) are often posted across all of my Groups and a number of Groups beyond those that I own. Not sure if this practice is triggering this issue, but it is the only level of “technology” used to support my Groups and my across-the Board linked relationship.
If I need to change my User Name or my Password to eliminate any possibility that any unknown third-party application is accessing my Account, I am happy to do so – if that’s what it takes to finally bring closure to this never-ending issue. With respect to my Group Members, it’s not a matter of “missing me,” it’s a matter of consistent management, moderation and content sharing which over the past several years has become a distinguishing hallmark of my Owned Group/SubGroups. So it’s a “reputational” issue here, which may further support my sensitivity to bringing timely closure. And were it not for a never-ending stream of complaints from my Group Managers and Members regarding their recurring “blue moderation notice” and “lost access” issues, perhaps this sensitivity would be lessened.
As a business professional, I just can’t understand how Group Owners (whom work hard to build and properly manage their Groups) providing clearly Linkedin with significant revenue opportunities via advertising, etc. – can we arbitrarily “shut down” without reasonable discussion/resolution opportunities, particularly when we (in my case) have zero incentive to break any rules or conflict with the User Agreement. Not sure what else I can possible do or say on this end. Please advise ASAP.
Customer Support Response: Having thousands of unique logins and the number of page views is scraping of LinkedIn data and not permitted. I suggest that you review any plug-ins, third party services, etc. and let us know what you find that you are using which may be causing this problem. It does appear you are using something to access our pages outside of your normal browser service. Once we have more information we can review this and assist you further. However, to protect our members we will not permit access until we have more information.
We are sure your group members miss you, and we look forward to finding the answer to what activities you are using on our site. Again, I want to stress that the excessive logins is not in the dozens, it is over a thousand in a very short period of time.
My Response: Been racking my brain to determine where these “third party services” causing profile views was coming from, and as discussed above, they simply do not exist on my end. Please advise ASAP.
Customer Support Response: I’ve gone ahead and removed the restriction on your account. However, please be advised that this is your final warning regarding abuses on the LinkedIn site. If your account is reported again after today’s date, your LinkedIn account may be subject to termination. The actions being taken are putting a large and unnecessary load on our systems.
My Response: Thank you for restoring my access. The “final warning regarding abuses on the Linkedin Site” suggests that (contrary to all of our exchanges), I have been purposely taking actions to conflict with the User Agreement, which has never been the case. Given that this past Restriction took place prior to any discussion or confirmation of abuse, I (as a Group Owner) remain legitimately concerned that a “Termination” even could just as likely be triggered absent any abuse on my part.
Rather than discuss this when it’s too late, is there a forum or Trust and Safety contact with a discussion can be held to ensure that any such items on my record deemed “abuses” can be revealed & discussed?
Customer Support Response: Utilizing a third party service or plug-in which causes harm to our systems is bad and is the responsibility of the user to investigate prior to implementation. Due to the impact on our system and reporting we reserve the right to terminate an account or suspend it depending upon the circumstances of related violations going forward.
In addition this is not a “recent” event. I have researched this further and found similar activity back in October of 2013. In addition we show logins from multiple countries on the same day in October. Sharing access for your account is not permitted under our User Agreement. Being a group owner does not negate one’s responsibility to adhere to the User Agreement.
My Response: Not to prolong this discussion, but there seems to a presumption from your Department that I am purposely violating the User Agreement. To the contrary, I am doing whatever it takes to adhere to the Agreement, which is increasingly difficult when all responses presume that I am guilty of some form of negligent behavior.
And with respect to the log-ins from Multiple countries, my wife and I are world travelers and I naturally login from multiple countries to maintain my Groups. I have reviewed the Linkedin User Agreement you continue to reference and am unable to locate any violation related to the owner of the Account (me) logging in from other countries.
Which brings me back to my original question. Rather than discuss this when it’s too late, is there a forum or Trust and Safety contact with whom a reasonable, objective discussion can be held to ensure that any such items on my record deemed “abuses” can be revealed & discussed?
Customer Support Response: There were multiple logins on the same day which based on the time stamps do not apply to travel.
Respectfully, do not misuse our system and adhere to the User Agreement. That is all. If you want to appeal a decision we can discuss at that time. You have seriously misused the system with the third party service or application. This is your final warning, there will be no further discussion or back and forth at this time. Log into your account and manage it on your own, don’t use other software, apps, etc. except as part of our API program (it will be noted on said applications).
Allow me to emphasize that from day one, I quickly recognized the inherent “value” of such a marvelous networking platform, and for a price that simply can’t be beat! However, with the passage of time, the “law of diminishing returns” has reared its ugly head in so many ways. Hugh Miller did a great job late last year in capturing such diminishing returns: Why I Quit Linkedin.
And when it comes to Customer Support, you must realize by now that the word “oxymoron” comes to mind. Your sporadic advice ranges from elementary to reasonable to inconsistent to just plain wrong. And when we dare attempt to establish a respectful, proactive dialogue to avoid future “technical glitches,” algorithms gone awry, sudden emergence of the dreaded “blue moderation box,” or a complete High Restricted “lock-out,” your customer-sensitive, empathetic response is to issue a final warning and end the discussion? Well, you may be the proverbial “800 lb. gorilla” when it comes to professional networking platforms, but we all know that despite his legendary size, even King Kong ultimately met his destiny.
“It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty that killed the Beast”….
On behalf of our Group Members (now encompassing circa 44,000 professionals across 128 countries) and your rapidly-expanding Linkedin community of unfairly “moderated” or “highly-restricted” Members, I look forward to your constructive response.
Your Disillusioned (probationary) Group Owner