When does Batman sleep? – Part 1

Back in September last year, fresh from the awesomeness that was Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki, I found myself at the Web 2.0 Expo, NYC.

It was day two of the conference and Brian Solis was taking us through his presentation on PR 2.0. It would seem that in today’s ‘2.0’ environment, that PR was no longer about Public Relations, but Personal Relationships.

Brian’s written and talked extensively about this subject in the past and while I have a great respect for him and his work, this particular session was faltering.

You see, the presentation wasn’t anything new to me. Having studied his work in the past, I was just hearing everything I’d read being spoken back to me.

Admittedly this was not Brian’s fault. He had to speak to the lowest common denominator in the room and he was doing a very good job of it. However, some of the attendees were losing interest. Actually, my good friend and blog designer Vero Pepperrell touched upon this in her most recent post on That Canadian Girl.

Upon her return from the South by South West Interactive (SXSWi) festival, in Austin, Texas – Vero had this to say to the organisers:

Mark panels as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced on the pocket schedule and ask speakers to stick to that level. The vast majority of panels I attended were far too Beginner level, which sometimes felt like a waste of time. The panelists aren’t necessarily to blame, as they aimed to be as inclusive as possible, but when every panel is lowest-common-denominator, it can be tricky to learn new things.

Good point, well made. So… What’s up with the Batman reference?

Well jumping back to New York for a second, the PR 2.0 session at Web2 was coming to an end and Mr Solis had opened the floor to questions…

A few short ones at first;

– “Should we be using Twitter?” (Yes)
– “What if people start talking back?” (Talk back to them)
– “Can I have a copy of your presentation?” (Yes)

And then this one guy came up to the mic, rather shy fella actually, and quietly told Brian and the audience around him, what he did for a living. This man was a developer who, after spending some time wandering the world wide web, had discovered that people were talking about the company he worked for. Sometimes good, sometimes bad and, being the nice human being that he was, this man decided to do something about it.

At first, starting small; just fixing little bugs here, offering help and guidance there. Soon, word spread that this was the go-to guy online if you had any questions regarding the company he worked for. Again, being the kind man that he was, he found himself answering query after query and question after question, not once being mean or nasty or just plain rude. This man cared:

“Sometimes Brian, I find myself stuck in front of the laptop at like 10pm on a Sunday night. The kids are in bed, the wife isn’t far behind and there I am answering customer care questions over Twitter with some guy in Geneva! This isn’t my day job. I’m a developer. My question to you is sir; when does Batman sleep?”

This prompted a huge round of applause from the majority of the room. Being the face of your brand isn’t supposed to be a 24hr job (is it?), so when are we supposed to take time out? What about those of us to whom this isn’t even their job?

I have answers, mainly through my own experiences.
But first I wanted to ask the question to you, dear reader:

When do you think Batman should sleep?

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Part 2.

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17 thoughts on “When does Batman sleep? – Part 1”

  1. I had to read this post twice to absorb it, because the implications are massive. In a 24/7 world, when we are being told that we need to “be a part of the conversation”, how does one ever get rest if that conversation never ends?

    I think it all has to do with personal and professional limits. Work is work, life is life. I understand that the two often mix, but they can’t always mix. When I do branding and reputation management for companies, I set limits. I will work between 6am and 8 pm, but that doesn’t mean I will always work during that time. I just work work outside of that time. If somebody is really curious or engaging, they will be able to wait for 12 hours until I get back to them.

    If we don’t have hard stops on our desire to respond, we will burn out (very quickly) and then there will be nothing.

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  2. when he tells commissioner gordon he is sleeping…thus the reason for the Bat signal.

    we are a 24/7 society yes…but a 24/7 society that has email…that can build up a database overnight of “crimes” that can be prioritized…

    …and Commissioner Gordon doesn’t turn on the signal for j-walking.

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  3. LOVE it! As a former sole netrepreneur with a high-visibility Web site and now the face of the company I’m marketing for, this questions hits home. Here’s my answer:

    It’s far more important that “batman” CARE, than exactly how fast he respond. What people want — what we ALL want — is significance: WE WANT TO MATTER.

    Simply hearing someone, listening to THEM and responding to them is often 90% of all that we need.

    If you want to affect people deeply just start by LISTENING.

    In my former position I often got quips about when did I ever sleep. The fact was, that my business was my life. But we all have limits.

    I aimed to respond to people within a few hours, but promised responses w/in 24 hours. But again, more important than the duration between, was the care I wanted my response to reflect.

    We are all better when we are freshly recharged and on the top of our game. We ALL need down time to do that. You’ll make a better responder when you take care of your needs first, let go of unrealistic expectations for response times.

    ~ Mark

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  4. If you genuinely serve a global market place in any significant volume and you only have one ‘batman’ then you’ve already failed… not just because of that one individual’s bandwidth, but because you’ve let one individual, one voice become your online brand. Hire 3 people and develop a consistent corporate voice – make that identity core to what it means to work for/with you. With one person each in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific you can then roll-with-the-sun: 24hrs/3=8hrs…. Then train up some backup people so you can sort your succession planning out too for the extra WIN.

    If you’re small and resource constrained enough to prevent this, be honest with your ‘non-local’ customers – a coherent, helpful response even 24hrs after the request still feels like magic compared to the traditional CS model.

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  5. Every superhero needs a sidekick. Eventually, Gotham got so bad that Batman needed Robin.

    Soon, the world was so bad off, it needed the Justice League.

    No, Batman, you can’t do it alone. Even superheros need a little downtime, now and then.

    Bruce Wayne needs to go talk to his organization’s management team, prepared with facts, figures, and maybe a few shiny PowerPoints (management teams love PowerPoints) showing exactly why their company needs more superheroes and sidekicks on the streets (or rather, “on the tweets”).

    Then hire them.

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  6. I’m going to have to echo Ben’s thoughts.

    Batman, as a super hero, is a consistent with his values and passions, but over the years he has been played by multiple actors. The last Batman film, The Dark Knight, especially emphasized how the concept of Batman was more important than the man himself.

    Companies should start emulating Zappos more. You’ve probably heard of them James, they’re known for their scary awesome level of customer service, getting each and every employee to help via Twitter: http://www.bivingsreport.com/2008/zapposcom-a-twitter-case-study/

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  7. Interesting. My first thought was, “well, if you’re Batman, does anyone really know if there’s just one person wearing the mask?” But of course when you’re managing personal relationships, it helps to be as honest as possible. So you don’t want to have many different people pretending to be one “go-to” guy. And a known team of people under a group identity isn’t anything like as personal.

    Things I can think of to do:

    Make it clear that this kind of “social media support” is at least semi-official, and establish a few key, real people as Batman and Batman stand-ins (I wouldn’t mind terribly if my support call was handled by Robin if Batman was busy!)

    Establish this kind of support as a clear role in your company, and try to get the appropriate resources. If you’re working your day job and doing this as your night job, you won’t last long. I’m fairly sure Wayne Enterprises mostly ran itself, and it’s probably easier to be Batman if your day job is “reclusive millionaire”. But this is likely to be the most difficult thing to do, as many companies won’t “get it” yet.

    Remember that the police are there to handle the mundanities. Batman didn’t bother going after all the petty crime, or typing up arrest sheets, or spend much time in court. You may be going too far as Batman if you’re trying to handle the whole support job from start to finish. Just knowing the right people to hand things off to and building relationships with your existing internal support people (who may otherwise resent you) will help immensely. If you’re doing Batman’s unpaid job because the city has decided it can halve the number of policemen, you’re onto a loser, I think.

    If you can’t get the appropriate resources, then you’re going to have to manage expectations as early as possible. And don’t forget the Batman, having no great responsibility to anyone but himself and his own sense of justice, cherry-picked the personal jobs that were most interesting and fulfilling, and let Commissioner Gordon handle the drudgery…

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  8. Cloning. It’s the wave of the future! Or caffeine – when the future is NOW, and never stops.

    But in all seriousness, clearly this company has problems if it’s one man, on a volunteer basis, who is interacting with the customers.

    This company needs more people who will stop to pick up the trash than those who will just walk by and say “that’s not my job.” Sounds like customer satisfaction is NOBODY’s job, and that is scary news.

    Forget the “get a consistent voice” advice – get people involved, employees AND customers, and let this guy get some sleep so he can go back and fix/improve the product and make more of these conversations about how much the customers love the products/services, driving more business their way.

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  9. Hi James:

    First off, he is not Batman And I am not just saying that because I live “in” the set of Gotham City here in Chicago. Batman had Alfred, Lucius Fox and – more importantly – people who were working for him who did not know they were working for him!

    I have been in this guy’s shoes before, but before the days of Twitter and even YouTube. My role was more internal to the firm, but I did solve problems for customers too. I did a lot of work because I chose to take it on, otherwise my brain would have been bread pudding by now.

    From what it sounds like, he was doing this alone, and that is part of his problem. I had assembled a “team” of basically other likeminded folks who gave a damn, and though we were not purposely sneaking around, we all knew we were doing things that were against the norm and culture of where we worked. It was not a 24/7 operation, but because we were working on Web sites and Web apps, it was a late night task many times.

    In some companies, people may not be receptive to social media, and unfortunately there’s not much you can do. But in some companies, you need to keep needling people and eventually they will get it. For this guy and others, I hope they work for the latter and not the former.

    mp/m

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  10. That’s easy. Batman sleeps during the day. He’s a /Bat/-man. Bats sleep during sunlight hours.

    Seriously, have you ever seen Batman on a bright sunny day? No, it’s all shadows and moonlight for him.

    Why? Because the police of Gotham City are out during the day. They’re taking care of business. In fact, they’re working pretty damn hard during the night as well.

    Batman is only called upon to deal with the edge cases. The whackos. Ones who don’t fit in the normal support model.

    Your call centre & customer care team are your police men. Your Batman is the press officer who deals with the outraged politician or journalist who could really mess things up for the business.

    You are probably not Batman. You’re not even Robin. You are Alfred.

    You help things along. You make sure there’s a clean suit to change in to. When you notice the Batmobile has a dent, you hammer it out. You’re inoffensive and don’t overshadow Bruce Wayne.

    This isn’t a bad thing. This isn’t a criticism. Alfred is the cornerstone of the Batman story. Alfred is an indispensable weapon in Batman’s arsenal. And – here’s the best bit – he never has to risk his neck.

    We should all try to be Alfred for our employers. Almost invisible, smoothing things out, lending a hand, giving sage advice and a timely homily on what today’s adventure has taught us.

    You see, Batman is special for two reasons
    1) He has excellent help from the likes of Alfred
    2) He has spent literally years training in ancient martial arts.

    He, and the cops, are highly trained professionals who do an extremely complex job. You can lend a hand, but don’t get in the way.

    As they say, Do Not Try This At Home.

    You don’t start with Batman – or Batmen – you start with cops. You only need Batman for special occasions. If you don’t have customer service – get them, train them, pay them. If you do already have them, get them involved in proactive support. Make sure that they work the hours that your customers want to call on them.

    If that doesn’t work, and no one else can help – and if you can find them – maybe you can hi… wait… I’ve slipped genres…

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  11. As the previous commenters have said, if you are relying on a single human being, are you lining yourself (and your company) up for something like the events in this movie?

    Reading about the events leading to the Batman question, actually causes many more questions;
    – why was he the only one doing it?
    – what was so broken at his company that the normal support route did not work?
    * Could he not hand off the support requests?
    – had his efforts been noticed by *anyone* else at his company?
    * if not why not?

    Are we once again facing the problem of Eternal September?
    As wave after wave of people discover the same basic fundamental concepts over and over again, but each time with a slightly different interface.

    Posted a comment over on Vero’s post around the panel level’s thing.

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  12. family life > work life

    I feel the same as most really in that he shouldn’t have been the only one doing this. Set priorities, when the load starts infringing on your life outside of work, it’s time to make some decisions, either hold steady and do what you can in the hours you have allocated, or ask for more resource and justify why you need it.

    Batman sleeps when he want’s to because he has the common sense to beable to switch between two realities, one is work, one is the playboy (read; normal life). They meet occasionally, but if either takes over completely, you’re in trouble in my view.

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  13. I’ve got a similar, but slightly orthogonal question, drawn from recent experience – what’s the etiquette for dealing with professional downtime?

    You have a contact on your twitter who you have a professional relationship with, as well as the now-standard follower semi-friendly relationship. Say you want to ask him a quick question about your professional issues, like setting up a meeting or just a small 1-minute query about something.

    Now, I’ve been on the receiving end of stuff like this, and I know how badly it affects my weekends and days off when I can’t disconnect from the job. Some guys enjoy calling you at five pm on a sunday and setting up a meeting for the next day, and it’s not nice. It’s even worse if your’e on holiday.

    So I’m now working on a similar sort of etiquette on twitter. I could send a quick d or @message, but I’m not going to do so outside of work hours. The big problem being working out what work hours are for people, sometimes, as I have people who work sunday-thrusday, monday-friday, monday-saturday morning, and then time zones to deal with. It’s not easy, and I don’t do it much on twitter, so I eventually end up just dropping and email a lot of the time, which I can assume is dealt with in working hours. Still, the urge to just send a d is *there*.

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  14. Get a team if 24/7 is vital. If not, make clear you are a single human with limits.

    Post clearly on bios what your hours are and which time-zone you are in.

    Maintain a reputation for being responsive in those hours.

    And most importantly: Always Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First.

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