Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blogs of Note

While surfing the net I happened upon a site which I most enjoy: 9to5andotherwise.com

I also found a kindred blogger, Glenn Ross(http://customerservice.typepad.com), seems to have had some problems with a Customer Service call center. He proposes the following law be put into effect;

... you only have to wade through 3 voice mail sub menus before you speak to a human being.

Another blog worth noting is The Occupational Adventurer (http:curtrosengren.typepad.com)


Monday, July 18, 2005

A Carol for a Jonathan

A Carol Award!
By Gil C. Schmidt

Although I could complain about the shoddy construction of my printer, I, in my impressive maturity, (at least I’m impressed by it!) will focus on the positive side of having my Z65 fall apart like a house of cards: I found a Carol Award winner.

His name is Jonathan Iñesta and he works as a Desktop Publishing Consultant at CopyMax, right here (there, over there…well, anyway, someplace away from my home office) in Mayagüez. Over the past week, I swooped down on Jonathan with a series of somewhat urgent printing requests and he handled them all with ease and even style.

Because I’m a professional writer, I make sure (I try hard) to edit and format my copy as cleanly and as completely as possible, so that when I hit “Print,” I have no worries. Unlike other customers Jonathan deals with (almost always the one in front of me,) I don’t ask for 17 format changes “just to see what it looks like.” I go in, hand over my USB drive, crack a joke or two (I’m a really funny guy) and—voilá! I’m handed freshly-printed sheets and after the customary 11-minute wait to pay (Service alert! Service alert!), I am on my almost-merry way.

But one project defined the difference between Jonathan and non-Carol Award winners. I needed promo cards for an event and I was under a very tight deadline. I’d created the cards, 8 to a page, and needed not only printing, but cutting as well. For once I was unable to get to CopyMax with plenty of time to spare; I had but 50 minutes and Jonathan was very busy.

Because he knew I was an easy customer to deal with (I AM a funny guy), Jonathan asked me what I needed, and when I explained, he told me he would handle it immediately. Within a couple of minutes, he had the printer going and was searching for someone to make the required cuts.

Only no one was available. It was lunch hour and in the OfficeMax world, you either take your lunch hour at the scheduled time or you lose it. Doesn’t matter who needs service or how many are waiting: OfficeMax would rather leave them hanging than deal with an employee’s personal choice to do his or her job to the best of their ability.

Jonathan did exactly that. He stayed on, losing his lunch hour, to take care of my cards and several other customers as well. In under 45 minutes I had a box of 1,200 promo cards and the secret glee that comes with knowing I could hand out another Carol Award.

So, to Jonathan Iñesta, a Carol Award for Excellent Service. (And one to me for being a funny guy.) I’m pretty sure that wherever Jonathan ends up, he will be a success, combining as he does technical skill with people skills in a very powerful way.

And he thinks I’m funny. My fan club grows every day.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Carol Award to Sam's Club

As a single mother of four small children (ranging in ages from 3-10), it is very difficult for me to go out, for mere pleasure or just to run my errands. I have come to accept that this society isn't prepared for single parents with many kids, much less parents of twins. So, I was very pleased yesterday when I went grocery shopping at Sam's Food Club in Western Plaza Mayaguez.

Normally when I visit the supermarket I try to go solo, if I have to take the whole team I need two grocery carts to sit my twin toddlers in, my oldest daughter pushes one I push the other. This tends to be quiet exasperating because arguing always ensues since both kids want Mommy to push their cart.

Back to yesterday...

I go to Sam's and to my utter delight they provide grocery carts with double seating(yipee!), so I only need one cart and there's no arguing (thank you for small favors!). As an added benefit, the prices are really good if you need to buy things in large quantities.

Thank you Sam's Club for providing what very few other's do...peace of mind to parents with multiples and multitudes of kids.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Service Success TIP #7

Become your customer. Be your own secret shopper. Call your company and see how the phone is answered and evaluate the service provided. Have friends or family members visit your establishment and use that feedback to your benefit. Walk into the store, hotel, restaurant etc. and look at everything from the customers viewpoint. This is a great cost effective way to evaluate your service and make any adjustments neccesary to ensure continued success.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Service Success TIP #6

The post for July 8, 2005 at Gil's blog, http://gilthejenius.blogspot.com , suggests that you:

---Write down 10 ideas every day that can improve your business, career or any other area of interest in your life.---

Oprah Winfrey suggests you give thanks for five things every day. No matter how insignificant it may seem, think of five things from that day that made it worthwhile.

These are both excellent suggestions.
The first calls for action in reaching our goals and making our dreams reality.
The second promotes gratitude and teaches us to not take things for granted.

Good Advice!! Put it to good use...

- If you only care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it. (William James)
- A will finds a way. (Orison Swett Marden)
- Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. (Will Rogers)


More Food for Thought

- Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be cast, in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish. (Ovid)

- Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

- They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. (Carl W. Buechner)

- I don't have a solution, but I admire your problem.

- Teamwork...means never having to take all the blame yourself.

- Accept that somedays you're the pigeon and somedays you're the statue.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The First Screwie Award
By Gil C. Schmidt

Imagine a company that:
a) Makes a fundamental change in its ownership,
b) Switches a large customer base from one service segment to another,
c) Forces the customers to upgrade their service,
d) Forces the customers to wait for hours—or days—to receive the service,
e) Forces customers to lose their service for days—without recourse,
f) Promises fast service but imposes deadlines it cannot keep,
g) AND continues to charge you full fees for your service—which is nonexistent.

Welcome to to the wacky, zany, crazy, FUN! world of SunCom. The sale of AT&T created a merger issue that was handled by switching carrier service in Puerto Rico. To continue cell phone service, SunCom customers had to have their phones upgraded with a new chip, or buy new phones. ALL customers were given a 30-day period to make the change, but even early in the process, when crowds were thin, problems arose.

Each upgrade takes at least an hour and in some cases, several hours. Many customers—rightly so—had signed up for a specific plan and refused to buy a more expensive phone. Most customers could not afford to leave their unit at SunCom for “a few days” to have the upgrade handled. As the deadline grew near, the lines grew longer and tempers began to flare.

Customers began reporting that service was limited to 35-40 customers a day per office, with a customer base estimated to be over 105,000. Often they were told to take a number and come back the next day, usually after waiting for hours. People began arriving at 5 AM, three hours before opening. SunCom offices were closing at 10 PM instead of at six. Security guards were assigned to each office as irate customers began demanding their rights, in some cases with violent behavior.

The average wait for service was estimated at 6 hours. The average time for the cell phone to work again is estimated at 10 days. (After Day 11, my wife’s phone receives calls, but can’t make them. The SunCom “solution”: dial 611 for service. Uh, SunCom: IT CAN’T CALL ANYBODY!!) But the bill arrived on time, in full, with no hint that anything untoward has been happening in wacky, zany, crazy, FUN!Com.

Despite the best efforts of managers and employees at the customer service level (free breakfast, coffee, special arrangements for senior citizens and pregnant women) the entire company is to blame. SunCom has treated its customers like cattle in a slaughterhouse: pile them all in line, shove them through a ridiculous process and ignore the protests. Therefore, I give SunCom of Puerto Rico the First “Screwie” Award for Nauseatingly Bad Service.

And, hey, SunCom, if you don’t want it, call 611. On my wife’s phone.

Editor's Note: Thank You Gil for creating The "Screwie Nauseatingly Bad Service" Award, or the SNBS. I have a feeling that we'll be handing more of these out than our "Carol Awards", which are for excellent service. Unfortunate! I have several SNBS winners to acknowledge in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, since I'm so keen on options and solutions. Unsatisfied customers, hit the company where it hurts the most, in their pocket. Those who can, change companies. Those who can't right now, word of mouth is a double edged sword...


Monday, July 04, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** How to Deal With Squishyware

How to Deal With Squishyware
By Gil C. Schmidt

In a conversation with Diana, creator of T.I.P.S., I mentioned how many of my Internet-related clients seemed to complain about having to deal with “people issues,” or “squishyware” as some techno-geeks call the rest of us. (The put-downs are flying now!) As an advisor aiming at improving the commercial relationships between the two groups, I hereby speak as squishyware to the techno-geeks. Heed my squishiness!

1) We are the customers: if we don’t buy, you don’t get to do more chillin’ things. Yes, you create the fabtech hotness that we crave, but if it doesn’t connect with us in a fundamental way (more on that later), we won’t buy. We don’t buy, you don’t have a job. Think of it as code and you won’t forget it.

2) “User-friendly” is not a typing exercise. When customers say “user-friendly,” they mean it. What you find snazzy and sweet, we find annoying. Think “granny and a toddler”: If you can tell granny how to use the thing in under 3 minutes or teach a toddler how to use it in under 3 minutes, you have a winner. (Neither granny nor the toddler can be Nobel Prize winners in Physics.)

3) Explaining your work is not punishment nor a chance to show-off. Most technical people act as if having to explain the inner workings of their products is an unjustified burden, while some act as if they’ve been spotlighted for “Look At Clever Me!” Awards. If someone takes the time to ask, it’s because they are genuinely interested. Keep it simple, focus on what they need to know (and not how much you know) and you’ll find yourself in an actual conversation instead of a mini-Cold War.

4) “Technical” and “Customer” service are the same thing. The moment you try to separate the people from the hardware or software, you lose sight of the most important bond: without people, hardware and software do nothing. As technicians, you are experts in technology while the rest of us aren’t. Your job is to either simplify the technology for our use (yay!) or spend lots of time teaching us how to use it (boo!) That’s your choice and we react to it. And pay accordingly.

Combining tech-savvy with people-savvy is a powerful formula. When you find your techie self getting wrapped up in the intricacies of programming or functionality, step back, remember you were once squishyware and think of how the rest of us can benefit even more from your next cool thing if you bridge the technology gap.

Friday, July 01, 2005

An Ode to Customer Service

Given my recent experience with a Customer Service Call Center...I found this on the net... it's a bit long but quickly readable (does that make any sense?)...enjoy :oDD

An Ode to Customer Service

I have a little problem.
So, I call you on the phone
I'm given numbered options
To punch them each by tone.

After hitting number 7,
Then 2, 8, 6 and pound,
A short recording tells me
That no operators can be found.

They're busy helping others
And would I hold, this once?
Because my call is SO important.
What am I? A dunce?

My call's not so important
That I'll spend an hour on hold,
While my shoulder aches,
my patience bakes,
And my coffee grows green mold.

Nothing your recording says
Can cause me to believe
That my call will be taken
In the order it was received.

So, down I put the telephone
And up I pick the modem
To find solutions, on your site,
And, once found, download 'em

I calmly wait while DNS
Looks up your URL,
Until your server answers
Your home page front door bell.

I wait for frames to paint themselves,
My solution to begin.
And then, I wait for plug-ins
So I can see your logo spin.

I wait to get an audio file,
Greetings from your CEO.
He doesn't get the Internet.
But, he loves the radio.

I wait for a picture of
Your building is on my screen
And I realize there are things
That should not be heard nor seen.

Finally, there's a menu
And I poise my mouse to click.
But first, a Java applet! "Starting Java.
"I know that won't be quick.

The menu choices indicate
You know yourselves full well.
You know all about your company
And that's what you want to tell.

But, where's the button, I can push,
That takes me to the page
That solves my problem? Feels my pain?
And soothes my mounting rage?

There, in the lower corner,
Down by the copyright,
There's a little tiny icon
That looks as if it might ...

Be a link to customer service.
My troubles soon will quit!
I click upon it and I see ...
A 404 (file not found)... Oh, gee

And when I finally reach the page
That promises relief,
I'm staring at a document
That's far beyond belief.

For, where there should be answers
To frequently asked questions
And online help and knowledge-bases,
Is naught but indigestion.

For, there in type italics,
Underlined and bold,
Is the number for
The help desk phone.
I should have stayed on hold!

[ by Jim Sterne -- from 'Aiken Drum' (Aiken@AikensLaughs.com) -- Ed:Anon. ]