Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Act Now to Offend Your Customers!

Another company calling to upsell me! Does this actually work on people?

We get the Sunday paper for the coupons, and I get a call from a hurried rep. This particular rep apparently works on commission for Boston Globe, because she's trying to upsell me to the weekend edition (not even sure what that really is, she was talking too fast for me to understand). I politely declined once, and she persisted, saying she "wasn't looking for a long term commitment." I politely declined again, and she said "OK," and abruptly hung up.

My opinion of the Boston Globe has declined at this time. What could Boston Globe have done better? What if a rep (not under time pressure) called me to ask how I was enjoying the Boston Globe? What parts of the Sunday paper do I enjoy the most? What could they do to make my experience better? She would have learned that I order the Sunday paper just for the coupons. Maybe she could have talked to me as an adult and suggested ways for me to enjoy the paper I already get more than I do now. Maybe that would have led to me reading the paper. Maybe I would have decided that I wanted more issues of the Globe.

Instead, a pushy sales rep tried to push an upsell on me. Bush league, Boston Globe.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Is How We Do It; or, Customer Service Done Right and Wrong

Right on the heels of my last bad customer service experience, I've got two more tales about how to do it right and wrong.

I've been locked out of my Sovereign and Fidelity accounts for a while (I tend to forget my passwords) and finally decided to call them up to restore access. 

I called Sovereign first. Calling the number in their "Your account has been locked out" message, I find that the number is their generic customer service number. Great, now I have to navigate the phone tree to find the "I'm an idiot and forgot my password" option. I finally get through to a rep. He asks me a few security questions in a near-monotone voice and unlocks my account. Without asking if I was able to log in correctly, he asks if I need any more help. I answer, "I'm all set," and he launches into an upsell attempt for either identity or overdraft protection. I cut him off once with "No thank you." but he keeps going. Realizing he is going to be graded on whether or not he makes this pitch, I wait until he's done, then restate, "No thank you."

With Sovereign fixed, I call Fidelity. Phone tree asks my SSN, and then immediately connects me to a rep. This rep is much more upbeat, even making jokes with me (well, laughing at my pitiful jokes). She is able to unlock my account and offers to wait while I log in. She asks if I she can help me at all, and I ask for clarification on a prior issue. She answers my question, and that conversation leads to a discussion about me possibly opening up a Fidelity IRA in the future. 

I noticed several key customer experience differences between these calls:
  • The Sovereign rep sounded bored out of his mind. The Fidelity rep sounded excited to talk to me.
  • The Sovereign rep clearly had a script to follow. The Fidelity rep was given more flexibility.
  • At the end of the Sovereign call, I started thinking again about moving to a credit union. At the end of the Fidelity call, I felt excited about possibly opening a new account with Fidelity.
  • When the Fidelity phone system took my SSN, it knew that I needed to speak to a rep, so it directly routed me to one. Sovereign's phone system made me jump through hoops to get to the right rep.
But if you look at the technical differences, there are really only two: a smarter phone system and a better customer rep. This can't be that hard to set up, can it?

One More Thing...

I'm really surprised how much Steve Jobs' passing is affecting me. I always thought he was a brilliant innovator but an arrogant asshole as well. I poke fun at Apple fanboys, yell about Apple anti-competitive behaviors, point out ridiculous pro-Apple bias.

And yet, you can't even begin to imagine how far Steve brought the tech world forward. Without question, his singular leadership made our world (not just tech, but the way we live our lives) better.

RIP, Steve Jobs.

(who is cutting onions in here?)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Wasted Opportunity

Just got a call from someone representing Dell (may have been outsourced) who tried to up-sell me on a more expensive warranty than the one I purchased with the laptop I bought a few months ago. The rep was extremely pushy, despite my gentle and polite but firm insistence that I did not want what he was selling. I finally had to hang up on him (I suppose I could have lied and told him I no longer owned the computer, but I wanted to see how the truth would work).

Seriously, Dell? I try to defend you, but then you pull a terrible customer service move like this. You had an opportunity to have a human conversation with me about how the laptop was working out, seeing if there was anything I needed help with. Instead, you insult me as a customer.

When my father bought an iPad, he received a custom email a month later from the sales rep asking how it was going and if he could help. Nothing about money or sales, just making sure he was settled and happy. The rep then helped my father fix a problem he was having without referring to outsourced tech support.

See the difference? Forget about the relative performance of Macs and PCs. The meta-ownership experience of the two systems are light-years apart. This is something that seems so easy to get right, and yet PC manufacturers (and plenty of other companies... ask me about my GM experience sometime) continually get it wrong.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One of the Little Things That Makes Me Rage

I've been trying to learn my hotkeys for Visual Studio so I can operate much faster. The most common one I use these days is attaching the debugger to IIS. For years, in Visual Studio 2008, I would type "alt, d, p, w, enter". That would open the debug menu, select "Attach to Process...", select the first item that starts with "w" (almost always w3wp.exe, the IIS process), and attach to it.

Then came along Visual Studio 2010. I don't know what changed or why is changed, but now, I have to hit an additional "enter" in the middle: "alt, d, p, enter, w, enter". When using both VS2008 and VS2010 at the same time, this can get really freaking annoying.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Don't Get Prisons; or, Rehabilitating our Penal System

The topic of prisons, punishment, determent, and rehabilitation has been getting to me lately, and an NPR broadcast about Angola Prison really drove me to try to put my thoughts into words. The way I look at it, our criminal justice system looks sort of like this:

Crimes are actions that we as a society have deemed illegal because they cause harm to other people. Murder, burglary, and libel are pretty obvious examples of crimes that do harm to others. Self-inflicted crimes (most notably, drug use) have secondary negative effects on society. 

As a society, we decide that people who commit crimes should suffer some consequences with the idea of reducing the number of criminal acts. For most crimes, the sentence is prison time. As I see it, the justification for prison time serves three purposes:
  • Determent: If people know they are going to jail if they do illegal things, they will be less likely to do them.
  • Rehabilitation: Criminals serving time may become rehabilitated and not want to commit crimes again either by a change of morals/outlook or by the fear of being imprisoned again).
  • Punishment: Society demands that people who hurt them are in turn hurt (the old Babylonian "eye for an eye" morals). 
It seems pretty clear that determent doesn't work for a large portion of society. People who have been driven to commit crimes (either by extenuating circumstances or by a weak moral compass) usually seem to just try harder to not get caught. People who wouldn't commit crimes in the first place because of a strong moral compass (e.g. me) are less likely to do the illegal activities even if they were not illegal*.

* I'm well aware there is a huge amount of sociological and psychological research in the fields of motivation and morality. 

Punishment seems to make sense, except when you think about the longer sentences. According to Louisiana's data on Angola, 73% of the inmates in 2010 were serving life sentences (there is some math at play here; lifers only leave when they die, whereas other inmates can finish their term or be paroled). What's the point of locking someone up for their entire life? Seems like a waste of a life.

Rehabilitation seems like the most valuable thing we can attempt with our criminals*. My wife once worked in a batterers intervention group, where she worked with convicted domestic abusers. After a once-a-week-for-40-weeks program, the recidivism rate was far lower than those who went to jail (granted, it is likely that this data is somewhat self-selecting; the judge could sentence intervention instead of jail time, and likely chose the more repentant men for intervention). I bet you many more criminals could be rehabilitated rather than just thrown in a snake pit with other criminals.

* I fully acknowledge that some people cannot be rehabilitated, and that life in prison or capital punishment are the only reasonable options for society.

I don't know where I'm going with this, other than to say it seems clear that our penal system could really use some work. Prison inmates are a drag on society, producing nothing, consuming goods and services, while (generally) falling behind in job skills. It's the 21st century; can't we do this better?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

resharper - surround with

I recently discovered a really useful Resharper command for Visual Studio: "Surround With". Simply hit "Ctrl+Alt+j" and you get a nifty menu with a list of common things your would surround code with. This feature makes programming simple: write the code, then add the hardening later. Booya!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Visual Overload

I reached my record of running five concurrent instances of Visual Studio (four 2010, one 2008) recently. Seems like there should/could be a better way to have multiple solutions open at once, especially since each VS took about 500MB of memory each (with 8GB memory total, this wasn't really a problem, but it could be if I also had other high-memory programs open). Maybe one VS can have multiple solution-spaces open, like tabs, but at a higher level than the tabs for open files? Not sure, but it seems like a better answer is waiting for someone to discover it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Troubleshooting

I think troubleshooting is a distinct skill that is technology independent. For example, Annie just called me in to the living room because the TV was displaying "No Signal", despite the fact that we were successfully watching TV earlier in the day. I don't really know anything about TVs and DVRs and tuners beyond "you plug the cables in where they fit", so I was slightly concerned. However, all my years of troubleshooting software bugs came through. Here was my process:
  1. Sanity check: make sure all cables are plugged into the right ports and the TV is set to the right setting. Still not working.
  2. Sanity check: turn off and on DVR and TV. Still not working.
  3. Move HDMI cable from port 1 to port 2 on TV, then port 3. Still not working.
  4. Get new HDMI cable from basement and test DVR and TV. Still not working.
  5. Test laptop HDMI into ports 1, 2, and 3 on TV. Laptop output to TV not working. 
  6. Unplug power from TV, wait 10 seconds, plug back in. Eureka! It's working!
The trick is to continually isolate a single factor and remove that factor from consideration. If I had not tried the laptop, I doubt I ever would have figured out the problem. But I needed to test with an input other than the DVR to isolate the DVR and TV from each other to determine which was the problem. I'm just glad I was able to fix the TV so easily. 
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