Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 1: Will HELP For Fee

1375855160_call-userWith this post I will begin a four-part series that examines the importance and relevance of good customer service.  For each post I will cover a specific customer service theme and as the title suggests I will offer real world examples good, bad, and ugly.  For my first post I’ve chosen a theme that I believe is at the heart of what customer service means – helping.  In this day and age of easy access to online forums, help articles, how-to videos, etc. it is easy to suggest that customer service doesn’t quite hold the importance it once did but that notion is easily dispelled the second you get a flat, or your AC goes out on a blazing August day, or you’ve made an honest mistake when paying a bill.  In times of crisis we are sometimes forced to rely on good old-fashioned customer service be it via phone, in store, or online and nothing is worse than when you are at your most vulnerable and need help you get hit with fees and fees for fees!  We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when you ask for help and the response is “Sure, that’ll be $195 including service fees”.  It begs the question, should customer service cost?  The short answer is technically yes, because customer service, like parts and labor, costs companies and must be accounted for somewhere but we the consumers just don’t like to pay for it when we need it most.  I’m no different; it’s like pouring salt on an open wound when I have to pay additional fees for an unexpected expense.  Below I will go into a few personal examples I think illustrate how to properly service a customer and keep a customer because let’s face it bad customer service equates to lost customers.

The Good

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What’s My Favorite Gadget?

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Credit: Apple

Kindle Paperwhite

Credit: Amazon

If you asked four years ago, three years ago, even one year ago my answer to this question would have been one and the same – my Kindle eReader.  Really?  Yes, I’ll get to why soon but to answer that question today is a bit of a conundrum.  First you need to know that I’m a voracious reader and naturally by reading this you must know that writing is a passion of mine so it might make some sense that the Kindle was my choice for so long but that’s not the main reason.  I’m a big fan of things that focus on doing only one thing and not things that try to be all things to all people.  I’ve owned a Kindle ever since I pre-ordered the 2nd generation Kindle back in 2009.  I”m referring specifically to the Kindle with an E Ink screen, not the Kindle Fire tablets that get so much attention.  Next to paper E Ink is still the best way to go for pure reading.  I pretty much ditched print from the get go allowing exceptions for only a couple of my favorite authors.  I won’t even attempt to knock print form because I actually morn its decline with many of you but I stop short of feeling guilty.  Let me tell you why.  Amazon’s Whispersync cloud technology means that I can go anywhere with my entire library of books and just like how iTunes and the iPod freed most of us from those giant cd albums once you go paperless so to speak you’ll never go back.  Amazon’s controversial low pricing practices don’t hurt either. Read More

My Ideal Digital Father’s Day

IMG_1876I’d like to get a little bit personal here and share the events of one of the best Father’s Days I’ve ever had yesterday.  We live in a digital world, well I do anyways, and yesterday is a perfect example of how it suited me well.  Well mostly well as a bit of today’s technology was responsible for a tad rude start to the day.  I woke to the sound of an incessant beeping.  When pounding on my alarm clock didn’t stop it I realized it was coming from the kitchen and the wifey was not in bed.  After a couple of groggy calls to no avail I stumbled in to realize it was the digital timer on our oven that was sounding off letting me in on the surprise breakfast in bed.  I found my wife in the closet no doubt trying to stealthily put together a bag of goodies.  I let her know the cat was out of the bag and needed to get out of the oven as well or it would be overcooked and then I stumbled back to bed.  That was easily overshadowed when the wife and kiddo later appeared with breakfast and gifts.  The gifts were cleverly concealed in a Superman bag which was only too perfect for what was to come later.  Inside the bag was a great memento craft/gift they made, a new Logitech t400 Touch Zone mouse I craved for some time, and of a large jar of Reese’s Pieces:)  After consuming a yummy breakfast and showering I plugged in my mouse to my laptop and was awarded an effortless setup and a couple quick minutes to explore my new gadget while surfing the web.  Visits to FB and a few chimes on my phone would yield plenty of Father’s Day well wishes from many friends and family.  Thankfully a thoughtful cousin would mass text me and several of my other father friends.  I utilized the opportunity to succinctly perform the same well wishing task with a simple mass reply to all.   Soon I would be promptly instructed to get my shoes on because we were going to drop the kid off and catch a movie!

Remember the bag?  That’s right this is the opening weekend to Man Of Steel and my wife knows me best, though I must say I was a bit torn as I haven’t had a chance to see Internship yet.  Nevertheless despite not being able to resist the urge to read a couple bad reviews I was ready to take the plunge.  Come on it’s Superman after all!  BTW, DON’T listen to the reviews Superman is INSANELY good!  A quick check on my Fandango app would reveal that my local theater at least expected a good turnout for Man of Steel since there were showtimes every 30 minutes throughout the entire day.  Once arriving, I would of course check in to the movie on Foursquare and blast it out to brag to all my friends on all the usual social networking channels.  I planned ahead by including a pic I took of the Superman bag and gave it the filter effect via Instagram.  I would tag my wife so she would get props from all friends in her social feeds too. Read More

Do The Horizontal Limbo

1368047606_camcorder_stickerThe past few weeks have been big news weeks from the Boston bombing to the West, Texas explosion to the usual viral YouTube videos.  Most of the coverage has been captured by smartphone cameras and the recent viral hits have highlighted one of my biggest pet peeves –  ridiculous vertical videos!  Case in point is the West Texas explosion recording that’s been rebroadcast thousands of times.  Rarely has such a massive explosion and accident been caught on camera so close but Johnny-on-the-spot just had to film it vertically, grr!  I’d love to take off on a rant right about now but I won’t  because I’m sure I’ll digress into a putrid name calling tirade, instead I’ll try and politely give some simple advice that though I think should go without saying, it’s evident that it must be said.  I can list many examples of why technology is wholly geared to view images, motion or still, in landscape mode but instead I’ll only list the couple of examples where portrait mode is acceptable.  The first is the printing of still images and the second is Instagram.  Instagram clips images so they will display most effectively in portrait mode on a mobile device.  A recent example is Vine a new app released by Twitter that only formats short videos for portrait mode viewing.  That’s it folks.  Let me ask you, have you ever seen a camcorder turned sideways to film a video?  Short of trying to capture some funky special effects angle it’s doubtful you have.  The camera lens in a smartphone is only a smaller version of the those used in camcorders and work on the exact same principle.  Check out this great parody illustrating this lens limitation.  One more thing, forgot to turn your phone once you began recording that video?  Please don’t turn your device horizontally midstream and expect the images to flip automatically like they do when engaged within an app.  It won’t.  You have to stop the video, flip your device horizontally, then began anew else you’ll be filming your own version of the movie Sideways and the title will be more than just an analogy for life.

iSick

Sick_SmileyThe original iPod debuted November 10, 2001 and along with it a whole new naming convention was born or should I say iBorn. Ick, even typing words with the lowercase ‘i’ moniker makes my stomach turn because of its over usage. Since then countless products, apps, and companies, have all decided to pile on Apple’s coat tails and ride the iWave by following the exact same product naming convention. It wouldn’t surprise me if some silly parents haven’t named their kid iTom or worse by now. Maybe it’s the rebel streak in me but I just can’t stand it if what I wear, what I buy, my hobbies, or even the way I talk isn’t distinguishable and I just don’t fully understand the onslaught of blatant Apple capitalization and Wanna-Bes. I suppose I can understand the Apple related accessories or Apple geared apps using the ‘i’ moniker to some extent, particularly those exclusive to Apple products only but most are frankly a stretch. I once bought a baby monitor that was conveniently named an iMonitor. The name suggests that perhaps it’s one of those fancy video monitors that can sync with your iPhone right? Wrong, it was just a pair of radios and an audio transmitter. A companion app was non-existent. It had nothing to do with Apple. There’s an app called iFart need I say more? Alright, that’s funny and maybe it gets a pass, nevertheless.

Now I’m not suggesting Apple owns the use of the letter ‘i’ as part of a product name. Rather what I am saying is though they weren’t the first, they’ve made it part of their branding and part of our everyday vernacular. They were original with their marketing campaigns and naming conventions. I’m basically saying what happened to good old-fashioned marketing creativity? Be proud of your product on its own laurels if it has any game. At least use a different vowel as a moniker. Come on uCreate it! See not that hard (for the record I’ll try and not title another post with the ‘i’ moniker).