Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard about the situation where a JetBlue flight attendant lost his temper at the years of boorish behaviour and abuse he’d taken and quite dramatically quit his job.

I  don’t want to rehash that here.

Our Behaviour

I ask you; why do so many of us feel that customer service staff are our personal pinata’s to beat and smash at will?

Here are two incidents I have witnessed just in the past few weeks.

1) A suite in my office complex houses a customer service desk for a government department. Now we can make all government service jokes we want, but I watched flabbergasted as a woman chewed the head off of a service staffer because she thought the signage on the building was not big enough!!

She then called a supervisor, yelled, screamed and went into some more histrionics and stated she was going to escalate this ‘incident’ right to her member of parliament.

Excuse me?

Because she perceived that the signage on the building was not big enough? Yell and scream at staff? I believe that any reasonable individual (assuming there are any of us left) would agree that the staffer at the front desk has truly negligible input on the building signage. I can just imagine;  “Hi this is Elliot in customer service – can we re brand the Goodyear blimp and hang it over the building please??”

That is just being an ignorant asinine individual – period.

2) I was behind an individual at a retailer – that individual ripped apart the cashier because some product was out of stock.

Man – that must be some critically important part of your life if you feel screaming and yelling at the 16 year old part time student at the cash register is required.

I am truly certain that young woman at the cash has complete input and visibility into that retailers supply chain and stocking processes.

(forgive the sarcasm)

As a historical note, in the mid ’90’s I worked customer support under contract to a large software company and experience some of that bull crap myself.

Customer Service

Yes – we can all understand that we dislike some below par service we have experienced – I am no different.

When it happens – make your opinion known – make it known logically and reasonably.

But leave the bloody vitriol, ignorance and boorish behaviour at home. I know I sure as hell don’t want to listen to you – and I bet that staffer does not either.

Rant over

Book Review: ReWork

August 5, 2010

I recently read ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals.ReWork

(published by Crown Books ISBN 9781407062853)

Let me say it; A must read for every entrepreneur and SME business manager! I say that because to effectively cover this book – I would have to rewrite it all here word for word!

Rather than being written as a lecture or treatise, each chapter is a loose federation of points, with each point dedicated to one thought, and each thought is a only a couple of pages.

Some of these lessons you have heard before, for example, on Competitors; Who cares what they are doing?

But under Promotion; Out teach your competition is one example of brilliance. Or on Progress; Throw less at the problem

You may not agree with every point. But if you have to defend your argument – you win both ways.

Teaching vs. Doing

June 7, 2010

The following is a quote sent via twitter;

OH ladies in 80’s: “See that’s the difference ‘tween technicians who can, ‘do do do do’ do it like that and teachers who show you.”

If you don’t use twitter, here is the back ground, Randy Little (@littlerandy on twitter or twitter.com/littlerandy) overheard two elderly women talking about technology in a coffee shop.

In the discussion the above quote was about a technology support individual willing to teach someone, rather than just do it.

IT staffers take note.

Like the old saying; Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever.

In IT, the teach part should be mandatory

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Photo Credit Jon Hanson via flickr

In many businesses, the importance of IT, just like that of your plumbing, can only be truly appreciated when it stops working.

However, in most cases there were signs that failure is just around the corner.

You miss these warnings when you do not take a holistic view of your IT services.

All the time.

Not just when something has broken and people’s work grinds to a halt.

Broken Plumbing

Photo Credit TumbleCow_old via flickr

I try to avoid lower level stuff on this blog, but this has been a support issue for me several times in just the last few months, so I’m going to break my rule.

The Scenario:

Your co-worker e-mails you a new proposal attached to it for your review, you open the email and then you save that proposal into your windows My Documents folder.

After you save it? Well, that is when the headache starts.

Perhaps you try and copy that proposal to your server, or maybe you just want to modify it, maybe insert a new table or image. What happens? your proposal blows up, says it can’t find the image you are trying to insert, maybe an error message says something about a zero byte file, or if you are really lucky it gives you a message that the file name is too long (usually in cryptic language)

For arguments sake, lets assume that the name of your proposal document is;

ACME Consulting and Implementation Proposal Version 1 April 30 2010.doc

What is a File Name?

First? I tell you that your file name cannot be longer than about 255 characters.

You carefully count the letters on our sample ACME proposal and tell me I am out of my mind because: hey that is only 71characters! not even close to 255!

Sorry! But that is not correct.

The hidden background of file paths and file names

Microsoft Windows computers and servers limit the full file name, and path to that name to approximately 255 characters, that includes letters, numbers, and spaces. But in many cases you can start getting erratic behavior when you start getting beyond about 180 characters.

But here is the tricky part.

In the Windows environment, a file name is unique and also includes the full path that leads to the location of the file.

And what is this path?

The path is defined as the levels you need to travel through various folders to get to a unique document, each of those folders defines that path. And in some cases, those folders (or directories) are actually hidden from you by default.

Using our ACME sample, If you saved document in your My Documents folder?

On a Microsoft Windows XP computer, the full path to your proposal is actually;

C:\Documents and Settings\name.domain\My Documents\ACME Consulting and Implementation Proposal Version 1 April 30 2010.doc

Count the number of characters again – we have already reached 122 of them!

Now lets assume that you keep everything neatly organized by having neat sub-folders in your My Documents, lets say that the first folder is All Customer Proposals, then under that one is an alphabetical list of your clients including a folder for ACME Corporation.

What is our ACME Proposal now?

C:\Documents and Settings\name.domain\My Documents\All Customer Proposals\ACME Corporation\ACME Consulting and Implementation Proposal Version 1 April 30 2010.doc

You got it – we are now at 162 characters! And getting very close to the danger zone!

OK, you say you put all your work on your company server?

Same thing.

Lets assume your server has your proposal in the Project teams area, looking something like this;

M:\Project Team\Project Proposals\2010-2011 Projects\ACME Corporation\Finance Department\ACME Consulting and Implementation Proposal Version 1 April 30 2010.doc

160 characters -again, danger zone!

The SMB IT Takeaway

Take a look at the conventions, or rules that govern where you place your documents, and what names you give your documents to avoid full path names that are too long.

The title Slaying Zombie Servers from ChannelPro may be quirky, but the problem can be rampant in larger SME’s.

..about 4.7 million servers are not doing useful work. Here’s how to keep them from sucking the life out of your clients’ budgets.

In larger SME’s over time servers creep into your environment. They can start by appearing under desks, or they can arrive by a tool you purchased years ago that no body uses any more.

But over time, you get this result, where complexity is killing you.

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Do you have a front line workhorse toiling away in your organization? Most of us do.

Whatever their title, or wherever they may be in the organizational chart, that he or she is the go to person in many businesses.

Think of that experience! Think of all the details they know about what really happens in your organization!

And now he or she is leaving.

This scenario is happening right now in a friends organization. In this case, that go to person was in customer service, and now she is retiring.

Being the face of that businesses customer service department, it may not have been daily, but frequently she bore the brunt of dissatisfied customers.

And Technology?

I know, you are asking where am I going with this!

But I see two things that many small to medium businesses often overlook when it comes to their customer service teams.

First, Looking Outside Your Walls

Your customer service teams have to deal with dissatisfied customers, that is a given; But what did you do to reduce that dissatisfaction?

We already know that no matter how we wish for perfect customer satisfaction, all day, every day, that is probably an unreasonable expectation. There will always be someone who is dissatisfied. Customers can be dissatisfied because the product or service did not truly meet their needs.

And finally, the biggies; dissatisfaction can occur if customers are not aware of, or don’t know about certain constraints with your product or service, or because they could not understand something.

As an example, consider that customers who purchased high definition television sets report being dissatisfied because they were not aware that to get the full benefit, they have to have high definition compatible services and devices from their regional cable or satellite television provider.

So during the 20 year tenure of your go to customer service individual, have you tracked the issues that they have been dealing with? Are there common refrains that you could have avoided by placing frequently asked questions on your web site?

Then, Inside your walls

Are you collecting information to learn?

During those 20 years of customer service calls, did you actively document them?

Did you look for broad themes that could drive improvements to your product or service? If you received the same complaint multiple times, don’t you think there might be something to learn from?

There is an old saying.

If one man calls you a horses ass. Ignore him.

If two men call you a horses ass. Think about it.

If three men call you a horses ass. Buy yourself a saddle.

Are You Learning?

Photo credit neoporcupine via flickr