Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 ways you can be a better Customer/Company

Every company that has any kind of success knows that the real reason for their success is the relationship that company has with their customers.  They strive for perfect customer service.  They want YOU to have a great shopping 'experience'.  As a result, these great service companies have made something of a monster, namely, YOU.  More and more people are displaying behavior that does not deserve special treatment, it deserves to be spanked like a spoiled child.  The other thing is this.  If you behave like a rotten customer, the BEST you can hope for is by the book compliance.  That is to say if you are obnoxious, the representative has the option of falling back on company policy and procedure to make sure you get the minimum amount of satisfaction possible if at all.  Something like this: 'We will be happy to reimburse you, simply send the original receipt, the product, and the upc from a similar product that does work and you can expect a response in 6 to 8 weeks'.  Does that sound like you will get what you want?  On the other hand Companies have decided that there are 2 routes to take, either spend a lot on customer service, or go cheap.  Do either of these things sound ideal? No.  So here are some things you can do to get better customer service, or be better AT customer service.


1. - Listen - Maybe the most important thing in any communication process.  Any customer service is going to have a certain amount of explanation and instruction.  People seeking customer service usually have a preconceived notion about what will satisfy them and they are listening for that specific answer.  Anything else over the phone is just static.  Open your ears.  That information will help you get what you are looking for.  If you go through 90% of the trouble that they ask of you, that 10% will probably sink you.

2. - Get your crap together! - Before you call, you need to get all of the information together about what it is you want.  If it is a defective product, you should have the EXACT model number as well as the lot number of the item in question easily available.  The less time you need to spend to get your information together, the more likely you will get satisfaction.  This is the equivalent of filling out your checkbook register information after you have paid instead of before.  It's rude and stupid.  Once you have everything together, be clear and concise and you will probably have a much better chance at success.

3. - Be friendly - Don't call up mad.  Mad people are stupid.  Ooooh did I just say stupid?  Yeah, i didn't mean stupid I meant REALLY STUPID.  If you are frustrated and you can't seem to keep your emotions together to not abuse the person on the other end of the line, you really don't deserve to get any help.  Friendly people often get more than what they want because they are refreshing and pleasant to deal with.

4. - Do your homework - One of the biggest things I find amazing about people is their unwillingness to read anything.  They just don't want to read.  You have the internet.  Look up what you need help with, see what the procedures are for you to get maximum satisfaction.  There is no reason to not do this ahead of time.  To plead ignorance is to just get frustrated.

5. - Quit being so stinking picky - When you are in a restaurant or other service establishment, don't expect a better level of quality than you are willing to put up with when you are serving yourself.  A few of the leaves on the salad aren't super crisp?  Don't eat them.  eat the rest of the salad.  Your coffee is too hot?  Your ice cream is too cold?  Quit being such a baby.  Only if the food has clearly got problems should you bring attention to it and probably after the meal is done, not before you start eating.  This is for self preservation as well as not being a pain.  Sending food back is just BEGGING for someone to add a little special loogey sauce to your meal.  No of course it shouldn't happen.  Doesn't mean it won't.  Just don't eat whatever you didn't like and at the end of the meal mention it.  The server will either offer you a dessert or possibly a discount on the meal.  Remember the be friendly part.


1. - Native speakers of your markets - If you are going to pretend to offer customer service, you REALLY need to have customer service representatives that speak that language as a native.  Does that make me racist?  I hope not.  I hope it makes me someone that wants to understand the instructions i'm being told so I can be satisfied with your product or service.  Just because the speakers are native doesn't mean they are good, that's just a first metric of a good customer service agent.

2. - Do your homework! - Customer service reps NEED to know about the product or service or have the ability to bring up the knowledge quickly.  If that can't happen, there is really no point to calling customer service.  The ONLY reason I should have to be moved up to a higher rank of service agent is because they have the power and authority to actually help me.  Knowledge for process and procedure should be available quickly by the front line.

3. - Robots don't care - Having automated customer service trees that guide you down a seemingly endless path of non-satisfying options only to have you talk to a regular customer service rep at the end doesn't do much more than add insult to injury.

4. - What was that again?  - This is a BIG gripe for me.  If you are asking me to offer my customer ID whatever it is.  Once I have entered that ID, that should be the end of it.  If you are going to make me offer that id again for verification, there is no point to making me put it in for the robot and then again for you.  This goes for all kinds of industries where my identification seems to be important enough to bother me for, but not important enough to keep from email spammers.

5. - Offer the most up front - Don't be cheap with your customers.  Don't be cheap with your time.  When a customer needs some kind of satisfaction or mollification due to a faulty product or service.  Give them the most you can give up front and nothing more after that.  That costs too much?  Really?  Balance that against huge call wait times and customers that feel like they should try to game the system to get the most out of them and you'll soon see that offering the most up front will save time and ultimately money.

Just some thoughts on the customer service biz.  Aren't we all in customer service really?

Monday, December 1, 2014

10 Gifts

Once again, the yearly exercise of getting presents for the people on your list has come around.  Yes I'm publishing this at Christmas, otherwise known as 'The Holidays' for those of you that are probably offended by everything.  This is the big daddy of gift giving holidays, but of course there are other events for gift giving.  If you take the reason for whatever event out of the event itself, you are left with an obligation to give someone something.  So be sure to remember the reasons you are giving gifts in the first place that will probably help.  I have made blog posts about giving gifts before this is not about giving gifts, this is about the gifts you give.  Here are 10 gifts.

10 - Swing!..and a miss - Yup, this gift was just not appreciated.  You put all your thought and spirit into selecting the gift and it was obviously not appreciated.  Sometimes it's because the receiver is not very good at getting gifts and sometimes it's because the gift was just the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Often a gift unappreciated is just not the right age for the person you are giving it to.  I have been guilty of giving grown men remote control cars that I thought would be cool.  It wasn't really the right gift, but that's the breaks when you are trying to figure out gifts.

9 - And this is for you - The sudden gift usually at Christmas but can also be on a shared birthday.  You find yourself on the receiving end of a present and you are mostly empty handed.  Fortunately for you, you have purchased a series of emergency gifts already wrapped and ready to give.  These gifts will likely not be perfect gifts, but they are gifts and as such will save face.  Be careful to have a blank gift tag on it with a sharpie in the room. That gift basket full of odd flavored jellies in single serving jars can really get you out of a bind.

8 - Potential Realized - This gift is one that you have bought yourself, but your spouse informs you that is your present. Example:
Husband: "Honey!  look what I got!  this carbon fiber fishing rod is perfect AND it was on sale!"
Wife:  "That looks great dear!  How much did THAT set us back?"
Husband: "500$, BUT this is normally 1200$!!!  I couldn't pass it up!"
Wife:  "So this is your birthday right?"
Husband:  "But it's 6 months away!"
Wife:  "So this is your birthday right?"
Wife:  "Would you like me to wrap it?"
Husband "No, I'll take it now"

7 - It's a pair of scissors - This is an old story my mother used to tell us entitled Spoiled Christmas Joy. It was the tale of a young girl that had purchased a gift for her mother and she refused to tell any of her siblings what the present was.  After some pressure she said "I'm not telling anyone, but on Christmas when Mom opens her present I'll yell "It's a pair of scissors!".  This was the end of the story.  To be fair the story is of foreign origin and may be specific to local humor styles.

6 - Secret Admirer Gift - This is a gift for any time.  I was a wee lad of tender years and I bought my crush something and added a heartfelt note.  Of course this was all a mistake.  But it's one of the early times that you hope that everything will be perfect.  You are on the wire without a net.  Even though you are trying to protect your identity, you secretly hope that the person you secretly admire also secretly admires you.  It's all very sophisticated.  Anything given at Valentines day is probably good.

5 - Ok ok, now leave me alone - Someone that you don't particularly like has borrowed something and you would rather not see them again instead of get your item back.  You say 'no, really, you can keep it.'  This holiday season, give the gift of a used chainsaw.

4 - Sudden inspiration - you have no occasion and yet you have found the perfect gift for someone.  This happens sometimes and it's amazing when it does.  You suddenly see something that you are certain that nobody is going to get for that person and that person probably doesn't even know about.  Should you get it for them?  Probably.  Usually this gift morphs right into the perfect gift and is always worth trying for.

3 - The unintended gift - This specifically is where you buy someone a lottery ticket and it happens to win something fairly big.  You wanted to get them more than 5 dollars worth of lottery tickets, but you most certainly didn't want to get them 50k.  Oh well.  This happens obviously with lottery tickets but also happens with collector cards where the packages of cards contain random cards.  Some packages are winners and others are losers.  Risky Risky.

2 - The gift horse - You know, the one you don't want to look in the mouth?  The situation in which this happens usually starts with something about which you have a mild obsession, but that has several models.  You want a tablet and you know exactly which one you want.  Now the gift giving holiday has arrived and you get the tablet you have been obsessing over!  YAY! Unfortunately it's the one that is a few features short of the model you had your eyes on.  It looks exactly the same and behaves in a very similar fashion and yet it's NOT the one you want.  You KNOW you should be grateful, but you really aren't.  Instead you are wondering if you can get away without opening it so you can quietly take it back and finesse your way into the model you want.  Yeah, there are really very few ways you can win in this one.  If you are on the other side of this, just remember, it IS the thought that counts and just because you didn't get the EXACT right one doesn't mean you didn't get it for them.  They will take it back and get the perfect one which will look identical to the one you got them.  Don't stress it and don't force the issue ala "Aren't you going to open it??".

1 - Perfect!  -  Opposite of the Swing and miss, the perfect gift has everything going for it.  The receiver is touched, possibly beyond words.  You feel so good about how successful your present is, you decide that you want to try this gift thing some more.  They feel so good about your gift that they keep mentioning it and so do you.  Once you give the perfect gift, you want do relive the moment over and over.  PERFECT.

This blog post was late.  On purpose.  It was an experiment.  I didn't find much out.  Happy Holidays (This is a blanket phrase that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

10 rules for kids cartoons

There was a time, not long ago, when cartoons dominated Saturday from the hours of 7 AM to 11 AM.  As a kid, this was practically a holiday every week until they started rerunning the cartoons, but even so, they ruled.  Then came cable TV and the Cartoon Network.  Now Saturday was every day and slowly cable TV killed Saturday Morning Cartoons in mid 2014.  Cartoons have a world all their own.  It's a world similar to our less exciting world but there are many differences.  Some of these differences have rules.  It's these rules that make the difference between a loonytoon cartoon and an instructional military animation. There are a few of them

10 - Cartoons are easily surprised - Think of it this way, if you can't easily surprise a cartoon, you won't get those great cartoon surprised expressions that are super funny.  Not only that, but if cartoons aren't surprised then why are you watching them?  They aren't going to do anything interesting.  So cartoons will be shocked and amazed at nearly anything that happens in front of them that isn't super average boring.

9 - If cartoons can talk, they say everything they are thinking - Scooby doo was famous for this, but it extends to really any cartoon.  It's pretty difficult to use subtilty on a cartoon where kids are concerned.  You need to make sure that the expression of doubt includes something like 'I don't know if this is going to work'.  The most interesting thing about this is that it is actually educational for the kids.  If you have noticed people will often use the same facial expressions that they saw on cartoons in regards to what they are thinking.  Don't believe me?  Next time someone says 'I wonder'  look at what they do.  They will look up and to the right and maybe put their finger on the side of their face.  Just like a cartoon would.  Even better, when you have kids you can watch their expressions change based on the cartoons they are watching.

8 - Cartoons must heal up in the next scene - Violence and cartoons are like cake and frosting.  Yes you could have one without the other, but you really would rather have them together.  One of the rules of this violence is that if the violence is not an integral part of the story, it will be erased by the next scene.  Cartoons heal up very quickly.

7 - Pain is different cartoon world - In the cartoon world, pain is used to show you the level of something that happened to the character.  Hit your hand with a hammer and it swells up in seconds and glows red, that's the rules.  The character gives you the same pain face that they give for a nail through the foot or a poke in the eye.  If you should have been killed by what happened, you will show near debilitating pain as well as a black eye and missing teeth.  It's ok, next scene you'll be fine.

6 - Cartoons fear death and Cartoons can't die - Pretty strange, but obviously true.  Often a character is threatened by another what will happen?  Well presumably they are scared because the other character means to kill them.  Cartoons fear for this.  yet cartoons rarely die and even if they do, you and everyone else can see their ghosts or angels in the same scene that they died.  Cartoons also often fear hell.  Who doesn't when hell is a flame filled hole and a classic textbook devil waiting to poke you with a pitch fork.

5 - Cartoons are nearly always hungry -  If a cartoon sees food, a cartoon is hungry.  one of the corollaries to this is all food in cartoons looks like thanksgiving dinner or dessert.  No wonder they are hungry all the food looks good.

4 - Cartoons are good singers - I guess it's kind of obvious, and yet strange, every cartoon that can sing, sings well, just ask Disney.  If you are a character that is going to last more than 2 scenes, you are gonna have some pipes.

3 - The underdog ALWAYS WINS -  Rule of cartoons, The smaller and more defenseless a creature, the more likely it is that they will not get beat up.  This one is pretty much universal, so much so that there was a cartoon called UnderDog.  He also always won because he was humble and lovable.

2 - Cartoons run at roughly the same speed - Have you noticed that no matter how fast another cartoon is, their competitor cartoon is nearly as fast?  this has more to do with the screen size than it has to do with the actual speed.  Road runner was always much faster than the Coyote, but often the Coyote could be seen matching the pace of the road runner.  Yes of course as the scene gets over, the faster leaves the edge of the screen.  I realize there are exceptions to this rule, but often it is true.

1 - Cartoon science is the science of the obvious - There is no real scientific principles in cartoons that aren't painfully obvious.  If you drop a large anvil onto the road below you need to use a lever.  The blueprints explain it all.  Every machine in cartoons are rube goldberg type machines that need reactions from elements to react with other elements to finally create the desired outcome.

Allow me to give a big thanks to Spencer for giving me this idea to work on.  Thanks!

Monday, November 3, 2014

10 meetings

Meetings.  some are necessary, many are not.  As long as there has been business, there have been meetings.  Getting together business.  Here are a few meetings you are probably involved with.  It's ok.  There isn't anything you can do.

10 - Why am I even here? - The obvious meeting.  The one you were called to that doesn't appear to have anything to do with you.  Even better, you aren't sure who invited you.  Two ways to handle this meeting.  One:  Up front mention that you probably don't belong here.  This is no fun, but probably a more effective use of your time if not the companies.  Two:  Own it!  Flog that meeting with all of your uninformed insights.  Make them explain all the processes to you.  Get them to give you an 'Overview' of what's going on.  In short pretend to be management.

9 - This is an email - Often managers will call meetings that should be emails.  These are easily identified by the fact that your actual input is not only not encouraged, but completely unnecessary.
This meeting is for the manager to spout off the top of his head something he or she should have thoughtfully written down in an email.  The problem is of course that once you write something down, you can be held to it.  If you sing it in a meeting, you are able to spin and adjust what was said.  Business as usual.

8 - derailed meetings - The meeting started out with good intentions, but someone there is going to turn this meeting into a grindingly long bout of minutiae that will get nothing done for those that are unfortunate enough to remain conscious.  Meeting derailers are people that really think they should be in a higher managerial position than they currently are.  They will interrupt with the same feel of authority that the organizer of the meeting has.  They have important things to say...they think.  The only way to improve this meeting is to stop it.

7 - One on One - Meetings are like farts.  The fewer participants the better it is for everyone.  The one on one meeting can be the most important ones because there are only 2 communicators talking and listening.  The chances of misreading what was said or intended are pretty low.  Normally in a one on one situation one party will do most of the talking.  They will carry the burden of imparting understanding to the other party.  With any luck the same manager will have experience on both ends depending on the meeting.

6 - I'm lonely - A pathetic meeting where the manager is just bored.  A bored manager is very tempted to start improving things.  This can be very dangerous.  It's fine to improve things that have very clear and obvious short comings, but when you start improving things that are working, you may end up improving them right into uselessness.

5 - Useful meeting - I will admit there are useful meetings that exist.  The skillful manager calls them to get information quickly.  They usually consist of 2 - 5 people and are specific to a task or event.  The reason they are useful is because they are quick and to the point and disseminate information quickly.  They don't waste a lot of time with conjecture or finger pointing.  There is usually a plan of action that follows the useful meeting that is clear for each member.  They come in many varieties and you can recognize them after they have happened.  You feel like your time wasn't wasted AND you have a good idea of what you should be doing.  The difference between this meeting and a well worded email is that the manger is usually looking for a plan of action and that requires input.  No email.

4 - Stand up - This is the Jekyl and Hyde of meetings.  You never know if it is going to be a good meeting or if it will expand into a worthless waste of time.  A good stand up will include people standing up mentioning quickly their status on whatever project they are working on.  Nothing more or less.  The person running the meeting will inform everyone of anything that needs to be widely known.  The meeting is then done.  5-10 minutes is the most this meeting should be.  If this meeting goes out of control, it becomes a much longer 20 - 30 minutes, and it involves small details of other parts of a project that have nothing to do with you AND too many people, around 10-15.  You know when there are too many people when everyone else looks bored and disinterested because they don't want to know your status.

3 - I'm hungry - This is the meeting that is held during lunch.  a 'working lunch'.  These are brutal if they are an actual meeting held during lunch.  If they are just an excuse to give you lunch on the other hand, then they are ok.  Often the lunch meeting is a sales pitch by some vendor and they want to buy everyone lunch in exchange for your attention.  It's rarely worth it.  On the other hand, at least it's lunch, so it can't be too bad.

2 - Have you got 5 minutes? - The most insidious meeting there is.  5 minutes is about how long it takes to get nothing done.  The amount of times a 5 minute meeting was less than 10 minutes I could count on one hand of a Taiwanese factory worker.  Once in a while it is exactly just a point of information or something that needed some attention, but I have yet to hear the words 'hey have you got a minute?' from a manager and not cringe.

1 - Brainstorm - One of the few good meetings there is, if it's directed in a way that rewards creativity.  Very hard to pull off because one or two strong personalities will usually dominate the brainstorm.  If someone can moderate and draw out the opinions of everyone invited sometimes you can  bring out some great ideas and really get something to build direction from.  Otherwise you might be spitting in the wind.

There they are.  Meetings.  Nuff said.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Halloween Urban legends

So the original Cos-play holiday is coming.  Good old All Hallows eve.  I like it for semi creepyness.  But more Halloween is the gateway to that holiday roller coaster. Once Halloween goes by it seems like the rest of they days and nights fly by with unparalleled speed.  Soon enough you are toasting a new year and wondering just what happened to the rest of the year.  Well as a kid Halloween was one of the bang up beat all holidays.  You would get to dress up as something weird, horrific or cool and go get free candy.  Nothing better.  At that age, Christmas is light years away.  Once you are older, you're lucky if you can taste Thanksgiving's pumpkin pie before you are done opening presents.  Well this list is more about the urban legends that I remember hearing during Halloween.  I can't verify one of them and I'm not going to snopes.  Here we go...

10. melt the candy -  This one was about kids who's earth grown druid hippy parents didn't want them having any candy but they didn't want them to miss out on all of the fun of the holiday, so they would let each of their children pick out one candy item and then melt the rest in a big pot.  Sometimes instead of melting the candy would be crushed so nobody could make use of this horrible capitalist treat.   No this story didn't make any sense but it did teach me a grave disdain of granola chewing hippies.  No candy, humph!  They must be communists!

9. The cat lady - This was a local tale and a bit more involved as it required people to trespass onto a persons property to witness rows of tiny cat graves.  That's the assumption anyway.  Was I ever able to prove it?  no.   I had heard about it from those that had.  Oddly enough nearly every locality has some kind of story like this that involves someones secluded property and some very tall assumptions.  If you ever have the chance to trespass on private property, I don't recommend it. It's scary at best.  Illegal at worst and these poor people are probably not at all what you think and would just like to be left alone.

8. apple razor blades - This one has been around for ages.  The kid hater that finally gets their revenge by sliding some Remington steel razor blades into a bushel basket of red delicious and hand them out as treats to all the miscreant kids wandering around.  Looking back I keep wondering what kid would be dumb enough to take a bite of an apple without looking it over.  Not to mention the parents examining the candy for potential bombs.  The truth is, no self respecting kid would ever have seen that apple make it home.  An apple is right next to a tooth brush from your neighborhood dentist in the Parthenon of sucky Halloween treats and would probably have been thrown away...or something.

7. kidnap kids - Oh yeah I heard this one a lot growing up.  There were bands of bad people scooping up kids by the dozen and kidnapping them.  Nobody would know the difference because it was Halloween.  I have yet to hear about a kidnapping during Halloween, and if there is, I don't want to hear about it.  But honestly how many witnesses are there on the streets?  Then again, nobody ever accused a criminal of being smart.  It was because of this that I never went into anyone's house to experience peeled grape eyeballs and cold spaghetti guts or the mini hallway of terrors.  I just knew I was going to suddenly be abducted.  I envisioned some kind of giant steel cage filled with costumed kids wishing they had taken heed of their friends mothers advice.

6. old folks giving away full candy bars - If I was only the one street over I would have made a HAUL!!!  Usually the day after Halloween I would hear from my friends about some house or street full of old folks that just loved the young-ins and were giving away a kings ransom in candy.  Full size candy bars of many varieties.  Take one, Take a few!  Enjoy your youth!  For some reason I never found the Eldorado of elderly handing out packaged confections.  I was just happy to have a bag full of small candy and pixy stick dust in the bottom of the bag.

5. kids getting their candy stolen - I had heard about roaming bands of punks that were stealing kid's candy.  I had never witnessed it myself, but it seemed plausible.  Those older kids were capable of anything.  Certainly stealing from the law abiding 8 year olds of the town was not beneath them.   Once again, I had never had my lollipops purloined.  In fact the only thief of my candy was mom and dad and it was never the crap candy either.  They always went for the peanut butter cups and chocolate bars leaving me with peanut butter taffy and smarties.

4. Pop Rocks Mikey - Once pop rocks started coming on the scene, they were a big deal in the Halloween candy rounds.  They were rare and wonderful.  If you did happen to get any, you would immediately hear the inaccurate tale of Mikey the kid from the life cereal commercials and how after eating more than his fair share of pop rocks he downed several carbonated soft drinks the name of the brand escapes me.  Close after he would have to be rushed to the hospital because his stomach exploded like he had an alien exchange student in his small intestine.  Never happened.  Thanks to one of the very first Mythbusters shows this was proven to be particularly impossible.  Great story though.

3. Near Death Ghost experiences - What better time to trot out the Halloween themed story about a ghost or someone you knew that was playing with a ouija board or holding a seance?  My dad had several he liked to entertain us kids with.  One he told was of a local group of 3 friends that decided to go into an abandoned house to play with a parker brothers brand ouija board.  By the end of the night.  They were all hospitalized and were unable to say anything about the horrors witnessed, but they all had shock white hair from the experience.  Oh yeah, it was a chiller.  Dad didn't appreciate a lot of followup questions about a lot of his stories, so we took him at his word.  It was vivid enough that I still remembered the images I had imagined as a kid of these poor shocked kids that were foolish enough to play with the Devil's Telegraph.

2. LSD Candy - This was the more modern version of the razor blade apple.  It was lsd laced candy.  Since LSD was often ingested on a sugar cube, why not on candy?  Once again, hippies ruin everything.

1. Hot Pennies - Along with the razor blade apples I had heard of bitter old people only scant days away from their final death rattling breath that wished nothing but ill for the youth.  The tale goes that they would heat up stacks of pennies and put them in the kids bags.  The pennies were so hot that they would melt the candy and go right through the plastic candy bag rendering it some kind of time lapsed pinata.  I'm sure they would peer out their window and laugh their bitter cold laugh as kids tried to collect their nights booty as it was spilling out into the street.  Never witnessed, but heard nearly every year.

Once again, I thought maybe this was it.  But then another idea crept into my addled brain.  Who knows?  maybe it will happen again in 15 days.  Come back and find out!