Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Seeing and Listening

Due to the fact that my new office is located in downtown Austin I have started to take the bus to work. The reasons 'for' are plenty and I have not bothered with the reasons against :-). The 'for' reasons include , saving on gas, more reading time, less stressful commute, saving on downtown parking... like I said a lot.

While in the bus I noticed a "Jack Brown" dry cleaner store. The store was closed but there was a window washer at work and I could not take my eyes of him. He was so meticulous in his attention to detail, making sure that he cleaned the blade of his wiper between every wipe. It reminded me that sometimes a job well done is its own reward. I design software for a living and more often than not I get frustrated with mundane tasks but seeing that clean sparkling window was a cool reminder to the power of commitment.

I get of the bus and am waiting to cross the street. The light turns red, a car pulls to a stop and as I am crossing, I see this man run from the other direction straight to the car, the window rolls down, they smile at each other and the running man gives a package to the car driver and takes of. The windows roll up and the car drives away. My mind started to race at the possibilities of what happened there :-)

All in all, i like taking the bus. It is teaching me to observe again. Hopefully listening will follow.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Biking to work -- getting closer to making it happen

I bought a used R900 R900 (thanks Nick) last night. It is a 2002 bike that belonged to an ex-triathlete. My friend Drew helped me get it :-), thanks Drew.

Psyched! wish me luck as I try to get used to it. I am hoping to use it to get to work on a regular basis!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

President makes a fashion statement

Originally uploaded by
Black monogrammed socks and black crocs....ugh very presidential

Monday, June 11, 2007

It is a startup organized at enabling people from wealthy countries to lend small amounts of cash (micro-finance) to entrepreneurs in the poorer nations. It is a beautiful concept and I hope it can stay free of corruption, scandal and abuse long enough for people to realize that a business when focussed on the right vision can be a powerful tool for transformation.

Check it out ->

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

call centers - cart before the horse?

I just got of the phone with an Amex representative. I am fairly confident that she is an Indian woman and most likely working out of a call center in India. Quite impressive since it means she is doing the evening or the night shift and I appreciate her willingness to work at odd hours.
During our conversation, she read my address back to me and recited a 6 or 7 digit zip code for me. I of course corrected my address. I am not bothered by this as much as piqued by this. Call centers, BPO's and the companies that hire them work hard to mask the fact that these employees are not from the US. So the intensive training program on American culture and accent. This is a no win game that I believe focuses on the wrong thing.

I don't care that her accent is excellent as much as I care that she does not realize that US has a 5 digit zip code. I find it amusing that call center reps are being trained to hide their identity and act instead of being trained on the "serving" end of "customer service". If he/she realises that I am trying to "change my address" and helps me get it done with courtesy and clarity then I don't care how authentic the accent is.

I understand that there are more than enough customers who are comforted by a familiar accent. I do buy the need for accent training but I think it should follow good service training not precede it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

how NOT to practice customer service

In the unorganized world of moving there are victims who move and the movers who facilitate these situations. These are their stories.
Da Ding...

Quick version: we moved successfully last week :-) Praise God.

Longer version: We had some hiccups. One of which was moving company "Quality Movers" (henceforth referred to as QM) calling me on Saturday to get the address for the move. But I had never confirmed with QM only got a quote from them. I had signed up with "Minor Moving" (henceforth = MM) to do the actual move.
In their defense, I never explicitly called and told QM that I was not using their services after getting the quote but that is not the same as confirming. So I apologized for the confusion and thanked them for their call and told them that I had picked another company. Few minutes later i get a call back from the same woman at QM who gave me the original quote, she starts the conversation with
  • "i heard the movers tried to get your address and you declined, what is up?" not in a friendly tone of voice either.
  • i explain to her that i never confirmed with them and i am sorry for the confusion but i was not using them.
  • she then proceeds to challenge me on the strength of my memory. i once again point out that i am not calling her a liar, just that sometimes two sides end up with different take on past events. I tell her again that I did not intentionally set out to spoil her day and i am sorry for the unfortunate turn of events but i have somebody else lined up.
  • at this point her voice gets louder, tinged with sarcasm and she asks me if i am usually this confused :-)
So I could either have been rude in return or see how far she is willing to lose her cool and discredit her company. I opt for the latter.
  • I let that pass and tell her that the conversation is no longer productive and I am sorry for her troubles.
  • She explains to me the amount of trouble I have caused her and she asks me what moving company i went with?
  • I tell her I went MM, to which she takes a few seconds and then comes back with "Hah, I just found out that the movers you choose lost their license with Texas board of xxx (don't remember). Looks like you made a great choice.. i hope you are happy".
wow! ...... what could have be done differently here? Let me see
  • Never call your customer when you are heated up and angry (even if they are wrong). Never do this!
  • Remember customers are typically not for single transaction. On average, for any company,I am willing to bet that most customer will make multiple transactions over their life time. So take the time to educate the customer or understand their context so you can win their business next time.
  • If things are not looking good, try to your best to blow their expectations away by reacting differently. For instance, if QM had called me back and said they were sorry to lose my business but still wished me a great move and gave me good moving tips. You bet I am going to bend over backwards to give them business from my friends.
.....little patience before picking the phone to call me would have made such a difference......

Friday, June 01, 2007

C&O Trattoria - Good Eats

I am in LA working with a client. My team and I headed out to C&O Trattoria last night for dinner on recommendation. It is a great Italian place located right next to the beach at Marina Del Ray. They have pretty darn good food, house wine served on the honour system and nightly sing alongs. All in all, what a good Italian dining experience should be :-).

The only way this evening could have been a better was if I had my wife with me :)