Monthly Archives: April 2010

Bad Customer Service

Let’s pretend you are a company that provides services to people. Let’s also pretend it’s cell phone services. You’ve got 3 different talk plans for your services. The bottom line one is 450 minutes a month for $35 a month, the next level is 900 minutes for $48 a month and a third level is $70 a month and has no limits at all.

Now that we have that all settled, Company A, let’s also say you have several fictional competitors, Company V, Company S and Company T and, although they all pick different numbers of minutes for their price breaks, they all run basically the same. OK. We’re all set for the customer service part of this.

Suppose one of your good customers has been with your service for years and years, always faithful and they have the lowest level of service. Suddenly one month their talk time makes a big jump. Where they always had 1,500 extra minutes left to roll over month after month, and they’re paying you for minutes they never use, suddenly those minutes are gone, used up. And that calling rate continues for the next month. Now, even though this is out of their normal patterns, which of the following is better customer service? (Yes, it’s a  test. I didn’t tell you ahead of time. My bad. Live with it.)

  • You count up their minutes over their basic plan and charge them at $.45 a minute for every one of those minutes because you get extra profits this month from them. They screwed up for some reason and you don’t care why, it’s too much fun to rake that money in. You send them a bill that’s five times what they normally pay, over $300.
  • You move them to the unlimited calls plan and send them a message letting them know you noticed they’d burned through all their stored up minutes and then some. You didn’t know what was going on, but you thought that the customer might not have realized what had happened. Just in case they didn’t know, you’d moved them automatically to the $70 plan instead of charging them hundreds of dollars. You tell the customer that if they’d like to be moved back to the lower plan, just call customer service and they’ll help you. Their bill is $70.

Obviously option two is much nicer to the customer and number one holds to the letter of the contract you have with the customer (although that contract has expired). So, which one did you pick? Option A gives you roughly $250 of profit now. Damn the torpedoes sort of attitude.  Option two is the nice guy attitude. You’ve been a good customer and we’d like to return the favor. We could have stuck you, but we’re in this to keep your business.

You picked option one, Company A. What it also gets you is a pissed off customer. What will they do? Well, they currently have two cell phones, a home phone,  and internet services through you. They’re paying you somewhere North of $100 a month for various & sundry services and they have for decades. However, because they are no longer under their contract, they’re about to drop your ass. I’d tell you where to stick all that profit you just made, but you probably already gave it to your CEO.

We Planted Early

back in March. Some years it works out fine and some years we’re always having to rush out in the evening to cover stuff with old sheets & such. It would be hard for us to live without a garden.

The photo on the top left shows shallots, cabbage, bell peppers (or perhaps Jamaican seasoning peppers) & spinach. The right one has Goliath tomatoes (in the bed – the ones in the pots are jet stars raised from seed we haven’t put in yet), yellow (or white – I’m not sure which) onions and in back is the asparagus bed. It’s hard to see, but there are flowers on the tomato and strawberry plants.

And the azaleas and roses are blooming. Life is good. By the way, never use nylon wire ties to tie chicken wire together – it will rot after a few years. But it does work well to keep the larger birds and squirrels out.

Dear Intuit,

I’ve used your software for literally decades now. Well, if you count the years before you bought out Chipsoft and Macintax, that is. I have now unreadable tax data files going back to the early 90s.

Since I work in user experience, I understand and vaue the intensity you give to your customer experience. For those of us in the field, we consider Intuit near the top of the user experience effort. You’re not Apple or Google, mind you, so there’s still room for improvement. Why, I even have a poster that shows the Turbo Tax logo over the letters WWTTD? What Would Turbo Tax Do? that our whole department uses for inspiration.

Mostly you do pretty well at it too, but there have been a few instances that chap my butt. For example (you knew this was coming, right?), I live in Tennessee. It’s a nice state with lots of nice people but it’s one of those states that doesn’t do income taxes. Never has, and may never. There is a tax on interest & dividends called the Halls Income Tax, but that’s it and it hits few Tennesseans. Yet your software always prompts me to download and fill out Tennessee income tax forms. People, what are you thinking? Hello? It doesn’t exist? Why would I want to download it? Sheesh.

Oh, and speaking of downloading…That’s the other thing you do that irritates the crap out of me. This year we had other things to deal with so we were later than usual finishing our taxes. But they were pretty simple this year too – no itemized deductions, no interest income – just the basics, really. So, once I had everything entered and ready to go last night, what did I have to do? I had to download the entire 1040 form set from your website over dialup – every schedule and sub-schedule, form and variation. It took three and a half hours! It does no good if your application is as easy as can be to use if part of the user experience involves watching a progress bar not move at a discernible rate for hours. Did I mention it took three hours? According to information I just Googled, thirty percent of internet users in the United States have broadband access. You are screwing 70% of your user population. And we’re not having fun while you’re doing it.

So why did I blog about this instead of using your provide feedback link within TurboTax? Two reasons, actually. When I clicked the feedback link it took several minutes for the page to draw and I got slightly bored waiting, so I thought “Well, I don’t need to keep TurboTax running any more – I’ve filed my returns — finally — so I can close this.” And just as the screen gathered up enough info to draw the full survey page, I quit Turbo Tax. You know what that does? It immediately makes your survey page frigging redirect to one that says “You should have used a link in TurboTax – buzz off.” Nice. N. O. T.

Net Neutrality

Yesterday, a Federal Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Comcast Corp. and against the FCC. The issue was that Comcast had tried to block people who were using a service called BitTorrent to download large  files on the internet. The FCC ordered Comcast to remove the block and they did, but they then sued the FCC.  (source)

That’s a pretty specific case and it’s hard to see how it could change your life, but it can easily. The issue is called net neutrality and the basic premise is that your ISP (internet service provider) cannot restrict your access to sites on the internet.

Why would you care? Well, suppose you get your access from Comcast itself. Comcast also sells TV service. What if they closed off your access to Hulu or YouTube because  they both compete with Comcast?

And it’s not just Comcast. AT&T is considering providing TV service over it’s existing wires that run through our neighborhoods. They could easily do the same thing.

They both now have that right according to this ruling. What if they decided that you could get to both of these sites, but they cut your access speed to the point that the videos run poorly and have to stop and spool, run a little, stop and spool again, etc.? Yes, they can do that too.

They have a third option as well. They could just provide you with a lower level of broadband service as an individual than they provide businesses.

Some see this decision as a righteous decision by the courts preventing the FCC from reaching out with a power grab to tackle a non-issue. I don’t.

Edit: Wired has pointed out another advantage this gives providers like Comcast or AT&T. If they desire, they can sign an agreement with a company to redirect your browser requests. They could partner with Bing, for example, to redirect any google request you make. From Wired:

Telecoms and many internet activists have long argued that the internet is a developing technology that was innovating so quickly that strict regulations would hamper it. In 2005, that argument drove the FCC under the Bush Administration to win a fight in the Supreme Court for the right to deregulate broadband providers, classifying them as an “information service,” largely outside the FCC’s power, rather than a “telecommunications service” that could be regulated like the phone system.

Following that win, the FCC simply issued a set of four principles of net freedom that it said it expected broadband companies to follow. They promised that broadband users could plug in whatever devices they wanted to their connection and then use whatever software or online application that they liked — without interference from their provider. Those principles never went through a rule-making period, and when the FCC went after Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer file sharing services, the company sued the commission in court.

Apple iPad News

Apple released its iPad for retail sales on Saturday and most Apple stores had lines. So, how did they do? Apple reports that the Saturday sales (and pre-orders delivered on Saturday) were 300,000 units. And how is that, relatively speaking? When they released the iPhone, they sold 270,000 the first 30 hours.

It’s starting off as bigger than the iPhone. Considering that nobody knew they needed one a few months back, that’s not bad sales.

Oh, and people downloaded a million applications for it and a quarter of a million books, all on Saturday. Can you say revenue stream, boys and girls?