TIMBUK2 And Social Customer Service

25.01.2013 | Author: Borislav Kiprin
On January 24, 2013 one of the clips on my TIMBUK2 Messendger D-Lux Bag broke due to harsh weather conditions. To be fair, it was the second time, cause low temperatures cause the plastic to wear off in general and become fragile. About 40 days ago another one broke, but I replaced it with a spare I had on the other strap that came with the bag...

I've had my TIMBUK2 bag for about two years. It is one of the things I carry around every day that I cannot live without. It is functional and I can put everything in there - my iPad, my Friday antipasti bought at the market, my umbrella and even my niece when she was a bit younger... So you can imagine how devastated I was when the clip broke...

Since I already knew before hand that TIMBUK2 does not have retail shops in Germany (I got my bag on Amazon.de), I decided to battle my own laziness and took a picture immediately attaching it to a tweet addressed to @timbook2:

Twitter timbuk2 borislavkiprin

And this is the chronology of events in their full length:

At 8:32 pm I reported the problem (photo included) and asked for help/guidance.
At 8:41 pm (only 9 minutes later) I got a reply with instructions on how to proceed.
At 8:49 pm I shot an email featuring the picture, a screenshot of my amazon order details (so they'd know the model of the bag) and my email copy.
At 9:15 pm I received a reply from "CustomerService At Timbuk2" filled with compassion and asking me from my address.
At 9:23 pm I sent a reply with my address.

To sum up, I had a shout out on Twitter @timbuk2, was transferred to email to deal with privacy sensitive information and none of my time was wasted by unnecessary questions. Throughout the communication I was being treated with genuine care, understanding, addressed by a first name in an informal, but yet polite tone and everything was kept short and to the point. My user experience was just great.

And since I am a digital marketing professional with a thing for User Experience, I can only treasure the approach TIMBUK2 is taking on service design. If one visits their website, they will see the same coherent approach there as well. Starting from shared reference on bag vs laptop sizes, going through well implemented personalisation functionality in their online shop and finishing up with support information from integrated social media channels. These guys have their digital marketing strategy on the right path.  

It still amazes me that in the age of social media being used virtually by everyone that is on the net (one way or another), there are still companies that neglect social media integration in their customer support services. To be able to do so, one has to have a well structured service design, otherwise it would be an even greater mess delivering bad user experience.

I've wrote today back to them, asking whether it would be possible to talk to their Digital Marketing Manager or the Marketing one, just to learn more about the social customer service integration at the back-end. Not sure, if they will have time for me. But if they do, I will try to make a case out of it and offer it to you on this blog, should TIMBUK2 give their explicit permission to do so, of course.

Kudos, TIMBUK2! You've got a customer for life.

Do you have any experience with social media integrated in customer service? Care to share it in the comments bellow?

Undercover Boss – service design bitch-slapping for clueless CEOs

15.06.2011 | Author: Eric Reiss

Are CEOs out of touch with reality? I’d say a lot of you are. Although you CEOs don’t have to go to extremes to improve things, most of you do need to do something, so listen up. If you don’t want the long backstory, skip ahead to the last subhead. 

About the title of this blogpost

Undercover Boss is the title of an American reality series. The premise is simple: an out-of-touch CEO puts on a disguise, takes a low-level job within his organization, and hears the truth about the company problems. After a week of play-acting, he goes back to his office and makes everything right again.

(By the way, I write “he” as I have yet to see a female CEO profiled. But I digress…)

There’s a great review of this episode by Ken Tucker at ew.com here:
http://watching-tv.ew.com/2010/02/14/undercover-boss-hooters-episode-2/

Quick recap of the “Hooters” episode

For those of you who haven’t seen the episode or read Ken’s synopsis, the “star” of this particular show was CEO Coby Brooks of Hooters.

Hooters is a chain of restaurants featuring beer and chicken wings served by buxom young women in tight t-shirts and hot-pants. FYI: “Hooters” is a slang expression for breasts. In the United States, the cute Hooters owl-logo only misleads those who are certifiably clueless (you can see it on Coby’s shirt in the photo below).


Coby Brooks (at left - duh) with two typical Hooters employees.

During the show, Coby learned (among other things), that although men love Hooters, most women feel the concept is degrading. I would have thought this was kind of a WTF “no-brainer” observation, but it certainly surprised our friend Coby as he talked on camera to random folks on the streets of Dallas, TX. (Good we got him out of his posh office and cosy private jet).

Hey, the concept is demeaning. But let’s face it, Hooters knows tits, ass, and beer is a winning combination for roughly half the population. In the meantime, Coby is now promising to rethink the company’s image. “We’re gonna tell folks about all them Hooter gals who are now doctors and lawyers and rock stars and…”

Uh…and this proves what, Coby? Did you know that feminist Gloria Steinem was once a Playboy bunny?

Lesson #1

Coby’s advisors look more like his drinking buddies than business executives.

Dear CEO, don’t hire your buddies. Don’t hire ass-lickers. Hire folks who aren’t scared of you. Sycophants and spies will never tell you the truth. And don’t take personal offence when someone disagrees with you.

Lesson #2
Coby probably would have been a better CEO if his father hadn’t just plunked him down into his current position without either warning or training. Coby seems to have had a very strained relationship with his dad and it’s clearly been tough to fill daddy’s very large shoes.

Are you a CEO looking to turn over the reins of your business to the next generation? Think twice before giving the job to a family member. This has been the downfall of many a family-owned company. Put your idiot offspring in charge of a charitable fund or something else that’s fairly harmless, but keep him away from the executive suite.

Lesson #3
Poor Coby inherits a billion-dollar business and finds out to his incredible surprise that the folks making chicken-wing sauces at his dad’s old factory in Atlanta loved his dad, but hate the current owners (er…that’s you, Coby). Why? Because Dad walked the floor and knew all his employees by name. Coby is an “absentee landlord”. The employees feel abandoned and uncared for. Which was a theme throughout this show – also when Coby visited his restaurants. Good TV. Naïve management.

Dear CEO, go “walkabout” – an Australian expression for going into the wilderness. Get your ass out of your chair and walk the floor, greet the guests, answer the phones. Honestly, you don’t need a reality TV show to get you moving.

Lesson #4
Clients come to FatDUX precisely because we can uncover problems for them without bias – which is what all agencies should provide. The amazing thing is, the work is not always particularly difficult – although it often appears impossible to those inside the organization. That’s because it’s not enough to solve a specific problem; you have to deal with the generic cause of the problem. In service-design language, this means fixing the problem both ways. We can see patterns that are often invisible from inside an organization – the more siloed the departments and functions, the more invisible the patterns are to senior management.

Dear CEO, ask questions. Ask tough questions. Demand answers. Don’t accept “it depends” as an answer from highly paid consultants. Hell, everything “depends” so there’s no need to dwell on the obvious.

Lesson #5
Dear CEO, you don’t want to be on Undercover Boss. If you’re good, you’ll never be on Undercover Boss. You’re supposed to know what’s going on in your organization. That’s why you get the big bucks.

Folks, it’s easy to get folks to tell you the truth. Just ask. If you’re honest, open, and fair, people will tell you things. But you do need to go out and talk to people. Talk to your customers (alas, far too many companies don’t ask because they are scared of what they may find out). If you want to align your business goals with user needs, you’d better understand what these needs are. The magic word is “listen”.

Coby didn’t learn a thing he couldn’t have learned in much simpler ways.

An open letter to John Hancock Insurance

13.04.2011 | Author: Eric Reiss
The following represents strictly my personal views, which may or may not represent the opinions of the owners and employees of The FatDUX Group. This represents the essence of an email sent earlier today to the John Hancock Insurance Company, in response to a promotional e-mail.

To Whom it May Concern:

Thank you for your “personalized” e-mail. Thanks, too, for the useless flash animation. Perhaps, as promised, my personal information could have been edited but I didn’t have the patience to wait through the advertising crap.

While I have your attention, I’d like to mention that my mother paid almost USD 9,000 a year for home health care. She did this for well over a decade. But when she turned 90 and really needed your help, John Hancock made us jump through all kinds of hoops.

My mother died before your policy finally “took effect”. You never paid out a cent. Good business model. Bad user experience. Your 100-day waiting period is quite effective. Alas, most needs for home health care arise quite unexpectedly. Ah, but you know this, of course :)

When you transferred her policy from one agent to another (the original agent retired many years ago – that’s how old the policy is), you kicked two numbers: the policy number and her social security number. Despite hours and hours on the phone (mostly listening to your Muzak), I don’t know that this situation was ever resolved – whenever I called, you were never able to find her policy. Yet you kept magnificent track of her bank account across at least two account changes.

During her memorial service (held at her home), I received a phone call from your organization (the fourth), requesting an appointment for one of your “professional advisors” to inspect the house to determine if my mother was really entitled to your help. Pardon me. I think I may have been rude to your representative – I was missing my mother’s eulogy.

I’m posting this on a user-experience blog because I think someone at John Hancock needs to sit up and take notice: you have a customer who paid over USD 100,000 to you and was kicked in the balls for the privilege. Imagine my joy to find I am still on your mailing list.

Sincerely,
Eric L. Reiss
son of the late
Louise Z. Reiss
of Pinecrest, FL


Eric Reiss
CEO
The FatDUX Group
Copenhagen, Denmark
http://www.fatdux.com
office: (+45) 39 29 67 77
mobile: (+45) 20 12 88 44
skype: ericreiss
twitter: @elreiss

———————–

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- Show quoted text -

On Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 12:16 AM, John Hancock South Florida Group
<XXXX@jhnetwork.com> wrote:
> Dear Eric,
>
> Every few months, I try to keep my clients and friends up-to-date with current financial issues or critical concerns. Here is the latest.
>
> Access Here for Your Information.
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> If you want more information on this subject, just click-on the additional details box at the end.
>
> Feel free to send me a message. It’s always good hearing from clients and friends.
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> xxxxx@jhnetwork.com
> John Hancock Financial Network
> South Florida Group
> 1101 Brickell Ave. 16th Floor North Tower
> Miami, FL 33131
> http://www.jhfnsouthfloridagroup.com
>
> If the link above does not open, try this link – or copy and paste this link into your browser.
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Photo swapping with DSB

01.12.2010 | Author: Frederik Myhr
This morning I went to the train station to acquire a monthly traveler's card from DSB (public Danish transportation) The last time I needed this, was ten years ago when I went to college. At that time you would have to bring a photo of yourself to the card personal. Not a problem! I had tons of those small photos of myself I got from the school photographer. Today however, ten years later, I don't have any photos of myself lying around - well except maybe for a few of the ones back from college.

Luckily, I thought, this is 2010 and DSB can't possibly be using the same procedure as they did in the analogue 90's. By now, they will for sure have a small handy camera attached to their computer, ready to snap my picture. It was with great disappointment I found out that this was not the case. The nice lady behind the counter asked me for a photo the same way she did in '99.

When I go to Tivoli they have an automated system for taking headshots. The same goes for the gym. And the university. And the library. And the local pool club. And the…

The number of members in these kinds of institutions is nothing compared to how many people are using DSB's traveler's card on a daily basis.

If you live in Denmark, you will know that complaining about trains arriving late, is as common as talking about the weather. In fact, it's a perfectly reasonable subject for a conversation with a stranger - and just for perspective; conversations with strangers in Denmark are the last thing that defines our cultural code.

I can imagine that it's no easy task to manage thousands of departures and arrivals each day and have them all be precise to the minute. DSB has always struggled with the goodwill of the public, and perhaps paying a bit more attention to the easy fixes would help the amount of goodwill go in the right direction.

I ended up buying an unpersonalized traveler's card - a rather expensive solution, but my options were to spend money in a photo booth, and that would have set me back even further.

I'm one of those actually appreciative for the existence of the public transportation, and I can live with the bus or the train being late by 5 minutes. But honestly DSB, look at the calendar year and wake yourself up before you go-go!

pendlerkort

Tech tips for conference presenters and organizers

30.11.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
I attend a fair number of conferences each year. I speak at a number of these. I also help organize a conference, EuroIA. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years. Perhaps they will make your life easier and your presentations smoother. As an audience member, there’s nothing worse than watching novices fiddle about on stage.

Note: this is not so much about HOW to present, but how to handle the technical and practical aspects of public speaking. Presenters: I’m assuming you know that eye contact is a good thing. Organizers: I assume you understand the importance of keeping a conference running smoothly and providing free WiFi.

Note #2: I will be incorporating reader suggestions in order to keep this article up-to-date. So if you have a great tip, please let me know.

Tips for presenters

1. Take the time to check your presentation ahead of time on a real VGA projector. Under all circumstances, you need to know how to get your presentation up on both the projector AND your laptop screen (two clicks on F4 or F10 for most PC users). You’ll find that orange and yellow will become greenish. And light grey lines in graphs and other graphics may disappear entirely. Some videos may become way too dark. Adjust your colours and other elements accordingly so your audience actually gets to see the things you want to present.

2. Check your timing. Audiences feel cheated if you have to rush through or skip large portions of your presentation. And you look pretty foolish, too. If you want to take questions afterwards, make sure to leave time for this. For this reason, I ALWAYS take a small, easy-to-read analogue clock with me that I put somewhere I can see it. It is easier to glance at a clock with big hands than at your wristwatch or presentation tool. If all else fails, I sometimes start the stopwatch on my phone and put the phone on the floor in front of where I will be standing. Whatever you do, NEVER run over your allotted time. If your organiser is going to provide time signals, make sure you understand them and VISIBLY ACKNOWLEDGE them when you see them during the final minutes of your presentation.

3. Check your equipment ahead of time. Use a break prior to your presentation to set up your computer and make sure everything works properly – particularly video and sound. You can then disconnect it, knowing that when it’s your turn to present, the changeover should be a simple matter of plug-and-play.

4. If you are presenting from someone else’s computer, make sure to check your animations. (Powerpoint does not convert one-to-one when moving from a Mac to a PC and vice versa.) Also, not all Powerpoint and Keynote functionality is backward compatible. If your presentation was created using the latest product release and relies on sophisticated features, check these thoroughly after you transfer your presentation to the host computer. Personally, I still use PowerPoint 2003 because it works with pretty much everything (except a Mac, of course).

5. If you are using a remote presentation tool (I love my Logitech 2.4 GHz cordless presenter), make sure to check that it has batteries and is in good working order. If you are using a smartphone and Bluetooth (Android, iPhone, etc.) to advance your slides, make sure it is also charged and ready for action (Warning to new presenters: because smartphones use touch-screen buttons, you’ll have to look at your phone each time you need to click, which can seriously hinder your presentation style. Far better to buy or borrow a dedicated clicker with physical buttons. And practice using it and the laser pointer!)

6. Always make sure your computer has a VGA port or an adaptor to this format. If you are presenting from a Mac, make sure to bring your own MiniDVI to VGA adaptor. As an audience member, it’s irritating to wait while a presenter asks the audience if anyone has an adaptor. Organizers have a schedule to keep; the time you waste is often your own. Note: the adapter for older Macs will not fit a newer machine and vice versa.

7. Bring with you all the proper power cables and outlet adaptors you will need. Simple electrical plug compatibility can be a real hassle sometimes, so make sure you can actually plug in your laptop. 120V and 220V conversion is rarely an issue; the problem is always with the physical plug connection. Remember to take your adaptor with you when you’re finished (most of the adaptors I own have been left behind by others in hotels and at conferences).

8. Fully charge your laptop or iPad before your presentation. If someone kicks out the plug, you don’t want your presentation to crash.

9. If you need sound (typically a 3.5mm jack to plug into your headphone output), tell the organizers well ahead of time. Don’t automatically assume that sound will be available.

10. Optimize your screen resolution. PC users seem to do best at 1024 x 768. That said, older projectors will sometimes insist on 800 x 600 resolution. Mac users should probably start with 800 x 600 and work their way up to something higher. The wide-screen projectors now coming into use will probably require you to fiddle with your settings for optimum results. I have no rule of thumb at this point.

11. Older Mac operating systems require a restart to properly connect to the projector. Remember this if the computer is not connecting properly.

12. If your laptop is connected properly, but the projector gives you a “No Signal” message, try switching the source input on the projector (for example from PC 1 to PC 2).

13. If you are going to upload your presentation to Slideshare, do so ahead of time, but mark it as “Private”. The morning of the conference, you can easily switch this restriction to “Public” from a smartphone or some other low-bandwidth device so your presentation immediately becomes available.

14. If you want to read more about generic presentation tips, check out this excellent 2007 article from Lifehack:
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/18-tips-for-killer-presentations.html

Or this one from BZ Media:
http://bzmedia.com/speakertips.htm

Or this great advice from Donna Spencer:
http://maadmob.net/donna/blog/2008/10-tips-conference-presentations

And if you will be speaking through an interpreter, check out this excellent advice from AZ World:
http://www.a-zworld.ca/blog/interpretation/tips-for-conference-orzanizers-and-speakers/

Tips for conference organizers

1. Make sure you have a range of suitable electrical adaptors, plus both of the Mac VGA adaptors in your emergency kit. Ensure that there are unused power outlets available at the speaker’s podium – at least two.

2. Arrange hand-signals with your speakers so they know how long they have left before their time runs out. I generally stand at the back of the room and hold up two hands with fingers outstretched to signal “10-minute warning”. A single hand is the “5-minute warning” Making a “T” using both hands means “Time up”. Put a clock on stage if one is not already hanging at the back of the room. And don’t be afraid to drop a Q&A session or simply break off a presentation if the speaker is unable to finish at the proper time.

3. If a session starts late (but not because the presenter is unprepared), don’t cut the presenter off early just to make up time. You owe them the chance to deliver their session properly. Better to incorporate longer breaks and to shave some time off of these to get back on schedule.

4. Don’t force your guests to use a standard presentation design template. This cramps their visual style. Even a simple header/footer will invariably take up valuable on-screen space. It’s better to do without.

5. Although you may need contributions for your printed proceedings well in advance of the conference, give your speakers as long as possible to edit and improve their presentations - preferably up until the night before the conference (when their own creativity and adrenalin levels are at their highest). Insisting on a “final” presentation weeks ahead of time will invariably lead to poorer performance levels during the conference itself. Note: the best presenters practice and fine-tune their stuff up until the very last minute – not because they are unprepared, but because they are gearing up for the performance they will be giving.

6. If you want your conference logo or Twitter details on the opening screen of the presentation, let your presenters know in good time. Do them the favour of sending them an optimized logo that is easy to paste into their presentation (eps, jpg, gif). Don’t assume presenters are going to bother to download something from your conference website and then Photoshop it to the right format – or that they even have the skills needed to do this.

7. Although tempting, avoid uploading presentations to your on-stage conference computer. This can easily screw up videos and animations. If swap time is critical (e.g. moving from one presentation to the next), arrange to have a VGA switch available so you can move from one computer to the other at the flick of a button.

8. If you have a cover slide to open your conference, or even a simple presentation of sponsors etc. to kick off the proceedings, consider giving this to your keynote speaker so he or she can incorporate it at the beginning of his or her own slide deck. This avoids the first presentation hand-off and starts the conference in a smoother manner. If you have a standard title slide you want to use as a transition to other presentations, give this to your presenters ahead of time.

9. If you plan on starting your conference by thanking all your volunteers, consider putting together a PowerPoint that runs automatically and loops endlessly while people are finding their seats. Seth Godin has a good article about how to do this. As opposed to a simple cover presentation, you’ll probably need to keep this on your conference laptop and not give it to your opening keynote speaker.

10. If you absolutely need a presentation delivered to you on a USB stick (to coordinate with a video recording, for example), make sure to let the presenter know exactly what is needed and how it will be used in advance of the conference.

11. If you have a screen behind the speaker, beware of using big plasma displays (LCD). These will not appear properly in photographs taken at the event. The colours always change and the effect can be very disconcerting.

12. Keep in mind that projections on a wall will be dimmer than projections on a real movie screen. Back projections will not be as bright or photograph as well as front projections.

13. Make sure projector and sound cables (VGA and 3.5mm jack) are available at the same physical location (the podium for example). Curiously, many technicians have VGA at the podium and sound somewhere else entirely. Conversely, make sure the cables can be separated; many laptops have VGA and jack inputs on opposite sides so bundled cables can create problems.

14. If you need to give your presenters a microphone, make sure they are cordless. Handheld is OK, but lavalieres are much, much better. Be sure you know how they work and where the mute button is located – don’t rely on a local technician. Ensure that the batteries are fresh in the morning – and swap them during the lunch hour. That said, if you can afford it, keep your technicians in the room at all times.

15. If you expect questions from the audience, make sure a hand-held cordless mike is available, plus a runner who can bring the mike to audience members. If you have two aisles, two mikes/runners are better than one.

16. If you want to read more about how to run a conference, check out this article:
http://www.stateofsearch.com/five-tips-for-search-conference-organizers-to-please-your-visitors/

The UX of passport control

16.10.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
Think your front line doesn't affect your bottom line? Nations should take a closer look at what happens at their borders - this is the first major touchpoint with a "national brand". And the impression left is not always good. Here are three stories.

Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow
Last week, I was in Moscow. It took three uniformed folks to let me out of the country. Curiously, the passport (and photo) that got me a visa and into the country, suddenly became suspicious when the time came to leave.   

The young woman officiating spent several minutes staring at me and my passport. She then pushed a button (a signal that things were clearly amiss). Her colleague came over. They both stared at me. They stared at my passport. They stared at me some more. I removed my glasses (on request). I tried to resemble my photo (on my own initiative). I showed them other photo IDs (on request). I gave them my entire wallet (on my own initiative) The photo IDs included an 30-year-old Danish work permit, which they finally accepted as proof of my identity (sigh, if only the rest of the world thought I looked 30 years younger). Only when a third border officer came over and told the two younger officials that this was absurd, was I finally allowed to pass. (Although I don't speak Russian, when someone says someone else is full of shit, I recognize the international signs)  

The whole seance took over 10 minutes - which is really long when only one passport lane is open and the people waiting behind you are starting to wonder what crime you have committed.  

That is the Russian Federation. Western Europeans aren't surprised by this kind of nonsense as it fits the otherwise outdated stereotype. But let me share two more stories with you. And mind you, I am simply too old to take much crap from anybody unless they actually point a gun at me (and even then, I'm pretty cool, for example when poked with the business end of a Kalishnikov in East Berlin - but that's another story. Buy me a beer sometime...

Miami International Airport (aka "Wilcox Field")
Let's move on to the United States. I gathered my entire extended family and brought them to Miami last February to celebrate my Mom's 90th birthday. After we had cleared passport control, I was walking several meters in front of the rest of the family as we approached baggage claim. As anyone who has entered the United States knows, you have to show the stamped customs form to a bored official sitting on a chair before you can leave the first immigration area. Here's the conversation that followed:  

U.S. customs official: Hold on there, buddy.  

Me: Sure. What's the problem?  

U.S. Customs official: This paper says you're travelling with a bunch of people. Where are they?  

Me: They're right there (pointing)  

U.S. Customs official: (angry) They need to be with you at all times.  

Me: (cautiously). Er...they are. They're right there (my wife and son-in-law were now standing next to me. The others were only steps away). We have children with us. They walk slowly.  

U.S. Customs official: That's not my problem. Don't move.  

Me: I'm not going anywhere. Relax. They're right there.  

U.S. Customs official: Don't you give me that backtalk! You stand over there! Right now! And shut your goddamn face.  

Me: (no words. I stand in my appointed corner. The family regroups)  

U.S. Customs official: You people come to our country and think you can tell us what to do. Well, believe me, sonny, this isn't the way we do things over here. I'll tell you when you can go.  

Me: (I wait for over a minute, receive more verbal lashings, and then flash my U.S. passport): "Sonny" yourself. I assure you, I am NOT "you people". You screwed with the wrong American Citizen and you can't scare me. And if this is the way you greet visitors to our country, the Customs and Immigration Service had better find your replacement FAST. Now you let us pass - and I want your name and badge number NOW.  

(I filed an official complaint against Officer Delgado. I was told action was taken. On behalf of the United States of America, I apologize to all visitors who also met this idiot.)  

Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen
Fast forward to last Wednesday in Copenhagen Airport on my way to the United Kingdom.  

The Danish official takes my passport, casually flips to the very last page, and plants a stamp. I roll my eyes. He reacts:  

Danish policeman (in English): So what's your problem?   

Me (in Danish): You just cost me two trips to my embassy - which is about 4 hours of my time!  

Danish policeman: Huh?  

Me (in Danish): You just stamped the very last page in my passport. Now I have to go to my embassy and have extra pages glued in if I want to travel to most countries in Asia. For instance, the Russian Federation requires two consecutive blank pages if I want a visa. You just screwed up my passport.  

Danish policeman (in Danish): You should have told me before.  

Me: It's not my job to teach you your job. Passport control officers around the world know how to stamp a passport. There are even instructions printed in the EU passport.  

Danish policeman: This is an American passport. The stamp is just a fucking souvenir for you people (verbatim translation: "en skide souvenir for jer amerikaner").  

Me: This isn't a souvenir shop. You are authorizing travel documents.  

Danish policeman: Move on. People are waiting...sir. (and under his breath, "Røvhul")

Caveat Dania
Dear Danish Passport Control Policeman. I have your number - number 9. You haven't heard the end of this.  

Lesson learned
Pay heed: idiots in positions of authority can create an incredible amount of bad will. All businesses and institutions should keep this in mind when planning customer-service initiatives. Your front line relates directly to your bottom line!  

one_stamp 

Typical pages from my passport as normally stamped by officials, following the best practice of filling up the passport from the front.

stamps 

Very last page of my passport, incorrectly stamped by bored official who couldn't give a damn about his job.

Delectable UX at Gordon Ramsey’s “Plane Food”

27.03.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
entrysign

Sign of good things to come..

About a month ago, I visited the much touted Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport for the first time. The airy, vaulted space is the nicest of Heathrow’s offerings, but that isn’t really a recommendation – Terminals 1-4 set the bar pretty low as these things go. But I did have an opportunity to eat at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey’s “Plane Food”.

Let me put it this way, the experience was so good, I just might start flying British Airways again. For those of you who have seen my service-design presentation, you’ll know that this is high praise indeed.

An airport restaurant by design
The first thing you notice is the friendly, attentive staff. There are a lot of them in crisp black uniforms. These are not kids who took a low-paying job that bores them to tears; the “Plane Food” crew is professional, polite, and efficient. And they actually know something about food.

Next, there’s the menu. Real food at affordable prices. And a full bar.

The table is set with good china, decent glasses, and steel cutlery (in a security approved design).

And finally, there’s the layout. For once, a designer has understood that people in airports drag around rolling luggage. Plane Food features ample space between the tables so you can concentrate on your meal and not on keeping your bags from being kicked.

foodentrance 

The entry leads visitors away from the hustle of the terminal and into a more relaxing environment.


foodbar 

Great food, superb service
My entire extended family was on its way to Miami from Copenhagen. While the women opted for noodles at Wagamama, my son-in-law, Lars, and I were curious to see what Gordon Ramsey had to offer. After all, most of the world has seen the foul-mouthed chef on one of his various culinary reality shows. Well, Chef Ramsey clearly knows how to create a successful restaurant – even in an airport terminal.

The menu was large and varied – something for every taste, yet wonderfully uncomplicated. Lars (who happens to be a professional chef) opted for pasta, I had a mushroom and truffle risotto. Both dishes were exquisite; the pasta homemade and perfectly al dente; the risotto velvety and with real truffles, not just a few drops of oil.

And our servers were as good as any I’ve met at other restaurants.

The picnic box
For those of us who loathe airline food, Gordon Ramsey has reinvented the picnic lunch. For GBP 11.95, you get a full three-course cold meal in a nifty insulated canvas lunchbox. Just to put this into perspective, Scandinavian Airlines charges just about the same for a tired old cheese sandwich and a canned Bloody Mary on board their flights.

The picnic menu offers a choice of four starters, four main courses, and four desserts. There are options for both vegetarians and meat-eaters (strict vegans are advised to stick to Wagamama).

When returning to Denmark a week later, the entire family bought picnics to take home. Here's mine:

Tiger prawn salad with watercress and soy sesame dressing
Cumbrian honey-roast and parma ham with slow roast vine tomatoes
Chocolate and pecan brownie with crème Chantilly

Absolutely fabulous!

picnic  

The picnic box contains everything you need for a great meal, from sauces to cutlery.


UX and the British Airways business plan
FatDUX Creative Director Søren Muus and I are off to the IA Summit conference in Phoenix, AZ in a few weeks time. We actually booked on British Airways just so we could visit Plane Food. Hmm…maybe Gordon Ramsey should take over beleaguered BA CEO Willie Walsh’s job for a while. Who knows what might happen?

Full menus, prices, cocktail lists, and more photos can be found at Plane Food's website.

The 10 dos and don’ts of website development

14.12.2009 | Author: Eric Reiss
For about a year now, FatDUX has been sharing the following article with business leaders and potential clients around the world. The feedback has been tremendously positive. We'd now like to share it with you. Happy holidays.

Feel free to use this in your own work. Here's an easy-to-distribute PDF (25 kb):

Download: 10 do's and dont's of web development

The 10 dos and don’ts of website development (that every CEO should know)With the current economic downturn and significant layoffs among sales staff, the web has become more important than ever as a means of communicating with customers/clients/membership. But I have yet to meet a CEO who likes website development. It makes business leaders uncomfortable. The web experts speak in a cryptic language – CMS, KM, XML, CSS. The site seems to take forever to build, costs more than expected, and invariably provides less value than the organization had hoped.

No one likes signing a big check without some idea as to what they’re getting. So if you’re a business leader, here are a few basic, non-technical tips that will significantly increase your chances for online success. And they let you do what you do best – lead.

1. Don’t confuse marketing with communication

Most marketing efforts are concerned with gaining the attention and interest of a particular target audience – often quite aggressively. But on the web, your audience has come to you voluntarily. So, lighten up on the promotional hype. Yes, your site can become an important sales tool, but it should do so in straightforward, conversational language. Don’t let an eager salesrep talk you into blinking banners on every page. Instead, regard your website as part of your service mix first and your marketing mix second. It’s about creating a valuable experience for your site’s visitors, about starting a dialog with your customers (and potential customers). Therefore, make sure your web team represents a good cross section of disciplines in your organization.

Do: View your website as part of your customer-service package.

2. Don’t view your website as a software development projectCreating and maintaining most informational websites is no more a “software project” than publishing your annual report. You write reports using a standard word processing program; you publish to the web using a standard content-management system. There are dozens of superb systems available, and hundreds of excellent add-ons (survey systems, social networks, video channels, wikis, etc.) so don’t let anyone talk you into building one from scratch. That’s also why this activity shouldn’t be handed over to your IT department. Granted, a site with very sophisticated functionality will probably require special programming, but don’t count on your in-house skills as being enough.

Do:  Whenever possible, purchase professional web-publishing software from a single-focus vendor (Important note: Microsoft, IBM, and SAP probably shouldn’t be on your shortlist, despite anything your IT department tells you).

3. Don’t couple unrelated initiatives

Just because one project concerning computers and customers is in the works, you won’t necessarily create synergy by tacking on other initiatives that also involve computers and customers. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a frequent sinner. But unless you have a huge budget and sophisticated needs, both your website and your CRM activities will be far more successful (and much cheaper) if you tackle them one at a time. Keep your intranet development out of this, too (although you can probably use the same publishing software used for your website). In other words, don’t let HR take over the project either. And don’t turn your website into a software development project.

Do: Deal with your website – and just your website. Then take care of the other stuff.

4. Don’t be afraid to set measurable goals for your website

Your website can be an active part of your business plan. In fact it should be. Don’t just view it as your extended business card or think that a graphic redesign is going to help you attract new customers/clients/members. Your website should be assigned targets just like every other department in your organization. And don’t just go for easily measurable numbers. Merely increasing the number of visitors is a poor goal. Shortening the sales process is better. Increasing your conversion rates is great. Streamlining logistics is a good goal. Reducing manual intervention in a sales or service process is a good goal, too. And there are dozens of others that have a direct effect on the bottom line – even for companies that don’t run an e-commerce site. So get your web team to tell you which needs they have identified, the goals they have set, and how they intend to achieve them. Since most in-house teams have limited experience in web development, this is one of the key reasons for hiring an outside strategic consultant.

Do: Insist that your website become an integrated part of your company’s business activities.

5. Don’t confuse your needs with those of your visitors

You may want your website to communicate your company’s values, service offerings, products, or something else entirely. But visitors to your site will have their own agendas. Your web team needs to identify these needs and address them with relevant content and functionality. The simple truth is, unless a site fulfills the needs of its visitors, it will never fulfill the needs of the site owner. Give your web team the time and budget to do their homework and actually talk to potential users. Very few companies truly understand how their customers use the internet.

Do: Encourage research. Accept surprises that go against your basic assumptions.

6. Don’t view your website as a fixed-term project

Your website is a process, not a project. Unlike a printed brochure that might have a useful lifetime of a year or so, your site’s content should be reviewed regularly (even daily) so that it remains accurate, interesting, and dynamic. For the most part, maintenance only takes a few minutes a day. But someone has to keep the process going, studying the statistics that tell you who has visited and what they did, and adjusting the content so that it becomes even more compelling. And that means you need to allocate resources to this critical task. Your website needs to be included in your annual budget each and every year.

Do: Once you start the process, make sure to keep it going.

7. Don’t confuse print design with web design

You probably have an ad agency. For them, “concept” means look and feel. But on the web, the “concept” is what your site can do. Your brand consists of how your website “acts” just as your brand is affected by how your employees act. Don’t let an old-school art director force you to sacrifice usability for the sake of a design guide developed for printed communications.

Do: Acknowledge and embrace web best-practices that run counter to your design guide.

8. Don’t let personal opinion cloud your focus

When it comes to websites, everyone has an opinion. But don’t just assign tasks to the people who are most enthusiastic or most vocal. Instead, find people with proven expertise and then do everything you can to help them do their jobs efficiently. And as the project progresses, try not to let your personal taste get in the way either. The only opinions that really matter are those of your website’s visitors – not your friends, family, or the well-meaning wife of the chairman. Ask yourself: “Do I want to get my way or do I want to get rich?”

Do: Seek out proven experts and support their work.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions

There are no stupid questions. And no one should make you feel like you’ve asked one. But be prepared to remember the answer – asking someone to walk you through the same subject six times is bound to create friction.

Do: If in doubt, ask. Always.

10. Don’t hide in your office

Your active support for a web project can make the difference between success and failure. Make sure everyone on the team is pulling their weight – particularly those who are responsible for writing and updating online content. Make sure the team leader has access to you when policy questions arise. That said, don’t become a micromanager - hire the best and let them get on with it.

Do: Demonstrate your active support for the project. Keep the whole team inspired.

My thanks to the dozens of CEOs who have critiqued this piece. You've all contributed valuable information. Thanks for sharing with me so I can share with others.

Three short service stories

09.12.2009 | Author: Eric Reiss
Three service experiences from a recent trip to Miami, FL.

At Whole Foods in Pinecrest
Me: “Hi. I’m looking for vermouth.”
Whole Foods: “That’s like beer, right?”
Me: “It’s like a strong wine.”
Whole Foods: “This is the wine department.”
Me: “Yes. I know. Where do you have stuff like port?”
Whole Foods: “Which port? Is this something you got on a cruise ship?”

At Macy’s in Dadeland
Me: “Hi. I’m looking for black, canvas tennis shoes.”
Macy’s: “Canvas? Is that a kind of leather?”
Me: “No. It’s heavy cloth. Like what they make sails out of.”
Macy’s: “Like nylon? We have Docksides. But they’re not made of nylon.”

At Staples office supplies
Me: “Hi. I need an At-A-Glance calendar refill.”
Staples: “What year?”
Me (biting tongue): “2010″
Staples: “But that’s next year.”
Me: “Er…yes…I need a refill for my current calendar.”
Staples: “We don’t carry that brand.”
Me: “You have an At-A-Glance display over there, but there’s nothing in it.”
Staples: “That’s a mistake.”
Me: “That you have the display or that it’s not filled?”
Staples: “Yes. Sorry we can’t help you.”

And we web designers wonder why folks can’t fill out online forms…geez.

7 rules for customer service

03.11.2009 | Author: Lynn Boyden
Bill McLaughlin

CEO – Select Comfort

Minneapolis, MN

Dear Bill,

I have the most wonderful bed in the world, a Select Comfort bed.  It has two air chambers zipped into a padded quilted mattress cover, and attached to a pump with two controls.  Each sleeper can adjust the firmness of the mattress to his own preference with just a button.  We’ve had it for over 15 years.

Its only flaw is that every two or three years one of the air chambers inside the mattress starts to leak, and pretty soon it mostly deflates every night.  The only thing to do is to get a new one shipped out from the company.

Because it was my side of the bed this time, I was pretty motivated to solve the problem.  I went to the Select Comfort website, found their customer support contact page.  It was late, outside of their call center hours, so I decided to get the process going by email.  I chose my problem from their dropdown list (“Previous purchase questions”), entered my name and address and phone number and email (all required).  I also entered a description of my product and my problem.  Oddly enough, this was not a required field.  I unchecked both the “o please send me more promotional material!” boxes and submitted the form.  Immediately in my inbox was an automatic confirmation that they had indeed received my email, and would gladly get back to me within two or three days.  And that if I wanted to call them, they’d take my call right away.

Rule No. 1 – Respect your customer’s mode of communication.

If you’re going to offer email customer support, it should be at the same level of service as phone support.  A real response should come by the end of the next business day at the latest.

Two days later I got a nice email from the customer support specialist telling me that my name and address wasn’t in their database, and asking me if I could send any other names or addresses that might have been used.  I did, and shortly received an autoresponse thanking me for my interest in their product and informing me that they would be sending out the DVD package that I had requested right away.

Rule No. 2 – Listen to what your customer says, and remember it the next time you speak.

I had already provided them with a description of my problem AND a backend database code for their use by selecting “previous purchase question” as my subject.  And remember?  I had also unchecked both boxes asking them to send me more promotional literature.  (I’m still getting it; the DVD arrived in less than a week, and I’ve gotten follow-up postcards every three or four days so far.)

I replied that I didn’t want any DVDs, but that I did want a new single-port chamber for my dual queen size bed and inquiring how I could go about getting one, just as I had in my original email to them.  I got another immediate autoresponse telling me that they had received my email and that they would gladly get back to me in two to three days.

In a couple of days another nice customer service rep gave me instructions on how to confirm that the problem was indeed in the air chamber and not in the pump, and asked me to get back in touch with them after I’d verified the problem.  I was pretty sure that the problem was with the chamber, but I followed the directions and confirmed it for them by email: definitely the chamber.  After getting the expected autoresponse from the customer service ‘bot (2-3 days!), I then got an email from the support staff that said that it sounded like I needed to replace the chamber, and that I should order it from Customer Service.  They gave a toll-free number.  They also let me know that they couldn’t find me in their database.

Rule No. 3 – Respect what your customer knows.

Not only did I already know what the problem was with the bed and what I needed, I also already knew that I wasn’t in their database, and I already knew that email responses were running at 2-3 days’ response time.  A full week was wasted with this back-and-forth.

Meanwhile I’m sleeping on stacks of pillows every night because I start out with a bed full of air and by 3am it is nearly completely deflated, my butt on the slats of the bedstand.  I can’t pump it up in the middle of the night because the pump makes a heinous racket to which the DH for some reason objects most obstreperously.  My neck and shoulders and lower back are all killing me.  And then fall rolled into Los Angeles, and I found myself at the mall, looking for sweaters.  And there, across from the Build-a-Bear was a Select Comfort retail store.  So I popped in, spoke with the nice man there.  He listened to my story, looked me up in the database (“Yep, you’re coded as a prospect!”) and surreptitiously gave me a queen dual chamber that he had lying behind a big cardboard display.  I took it home and pumped it up, but it turned out to have a leak as well.

I was at the same mall a few days later and returned it to him.  He gave me another one, but while he was digging around looking for it, another customer in the store who was purchasing a bed and some accessories asked me if I liked my bed.  O how I did wax prolific on the wonders of the bed.  I truly love it.  At least fifteen years of slumbering bliss on this bed.  A testimonial, dear brethren!  After this, the nice store manager gave me the chamber.  I asked him, “If this one doesn’t work, can I come back here and order it from you?”  No, he said, I had to order it from Customer Service.

Rule No. 4 – Empower your service workers to provide service.

There was a customer sitting at the counter while I was there, checkbook in hand, ordering a bed and accessories.  We all of us there in the store know that orders can be placed through the retail store.  Why can I not get the replacement item I need from the nice person I’ve now got a relationship with?  Why can the email support staff not take my order?

I got the second replacement chamber home, and it leaked even worse than the first one.  I’m not too upset, because I didn’t pay for either of them.  I girded my loins, picked up the phone, and called Customer Service’s toll-free number.

It was busy.

I called again.  I got a recording that said, basically, that they were too busy to take my call, and I should call back later.  Click.

I called three more times and it was busy.

The fourth time I got put into the queue, after selecting the most likely-sounding option from the voice menu.  After about 10 minutes I was connected with a lady who asked me briskly for the name on my account.  I gave her my name.

“I can’t find you in my database.  What’s the phone number that might be on the account?”  I gave her that.

“I can’t find you in my database.”  I tell her what I want to do, to buy a replacement chamber.  She begins to go through what I recognize as the troubleshooting script, the one I have already been through with the email folks.  I stop her and start to say that I’ve already identified my problem, and that I just want to order the replacement chamber.

“I’m trying to solve your problem!”

“You haven’t even asked me what my problem is yet.”

Rule No. 5 – The customer’s problem is the one that needs solving.

So far my primary topic of conversation with these people, across ALL their modes of communication, has been about their database.  Now I didn’t call them up because I’m not in their database.  I’ve got a bed that deflates every night.  I just want my good nights’ sleep back.  I called them up because I need a single port dual queen replacement chamber, stat.

I tell her that I’ve followed directions given by the email team and have confirmed that I need a new air chamber.  “Well you can’t buy that from me!”  She says she’s going to put me in the database and then connect me with the right department.  I give her all my information (again) and she enters it all into the database, and she gives me a customer number (2275984) that I can give to the next rep so she can pull up my record.  And then she transfers me.

After a few minutes on hold I am connected to a new person who promptly barks, “Name on the account?”  I give her my name and, she says, “I can’t find you in my database.” At this point my weasel is pretty steamed.  I tell her that I have just gone through this exercise with the previous rep, and that she had put me into the database.  “She even gave me a customer number so you could find me.”  She asks for it, and I give it to her.  She tells me, “I can’t find that in my database.  You’re not in our database.  What did she use to give it to you?”

“Her voice,” I said.  “And I wrote it down with a pencil on paper.”

Rule No. 6 – Don’t ask the customer for any of your internal codes or identifiers.

How are the customers supposed to know which of your internal systems were in use?  At this point I’m pretty sure that I am in all of their databases and that customer number 2275984 is CSR-speak for “Give this customer some serious hell!”

She begins the troubleshooting script.  I stop her.  “I’ve already done that.”  After a fair amount of wrangling I force her to take my order NOW for a non-returnable $200 item.  I ask for the name of the VP of Customer Service and she gives me the name and mailing address of the CEO.

And since it had been such a <sarcasm> pleasant </s> experience overall, I replied to the last email that I had finally managed to order the replacement chamber from customer service, and that I’d be grateful if they could let their VP know that he could expect me to pitch him soon for some business process redesign work.  A few days later I got this response:

comfort_screen 

My replacement chamber did finally come, and it has worked very well.  I still love my bed, and I’m sleeping great again.  But I am afraid that any recommendation I make for Select Comfort’s product in the future will have to be tempered by serious reservations about their service.  And in the 21st century, is there any difference between the two?

Rule No. 7 – Customer service is the product too.

Give us a call, Bill.  We can help.

Sogni d'oro,

Lynn

FatDUX Los Angeles