Clean Bathrooms

Today's post from Seth Godin is so simple and yet so true. Seth describes the cleanliness of the bathrooms at Disney World. The people at Disney know that by keeping the bathrooms cleanand making the surroundings a better place they inherently earn trust.

My favorite line in the post:

If you take a lot of time to ask, “how will this pay off,” you’re probably asking the wrong question.

Amen

Carmine Gallo's "The Apple Experience" matches reality

This is a funny post because it combines a book review as well as my shopping expereince.  Last week I finished reading Carmine Gallo’s new book The Apple Experience. The book deals with the a lot of the “hidden” or little things that makes up Apples Retail customer service. Key elements revolve around listening to the customer and building a relationship. Not every customer will buy something in that trip but they may in the future. That initial visit to the store could be very important.

Today I went to the Apple store to drool over the Retina MacBook Pro as well as the revamped 11“ MacBook Air. I was planning on making my decision but I needed to see the Retina for myself.  A woman walked into the store at the same time I did. She was in her early to late 50’s early 60’s. We were both greeted and specialists were assigned to both of us. While we waited we went to the same table to begin looking at the new 15” Retina MacBook Pro. She was in the store first so the employee went up to her and asked her how he could help her today. This is an almost verbatim dialog that occurred:

Apple Emp: My name is Fred. How can I help you today?
Woman: Hi I am Carol.  I need a new computer, for home. I work at a University and the guys there told me I should get a mac and gave me these specifications.
Apple Emp: Carol may I look at what they recommended?
Woman: Here you go. (She passes the paper to the employee)(I see this and it is the MAXED out 15" Retina)
Apple Emp: (Laughs) Well they have great taste ! Is this for them or you?
Woman: It is for me and they told me I should get as much as I can.
Apple Emp: I understand. May I ask what you do with your computer? What programs you use most, how you use your computer, do you travel with it?
Woman: Well I use email and the internet to get recipes, I print things and occasionally I get a picture of my grandkids that I would like to save. We do go back and forth to Florida and trips to see our grand kids. Will this computer do that for me?
Apple Emp: Why yes it will.

And with that he could have stopped there and handed her the new machine. But he knew it was overkill. This is a classic example of using a bazooka to kill a mosquito. He helped to educate the consumer on what she was buying. This sale would have been upwards of $3799. I am sure if he was commissioned from a big box store the sale would have ended.  But Apple retail employees are not and the goal is deliver a happy customer.

Apple Emp: Carol if I heard you correctly you do email, photos and 3 or 4 things a lot with your computer. This computer will do all of those things and more. It is an excellent machine and geared toward high end professionals. Would you be interested in looking at some other models that are less expensive and would also fulfill your computing needs?  
Woman: Sure

With that he took her to see both the 13, and 15 MacBook Pros and then to the table to show the MacBook Airs for her. I was glad the store was busy and my specialist was delayed a few minutes because it allowed me to watch the ongoing interaction.

Fred explained the difference of the lines and the models. Pro first and then the Airs. When she saw the 11" Air her face lit up and smiled as if she has see a new dawn.

Woman: I wish this computer would do what I need - it looks amazing. So small and beautiful.
Apple Emp: This will ! and more. This is a very powerful machine that will fit your needs now and still allow you to grow should your computing needs change. Do you like to rent movies?
Woman: Yes we do from Netflix online and the iTunes store. Can I watch a movie on this?
Apple Emp: Yes

She then went into a litany of little questions. Can it… Yes Can it… Yes Can it… Yes

Her face changed a little. She then became a little wary. Thinking how can she afford this tiny powerhouse that can do all these things AND print recipes. (one of the goals)

Woman: How much is this one?
Apple Emp: This model is $999 and the one with double the space is $1099.
Woman: Really?
Apple Emp: We have both models here when and if you decide this is right for you. Woman: I will take the $1099 model.
Apple Emp: I think this is a wonderful choice for you and you will save more than $2400.
Woman: Hmmmmm
Apple Emp: Is there a problem that I did not address?
Woman: Can you help me prevent my husband from using it? Or should I just get him one as well.
Apple Emp: I am sorry I don’t have a device that will prevent his use. But you should bring him in if he likes yours and I can show him some options.

Again a commissioned sales representative might have got her the second computer to line their pocket with money.  But instead Fred invited her to come back with her husband and make a decision then.  Watching this type of customer service mirrors exactly what Carmie talks about in his book. Needless to say my time at the store was equally pleasant and productinve. I walked out of their with an 11" MacBook Air loaded up.

These ideas are not really earth shattering, to me it is common sense.  This type of service is what other companies should strive for as well. It just makes sense. If you have any interest in learning how to deliver an exceptional customer expereince you should read this book !

Verizon Wireless To Charge You To Conveniently Pay Your Bill

Verizon has already changed their mind about this decision - but smells so much like banks trying to make up the extra credit card charges they lost over the federal regulation changes.

Lets charge our users to pay their bills.  Pathetic.

Verizon Wireless To Charge You To Conveniently Pay Your Bill:

Marguerite Reardon:

Verizon Wireless plans to charge subscribers a new $2 fee every time they pay their wireless bills online or directly over the phone.


Can you hear me now?

(Via The Brooks Review)

Delighting customers with bad news

After ordering my new computer case from Tom Bihn and loving the product I decided I wanted to ordered a few other small things from them to round out some of the storage needs I had.  I received the shipping notification that it should arrive on later this week. Yesterday I received an email from Katy at Tom Bihn with the following message:

To our amazing, patient customers:

UPS has alerted us that a tornado derailed a train on the tracks that UPS Ground packages travel on from the West Coast to the East Coast. UPS is working hard to re-route the packages on to their original destination as soon as possible; this could mean that your TOM BIHN order may take a little longer to get to you than originally planned.:(

We're sorry for the delay and will update you again if there is any further news. If you have any questions, be sure to let us know.


I was a little bummed but I was amazed about the notification.  Who does this?  I was trying to think of another company in recent years who is this proactive in their customer service offerings.  I wish more companies did this and is should be a model for others to follow.

Moving the problem to the consumer

Images
With the release of Lion one thing that had to be done prior to upgrading was to confirm that your favorite or commonly used apps were all Intel based and did not rely on the Rosetta software translator.   The only one I had on my machine was Quicken 2007.  I have been a Quicken user since version 2.  Originally on PC and then switching to the mac. Using Quicken to reconcile my accounts is now pure muscle memory - I equate this to a programmer or designer using TextMate or BBEdit. You just know how to do it and it is instinctual.  I can reconcile my checking accounts in 2-3 minutes using Quicken.  It is no longer the difficult back of the statement approach.  I also have been using the Quicken BillPay service for some time.  While there is a monthly charge for this service, the integration with the checkbook register was brilliantly executed making paying bills electronically very very easy. For me the convenience outweighed the cost.

In order to be able to continue to use Quicken, Mac users were forced to upgrade to Quicken Essentials.  The name should tell you a lot about the application. Quicken has removed many of the features that made the application so nice.  The application user interface has also changed--drastically.  The application feels more like Quickbooks then Quicken.  I consider myself an experienced user and it took me a very long time to figure out how to use the application in the most basic way. The checkbook register view is dreadful. What you would consider to me normal application functions or buttons are buried under menus and not easy to find.  Last night I had the first opportunity to reconcile my account.  What normally takes me a few minutes was an hour long process.

Rewriting an application, especially a well established and mature application like Quicken can be difficult and time consuming. Quicken 2007 for Mac was actually released in 2006.  So we are 5 years into the application with only minor bug fixes and nothing new.  Quicken Essentials is no where near an upgrade - it is clearly a downgrade.  Key features have been removed, bill pay service is gone and many key features have been left out.

When Intuit posted options on how to handle the transition from 2007 to something that will run on Lion one of the options was to switch to Windows versions of the application.

Move to Quicken Windows
  • You can easily convert your Quicken Mac data with the exception of Investment transaction history. You will need to either re-download your investment transactions or manually enter them.

  • This option is ideal if you use Quicken to track investments.


I am surprised that someone from marketing would allow this included in a response to users. It is hard to think of any examples where moving the vendors problem to the user is ever a good solution. I know of a lot of Quicken for Mac users who were infuriated by this careless statement alone.

The support page does go on to say they are committed to supporting Apple.  But it mentions working on an iPad application. While having an iPad app would be nice thing to have, personally I am more concerned about having the core program working at its full potential.

What are your plans related to personal finance solutions for Apple customers?
We are committed to supporting Apple products and our Mac customers. We are actively working on a personal finance solution for the iPad, as well as continuing to deliver the highly rated Mint.com iPhone application. In addition, we are evaluating options for Quicken Essentials for Mac.

As a Mac user do I feel abandoned, yes.
As a long time Quicken user am angry, yes.
Do I feel Intuit had substantial time to plan and make a new version for the inevitable removal of Rosetta, yes.
Do I feel like the Essentials upgrade was a waste of money, yes.
Will I be looking for alternatives that offer better support and user experience, yes.
Can I recommend Essentials to anyone, no.

Process of building and selling

Slicehost logo

The other day I saw this posted over on 37signals site.  It is a 4 part interview with the founders of Slicehost the rails hosting platform.  The founders are interviewed by David Heinemeier Hanson about staritng the company and ultimately selling it to Rackspace.  This is a really good series about the process and the end result.  Check it out

http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2974-founder-stories-slicehost

Setting up bill pay

 

Online banking call to setup bill pay

Me: hi I just tried to register online for online bill pay and it says I am already registered but it is not working
CS: please verify your account and user I'd for me
Me: account is xxx-xxxxxxx-xxx and the userid is zzzzzz
CS: thank you. Are you using online banking now?
Me: yes thats why I have a userid
CS: let me speak to the online banking group
Me: ok but isn't this the number for online banking customer service
CS: yes but I can't do that. One minute while I put you on hold.

Hold

CS: you were not active so they are activating you now.
Me: thanks when will it be active.
CS: not sure I think 24 hours. Try back then if not call and we will activate you.

In Search of: A better computer bag (Part 2)

RistrettoSo after a lot of thought, too much thought , I plunked down my money and ordered the Tom Bihn Ristretto.  Of course as soon as I ordered it they were back ordered for a few weeks.  But I figured that was due to the large amount of press they had received from bloggers and fans.  I was fine as the site told me right up front. I had to travel in about 2.5 weeks so there should be plenty of time.

As my trip approached I got a phone call from the Eliam in the shipping department telling me that the order was complete but one of the little organizer pouches was not available in the color I wanted.  He asked me if I wanted to wait for that color and get it later or swap it out for something else now.  He left me a very detailed message and number to call back.  I can not rememember when I got a proactive call like that telling me about an issue and offering to help correct it.  And it was a phone call ! not an email.

I immediately called back and spoke to Katy and made the adjustment to my order and they told me it would ship out later that day.  I inquired when they thought I would receive it and they told me on Tuesday.  "Damn I will be on travel" I thought to myself.  I politely asked is there was a was to expedite the shipping so I could get it on Saturday before I went away.  I figured this would be a great time to try the bag out.  Katy to said Sure I can help you with that !  (again I expected to have my head bit off by changing an existing order). We made the shipping changes and they shipped it out for me and it arrived the next day.

There are so many picture on the web of people unboxing their products, so I will spare you that, but it was a great feeling. Everything was there, a few little extras and on time.

Immediatley I emptied out my other bag and looked at all the crap I had accumulated and thought to myself - I think the bag is too small.  I sorted through the odds and ends and grouped them into the things I really needed.  I proceeded to load the bag up with all my computer needs, paying close attention to what I need - and resist the urge to through everything and the kitchen sink in the bag.  13" MBA went in, iPad2, Moleskine, pens, cleaning cloth, mints, business cards, lens pen sidekick, wireless keyboard, magazines, keys etc.  Now loaded up I lifted the bag and realized how light it really was.  The absolute strap with the neoprene on the shoulder was amazing.

Now I had to face my biggest fear.  Did it look like a Murse? While there is nothing wrong with a European Man Purse I was not a fan overall of most of the styles.  I have always had bags with a horizontal orientation so this was a HUGE change for me.  Before I looked I actually did not care because this bag was exactly what I was looking for.  A well organized system bag that allowed me to swap pouches in and out without concern.   Glancing in the mirror I reviewed it and it was great - no issue !

The bag is great - quality is amazing - the customer service was incredible - the company stands behind its products.  I am  fan now for life.  Now how to see how well it travels.

In Search of: A better computer bag (Part 1)

I have owned more computer bags and cases then I care to admit. Many times I created a story in my head that would allow me to purchase (read justify to myself) a bag for a particular need. But then I end up being let down.

Before I purchased another bag I wanted to make sure I was clear what my needs were.

Why did I need another bag?
What worked with the old bags?
What did not work?
What is my goal?
Do I like the design aesthetics?
Will this solve my problem or end up in the closet?

I wanted to be able to carry my MBA and an iPad, a moelskine notebook, a magazine or two - some small accessories and power supplies. I wanted to lighten up - work for the 80/20 rule instead of trying to pack for every scenario when I travel or go tot a friends house to collaborate on a project. Basically I was and am tired of carrying everything I own everywhere I go.

I looked at many many bag makers. I started with companies I had used before - as well as bags I had seen others use. Manufacturers like - Targus, Booq or Waterfield bags were on the top of the list. Each time I looked at a design I went back to what my needs were and what I was going to use it for and made sure it was a fit. Most times I felt like I was back at that talking myself into a bag point wehre I had been so many times before.

As I was reading The Brooks Review blog I came across a post that Ben had written on purchasing a new bag. He did an excellent review of fit and finish as well as functionality of a new bag he had recently purchased from Tom Bihn. I knew of Tom Bihn products but I had never owned any products or knew anyone who did.

I read the post over and over looking to poke holes in his story - or the story that I had created in my head about the bag. he was also paring down his needs and wanted to be what I like to call functionally minimal. When I got to the end of the review I realized it was for a Tom Bihn 13" Ristretto. Immediately I went to the site to take a look for myself at the products and others options that existed. But I kept coming back to that one bag. It was a little unconventional for me - ok a lot. With is vertical orientation compared to the more common horizontal orientation I was concerned that it bordered on "murse like" qualities.

Then a funny thing happened I started searching for reviews of this bag and was blown away on how many there were. Blog posts, editorial reviews and user generated videos on you tube and vimeo. I found myself watching lots of videos about all their products.

It was clear that Tom Bihn created very high quality products and in doing so also created a huge network of customer evangelists that were happy to talk about the products. All aspects, the quality, the nice touches, how they use them, recommendations for add-ons and more. Many times when you see a product it is hard to gauge what you can get in the bag; no issues there. There were at least a dozen videos of customers packing and unpacking their various bags to give you a real world demos of what can actually fit. I was actually surprised because it reminded me very muck of Apple "p0rn" (sic) of unboxing new items.

So I ordered my Ristretto.