Friday, June 27, 2008

Travel 1,000 miles to go bowling!

Yesterday I was planning our family vacation and looked up the website of a city we’ll be passing through to see what there is there to see or do. So I was pleased to find a page that says, "Things to See and Do."

The first listing on the page? Bowling.

I have nothing against bowling. But there are bowling alleys everywhere, and I was kind of looking for something more special.

Reading through the rest of that page, I found drag racing (not my cup of tea, but again not the sort of thing one travels a long way to see), marinas and movie theatres. Zzzzzzz. In between were a few listings for farmers' markets and galleries, but only two of them had writeups relating to local foods or regional art forms - the sorts of things that make for worthwhile stops.

You had to read down a long way before you found the really interesting stuff, like the specialty music venues, the Wharf sector, an interpretation centre for local native culture, and the lodges, tours and cruises that really make that area special.

Why was this such a problem? Because most web surfers have no patience. Most would click away long before they got to the good stuff. And why was this material presented in such a stupid, boring way? Because the chamber of commerce put their listings in alphabetical order!

Perhaps they never heard of thinking like the customer – or just putting your best foot forward. New Management Wanted – and a little more creativity.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Service Matters

Attention companies that still don't get it: Canadians demand good customer service. According to the second annual TD Canada Trust Customer Loyalty Poll, 95% of Canadians say their experiences can make or break a relationship with a particular brand or company.

That figure is up 10% from last year's survey, showing that Canadians are getting even more serious about service.

When asked which form of appreciation they are most interested in receiving from retailers and suppliers, 49% of consumers ranked "just good customer service" as number one. Loyalty programs and gifts followed far behind, at 18% and 17%.

There's another benefit to delivering good service. Says Tim Hockey, President and CEO of TD Canada Trust: "Good customer service has a ripple effect... our poll shows that 89% of people will share their positive stories with their friends and family."

All this sounds obvious, righ? So who isn't getting it? The utilities (think phone and cable).

The poll finds that consumers think retail stores and financial-service companies (29% and 28%) offer the best customer service. Utility companies are perceived to have the worst (42%) - even higher in Ontario and Quebec.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bell's Bafflegab

Ottawa security professional Eric Jacksh has found a hole in Bell Canada’s security – and is getting the “we really care” runaround.

When he input his unlisted phone number into a Bell WiMax webpage to find out what services are available in his area, up popped a map showing the location of his home. Since he already knows where he lives, and he’s been paying for anonymity for years, he’s miffed that Bell is now offering thieves and telemarketers a path to his front door. He sent them an email requesting them to delist the service.

A few days later he received this helpful reply.

Hello Eric Jacksch,
Thank you for visiting Bell's web site. My name is Colin and I am pleased to assist you with your inquiry.
I understand your frustration. Please note that, unlisted service will remove your phone number from the directory. Bell Store Locator and other satellite images will display the images of earth as it is and it is not possible to unlist the same.
Eric, we appreciate you using Bell Canada's eContact Centre and I look forward to serving you again.

I was interested to read that it is not possible to unlist the earth. But that doesn't seem to address Jacksh’s complaint.

A story on the issue in the Ottawa Citizen evoked this reassuring response from Bell PR person Jacqueline Michelis: "Certainly protecting the privacy of such customer information is of prime importance to Bell and our strict privacy practices and policies consistently rank among the top corporations in Canada." As Churchill used to say, Bell offers “all aid short of help.”

Jacksh has since complained to the CRTC and the Privacy Commissioner. Maybe they will get some answers. In the meantime, new management would be welcome.

You can read more on Jacksh's quest on his blog, The Jacksh Report.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Replace Yourself First

Here’s a sad story from the ranks of retail.

A young friend, Bob, works for a mid-sized retail chain in Toronto. Recently, his sister was in an accident, so naturally he was called to the hospital to join the family vigil.

The call came to Bob at work. When he told his supervisor he had to rush off to the hospital, she was taken aback. This wasn't a good time, she said; the store was very busy and short-staffed.

Bob couldn't believe his ears. “I have to go,” he said. “My sister has been badly injured.” I would hope that most bosses would immediately say, “Go. Do what you have to do.” But not this boss.

“All right,” she agreed, reluctantly. “But first, you have to call up your co-workers to find someone to come in and finish your shift.”

I guess Bob needs the work, because he did as she asked. In the middle of the day you don't find a lot of people at home doing nothing, so it took him more than half an hour to find someone to take his place. He was still at work phoning around while the rest of his family arrived to worry together at the hospital.

Fortunately, Bob's sister will be okay. But his relationship with his boss will probably never recover.

New management – and a new attitude towards the needs of employees – would be very welcome at this chainstore. Perhaps they haven't heard there's a talent shortage?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Of course PayPal cares

Eclectic Montreal blogger Stephen David Wark posted recently about an eBay purchase that went wrong.

To sort things out, he e-mailed PayPal about the situation. They weren't much help, since he had missed the 45-day deadline for taking action. (He had spent much of that time trying to deal with the seller.)

Even so, he was slightly shocked to receive the following e-mail from a PayPal rep:“Thank you for contacting us. I am sorry to hear about (briefly repeat member’s situation).”

As Wark notes, "It’s good to know that Paypal is supposed to pretend to care, but they’re just too lazy."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stupid Mistakes Managers Make

HR expert Susan Heathfield, who covers Human Resources for, focuses on the many ways that organizations mess up in dealing with people.

“They treat people like children and then ask why people fail so frequently to live up to their expectations. Managers apply different rules to different employees and wonder why workplace negativity is so high. People work hard and infrequently receive positive feedback.”

Heathfield has written an article on “Twenty Dumb Things Organizations Do to Mess Up Their Relationship With People.” Here are 10 of them:

· Add another level of hierarchy because people aren’t doing what they want them to do.
· Appraise the performance of individuals, and provide bonuses for the performance of individuals, and then complain that they cannot get their staff working as a team.
· Add inspectors and multiple audits because they don’t trust people’s work to meet standards.
· Fail to give people clear expectations so they know what they are supposed to do. Then they wonder why they fail.
· Create hierarchical, permission steps and other roadblocks that teach people quickly their ideas are subject to veto. (Then they wonder why no one has any suggestions for improvement.)
· Ask people for their opinions, ideas, and suggestions, and then fail to implement their suggestions or empower them to do so.
· Make a decision and then ask people for their input as if their feedback
· Find a few people breaking rules and company policies and chide everybody at company meetings rather than dealing directly with the rule breakers.
· Make up new rules for everyone to follow as a means to address the failings of a few.
· Provide recognition in expected patterns so that what started as a great idea quickly becomes entitlement.

Want more? You can read about all 20 blunders here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"We may know, but we don't care"” is a sister site of American Airlines that exists mainly to promote its slogan, “We know why you fly.” The site doesn't really do anything significant – it’s just trying to build customer relationships. It offers a few interactive games for the terminally bored and an ad archive for people who like to look at recent airline ads.

Recently the site included this weird little typo (circled). If you look in the square headlined “Vancouver,” you’ll find a parenthetical statement that was never meant to see the light of day. It looks like a fact checker queried the use of the phrase “Coast Mountain” (rightly pointing out that “Coast” refers to a range of mountains, not a single peak). Instead of fixing the error, the web editor approved the wrong copy plus the query.

That’s a blunder, but it’s not serious. These things happen all the time and are easily fixed. The problem is, when I spotted the error, I thought I would contact the site and point it out to them. But when I went looking for a “Contact Us” page or even an e-mail address, I found nothing. There was no direct way to contact them.

This is where management blundered. They built a mini-site to build relationships – but left no way for the customer to join the conversation. It’s a typical, top-down solution: We talk, you listen. It’s short-sighted and totally out of step with today’s interactive Internet world, where marketers are supposed to be listening to consumers. There’s lots of valuable info and strategic advantages to be gained from listening to your customer – but first you have to make it convenient for them to talk.

American may know why we fly, but they're obviously not interested in what we think.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Same Stupid, Different Day

Is there no end to the idiocy?
Last month we had a Tim Hortons franchisee fire an employee because she gave away a 16-cent piece of fried dough to calm a crying infant. The company later apologized – but only after a firestorm of criticism (which suggests they were really only sorry that they got caught.).

This week it’s a waitress in a restaurant in Owen Sound, Ont., who was laid off after she shaved her head as part of a stunt that raised $2,700 for the charity Cops for Cancer. Stacey Fearnall, a 36-year-old mother of two, was apparently told to go home after she refused to wear a wig.

The owner defended his decision by saying his restaurant has "standards." He apparently requires employees keep their hair at a reasonable length. He says Fearnall can return to work once she grows her hair back.

He also claims some customers have said they would have been "appalled'' to be served by Fearnall.

Fearnall’s father died of cancer five years ago.

An official at the Bluewater Cancer Society said she's never heard of an incident like this. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, "It apparently has not happened anywhere across Canada.”

The local paper, the Sun-Times, notes that Cops for Cancer is a huge deal in Owen Sound. It says the owner has blundered badly:
"It is difficult to find words to describe the magnitude of the mistake that was made in sending her home, essentially until her hair grows back. Her presence, sans hair, would be an asset, not a detriment to this or any other restaurant.
If there's a lesson here, it's that decisions like these should not be made in isolation. The interests and the concerns of the community always must be part of the process for businesses, as much as for the public sector."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rogers' "Vision" Sucks

There's good customer service, and then there's the cellphone company.

In a biting blogpost this week, Ottawa entrepreneur Alec Saunders lambastes Rogers for its high prices and ever-shifting offers. His complaints, in order:

* He feels he has to call a Rogers rep every month to find out if he's paying too much for the services he receives. "They tell me whether there are any better new deals available. It’s the only way to make sure I’m not getting raped by Ted 'Jolly' Rogers' pricing."

* He complains that Rogers is raising prices "when the rest of the world has data rates that are plunging like a stone."

* He refuses to lock into a "deal" that requires a three-year contract. "As the only game in town, your only option is to agree to their terms," he laments.

Alec finishes by expressing the hope that increasing competition will force companies like Rogers (and Bell and Telus) to be more consumer-friendly.

You have to wonder about companies that consistently alienate their best customers. History teaches that you can only get away with this stuff for so long.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Office Worker Goes Postal

What better way to kick off my new blog about mismanagement and business blunders than with actual video of an unknown office worker going postal?

This video was sourced from video site, but it allegedly originates in Russia. The first few seconds are kind of dull, so use the time to figure out who is about to suddenly lash out at all around him (especially the computer monitors).

Click on the arrow to watch human behaviour at its worst.

Office Worker Goes Absolutely Insane - Watch more free videos