Friday, November 27, 2009

Customer Service Success - Bavarian Soundwerks

I recently had a great Customer Service experience with Bavarian Soundwerks (BSW).  BSW is a retailer of BMW related audio equipment.

I've been trying to connect my iPhone to my 02 BMW factory stereo.  I have researched it briefly in the past and found the cost to be too much for my aging (high mileage) car.  I gave it one more try and found BSW, navigated the site and found the piece I needed.  The one thing I was unclear on was if I needed this extra piece ($100) to make the connector work.  I called BSW, they were closed as it was 7:30 EST, then I utilized their websites "Contact Us" form.  I submitted my question and expected to get a response the next business day.  I was surprised to see a response from Halston at BSW about 2.5 hours later that was very clear and to the point.  I then had a couple of follow up clarifying questions which were quickly responded to.

I purchased the item, received prompt auto-generated emails for receipt, shipping info (including UPS tracking number/link).  A couple of days later, I received my purchased item (BSW Auxillary Input Kit for BMWs).  I had previously watched the YouTube video (Bavsound)for how to install the piece, so I quickly installed the piece and my iPhone was quickly playing my favorite playlists.

Bavarian Soundwerks created a great customer experience for me and made this purchase simple.  I recommend Bavarian Soundwerks to anyone looking for audio supplies for BMWs.  Great job BSW.

P.S. I was recently amazed when I received a phone call on my iPhone which was hooked up to the Aux Input, I answered the call and could hear the caller through my factory stereo and the iPhone microphone picked up my voice perfectly.  I didn't think this system would work for a "hands free" phone.  This was the icing on the cake.

Customer Service Fail - Chain Coffee Shop (not Starbucks)

I figured I had to share this poor customer service example I recently experienced.

I was on my drive home from work, I was running later than normal and had to run an errand a little out of my normal pattern.  Therefore, I stopped at a coffee shop near the freeway entrance.  I walked in around 7pm, there were people sitting at every table and no one in line.  I walk straight up to the cash register to order, except there was no employee there to greet me.  I stand and wait and peruse what type of coffee to purchase.  After a short wait, an early twenties (my estimate) female employee asks me what I'd like.  I reply that I would like a large coffee (which this coffee shop keeps in self serve pump thermoses).  She replies, I just got on shift and don't think we have much choice in the thermoses.  She then proceeds to lift and measure by weight which have anything in them.

I'm really not too picky with coffee so settle for whatever she had a lot of.  Needless to say, I was not amazed at the freshness of the coffee nor the expertise of the staff.  I purchase my coffee and move to the "coffee fixins" bar.  I fix my coffee up and notice that the employee has walked out the door of the coffee shop.

Before I even finished getting my coffee and going, the employee was back outside sitting and talking to a friend.

Really, she gave me the excuse earlier that she "just got on shift" and didn't know which coffee's were fresh.  Yet, she had plenty of time to settle in at a table with her friend.

I was amazed (not surprised, part-time employees can be very hard to manage at such a retailer) that a smaller chain coffee shop would have such a failed customers service experience.  It is very easy for me to find a Starbucks that can easily replace this coffee shop on my list.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Inbox ZERO + Twitter ZERO + Google Reader ZERO = Overwhelmed

Yesterday during my run (3 miles) I listened to the @context podcast (Episode 14), this episode featured Tara Rodden Robinson interviewing Augusto Pinaud (the normal host). Augusto discussed his GTD system which seems to be very complete and he made some very insightful statements during the podcast.

The one thing that stuck out so drastically for me was Augusto mentioned that he is taking a break from technology on the weekends and that when he checks into Twitter on Monday mornings, he doesn't go back and read everything he has missed over the weekend. 

This made an impact on me.  I immediately identified something that I believe has been weighing down my productivity recently.  I've been trying to keep my Inbox at Zero, my Twitter at ZERO, and my Google Reader at ZERO.  All while keeping up with my day job and reading a book (The world is flat) at the same time.  This has pushed me into an unproductive state.  And I don't even use Facebook which would be one more item to review.

Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero philosophy is one piece of work that made a large influence on my productivity (another huge piece to my system was, great stuff Jim).  It helped formulate my system for managing my email and staying ahead of my email so I don't get behind.  Over the time I have been using this system, I think it has engrained the Inbox Zero philosophy into my dna.  Now, I seem to have a daily goal of getting Twitter and Google Reader to ZERO.

Getting all these channels to ZERO has really overwhelmed me.  After stepping back yesterday and thinking about it, there really isn't that much great stuff that I'm getting from Twitter or Google Reader, and that my life won't be any different if I let some of those items go.  Mentally I have to teach myself to go back to my old ways and let go of the Inbox Zero philosophy.

Thank you Augusto for opening my eyes, and hopefully my productivity will return to normal heights.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Apple iTunes 9 UI (User Interface) Design, Podcast Sync Settings Still Suck

Let me start this out by saying that I am a loyal iPhone user and have used iTunes for years.

I get tired of hearing everybody talk about how good of a design company Apple is.  Yes, Apple has delivered great products to market and many of them have very intuitive designs.  I continue to be amazed at how poor the iTunes design is.  With the popularity and revenue the iTunes site brings in, I would think the UI (user interface) would be flawlessly executed.

One area I am constantly frustrated with is the iPhone sync settings for podcasts.  I am a huge podcast listener and have tons of subscriptions, with hundreds of podcasts.  Way too many that I can fit on my iPhone at a given time, therefore I have to manage my sync settings to TRY to load the podcasts that I want.  This area of iTunes has been broken for many releases.

With the most recent release, the Apple designers have improved this functionality, but it still sucks. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to give the user a little more flexibility with settings.  Just allow the check boxes to be active for every podcast and allow the user to check off which ones they want to sync.  Sounds simple to me.

Maybe I'm an outlier, but stop making podcast sync settings more convoluted and give the user the freedom to make their own selections rather than forcing them to use the predefined dropdowns.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is your business tracking the correct measure of success?

Recently I've been seeing and hearing a lot about measurements of success. I think measuring our work as marketers, or any other profession, is key to understanding our business and our performance and ties very closely to goals/objectives.
  • Without goals; how does a business know what they are aiming for.
  • Without measurement; how does a business know how they are performing to their goals.

This morning I read Forrester's post about needing to measure effectiveness of social media efforts. Wow! That seems like a tough thing to measure even though I'm sure it can be done. It looks like Forester thinks this is as easy as a 3 step process.  When businesses enter the social media realm, aren't they doing that for a reason? They must have some sort of goal. Question is, is it clearly measurable? And, do the metrics clearly tie social media activities to the result?

My team met a couple of weeks back to discuss our 2010 metrics of success. We reviewed our 2009 goals, our performance to those goals, and the true objective of our efforts. Our team struggles with clearly defining one single, measurable goal due to competing priorities (customer experience/satisfaction, product revenue, ad response, etc.).

I think many teams struggle with setting clearly defined goals and metrics of success. Yesterday, during my workout, I listened to Sheryl Sandberg's talk at Stanford's Entreprenurial Thought Leaders series (FYI, they produce a lot of great podcasts, check it out), she stated that the Facebook team has been struggling recently with defining their single metric of success. When a company like Facebook struggles with this task, it seems to me that many, if not most, are also going to struggle. I think a lot of the struggle boils down to competing priorities.

Does your business (or business unit) have one clear measure of success? How do you balance competing priorities?

I guess my point to this post is; defining a clear measure of success is very tough. Making sure your team is clear on the goals/objectives is paramount. I don't think having a set measurement for success is 100% necessary for all businesses to work towards for a year or multiple years. I think you should constantly be measuring your work, make sure you measure pieces of each competing priority, and be open to quickly changing your measurements.

What are your thoughts on measurable goals?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thankful to those who help put food on my table

This is the first time I'm mentioning much about my personal life on this blog.  For those that aren't aware, I live on 113 acres in the Salinas Valley (to Wikipedia).  The Salinas Valley is one of the largest producers of salad greens in the U.S. as well as many other crops.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to sounds of farm workers near my pillow.  Not really, but they parked their van next to the fence to my house, which leaves them about 10 feet from my head.  It really is amazing to hear them hoot'in and holler'in at 7am (which they probably actually started working at 5am) and it sounds like they're having fun.

At about 8am, my wife woke up while I was reading my Google Reader in the bark-a-lounger.  She looked out the window and saw the harvester machine right in front of the house (see bad photo to the right taken with the weak iPhone camera).  We watched the farm workers methodically cut, toss, and pack the broccoli over and over.  Their system is completely manual, well orchestrated and precise.  We admired the work ethic these farm workers have and thanked them for doing the hard work not too many other Americans would do.  These farm workers work very hard for very little pay.  They have such a drive to make their life better that they will work 12 hour days, bending and doing back braking work just to get by.  

This past weekend I've been finishing up "Outliers", by Malcolm Gladwell, and thinking about his words around how work ethic and time of study is so important thriving in life.  Watching these farm workers has made me think about their work ethic and it helps me put some extra time in to my work and be thankful that I'm sitting at a computer working rather than in the fields for 12 hours a day.

Living on this ranch for the last 2.5 years has opened my eyes to the agricultural world.  It is an amazing industry that is very different from the worlds many of us live in.  So, I just wanted to share this quick story and hope we can all be thankful for what we have and what others are doing all around us to give us a better life.