Friday, December 24, 2010

Wish people working on Christmas a Merry Christmas

There are lots of people who have today and tomorrow off and can enjoy Christmas with family and friends. There are some that are still working, today and Christmas Day. The world of customer service people seem to always be there on a holiday.

This is the time to hold in any urge to complain about something and give a smile and a greeting to that clerk or person working these two days. Remember they are working perhaps not by choice, but they may need the money or because someone has to do the work to serve you.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale

* If you are on a bus or BART, smile and wish the driver and passengers a Merry Christmas.
* If you order coffee at a cafe, smile and wish them Merry Christmas.
* If you order a meal at a restaurant, give a smile and wish them Merry Christmas.
* If you are standing in line in a store, an airport or a theater show some patience when you are finally at the cashier, smile and wish them Merry Christmas.
* If you pull into a gas station, smile and wave to the person inside as you leave.
* If you happen to be at a sporting event, smile and wish a Merry Christmas to the people working the ticket lines or the concession stands.
* If you pass any security guards anywhere give them a smile and a wave.
* If you pass a homeless person on the street, or someone collecting for a charity give them some spare change and say Merry Christmas.
* If you have to make a telephone call because of some type of service problem, keep any frustration in check and be sure to say Merry Christmas to the agent at the end of the call.

Remember Santa is not the only one working on Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Maggiano's Little Italy in San Jose

Massiano's Little Italy is in twenty states, but their only Bay Area location is in San Jose. Located in Santana Row, among all the shops this cozy restaurant seats 220 people, but their is enough room between tables to give it an intimate feeling.

They specialize in serving generous portions of Southern Italian cuisine served family style. The menu is large and varied, offering a fine selection of many homemade pastas, salads, prime steaks, fresh fish and home made desserts.

Lots of restaurants let you take your unfinished meal home after you dine there. Maggiano's in San Jose however, offers you more than a bang for your buck. You order one of their eleven classic pasta dishes for today, then you can take another home for tomorrow, at no charge, compliments of your chef.

With a reservation we were seated quickly after we arrived. There was a brief waiter transition after the Calamari Appetizer without a hitch. Both were pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu.

Our group tried three dishes. First was the Coach Joey Z's Angel Hair Pasta with Sausage. Angel Hair tossed with their homemade pomodoro sauce. This was an excellent sauce with a tasty sausage.

Next was the Mom's Lasagna - Marinara. Pasta sheets layered with Ricotta cheese, crumbled meatballs, Italian sausage and marinara and topped with Provolone cheese and marinara. Just like Mom used to make.

The Taylor Street Baked Ziti was the third. Similar to lasagna but different with Italian sausage, pomodoro sauce and ziti topped with a layer of melted Provolone and Parmesan. This was a dish you would want to try again.

The two desserts we shared were Nonna's Toasted Pound Cake with Caramelized Bananas. Toasted pound cake with caramelized bananas, hot fudge and vanilla bean ice cream . You made need help to finish this.

We also munched on Vera's Lemon Cookies, crescent shaped lemon cookies glazed with lemon frosting. Very tasty with a sweet lemon taste.

Their motto is "Our passion is making people feel special." You do feel special there. For the price, quality of food and the great service.

Their address is:

3055 Olin Avenue, Suite 1000
San Jose, CA 95128


Mon-Thu: 11:00 AM-10:00 PM
Fri-Sat: 11:00 AM-11:00 PM
Sun: 12:00 PM-10:00 PM


They also offer lunch, a take out service and delivery menu. You can also order online.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Democrats and Republicans

With the election coming up Tuesday, I sometimes wonder how people choose political parties. Maybe the parties choose them. After doing some thinking and research I came up with some differences between the two.

Republicans roll a toothpaste tube as they use it. Democrats squeeze from the top.

Republicans like a good brandy. Democrats drink beer.

Republicans sleep in twin beds. That is why there are more Democrats. Thank you will Stanton.

When a leader is in the Democratic Party he's a boss; when he's in the Republican Party he's a leader.Thank you Harry Truman.

Democrats give their old clothes to the poor, Republicans wear theirs

Democrats like baseball,especially the World Series. Republicans like college football, especially the BCS controversies.

Democrats drink coffee from a mug. Republicans drink coffee from a cup with a saucer

Democrats call the evening meal supper. Republicans call it dinner.

Democrats believe people are basically good but must be saved from themselves by the government. Republicans believe people are basically bad but they'll be okay if they're left alone. Thank you Andy Rooney.

Democrats shave with a razor and shaving gel. Republicans use an electric razor.

Democrats carry change in their pockets. Republicans always carry a credit card.

Democrats will walk in communities to get votes. Republicans will attend a fundraiser.

Democrats buy lots of Hondas and Toyotas. Republicans lease lots of Hondas and Toyotas.

Bases on voter information, lots of Democrats marry Republicans.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Target online is way off target

How long would you think it takes to get a ten dollar item from an online site shipped ? Three days maybe. Possibly a week ? Try two weeks. On September 29 I ordered a cool reader/sunglasses combination from for $9.99 plus shipping and handling which came to around sixteen dollars.

After a phone call and several emails back and forth over the next two weeks as to the status it was finally sent out on October 13. Why the delay ? Well, it seems that the order was "stuck in the system." I was told twice that it could be neither cancelled or sent out.

Here is what one response said, which by the way is from Guest Services:

I'm really sorry for the delay in shipping your order.

I know this must be frustrating for you, but your order is stuck in our system. Right now I can't get at the order either to ship it or cancel it. Our technical team is working hard to take care of this, and we'll let you know just as soon as we have an update.

We'll e-mail you again in 3 business days to let you know. If we aren't, we'll also let you know how we can help you out. If you haven't heard from us within the next 3 business days, please let us know using the link below so we can look into it.

Of course they wanted a pat on the back right away, so this was also included.

We'll be in touch with you again soon.

How Did We Do?
Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here: Followed by a link.
If not, click here: Followed by a link.

A few days later I sent another email and here was their canned response.

I'm sorry for the delay with your HD reader from the order#602-1487712-4480242.

It's disappointing to know that there's been a system error and our technical team is working to get your order out to you as soon as possible. When we do ship it, we'll send you another e-mail letting you know.

I know you count on more than just great products from, and that getting your order to you on time is just as important. I hope you'll visit again soon.

Thanks for getting in touch with us.

How Did We Do?
Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

Sound familiar. Still no order shipment. I received a couple more responses very similar until the order was shipped. I was then sent a link to a survey for feedback on my experience.

They got my feedback allright, all at the bottom of the rating scale.In none of these emails was there any thinking of being helpful for the long delay like waiving the shipping charge or giving me a free gift card.

For those of you who may not know, is actually run by Amazon. Yes the huge online Jeff Bezos company. Target does plan to have their own website running next year. I found out that does have their share of complaints. Below is a link to some of them.

How much better would service be if companies treated customers better ?

In the study by Harris Interactive, which surveyed 2,217 U.S. adults online between June 30 and July 2, 82% of respondents said they stopped doing business with a company because of a bad experience. Of those, 75% said they never returned. That was 75%.

The study also shared that 79% of consumers who have had a negative customer service experience said they told other people about it. In addition, 66% of those said they wanted to discourage others from doing business with that company.
Another 55% said they did business with specific companies solely because of their reputation for "great" customer service, and 40% switched to a competitive brand because of a reputation for "exceptional" service. According to the report, companies can improve the customer experience by providing friendly, knowledgeable support and by resolving issues in a timely manner.

The timely manner hit rock bottom in this case.

When did service stations turn into plain old gas stations ?

Remember when you drove into a service station and sat in your car while it was filled with gas , had the oil and tires checked , your windows cleaned and someone waved and said have a nice day? Not in a long time.

One would pull into a service station and almost immediately two or three smiling people wearing matching white shirts, bow ties (yes they did wear them) and dark uniforms swarmed all over your car.

One would lift the hood, pull the dipstick to check the oil and squirt some water in the radiator with no extra fee.

Another checks and inflates all four tires to the required pressure and asks if the spare also could use some air. He would then spray water on the windshield, towel and wipe it off while meticulously cleaning all other visible panes of glass.

The last attendant would lift the nozzle and pump leaded or unleaded gasoline into the tank and give you the total for the gas , walk back into the office and return with your change. Sometimes you even get a free road map.

Family members and attendants wave happily to each other as your vehicle slowly glides away and you felt a great customer experience.. Some had slogans like trust us or we care or full service.

Today that is replaced by you pumping your gas, going inside to ask for a token to add some air and having the ATM machine asking you if you want that car wash or just a receipt.

Let's take a poll: Who does not want a receipt for anything they purchase?

Thank you.

It doesn't matter which station you go to from Oakland to Fremont and all points in between.You do it all yourself. Chevron, Arco, Union 76 or any local brand you will find yourself in a sea of islands, hoping you see an empty slot and then seeing how much gas has gone up since your last visit.

At one time service stations were the "ultimate customer experience". Sadly we all dread pulling our vehicle into one now. Especially when the price per gallon goes over four dollars and approaches five.

Hello, may I help you

There are actually hundreds of reasons but let's focus on ten of the most common reasons why someone calls in to a service center. You want to have your 800 number handy for the company. If it is PG&E, Comcast, AT&T or banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America or Chase you may have your own record of times you have called.

1) Their service is not working

This could be cable, phone, internet, power, plumbing or something they use daily. Some will do basic troubleshooting, others will not but regardless you will be expected to use your Jedi power to correct it.

2) They do not agree with their billing statement

This will happen if there are such items as taxes, delivery charges, "handling" or a charge they do not recognize. If billing is not your main duty, get them to a representative in that department, otherwise you could spend thirty minutes going over everything.

3) They have an appointment and the technician has not arrived

This is when you will need the cooperation of another department and a quick response to let the customer know when they can expect them.

4) This could be the second, third or fourth time they have called about the same issue

I know, why did I get this call. If you have notes read through them, find out what has already been done and put your A-team skills and knowledge into overdrive.

5) There were sent something they did not order

This could be a gift from someone or more likely some overzealous sales person "pushed" it on the customer. The order department should be able to correct this.

6) They have a problem with quality of service

When this happens you may want to alert management to see if others are calling about this issue or similar ones. Document what it is they are not happy with.

7) There is a misunderstanding what was to be done

Nothing is more annoying to a customer who orders say internet service and the tech arrives and says I'm here to install your new phone line. Get on the horn with the sales department and get the order corrected and have them set a new appointment ASAP.

8) They are just calling to gripe

There are some customers who have nothing better to do. Listen patiently and hear them out. Check any notes to see if they have been issued credits, as they may frequently call just for that reason.

9) Services were removed in error

Oh my, someone made an error somewhere. This may not take a couple hours but perhaps days. Credit for the inconvenience will be in order here.

10) They are complaining about a salesperson or a fellow representative's attitude

Take this as a way to be a hero. Resolve whatever issue they have and you will have the caller thinking I should call this person every time.

More tipping jars than pumpkins

What is it with all these tip jars that are now proliferating on store counters from Fremont to Oakland . They seem to be more common that voting signs or pumpkins. Are we expected to tip for every type of service we pay for. Let's go over some of the most traditional services for tipping.


They have been the most traditional one to tip. You are seated at a table, you order there, your drinks are brought and refilled and your food it put right in front of you. You have personalized service, so you feel generous. Now let's take the delis, fast food chains and coffee shops. You stand in line, order at the counter, wait for your order, take it to your table and that's it for the service. Places like Subway, Starbucks and your local shops now have strategically placed a "tips accepted" jar on the counter.

Tip for What

You are not getting personalized service and no one offers you a refill. I know a lot of people are working barely above the minimum, but these are not career jobs. Gary Taylor of Oakland is one who does put money in the tip jars. " I put whatever change I receive in the jar. It may be nine or ninety cents. I don't really see it as tipping, more of a donation. I would be embarrassed to hand the money to someone as a tip" he said.

Exceptional Service from Clerks

Have you ever gone in a bookstore and had a clerk spend several minutes to locate a copy of a rare book for you? You probably have. Did you tip them? Probably not. Did you ever tip someone at a library who helped you locate some information? Probably not. How about a grocery clerk who carried your bags to your car? Probably not. These people are going that extra mile for you but they don't wear a button that says "tips accepted". How about someone at a Home Depot or Staples who runs around and finds the exact item you need. Again probably not. Yet when we see that tipping jar at the counter we somehow feel compelled to leave some kind of tip.

The Future

The way that tip jars are becoming part of the shopping or customer experience we may soon see them on buses, auto repair stations, copy shops or every store that has a cash register. By the way, having worked in a call center at one time and taken probably 8,000 calls over a year, I helped people save money, gave credits and got their service running at a critical time. I don't ever recall anyone on the phone saying they wanted to "tip" me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turning your resume into a political ad

If you are like me enough is enough for all these political ads. My mind is made up, I'm voting and then like millions of others it's time to look for a new job.

While I am currently doing campaign work in an election, I thought what if every job seeker had thirty seconds on television to pitch themselves ? You hear about the so called thirty second elevator pitch you should have ready. I call mine a ten second standing in line pitch that describes who you are and what you are looking for.

Anyway, here is what my ad would sound like if I was looking for a position in the customer service industry and I was given time on a network which would feature a voice over and actual people talking about me.

John Swager has ten years experience helping thousands of customers all over California to keep their service working.

He has followed through on issues, resolved technical problems and opened the door to new products for people who have become frustrated with the lack of service in today's business environment.

I appreciated John's following through by calling me later in the day to make sure my service was working. Robert G.

John's customer service skills are rare for today and he did a stellar job. I wish you had hundreds of John's in your company. Janette S.

He was not in a hurry to get off the phone since it was after hours. John did what had to be done. Linda C.

I personally want to commend John for an outstanding job in taking care of a volatile escalation and turning it around into a smooth customer experience. Rich L. Company Mgr.

I am 84 years old and John was so patient with me and represented your company well. Elizabeth G.

I was having big problems and John was able to calm me down. He is the nicest person I have ever spoken to at a company. He should be in management. Debra E.

Superior communication skills.

Outstanding empathy and a can do attitude.

The time is now to have someone who delivers.

John Swager. The problem solver, the communicator, the one who delivers the ultimate customer experience.

The right person for the right job at the right time.

I'm John Swager and I approve this ad.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On 60 Minutes 99er Episode


Re the 60 Minutes episode. I am a member of the Job Connections group that Scott Pelley visited in Danville which is almost an hour from Silicon Valley. He spoke to fifteen people that were present and it was edited to show about three of them. A friend of mine was interviewed twice by Pelley for the in depth situations at her apartment but was told it did not make the final 14 minute segment. The Job Connections group is a weekly meeting where you have a guest speaker, new people introduce themselves briefly,there is an open mike where people get to say if they received a job offer or had an interview. There is networking afterwards, but with the majority out of work there is not very productive. What people in the group were disappointed in is he did mention or show what is called success teams , which consist of about 6-8 people who meet once a week for two hours at a library or such to give more personal support and exchange strategies. This is what is really vital to unemployed, somewhere to go each week and develop friendships and support. There are over thirty on the group, the one I am in meets every Monday. I have also help to setup a reverse job affair at my church where we had 40 members setup tables with their resume and all and after every mass many parishioners stopped by to give out any leads, advice and jobs that may know of.I would be considered a 00er, as I left a job under a stressful atmosphere and did not qualify for any unemployment. I have been doing political campaign work since May to get by, but that ends on 11-2-10.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Job searching and fantasy football

The NFL season started recently. I have been playing fantasy football since 1982. For those of you not born yet, John Elway was in college and Dan Fouts was "the man" in fantasy leagues.

It is truly amazing how much time and effort people I have participated with put into preparing for the draft and into making their weekly lineups. Probably far more than they put into a job search when they are out of work.

Example # 1

The millions of people that buy several magazines on football and study every trend , from who will be the Saints third receiver to who will win the kicking job in Seattle.

In your career field do you ever pick up a magazine or read an article or two online ?

Example # 2

Now be honest, how many times a day do you check sports websites for injury updates, roster changes, players moods and such.

Do you check company websites or look at postings in job sites as often ?

Example # 3

How much time do you spend writing and editing draft lists and ranking players.

Do you ever write down goals for your career and make a list of your strengths, accomplishments and weaknesses ?

Example # 4

How often do you tune into ESPN or the NFL Network, because, "something major" may have just happened and you have to know.

Do you watch videos or ask friends for advice on interviewing or how you can kick start your search ?

The Game Plan

The NFL season is starting and will be over by New Year's day. Hopefully your team(s) will do well. More importantly will you be working by then if you are among the unemployed ? Start to pay attention to really what works in fantasy football success as far as finding and applying information and transfer that to your job search.

It may just land you that job you have been seeking. That would sure beat being number one in a league !

Feels like temperature and customer service phrases

While watching the weather report on television the other day I saw a fairly new phrase: the feels like temperature. Now walking outside I could say it "feels like 80." Someone next to me may say it feels like 65 to them. Another could say it must be at least 90.

The exact meaning of a sentence or phrase is sometimes curious, especially in the world of customer service.

Have you ever been told by an agent, I need to put you on hold for a minute. Meanwhile a real time of five minutes has passed and still no agent back on the line.

You have have walked into a place to eat and the waiter may say, I'll have your table cleaned up in a second. One thousand one, one thousand two. Over two minutes later, it's still being cleaned.

An interesting phrase when buying online is days before your item gets to you. Lots of places now may give themselves a big cushion, like 4-14 days delivery.

Of course, a common one in retail when checking out is, "find everything you wanted ?

Don't leave yet, we want your money

ave you recently looked into a job application, maybe a loan or just following a link on the internet to get more information ?

If you have you may have run into the annoying pop-up below:

Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?

Your dream job is ONE STEP AWAY!

Register to view the latest job openings in your area. Press CANCEL to continue.

Press OK to continue, or Cancel to stay on the current page.

It's like someone there has come up with a way to keep you from leaving their page. Most of the time the site is possibly for a job or perhaps a loan or a school.

Having spent time recently on what I thought was a job application turned into a front for a school. Aside from the pop-up, I received three emails and two voicemails saying I had not completed the information.

How is that for someone watching what you do and where you go on the internet.

Imagine walking out of a market or retail store and a clerk steps in front of you and says, "sure you want to leave, you did not buy anything?"

The part that can be bothersome is when you get an email saying you were on our website but did not finish your purchase, application, form.

That can bother anyone.

I would hate to have a call from a store I was in today and have someone say you wandered the aisles but did not buy anything.

Outsourced: The TV Show

Having worked in call centers I was curious to watch the opening show of NBC's Outsourced, the new comedy about, you guessed it, a call center being outsourced to India.

Doing a comedy on this touchy subject may not go over well with unemployment at over 12% in the Bay Area.

There were lots of things wrong from the way the center is setup ( one big room with desks around) to silly one line zingers.

Oh and just in case anyone thinks outsourcing is a political subject, there was an ad for Barbara Boxer blasting Carly Fiorina for among other things, outsourcing jobs.

Let's see, if I knew absultely nothing about Indian cultute I learned that:

* Spicy curry will have you going to the bathroom for five days.
* Deroit is the home of Motors and Black People.
* Americans eat hamburgers all day long.
* Cows are treated with respect and can go anywhere.
* People in India wonder why Americans buy stupid products.

Among the one liners that came across are:

* A manager tells the training manager, your success is my success, and later your failure is my success.
* An Indian rep asks a customer who purchaes two of their novelty products, how do you want to pay for your vomit and poo?

Not sure how the ratings will be, the characters are likeable. There is one person who wears a turban and seems intent on giving a Dirty Harry stare to the training manager.

In this economy who knows what the moguls at the networks will come up with next.

A friend of mine Terri from Oakland, who worked in a call center that had it's jobs sent over seas thought the show was silly."It's hard to believe that they would put this type of show on, considering outsourcing is a major issue now," she said.

Maybe a show on the unemployed and how fascinating and funny it can be looking for a job.

Maybe a couple that is facing foreclosure on their house and all the comedy that can stem from that.

Meanwhile I will stick to watching the History Channel, CNN and ESPN. Real life still exists there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wells Fargo and it's Fees

A San Francisco judge's pwerful ruling ordering Wells Fargo to pay its customers $203 million for manipulating debit transactions to maximize overdraft fees might be just the tip of the iceberg for the bank.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup's 90-page opinion Tuesday described Wells Fargo's motive as profiteering and said the San Francisco-based bank's goal was to "maximize the number of overdrafts and squeeze as much as possible" out of customers. Are we talking banks or loan sharks here? This is customer service at it's worst.

But the hefty tab represents only what Wells owes its California customers. That figure is far smaller than the potential bill from a separate suit in which Wells' clients in other states have accused the bank of the same unfair practices.

That case, consolidated in federal court in Miami, includes similar claims against 30 other lending institutions, including Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Union Bank and U.S. Bank. Oh my, is another bailout on the way?

The crux of the claims is that the banks processed debit transactions from the largest to the smallest, instead of the order in which they occurred, depleting accounts faster and boosting the number of overdrafts, which cost as much as $35 per transaction. Let's see, $35 X 10,000 transactions adds up to a neat $350,000.

Billions in overdraft fees

Wells Fargo garnered more than $1.4 billion in overdraft fees just in California from 2005 to 2007, according to court documents. Nationwide, banks and credit unions collected almost $24 billion in overdraft fees in 2008, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Where would banks be without those fees.

Wells Fargo, which continues to follow the "high-low" practice that it has had in place since 1998, said it would appeal Alsup's decision. Wells representatives declined to forecast what the ruling might mean in the Florida matter, other than to say that the California order was not in line with the facts and that the bank's transactions have been "consistent with the laws and rules of governing regulatory authorities."

Richard Heimann, lead attorney for the Wells Fargo customers in California, also is representing plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit in Florida. Heimann said Alsup's order could affect the outcome of that case, even though the judge there is not legally bound to follow it.

"The decision may very well be influential because it was based on a well-regarded justice's review of a full evidentiary record," Heimann said. "There's no doubt that the defendants' lawyers had been waiting to see the outcome of (the California) case and will be concerned about what it will portend for the case in Florida."

Heimann noted that representatives from several banks named in the Florida suit sat in on the California court proceedings. The Florida action is not scheduled to go to trial until the fall of 2011, but its timeline is not affected by Wells Fargo's appeal of Alsup's decision.

As part of his ruling Tuesday, Alsup also found that Wells' improper debit processing was exacerbated by the murky manner in which it explained the practice to customers.

"In shaping the reasonable expectations of its customers, the bank should have prominently disclosed its high-to-low scheme," Alsup wrote. The bank's 'disclosures' on posting order, however, were buried 20-or-so pages into a 60-plus-page document of single-spaced, ten-point font text." He proceeded to say that Wells' internal documents showed that the bank's practices were intentional and meant to generate profit.

Alsup's decision comes just as new federal regulations are set to kick in. They will require banks to obtain customers' permission to provide overdraft protection.

Historically, most banks have automatically provided the service, unless customers opt out. Now, customers who do not agree to the service - and its fees - won't be able to make purchases if they do not have sufficient funds.

On Steven Slater

A pair of Pittsburgh women aboard a JetBlue flight said flight attendant Steven Slater, hailed by some as folk hero, was rude to passengers and instigated the confrontation that resulted in his barreling down an emergency chute from the plane and, ultimately, his arrest.

Marjorie Briskin, 53, told The Wall Street Journal for a story Thursday that Slater blurted out an expletive during an otherwise normal conversation with a passenger over luggage. Marjorie gets her 15 minutes of fame.

Another woman, 25-year-old Lauren Dominijanni, told the Journal that Slater was immediately rude to her. She said he "rolled his eyes at me" when she asked for a wipe to clean up coffee someone spilled on her seat. !5 minutes of fame to Laureen.

The paper quoted Briskin as saying that Slater's conversation about luggage with the as-yet unidentified passenger was normal but turned nasty after Slater said the expletive. "I didn't think she was rude in the least," Briskin said, according to the paper. "It really blew my mind. It was so inappropriate."

Dominijanni said she had asked Slater for napkin to clean up the coffee and that he "rolled his eyes at me and said, 'What?' in a real rude manner." Customer service at it's finest. I have really never seen a situation like this in Oakland or San Francisco airport. I have flown on Delta, TWA, United, American and US Air.

She added that when she pointed to the spilled coffee, Slater responded, pointing to a gash on his head: "No! Maybe when we get in the air! I need to take care of myself first, honey!" Neither woman immediately returned calls from The Associated Press on Thursday. Well, they seem head for another 15 minutes of fame.

Airlines lately have been charging for bags, so savvy customers will try to bring as big a bag aboard to try to squeeze it in the overhead. Cramped seats and long waits don't exactly prepare you for a pleasant flight.

Slater's abrupt exit from the plane almost instantly turned him into an online hero, with many people saying they've dreamed of walking off the job in such a grand fashion. More than 100,000 people had joined a Facebook page supporting his actions. These people on Facebook, do they have a life? a Job? Facebook is smiling for all the free publicity it is getting from this incident.

Slater's ex-wife, Cynthia Susanne, came to his defense Thursday, calling him a consummate flight attendant who would always act in the most appropriate manner. Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Susanne said she did not believe some passengers' suggestions that Slater started the confrontation on Monday, when he exited the parked plane by the emergency chute at New York's Kennedy Airport. Again, 15 minutes of fame for Cynthia on a program that people consistently try to get on for a major issue.

She said Slater was extraordinarily tolerant and patient and added she had not yet spoken to him about the confrontation on the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight. Does that sound familiar when someone flips out? Always the nicest person in the galaxy.

Slater is out on bail after being arraigned on criminal mischief and reckless endangerment charges. We have not heard the last of this. Wait till he gets back into court.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ultimate Customer Service Job Description

If you have always wanted to be a Customer Service Rep, here is what a job description might look like.

General Description:

Interact with customers to provide and process information in response to inquiries, concerns and requests about products and services. Take action to correct any issues.

Main Job Tasks and Responsibilities

* Deal directly with customers either by telephone, electronically or face to face. You may end up talking to over 100 people a day. How does that sound?

* Respond promptly to customer inquiries. Like they want it yesterday.

* Handle and resolve customer complaints. Good buddy, you will get them constantly.

* Perform customer verifications. It will be amusing when you are staring at their driver's license number or social security number and they claim they never gave it to the company. Yeah.

* Process orders, forms, applications and requests. Better not make any mistakes or look out.

* Direct requests and unresolved issues to the designated resource. Whew! At least this one you can punt.

* Keep records of customer interactions and transactions. Probably half of you will not do this most of the time.

* Record details of actions taken. Do it quick, write like Hemingway, edit like AP Stylebook says and get ready to do it again and again.

* Communicate and coordinate with internal departments. Don't make any enemies here.

* Follow up on customer interactions. If you say you will call them back, then CALL THEM BACK.

Education and Experience

* High school diploma, some college preferred. Just do good on the interview.

* Knowledge of customer service principles and practices. Don't worry, they will train you.

* Knowledge of computer applications. As long as you can use the internet you will pick this up.

* Product knowledge of industry. A one sentence answer will do here.

Key Competencies

* Interpersonal skills. This is being able to answer the phone and say "hello, how may I help you?"

* Communication skills, both verbal and written. Can you understand what the caller says?

* Listening skills. Being told what to do by management.

* Problem analysis and problem-solving. As companies like to claim, we do things right the first time, all the time.

* Adaptability. This really means your breaks and lunches may not be to your liking.

* Stress tolerance. Whoa, get ready for this from all points. Customers, management and co-workers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are these really Jobs?

Having spent time looking for a position, I came across some unique job offers. Customer service is associated with a company to consumers but what about service to potential employees.

We are not talking about emails involving bank transfers here or winning lotto tickets, but ads on Monster, Career Builder and especially Craig's List where it seems like a daily race to get postings on.

You know the drill, you get an email or call telling you your qualifications are beyond belief and we want to interview you ASAP. It may be a coincidence but sometimes the same posting comes up in different cities under you guessed it different company names. Most of the time they want you to come in today for an interview. You are the player they want. You are LeBron James. Right.

I had one offer where it wasn't exactly explained what I would be doing but I was a perfect fit based on my background. They said to report to a large retail store the next morning where I would be "in training" for eight hours. After some searching on the internet I found out I would sign a paper that would say I would not be paid for the day. No matter how much business I signed. No thanks I told them.

Another was some type of fundraising/membership where you would be trained for three days. Starting with day four if you did not make your quota, you were let go. Terminated if you like that word better.

Here are some red flags to look for when searching for positions online.

1. It has a generic or or vague job title. Customer Service Reps are popular ones.
2. The jobs that indicate that "Telecommuting is Ok". Needless to say this attracts many people and gives them more responses.
3. They fail to list a specific location for the job - i.e. they list no location under the city or area that you are searching.
4. They list a salary or hourly wage that seems too good to be true or too specific like $13.64 - 34.23 / hour. Or guaranteed $2000 a month.
5. They post a job with a title that doesn't match the description.
6. A search for that job title in Google - example "Customer Service Rep Craig's List" and it comes up in many other cities with the exact same job post. Because Craig's List is free - they can easily post the same job post in every city from Oakland to Richmond. From Fremont to Alameda.
7. The description boldly states "No Experience Necessary" but has a promise of high pay.
8. There is no job contact information. A quality job post will tell you who to email or give you a valid company website.
9. A link that is to a home business or multi - level marketing opportunity website. This isn't a JOB - but a business venture. If you were looking for a home business opportunity you would have searched that category.
10. A link that takes you to a job membership site and asks you to register.
11. A quick response to your email inquiry that tells you they have reviewed your resume and you stand head and shoulders above other candidates. At least that makes you feel good.
12. A response to your email inquiry that asks you to sign up for a web-conferencing service so you can be part of a training call.
13. A response to your email inquiry with a name and company that you have trouble locating on Google or Yahoo search.
14. A response to your email inquiry from someone in a foreign country looking to hire people in the United States to handle accounts payable or receivables. How long has this been going on.
15. The same auto response to all of your emails. There isn't a real person at the other end of the email account.

So all in all be careful what you are looking for. Hopefully it won't find you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Campaign 2010 Part 2

Here is another email I receive.
This time from Meg Whitmas

Plus they want money!!Also your free time, unpaid of course.

Campaign 2010

Here is a typical letter I get for the Governor's Position.

It seems like almost every week that Meg launches a new, false attack ad, and we quickly debunk it. But it's not just our campaign -- independent and non-partisan newspapers, news broadcasts, and bloggers are all calling her ads false and misleading. But despite all the independent fact checks, Meg keeps spouting the same lies.

Now, we've got a video to demonstrate just how upside down she is. Watch this video, share it with all of your friends, and chip in $5, $10, $50 bucks to help us get the resources we need to get the facts straight and make our case to California.


Steven Glazer

Attack Attack Attack . This election will be won on tv, not by either candidate.Note the chipping in of dollars.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is your company treating you fairly?

I recently witnessed two incidents that had me shaking my head on how they were handled in local stores. At Safeway in San Leandro on a day when the temperature was near 100 degrees, a checkout clerk turned around and took a sip of water. A supervisor came up to her and said not to drink with people in her line. She could have easily told her that on a break.

At a Wal-Mart in Livermore,on a busy express checkout a supervisor told the harried person at the checkout to apoligize a little better to the people waiting. Why the supervisor did not open up another line is beyond me.

It seems like some companies treat their copiers better than their employees.

Stress and customer service go together like love and marriage. They have been intertwined since someone first realized that customers will go elsewhere if there is no service to back it up. However, a corollary is that whenever service and customers come together stress is not far behind. Since the majority of our employees are human there is little doubt they are affected by stress. I believe it is the major reason for poor service regardless of the service industry.

But the stress that typically causes employee burnout or frustration is caused not by the customer, but by the environment created by management. For example, take a look at your exit interviews (you do them don't you?). Now look at them again. Are you reading just what is on the surface or are you really looking at the root cause that is there?

When customer service personnel know that management treats each employee as an individual, has created an environment that is supportive, and understands that stress is a part of the business day, they will be able to tolerate and bounce back from even the worst day.

Know your employees. Each employee works for a different reason, whether for recognition, advancement or just wanting to be "shown the money". Management must know those reasons otherwise productivity and attitudes will suffer.

Let your employees vent. Listen to them. Don't judge. Don't fix. Just listen.

Honor work schedules. Do not try to force your part time employees to be full time employees. You may succeed in coercing them to work in the short term, but the risk of losing them permanently or damaging a great attitude is not worth the risk. They, like you, expect commitments to be honored.

1. If you desire a mediocre workforce, make sure your employees know you don't trust them.

Nothing spells "You're dirt to us" like a corporate culture that screams, "We don't trust you as far as we can throw you." I refer to company policies that require employees to clock in and out for lunch. When employees know they're not trusted, they become experts at "presenteeism"—the physical appearance of working, without anything getting done. Congratulations! Your inability to trust the very people you've selected to join your team has cost you their energy, goodwill, and great ideas.

2. If you want to drive talented people away, don't tell them when they shine.

Fear of a high-self-esteem employee is prevalent among average-grade corporate leadership teams. Look how hard it is for so many managers to say, "Hey Bob, you did a great job today." Maybe it's a fear that the bit of praise will be met with a request for a pay raise. Whatever the reason for silence, leaders who can't say, "Thanks—good going!" can plan on bidding farewell to their most able team members in short order.

3. If you prefer a team of C-list players, keep employees in the dark.

Sharp knowledge workers want to know what's going on in their organizations, beyond their departmental areas. Leaders who can't stand to shine a light on their firms' goals and strategies are all but guaranteed to spend a lot of money running ads on Marketable top performers won't stand for being left in the dark without the information they need to do their jobs well.

4. If you value docility over ingenuity, shout it from the rooftops.

How fearful of its employees would a leadership team have to be to forbid people to gather together to solve problems? The most desirable value creators won't stick around to be treated like children. They'll hop a bus to the first employer who tells them, "We're hiring you for your talent—now go do something brilliant."

5. If you fear an empowered workforce more than you fear the competition, squash any sign of individualism.

Leaders who want the most docile, sheep-like employees more than the smartest and ablest ones create systems to keep the C players on board and drive the A team out the door. They do it by instituting reams of pointless rules, upbraiding people for miniscule infractions ("What? Twenty minutes late? Sure you worked here until midnight last night, but starting time is starting time.") and generally replacing trust with fear throughout their organizations. Their efforts will be hamstrung by their talent-repelling management practices.

How long will it take these enterprises to figure out they're shooting themselves in the foot? It doesn't matter—you'll be long gone by then.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Customer Service and Political Campaigns

Managing a political campaign is a demanding job that requires intimate knowledge of all aspects of campaigning, including communications, volunteers, fundraising and accounting. At any time day or night, campaign managers can have access to all of the campaign records in their system. Just like a business.

If you have received phone calls, canvassers, campaign mail and ads, you have seen how people want your vote rather than your service or money. Oh, excuse me. They do want your money. I get several emails several times a week from the Jerry Brown's the Meg Whitman's, the Barbara Boxer's all asking for at least $5 to $50. Never mind the sky high unemployment rate, just gimme what you can afford.

Using phone banks, canvassing teams and direct mailing you will get bombarded with information, twisted truths, accusations and most of all we want your vote, Sometimes if records are not kept correctly, you may get more than one call or visit.

With elections for Governor, US Senate, seats in cities in Oakland, San Leandro, Alameda and everywhere in the East Bay, you can count on a busy fall of all of the above services.

If you get a phone call from someone asking for your vote what you can do right away is ask if they are a volunteer or paid staff. They are required to answer that. Volunteers come and go, do as they please and do it because they believe in the candidate or issue. Most staffers have to make a certain quota of calls and are expected to get so many "yes" commitments.

Campaigns can post news, articles and endorsements to their website, as well as uploading photos and video content. This makes it easy to accept contributions and recruit volunteers online.

The campaign’s relationship with voters is an undeniably important part of success. To be able to effectively communicate with them, it is essential that a campaign be equipped with a detailed database of voter information which you probably did not know existed.

In addition “easy update technology” allows them to update records with the latest information without losing any of the details the campaign already collected. Sounds like Big Brother has your back covered here literally.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ellison and the Warriors

If Larry Ellison wants to whine about not getting a second rate basketball team for his own fantasy means and be like Mark Cuban or Dan Snyder, why doesn't he REALLY do something for the Bay Area. He has $300-400 million to throw around so why not put it to better use and hire about 500 people at Oracle.

Working at Comcast and ATT

Having worked at both places there are striking differences. ATT is unionized and people are treated fairly and rules do not change as you go along. There are raises and people are far more apt to stay. Comcast is not unionized and changes policies on the fly. Their customer service center in Livermore, CA has a lot of turnover not to mention poor morale.. No wonder people say things like Comcast service is lousy and post complaints on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. After all there are invisible managers there, supervisors who refuse to take escalation calls and leads who say they will call a customer back and don't. They have a person and group who regularly checks the web for nasty things that people may say about them, but in Livemore that is kept a secret from the employees. If they were aware of this,their service would not rank at the bottom of JD Powers constantly. Soon customers will soon get it and post their issues on the web. They will get a quicker response and better deals and credits.

Job Connections in Danville

Job Connections at one time was a fine group. Now it is a standard good old boy's and girl's network. Most people I spoke to did not feel welcomed to the Saturday meeting. Most of the "staff" just say mix and mingle.There are no intros made, you are on your own. The speaker's are more interested in hawking their books and services.They have success teams which support small groups 4-10 people to focus on job searching. However there seems to be two types.If you are on a success team you will find yourself with winners and may find it helpful.If you end up with a suckcess team you will encounter whiners who will go over all their personal woes and take up a lot of time. You can find groups that are better off in libraries and other churches.

The Professional Unemployed

Who came up with the term 99er? Is that something you should be proud of like a 49er? The math says almost two years collecting unemployment and they want more??? There used to be what was called professional students now it is professional unemployed. Now some of course need money coming in , but others...gimme a break. Some people I know spend the day, walking the dog, playing golf with the boys,shopping with the girls and other leisure activities other than LOOKING for work. Time these freeloaders received a reality check not an unemployment check. I guess they will soon be called 125ers with a brand new 26 week extension of benefits.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On those slackers on the job

One of the great problems in a company is the impact that one bad employee can have on good employees. This one bad employee can lower the standards of good employees to the extent that an entire department can suffer.

What makes this really puzzling is that the reverse does not seem to be true. Good employees rarely can elevate a bad employee. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "How is it that so few can do so much to so many?"

What's a place to do?

Someone once said that it is not the people that you fire who are a problem, it is the employees who should be fired, but aren't, that are the problem. Think about these points:

* Do you find yourself grumbling every day about a particular employee that just exudes an attitude of not caring and makes those feelings known to everyone within earshot.
* Are there some employees that never get motivated no matter what threat or incentive is offered?
* Do you have a certain employee that "gets by" somehow by doing the minimum amount of effort each day and your employees know it? In other words , a slacker.
* Do you find yourself apologizing for a particular employee that you know is not putting out anywhere close to the same effort that the other employees are trying to do?

Why are they still working here?

The answer is that in today's environment it is extremely difficult to terminate someone. It takes an incredible amount of paperwork, time and effort. These type of employees can be found in a local mom and pop store in Oakland or a huge company in Oakland.

However, I can tell you it is a certainty that it's worth the time and effort to do the paperwork. Your work in elevating the standards of customer service will be greatly diminished by having this person(s) stay in your employment.

Keeping the weak links makes it appear like you are only talking the talk and not walking the walk. Your employees know. It is only human nature that if the boss doesn't care, then it is very tempting to not care. Even good employees with very high personal standards will start to relax those standards if bad employees and good employees are treated the same.

The termination step is drastic and should certainly be the last resort. Everyone deserves a chance to do well. After all, people in your employment started off wanting to do a great job for you and for themselves. Was their downward trend partly your fault by ignoring them or having low standards?

Take the first step: talk to your human resources department, your boss or yourself and make sure that you know how to document the path for terminating a recalcitrant employee. Your customers and your employees will thank you, big time.

World Cup terms explained

With the World Cup over and Spain the winner, I thought it would be helpful to review several phrases you heard during the broadcasts and where they may have originated from.

Advantage Rule: This used to be when a company had a monopoly on a service. Like the old Ma Bell days.

Assist: When you are in a call center and you put a customer on hold and ask a colleague a question. They get an assist. Don't overuse it or you may hear the dreaded RTFM.

Back Header: This is when you have been with a customer a long time and you simply bend your head back and ask "why me? "

Banana Kick: Common in fast food or take out places. You slip on a wet spot and your leg kicks up but you keep your balance and (hopefully) you don't get hurt. If you due hello litigation.

Bicycle Kick: When you arrive at work and see no more bicycle slots available. So you kick the one that you haven't recognized before.

Chest Trap: This is when you are reading a magazine at work and your boss walks by. You expertly put it into your chest and fold your arms. No harm, no foul.

Chip Shot: This occurs in retail when some anxious customer walks up to you and says I need a television or computer right now. How can you blow this one?

Creating Space: This is when you move from a cubicle into an office. Congratulations, you've just been promoted.

Flick Header: Popular in large stores where you walk up to a clerk and ask say where is the shoe department and they nod their head in a direction and say "over there."

Juggling. This when you are talking to someone at your desk and have two other people on hold. This takes practice.

Near Post: The closest place to eat when you are at work. Sometimes it may refer to a bar.

Outlet Passes; This is when you can transfer a call to another department because it was misdirected to you.

Play On: When you are still talking to a customer and your break/lunch is due. You hope this winds down quickly.

Shielding: This is when you have to make excuses for another department that fouled up an order or installation. Most likely your customer is a bit ticked.

Shorthanded: When for no particular reason a lot of people call in sick one day and you have to hustle to make it through the day. You hold your breath and try not to curse them.

Striker: Your go to or point person. They will have the answers to any question. Why they are not in management is a mystery.

Throw-in: When you add something to a customer's order. A coupon, free sample or just a plain credit.

Timeout: After thorough and exhausting research, I could not find that this term exists.

Yellow Card: This is when you are called into a closed door meeting and are told that certain behavior will not be tolerated in the future.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Government and Customer Service

As the former Governor of Alaska likes to say, YOU BETCHA !

You may not be able to fight City Hall, but you sure can call or contact them. Customer service here comes under the heading of serving the public.

This is what cities from Oakland to San Leandro to Fremont and all points in between should provide:

1) One main number for citizens to call for information or service request and a walk-up information counter to provide personal service to our citizens. This is a natural.
2) Develop knowledge-based definitions for call takers to answer most frequently asked questions quickly and correctly. Like where is the DMV.
3) Provide a management system that identifies and warns of potential problems.
4) Resolve all problems experienced with any fragmented call system.
5) Bring innovations to the relationship with citizens.
6) Have web access for citizens to initiate a complaint or check on status of a previous request.
7) Allow County staff to focus on handling the complaints and other job duties.
8) Relieve the Emergency 9-1-1 Center from the strain of handling non-emergency calls and prevent the need for more higher paid 9-1-1 dispatchers.
9) Provide good communication, which always avoids problems. In other words go the extra mile and provide stellar customer service by exceeding citizen’s expectations.

In addition the mission of the Voter Registration and Elections Office is to promote and facilitate voter registration, properly maintain all official voter registration records, conduct fair and impartial elections in accordance with state and federal election laws, protect the integrity of the election process for all, and provide quality customer service for every citizen.

In other words:

1) Register or explain how to register citizens to vote
2) Update and maintain all voter records
3) Conduct federal, state, district and local elections
4) Administer absentee precinct for all elections
5) Maintain political district maps
6) Provide voter education and outreach program
7) Provide a method to look into lost complaints and lack of follow-up to citizens once they have filed a complaint
8) Be prepared to address citizen frustration with government.
9) Concerns for Animal Issues, Broken Traffic Lights, Flooding, Potholes, Street Lights, Permit Requirements,Telephone Numbers, Environmental Issues,Emergency Information and Event Schedules should be responded to.

As a citizen these are what you expect from elected and appointed people.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oakland, Mehserle Verdict and Customer Service

With all the hype,anticipation and fear surrounding the Mehserle verdict, the city of Oakland has taken a positive step as far as serving the public with a special section on it's city website. This has updates for the community and businesses which include Spanish,Chinese and Vietnamese languages.

Considering that most disasters or demonstrations or riots catch the population unprepared this shows that any violence will not be tolerated. The website is

There is also a number to call 510-777-8814 to report tips, rumors or information related to disturbances regarding the Mehserle verdict. In companies this would be referred to as disaster preparation. The city of Oakland, for all the criticism it takes shows real customer service for keeping people in the know.

There has been enough fear and loathing generated by the local media on the subject. Television stations want ratings, papers want to sell copies and radio wants listeners. On the day of the verdict you can count on pushing and shoving in the media to be the first to interview the prosecutor, the defendant's attorney, the families of Oscar Grant and Johannes Mehserle and they will also have reporters front and center in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco to report on any violence, protests or more.

We have already seen and read enough about people not wanting to be anywhere near Oakland that day or Merchants bracing for the worst or police preparing for mob scenes. Let the media give it a break and when the verdict is announced let justice be served and if you do not agree with it demonstrate peacefully and orderly.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nonprofit Career Conference

Opportunity Knocks and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network put on a Nonprofit Career Conference in Oakland yesterday.The event was designed for nonprofit professionals seeking to advance their career and for-profit/corporate professionals looking to switch careers to the nonprofit sector. Several good organizations sponsored the conference including the Foundation Center and California State University East Bay.

There were four workshops each lasting 75 minutes on the agenda along with brief consultations for resumes. carer paths, personal finance and volunteering. The cost was $99 and over 100 people attended which ran from 8:00 to 4:30. With all this on the plate one would think this was a perfect recipe for a successful event for attendees.

Not Quite.

There was confusion early before the workshops started at 9:00 as a large number of people wanted to get that free ten review of their resume or career guidance that the small hallway was jammed. Meanwhile another line tried to filter over to get financial advice. With about ten Counselors offering their services, this seemed to be the biggest attraction. Finally after the area was really overcrowded one of the volunteers ran some masking tape along the floor to get two lines , one for resume advice and one for career advice. It would have made better sense to assign ten minute time slots to everyone in advance, but the program said first-come first-served and we know how those situations sometimes turn out. Lots of complaining and grumbling.

When it was my turn of course the counselor said my resume needed some work, even though it has been worked on twice by professionals in the past two years. I am sure if I went around the room everyone would say the same thing.

The first workshop attended covered career paths. There was another one going on at the same time and then they repeated so spread out the attendees and give you a chance to attend all four. Other than the presenters impressive background I found little to write on my notebook as we all know how hard jobs are to come by in this economy.

The second workshop an overview of how a nonprofit is organized and various positions available. The charts on the projector looked the same as they do in the for profit sector, with one addition. Volunteers. Like in the corporate world you can work your way up the ladder of success.

There was a lunch break and then it was back to that line to see those resume writers. This sure drew a crowd again. There were also school with class schedules, a writer showcasing a book ( I mean have you ever attended a conference where there was not someone selling a book?)

the third workshop touched on resume writing, job searches and interviewing. I would call it a basic 101 workshop. There was far too much time spent on an example resume of a recent college graduate, which did not fit the bill of the vast majority of people there. On a projector we got a glimpse of indeed and linkedin as if this was breaking news to job seekers. Navigating around linkedin on a projector does not work well in a class as it is hard to see especially in the back. Speaking of the back there were not enough chairs and several people had to sit on tables or as we referred to them "bleacher seats."

The fourth workshop touched on the challenges nonprofits face in these rough times. More of a lecture the instructor stressed how important nonprofits are to the community and the economy.

The conference could have been so much better.

At the start of each workshop the standard practice of everyone just stating their name and organization should have been done, which gives a sense of community. For the ten minute consultations everyone should have been given a time slot. There were people that had to leave early that did not get a chance to take advantage of this. At a fee of $99 and on a hot day there should have been water there. There were two fountains that had the usual trickle of h2o coming out.

With time being a factor in a workshop, ALL questions should be held of until the end of the session. They should not get the instructor off track. (I know, I was guilty of that too.) For people wanting to transition from the for profit to the nonprofit sector, there were really no examples or guidance there. Well, I guess that was why all those resume writers were there.

When I got home there was an email from Opportunity Knocks asking me to take a survey. This arrived interesting enough at 2:03 while I was still in a workshop.
Opportunity Knocks had a great chance to knock one out of the ballpark for the conference. Instead it popped up a weak fly to the infield.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Remember when Gas Stations had Customer Service?

Remember when you drove into a gas station and sat in your car while it was filled with gas , had your oil and tires checked , your windows cleaned and someone said have a nice day? Not since the 70s.

One would pull into a service station and almost Immediately two or three smiling guys wearing matching white shirts, bow ties (yes they did wear them) and dark uniforms swarmed all over your car.

One would lift the hood, pull the dipstick to check the oil and squirt some water in the radiator with no extra fee.

Another checks and inflates all four tires to the required pressure and asks if the spare also could use some air. He would then spray water on the windshield, towel and squeegee it off while meticulously cleaning the front windshield and all other visible panes of glass.

The last attendant would lift the nozzle and pump leaded or unleaded gasoline into the tank and give you the total for the gas , walk back into the office and return with your change. Sometimes you even get a free road map.

Family members and attendants wave happily to each other as your vehicle slowly glides away at a gas-guzzling pace of maybe seven miles per gallon. Some had slogans like trust or care or full service.

Today that is replaced by you pumping your gas, going inside to ask for a token to add some air and having the ATM machine asking you if you want a receipt.

Let's take a poll: Who does not want a receipt for anything they purchase?

Like Elvis used to say "thank you, thank you very much".

It doesn't matter which station you go to from Oakland to Fremont and all points in between.You do it all yourself. Chevron, Arco, Union 76 or any local brand you will find yourself in a sea of islands, hoping you see an empty slot and then seeing how much gas has gone up since your last visit.

At one time gas stations were the "ultimate customer experience". Sadly we all dread pulling our vehicle into one now. Especially when the price per gallon goes over four dollars and approaches five.

Doctor's offices do provide Customer Service

You don't think of a doctor's office or in this instance an ophthalmologist's office as providing customer service, just treatment right? It is time to give credit on an event in my life where service in addition to treatment was simply stellar.

A few years ago I was diagnosed as having a cataract in my left eye, which I almost expected since my vision seemed to get weaker over a few months. Thinking that this only happened to people sixty and over my doctor assured me it does happen to people under that age. We set the appointment in June and had a few more checkups to measure the implant replacement and I was thinking FANTASTIC...I will have super vision in four weeks. Not quite, the dark side of The Force was at work.

On a sunny Monday in June with my cataract surgery set for Wednesday, I was nearly at work when I noticed these strange cobwebs on my other eye. After arriving at work I noticed I could hardly see the computer from the right eye now. I called up the doctor's office and explained what was happening and reiterated it was now my other eye that had gone haywire. They said to come in right away.

My regular ophthalmologist was out for the day so another doctor looked inside it , paused and told me I had a tear in the retina. He then paged my regular doctor to come in and examine me. Completely stunned I sat in the waiting room and one of the medical assistants brought me a sandwich and soda from the cafeteria. When the doctor took I look and said we can fix this now, but we need to postpone the cataract surgery.They did a procedure when they numb your eye and kind of freeze the tear.

When it was done they said I would need about two week's off for it to heal, so the staff was very helpful in calling my work number as I was kind of in a dreamlike state and I spoke to HR and they faxed over the necessary papers. They also asked do I need someone to pick me up, I assured I could see well enough to drive, even though that was not true. I did make it home alright.The receptionist there helped me fill out the FMLA form and a few days later assisted with filling out the disability form and giving me literature and a video on torn retinas.

So after the retina was healed my appointment was reset for December and on the followup visits I was treated like an old friend. I was so pleased that I was treated as a person and not another patient a few days before Christmas I arrived at their office with a box of See's candy for everyone as a token of my appreciation for the great service I received which put a smile on everyone's face.

I give out 10 stars ********** to Valley Eye Care Center in Pleasanton.Dr.Savell and his staff are world class, no make that universal class.

On those Tipping Jars

What is it with all these tip jars that are now proliferating on store counters from Fremont to Oakland . They seem to be more common that voting signs. Are we expected to tip for every type of service we pay for. Let's go over one of the most traditional services for tipping.


They have been the most traditional one to tip. You are seated at a table, you order there, your drinks are brought and refilled and your food it put right in front of you. You have personalized service, so you feel generous. Now let's take the delis, fast food chains and coffee shops. You stand in line, order at the counter, wait for your order, take it to your table and that's it for the service. Places like Subway, Starbucks and your local shops now have strategically placed a "tips accepted" jar on the counter.

Tip for What

You are not getting personalized service and no one offers you a refill. I know a lot of people are working barely above the minimum, but these are not career jobs. Gary Taylor of Oakland is one who does put money in the tip jars. " I put whatever change I receive in the jar. It may be nine or ninety cents. I don't really see it as tipping, more of a donation. I would be embarrassed to hand the money to someone as a tip" he said.

Exceptional Service from Clerks

Have you ever gone in a bookstore and had a clerk spend several minutes to locate a copy of a rare book for you? You probably have. Did you tip them? Probably not. Did you ever tip someone at a library who helped you locate some information? Probably not. How about a grocery clerk who carried your bags to your car? Probably not. These people are going that extra mile for you but they don't wear a button that says "tips accepted". How about someone at a Home Depot or Staples who runs around and finds the exact item you need. Again probably not. Yet when we see that tipping jar at the counter we somehow feel compelled to leave some kind of tip.

The Future

The way tip jars are proliferating we may soon see them on buses, auto repair stations, copy shops or every store that has a cash register. By the way, having worked in a call center at one time and taken probably 8,000 calls over a year, I helped people save money, gave credits and got their service running at a critical time. I don't ever recall anyone on the phone saying they wanted to "tip" me.

The Customer is not Always Right

Are you one of those shoppers that mind your own business, keep the table clean after you eat, do not reorganize a store's interior and do not make a spectacle of yourself in front of others? There are however, a small minority of customers who are so self absorbed they do not care about their surroundings and other customers. They come off as rude and haughty.

Here is a list of situations where the customer needs a "get with it" reminder.

1) Did you ever drive around a crowded parking lot, finally see a spot and as you turn in there is a shopping cart in the middle. Safeway, Lucky's and Trader Joe's in San Ramon and Pleasanton are always crowded lots. To whoever left it there.........wish them a flat tire on their way home.

2) You are in another parking lot, you park with no one on your left and on your return there is a huge pickup truck or van over the line and you have have about ten inches to open your door and squeeze in. To whoever owns that vehicle........may they get a speeding ticket on the way home.

3) Standing in a long line at a store you want to get checked out and be on your way. Wouldn't you know right in front of you is someone blabbing away on a cell phone about their personal problems. To the owner of the cell phone......may the battery go dead on the next call you make.

4) You are a customer representative listening patiently to an irate caller who for no reason starts swearing and uses foul language. To that caller.......may your battery also die out and the next time you call you have to trek to a pay phone to make the connection.

5) Standing in line at a store and there is that one person at the checkout who's holding up the show. First their check is rejected, then their credit card is declined, finally they have limited cash and start rationing out what to buy. To that person........bring plenty of cash next time.

6) You are back in the grocery store , third person in line , a clerk announces aisle five is open and and the last three people behind you sprint over and are checked out. while you are still waiting for the person in front of you to clear out. To those people..........I hope you left your wallet at home.

7) Going into a fast food place for a quick lunch, you arrive at a table with your food and there are ketchup stains, fries, spilled soda and a general mess. The staff is busy and hasn't had time to clean it yet so show a little courtesy and wipe it up before you leave. Kudos to Carl's in Dublin for always quick to clean a table.To the people who don't.....hope you get indigestion later that night.

8) You are shopping in a department store and there are clothes on the ground, jammed together or rolled up. to the people who cannot put back what they picked out........may you buy a size that does not fit and you have to come back to exchange it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't say these words to a Customer

We all have little phrases that can drive us crazy. This is one of mine - the phrase "we can't do that." Not to be confused with the Beatles song "You Can't Do That" but a service rep basically telling me, "sorry pal you're out of luck."

Recently I walked into a well known tire store in the East Bay to have a tire replaced which was damaged. I had only purchased it a little over a month ago. I asked for it to be replaced with no charge since I had purchased four at the time but was told, "we can't do that" it is over thirty days since you bought them. I then asked what about a discount and was told "well you did not buy the warranty." Alright fine I said let's get this fixed. It got me thinking how often we hear that statement in public - and how abrasive it is to hear as a customer. (Excuse me, but I don't "have to" do anything special for a customer.!) They could have easily given me a discount and speeded up the tire changing, but it took over an hour.

Most of us probably don't say "we can't do that" out of rudeness. We say it because we are trying to protect company policy or set expectations with a customer. But when you examine the meaning of this statement literally, you can see where it breeds a lot of customer resentment right off the bat:

-It tells another person what to do.
-It implies that you have the power in this transaction, not them.
-It doesn't give the customer options.

Perhaps the best example of an alternative to "what we can do" came when my car was in an auto shop at Oakland Auto Care in Oakland. Instead of saying the obvious it will be done tomorrow, you'll have to pick it up then," the technician said, "We will try very hard to finish it by this evening.!" When they called me and said it was ready at six I was happy as a clam and had someone take me there to pick it up.

So look critically at times where you are tempted to say "we can't do that" to customers, and start rehearsing new responses that speak to your customers' interests. The difference will be amazing !

On the new iPhone

PC World reports that Apple has pushed back the delivery date for iPhone 4 advance sales even more. The U.S. Apple Store is now showing that iPhone 4 pre-orders will ship by July 14, a 12-day delay to the original postponed delivery date of July 2.

Apple is having trouble fulfilling the surge of pre-orders that it began taking on June 15, noting in a statement on Wednesday that it has already sold more than 600,000 iPhone 4s. This is like trying to get tickets to a Rolling Stones concert when they were in their prime.

Pre-ordering an iPhone 4 is not easy job, however. First off, AT&T suspended iPhone 4 pre-orders on Wednesday, only a day after its Web site was overwhelmed with demand from customers.

AT&T's surge of interest didn't just come from new customers, but also from current customers. AT&T extended the new iPhone 4 customer pricing to those whose iPhone contracts expire at any point this year, thus making them eligible for discounted prices starting at $199 (with a refreshed two-year contract).

AT&T's servers couldn't cope with the demand, and crashed early on Tuesday, taking down with them the iPhone 4 pre-ordering system on Apple's own Web site as well. In this process, some reported a glitch that exposed some customers' personal information to other users. AT&T said it was not able to replicate the issue on its end.

Afraid of the online ordering problems, many have turned to good old-fashioned brick and mortar stores, where long queues formed both on Tuesday and Wednesday. That didn't last long either, as Apple confirmed in a statement "many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties, and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock." They have addressed the issue rather than keep customers in the dark.

If you didn't manage to pre-order an iPhone, but you still want one on launch day (Thursday, June 24), there is still hope. Apple is expected to stock a limited number of devices at its own stores on the day, and Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy will also carry the iPhone 4 on launch day. Stay tuned for another big rush.

Does BP understand Customer Service

According to Jamier L. Scott in Electronic Commerce: A Managerial Perspective, “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation." Its importance varies by product, industry and customer; defective or broken merchandise can be exchanged, often only with a receipt and within a specified time frame.

Some have argued that the quality and level of customer service has decreased in recent years, and that this can be attributed to a lack of support or understanding at the executive and middle management levels of a corporation. How true considering the problems that BP has been experiencing since April 20th..

According to, BP service reps have had their hands full since the oil disaster.

"Janice," not her actual name, has been working in the BP Call Center in Houston, answering calls about the disaster from all over the world, and she says she and her coworkers don't think the calls are being sent any higher up in the company. "We’re a diversion to stop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people. I don't want to get emotional, but it's so frustrating when these people live right there [in the Gulf Coast] and nothing is being done to help them." There are about one hundred people taking these calls on a special 800 number.

Janice also says that sometimes call center employees don't even write anything down, or just write "Blah blah blah," because they don't think the calls are being sent anywhere. KHOU TV in Houston reported the story, and asked BP for a response. Company officials said that they've logged 200k calls so far, and that they searched for "blah" in their database of call notes and only found one instance.

watch the interview:

Had a disaster like this happened in the Bay Area, I am sure any major company would have done things differently and not have their big kahuna taking off on a glitzy cruise.

It's tough being in a job like this talking to angry people all day. If you don't sympathize with your customers, you're not doing your job and you can make things worse. If you do sympathize, you end up frustrated with not being able to fix the issues at hand and just pass the buck upward. Hopefully, that buck stops somewhere and these inquiries are answered..

Customer Service or Customer Selling

The recent news that Wells Fargo and Bank of America Corp. are pushing their customers to buy more brokerage, savings and banking services from them as the weak economy and new regulations make it harder to earn money from investment banking and loans should come as no surprise.

Known as cross-selling, the concept has been pursued for decades by bankers eager to expand their business without having to find new customers. Now, banks are counting on cross-selling to replace some profit lost after the financial crisis. According to Accenture Plc, which estimates that returns on equity have dropped 21 percentage points from pre-crisis levels to 5 percent.

Profit is under pressure after bank assets shrank by a record 5.3 percent last year and consumer credit dropped 6.6 percent in 16 months, the most since World War II. Now Congress is preparing new regulations on fees, credit cards, securities and capital that may cut income at the 26 largest banks by $21 billion, according to Barclays Capital.

If you have ever called into a bank to see if a check cleared and was asked if you wanted to add identity theft coverage, know what I mean. It isn't limited to banking. Ever call AT&T or Comcast with a service question and be asked, or rather be told you should add our phone/video/internet service, we can save you money (and we can make money.)

"The reason cross-selling has developed such a sense of urgency in banking is that they are just getting hammered on all of their traditional sources of income," said Tony Plath, finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Cross-selling is so central to Wells Fargo that managers mentioned it 108 times at last month's two-day investor conference, said Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg.

San Francsico's Wells Fargo is using slogans like "Eight is Great" as it exhorts employees to cross-sell at 6,590 branches, the most in the United States. It's boosting staff 20 percent at some of the 3,254 Wachovia Corp. outlets, acquired in 2008, where customers average 4.85 products per household, compared with 6.02 at Wells Fargo.

Of course cross selling did not start in the banking industry. Remember being asked at McDonald's or Burger King if you wanted some fries to go along with that hamburger?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I want to speak to a Supervisor

If you have ever answered calls in a call center, you probably heard these words several times. "I WANNA SPEAK TO A SUPERVISOR". From working in centers and knowing people in other centers, these happens at least once a day or several times a week depending on the type of business.

Raise your hands if you have ever received this type of call.

Thank you.

From the company's standpoint they always want the agent to take care of the problem. Sometimes the callers will not budge and will insist on talking to a supervisor. The type of business could be banking, or internet.These problems may involve fouled up orders, no shows for appointments, billing inquiries or just general gripes on their "customer experience".

Folks let me first let you in on a little secret. About half the time the call will not be transferred to a supervisor. A real supervisor being a person who hires, fires, writes reviews, signs your time sheet etc. Most supervisors may not have the technical expertise to handle the call or may just plain not want to deal with it. God forbid if the customer asks to speak to "their supervisor". Instead the call will be taken by another representative who has been at the company awhile and has demonstrated knowledge and poise to handle these situations. They may actually be a senior rep, a lead, a floor walker or an escalations supervisor or have a different nom de plume.

Nancy Gale, who was at Washington Mutual said, "in the credit card division it was common for some agents to have two or three escalations a day. We actually had a team that took only those calls".

Having been at times the "supervisor" at a company, the tone of the customer usually changed dramatically as if you will wave the magic wand and fix whatever their issue is. The key point here is to use whatever resources you have to satisfy the customer. If it means calling them back make sure you call them back.

So if you are that customer who calls in, actually give the agent a chance to correct your problem. You may find they can do it fairly quickly and a wait for a supervisor may not be necessary.

Calling an 800 Number

Have you ever had the time, patience and sometimes enjoyment of calling an 800 number for a major company? First of all I have attached a link to a brief history of the 800 number and Roy Weber who in 1978 invented the modern toll free system.

Let's take a look at ten companies, many with Bay Area strongholds on their 800 number system and a rating based on five stars for getting to a live person without pushing too many buttons or delays.

1) PG& E 800-743- 5000. You can report an outage, check on your bill or open an account.

Rating: Four Stars

2) AT&T 800-288-2020 You plow through lots of questions, there are many products from basic phone to billing to tech support to new service to make it stretch out a bit..

Rating: Three and a half Stars

3) Comcast 800- 266-2278 At last they have the Shaq and Ben show opening the call taken off. If you press support, it still says as it has in the past we are experiencing an outage. This needs updated especially if there is nothing down in your area. Make sure you press the right key, as there are different choices.

Rating: Three and a half Stars.

4) Apple 800-275-2273 You get choices for which iproduct you have, including the "magical and revolutionary" iPad.

Rating: Four Stars

5) Chase Bank 800-432-3117 This is for credit cards. Asks way too many question, mentions you may be on hold awhile.

Rating: Three Stars

6) Wells Fargo 800-869-3557 Like Chase, lots of questions. Are you who we think you are? It does give a waiting time estimate for an agent. Mine was ten minutes.

Rating: Three Stars

7) Farmers 800-327-6869 This is for tow and roadside assistance. They do a good job right off the bat asking if your car is an a safe location. Pretty quick route to an agent.

Rating: Four and a half Stars

8) Dell 800-624-9896 Funniest opening with the song "lollipop,lollipop ohhhhh lollipop. Hope you are in a good mood when that plays. Even if you don't have your computer information, you can get to an agent quickly if you follow the prompts.

Rating Four Stars

9) IRS 800-829-1040 Very business like, because it deals with your money and hey it's the Government. It says you will be sent to an agent who will direct your call. Good luck.

Rating Three Stars

10) AOL 800-827-6364 After getting your information at least they say we are experiencing high call volumes. People still use dial up connections ?

Is Customer Service a thing of the past

I did a search on Google for " is customer service dead" to see what kind of posts there were. Below is the link for the search. The results were absolutely stunning. Click on it and feel your jaw drop or your eyes widen.

Over 18 million results found from it is dead, dying, a thing of the past, blog entries, complaints, threats and plain old bad service. What has happened in the past few years? Do companies really care about excellent service or does adequate service make the grade. Focusing on call centers, numbers are the name of the game there. From calls taken, to how long you talk to a customer, to how much time you spend after a call and different rating systems that review a handful of calls per month are the standard.

Here are some possible reasons for a decline and why this is a hot topic.

People are not trained properly. For call centers, you may have anywhere from two weeks to a month before you our on your own taking calls. If you are lucky you may sit near someone who can mentor and assist you through those rough first weeks where bad habits can sprout. It can be sink or swim. Also keep in mind a lot of this type of work is outsourced across the ocean.

Staff feels the product is overpriced or does not believe in it.

This is where communication between managers and supervisors come in either through staff meetings, individual meetings or more training. The employee has to believe this is a great service at a reasonable price. If they don't ,then they may be just collecting a paycheck.

Agents are tired of hearing the same complaints and problems over and over again.

If there are constant issues be it service, outage, deliveries, or billing then this is critical mass and management should start earning their salary and FIX IT.

Incentives and salary are not in line with the job.

Let's be honest, in this recession a lot of people would rather be doing something else than talking to 40 or more callers a day. All of these reasons may account for a high turnover in this industry ( as high as 50%). Having a hard to reach bonus plan or meager raises contribute to this factor.

These are some points of what is wrong with 21st century customer service.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 6

Being in London recently,McBug was amazed that checkout clerks in grocery stores are SITTING rather than standing. It takes the pressure off of standing your whole shift and improves the customer experience. When will this come into play into the United States he wonders. Are you listening Lucky's, Safeway and other retailers?

Friday, May 7, 2010

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 5

McBug said he had one of the greatest customer service experiences ever. At a dentist office no less. Instead of browsing through a magazine and waiting to have his teeth checked and cleaned, the receptionist took him into a side room where there was a ....gasp.. a massage chair. He spent almost eight quick minutes in dental heaven before the assistant popped in and announced the doctor is ready for you. Can't we do the cleaning in here he exclaimed.This is at Tr-Valley Dental in Pleasanton. Makes you look forward to the next visit. McBug has a physician visit next week.Don't expect a pleasant report on this McBlog then.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 4

Having worked in several contact centers, my buddy McBug is just amazed as to why people will wait on hold 30 minutes or longer to complain about something. There was the one person who called at a newspaper circulation department because the Safeway Flyer was not in the daily paper. One head scratcher. Then there was another who called their credit card provider claiming the balance of $5,456.98 was wrong. Her findings showed the balance at $5,455.89. two head scratchers there. To show that cable tv watchers are not left out, one said their remote was a tad slow in changing in changing channels. Whatever a tad is this gets three head scratchers. Finally at an online bookstore, the customer wanted a refund on the book she purchased because the ending was too depressing. McBug smiles through all this and delivers as one company says " Galaxy Class Service" !!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 3

Mcbug today is so confused by all the different promotions that come across his desk. In banking you have someone create their own credit card. They still have to make the minimum payment though. In cable, telephone and internet there are double plays, triple plays, buy two get one free for a month, grand slams, take it to the house, going yard and hat tricks. What happened to buying one product at a time and seeing how well the service goes I ask? This is 2010 the company says. Remember..... abc..... always be closing.

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 2

How many times do you hear from someone in a call center that they get a call of "I wanna speak to a supervisor". Not a manager...or someone who knows what they are doing...or the boss. Chances are when this call is transferred, I hate to tell you that the person you get is not a supervisor. May be a lead, or floor walker or senior rep ( who get paid an extra buck an hour to do this) . That's their job. Most real supervisors don't want to hear someone rant and then tell the customer " it can't be done". Believe me this happens in most major centers daily.

Monday, May 3, 2010

McBug, Customer Service Ninja 1

My friend mcbug feels that customer service would vastly improve if companies treated their people like ...well people rather than a numbers on a sheet. They in turn would treat customers better and would not feel a rush to wrap this call up under ten minutes and take the next call. What one company does as far as stats, talk time, following a script is copied by others.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

on the nfl draft

Wouldn’t it be something if companies had testing combines and then a draft like the NFL ! Imagine the excitement if Microsoft or Apple or Google or ESPN or Disney called and said we just drafted you with our third pick to be an analyst or writer or IT person. Dreaming? I guess so. Back to reality.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

on Big Ben or now little ben

Looks like Ben Roethlisberger is taking the headlines away from Brett Favre. I have never seen a star QB situation like this in NFL history. Joe Namath, Ken Stabler or any other championship QB was never in a fire like this. The closest situation to this is probably Paul Hornung and Alex Karras being suspended for a year by Rozelle in 1963.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

on three wishes

If you found a genie lamp, what three wishes would you wish for ? Remember the old Twilight Zone episode and think.

on ninjas

We now have someone who is an expert in a field has the new title of ninja. It used to be guru, strategist, point person or…. well expert.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Tri Valley Animal Rescue (TVAR)in Dublin is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization whose mission is to end the unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals. TVAR cooperates with area shelters and rescue groups, primarily the East County Animal Shelter, to provide homeless animals with socialization, foster homes, medical care and an opportunity for a second chance.
TriValley Animal Rescue (TVAR) is a nonprofit charitable organization run solely by volunteers dedicated to placing homeless animals. Through the commitment of our volunteers, TVAR works to ensure services such as: Rescuing adoptable and/or treatable animals at risk and placing them in our foster program, Provide medical care, both routine and special needs providing volunteers at the East County Animal Shelter to spend time socializing the animals and interfacing with the general public.