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.