inessential.com: Build 2014

Great piece from Brent Simmons on the enthusiasm at Mircosoft at the Build conference and in particular around Azure.

But where the new CEO makes a difference is that leadership has caught up to where Microsoft employees already were. They can be honest, with themselves and others, about the company’s role in the world. They can stop wasting time trying to recapture those days of monopolistic dominance and instead concentrate on building great things for the future, for the many-platforms future.

Making lemonade from lemons is a far better plan than trying to return to the glory days which have moved on.

Consider the opportunity: many billions of smartphones and tablets and many apps on each device. Those apps need syncing and web services.

(via Inessentials)

What business are you preparing for?

My parents live in Florida half a year.  After having spent most of their lives in New England there were large changes in expectations of service that came from the move.

One Monday they returned home from lunch out only to learn their cable was out ( all services phone, TV and internet) .  A cell phone call to the local provider resulted having to set an appointment with a technician.  The soonest appointment was Saturday between 9:00am and 12:00 pm (You know that service window that generally is a joke).  While not thrilled with the duration of the outage they took the appointment. 

  • Fail #1: 6 days for an outage that requires a technician at the house is a LONG time.  This was not an new installation. You would imagine that there is some inherent expectation of quicker repair for an existing service. 

Arrangements were made to hang around the house.  The service window came and went.  A call back into the cable company to check the status of the appointment only to learn that they were busy and would not make it out until early next week.

  • Fail #2: No call, no notification that the technician would be late or not able to make it at all. No call to reschedule (all the effort was on the customer).

The following week continued with the same style of service.  Appointments set and then blown off. Each time my folks were getting more and more aggravated.  

  • Fail #3: Letting a customer down once is one thing but 3-4 times really makes it look like you just don’t care at all. 

When the technician was able to make it to the house – some 10 days later, he learned that when installing the neighbors cable a technician had cut my parents.  He was there to swap connectors or cable boxes and was not equipped to handle this type of problem. He would have to call into the office to try and get someone out there as “soon as he could”.  Personally I think I would have had fire coming from my nose as I slowly began to self combust from anger right in front of him.

The technical was sympathetic to the duration of situation and was able to get someone out there immediately. 

  • Fail #4: It should have not taken a person onsite to have to call in a favor to get the process resolved.  I am convinced had that had he left and passed the ball to someone else on the team my parents would still be without service today.

A few weeks after the great cable cut was over the bill arrived.  It was the normal amount.  No credit for the hassle, no prorating the monthly service fee (since they only got 1/2 a month of service) no bonus stations for a month.  My father called to inquire about the bill only to get a response from the customer service representative “ Not much you can do about this – we are the only service provider in the area”.

  • Fail #5:  Failing to except responsibility for the initial problem. No apology, no offer of credit for the time without the service.  Customer service representatives that are willing to brag about the monopoly of their service. 

Things happen with businesses all the time. Generally people will be understanding of that of you keep them in mind.  But after a series of failures like this, when a new provider comes to the area what do you think will happen?

What business are you preparing for? Todays business or for the future of your business?

Delivering on expectations – the wrong way

What is the goal ?

An old dilapidated gas station in town gets purchased. It is torn down and a new one with a food-center for snacks and sundries goes up in its place. The station is reopened.

Week 1:
The place shines. People are overly friendly welcoming you into the store when purchasing a drinks. The pumps gleam. There is fluid and windshield squeegees in the containers. There are gas mitts to use so your don’t smell when you are on your way to work. There are lines of happy customers in the store and at the pumps (and really who likes paying for fuel). It is the model gas station convenience center.

Week 3:
The place looks like it needs a cleaning. When you enter the store no says hello or makes eye contact. Four of the eight pumps are labled “Out of Order”. There are no squeegees, and the containers that do have them are dry and without fluid. Gas mitts and paper towels gone. The trash is overflowing in the containers outside. The store is half stocked.

It is the stereotypical experience of convenience stores everywhere.

Goal achieved.

The Chimney Sweep and the mailing list

When I moved into my house the previous owner told me that the chimney had not been cleaned in some time.  I scheduled an appointment with a local chimney sweep.  

The day of the appointment the sweep showed up on time and explained to me what he was going to do.  He was a in his mid thirties  and very professional.  The one thing that I noticed was he looked very tired.  We chatted during the process and I asked how business was.  He explained that business was good but not growing.  He told me he was swamped between October through December and then business was non-existing.  He was sometimes doing 14-18 houses a day seven days a week (approximately 1450 customers)  and that if he could not fit a customer in he lost the business.

I let him finish and I offered to help him with his business.  He was worried about technology solutions and platforms and I tried put his mind at ease that this was not about the technology but about how he could be more effective.  “Can you send email I asked, can you make a phone call?” If so we will do fine.  I asked him if he had email addresses or phone numbers for his clients.  Not many was his response.  He did have all the names and addresses though.

We devised a 2 stage plan to spread his business out over the year to provide room for growth.
Phase 1 was to reach out to his customers and get current contact information.
1. Update his current website with a contact form that captured email and phone number into a MailChimp account.
2. Create a postcard mailing to all of his customers asking them to fill out the form online or to call and update him with their current information.  

After a couple of weeks I touched base with him.  93% of all his customers responded and provided their information.  It was late January.  Now came phase 2.  

We looked at the list and divided into local geographic section.  We composed and email offering his customers a 10% discount to have their chimneys cleaned early in the season starting in April right after the major heating season was over.  We would then take the next group and do the same for May and June and July.  This would hopefully spread his work out more effectively.  For those who had phone numbers (and no email) he would reach out to 5 -10 of them at the end of every day and offer the same offer.  He called me back a few weeks later and said it was working.  Many of his customers appreciated getting the work done early in the season and loved the discount.  He was able to start working much earlier in the season and do some larger repair work for many clients that he had not been able to before due to time constraints.  

Every time he went to a new clients he captured their information with his phone and continued the process.  When peak season came around he was able to take on additional new clients because he was able to effectively spread the work around.  

The following year when he came to my house to do a cleaning I asked him how was business.  He was ecstatic.  His current client count was hovering around 2,500. He was able to able to work throughout most of the year and his customers could not been happier.

Is your problem with growth or is something else holding you back?      

Clean Bathrooms

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

My favorite line in the post:

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

Amen

Free Range

Seth’s advice:

“The alternative is to compete against nothing but yourself. To excel merely because the act of excelling without boundaries or incentives thrills you.

And the good news is that once you find that, you’ll always have it.”

This sounds really hard but is the best way to do things !

Source: Seth Godin

The new Amazon commercial

M.G. Siegler pointed out this new Amazon commercial to me.  Apparently it debuted during the NFL game.

I  just watched it and I agree. that it is a good commercial.  Personally I think it is a good commercial because in many ways it mimics Apples style.  Low key voice narration, people using the products and services everywhere.  It humanizes the service.

I watched it a second time because I could not get something out of my head.  It reminded me of something.  Based on the pace and cadence of the storyline it felt a lot like one of my favorite commercials ever from Apple – “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”.

“We’re the people with the smile on the box”

The New Microsoft…same as the old.

Yesterday the new Microsoft logo was introduced. I have seen a lot of mentions to the new look. After reviewing it I only had one feeling – flat. I don’t mean 2 dimensionally flat although it is but more un-inspiring, lacking interest, more of the same.

Changing or updating your logo is not an insignicant thing. It affects the company in updating packages, websites, supporting material (business cards, letter head). More importantly it affects who your consumers see you.

Microsoft waited 25 years for this update and personally I think they failed. It lacks originality, it does not offer and unique visual queues or say anything about the company of note. I think Andrew Kim did a much better job over the course of one week