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Why Customer Service Matters More Than Ever

Let me out

I recently had two opposite experiences that illustrate how important customer service is, especially in this day and age.  Even though it happened more recently, I want to start with Gilt Taste first.

Gilt Taste

I should preface the story with: I recently moved and while I made a list of all the sites and services I needed to update, I clearly was not able to remember or get to them all. A few weeks ago I was doing some Christmas shopping. I found what I wanted on Gilt Taste and felt comfortable ordering from them because of my positive experiences on Gilt.com.  I realized a few days after placing the order that it was being shipped to my old apartment. This was my fault because I had my (old) home address stored in Gilt and as a convenience feature, they offer a fairly quick checkout so there aren’t many layers of checks to slow you down. You can see how this can be a pro as well as a con (you don’t have a chance to catch mistake). Excuses aside, this was totally my fault. I saw that the item would not arrive for at least 5 days, giving plenty of time to correct it.

I emailed them to make the correction and about a day later, I received a response from a customer service rep that said they are not able to help because items are shipped from a supplier and they have no control over it. Also, she added, since the correct address was so close maybe I could figure out a way to pick it up or something.

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Why “New Girl” May Be The Worst New Show On Television

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Last week started out with a bang, with what amounted to about a dozen new shows plus the start of the Fall season for all our favorites.

One of the shows that really caught my eye was a comedy starring the adorkable (I stole that from my roommate who was quoting a writer) Zooey Deschanel called New Girl. Now, for those who have seen Zooey act in movies like (500) Days of Summer, it’s hard not to fall in love with her. She has this natural quirky style, yet exudes a suppressed cuteness, She’s All That style.

The new show is about a girl named Jess who moves in with three (or is it four?) guys, living in what can best be described as a bachelor pad. Jess is the quintessential dorky, nerdy, awkward girl. And therein lies the problem.

Rather than having Zooey Deschanel act like the way she is normally which is an adorable and dorky girl, they had her “act” like how they thought a stereotypical, over-the-top geek would act. Imagine they cast you, the reader, as a rocket scientist. You are likely not one so what you end up doing is a lot of snorting and pushing up on the bridge of your horn-rimmed glasses. I mean, after all, that’s what people expect a rocket scientist to be like, right?

I want Zooey to act like Zooey. She’s dorky enough in real life to pull it off. Instead, you get this character, Jess, that tries too hard to be awkward. Instead of being endearing, it’s extremely uncomfortable and unsexy.

The other problem with the show is that it’s clear after just two episodes that it’s going to be highly formulaic. Just like how House follows a clear pattern, so does New Girl. Each episode is about how Jess has some lame problem to deal with and turns it into a disaster. Then the guys, who have lives of their own, give up their day (or date), to rescue her and give her support. It’s an effective storyline because a guy who has better things to do yet giving up his time to help his hopeless female roommate is more dramatic than a regular nice guy doing the same.

I am just waiting for the episode where they remake her into a sexy girl in a tight-fitting red dress. We know it’s coming.

DVR Scheduling Optimizer

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Here’s my next great idea.

First a little background: I have DirecTV and the built-in DVR service. I can schedule on the web or with my phone or directly on the box itself. Since I record shows, I am not concerned with when a show airs originally (for the most part). What this means is I don’t care if there’s a new episode of “How I Met Your Mother” Mondays at 8PM. I just come home and see what shows have been recorded for me and I watch them. Of course I don’t want to watch shows a week late or anything but 1-2 days is ok. What is most important to me is that all my shows get recorded. My DirecTV can record two shows simultaneously.

The issue I am looking to solve is we (my roommates and I) have so many shows being recorded that it’s impossible to figure out what’s the best way to schedule them in order to not receive conflicts. For DirecTV, you can tell it to record a show “if possible”. You can also rank shows in terms of priority or importance. For example: If Colbert Report, Amazing Race, and Top Chef were all scheduled to record at 7:30 PM on a Wednesday, but Top Chef was ranked lower than the other two, it would never get recorded. The way around this is if you are willing to watch Colbert Report later in the day (most shows have multiple reruns, sometimes just later the same night), you can get all three shows that day. You just need to tell it to record the Colbert Report (series) at the 11PM time slot instead.

Currently there’s no easy way to do this. I could make a Google Calendar or spreadsheet and work it all out but that’s very difficult and time consuming, especially when I add a new show. This data is readily available (DirecTV, TV Guide, etc) so I don’t see why a web app couldn’t handle it automatically. I just put in all the shows I want and it creates a recommended recording schedule with priority listing.

Access Your Phonebook Anywhere

Frustrated

How many phone numbers do you memorize? You can definitely rattle off your own and maybe your parents’. Significant other? What about your best friend or co-worker? Boss? Doubt it. If you’re like me, you have them all stored in your cell phone, and consequently, possibly, backed up in the cloud (Google Contacts), or locally (Outlook, iTunes, etc.).

What happens if you are in a situation where you don’t have your phone and you need to call someone? This is presumably not just a case of I left my phone downstairs but something more serious like someone dropped you off at soccer practice and you left your phone and wallet in your gym bag in the back seat.

If you had internet access, you may be able to remote access your computer at home, if it’s on. Chances are your best option and only option is to borrow a phone from someone. But now you are stuck because you have no one to call. That’s where my idea comes in.

There should be a service that is basically a server hooked up to a toll-free number. Something really easy to remember. You call the number and there’s an IVR that prompts you to login. What’s your login? Your primary phone number of course. And for security, a PIN. Once you login, you either speak a name to the computer or you type in the first few letters of their first name. For example, Elizabeth would be 3-5-4-9 for ELIZ. Once the system confirms the name, it will spit out the person’s phone number and offer to connect you.

How will you get the numbers into the system? Well, I use Google pretty extensively so my contacts are already in the cloud. It’s sync’d with my Android phone and I can access my contacts in all Google apps including Gmail and Voice. It would be trivial to extend this to my help hotline.

What about security? Well there’s the pin. And even if someone were to steal your pin, how would they benefit? At best they might be able to find out the number of one or two of your friends. There are probably better, and easier, and less creepy ways for your buddy John to find out your hot friend Heather’s number. The system can also be programmed to limit the number of searches or force a wait time between each query. That way it could further undermine and malicious data mining attempts.

Who should make this? Definitely Google. They already have expertise with combining data and voice. See Google Voice or their recent Call Santa programs, for example. This would cost them practically nothing to run. They would just need to hook up the Google Address book with a phone number and an IVR.

It’s simple. Even if you used it once a year, you’d be glad it was there.

| Image courtesy of ashleeappendicitus on Flickr |




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