Knowing Your Customer – Smart Way to Do It!

This weekend was my first anniversary.  My dear husband sent me flowers.  I tried to give him credit for choosing such a beautiful bouquet, but he deferred to the wonderful lady at the florist who has been putting them together for me for years.  20130628_225548

I have never met this woman; however, earlier this year, I needed to send some flowers for something, so I called them.  It was a situation where I needed to be sure that the flowers would be perfect and I knew they would do a good job.  While ordering the gift to be sent, we had a nice chat.  I told her how much I appreciated the arrangements that they put together for me and how much I appreciated their attention to detail.  I explained that if we had been married local, we would have had them do the flowers, but since we were out of state, that was out of the question.  She was smart.  She asked me about the wedding, especially the flowers and the colors.

I have received a few bouquets since then.  I noticed that the choices in each bouquet have changed significantly.  No longer am I receiving so many of the stock filler choices.  Now the flowers are ones I would choose myself.  This week’s bouquet for my anniversary was extraordinary.  Not only could you tell she had listened to what I had told her about the wedding flowers, but she noticed my taste in vases is a bit different than the ones historically sent.  I am thrilled!  The details made a difference.  She wrapped the vase in a green ribbon with a soft pink bow.  Those were our wedding colors.  My husband doesn’t remember, but this amazing florist remembered!  That’s the way to do it.  She paid attention while we were chatting and applied it to make the gifts even better.  Kudos!!

Social Media? I Finally Get It!

I have been using social media for a few years, but really don’t pay that much attention to it.  Years ago I worked for a SaaS company that was looking into ways that we could tap social media to help the sales team, so I set up a couple of accounts.  Then we thought it would be really cool if we could design the SFA to be like a game.  This was the application of gamification theory to software development long before it became chic.  I am not a gamer, yet I was faced with trying to figure out how to apply the principles to business processes.  Our developers were all over the idea.  They loved it!  So I joined facebook and started playing some of the online games to garner an understanding about why this might work.  You might say I was a bit of a laggard.   Most of my connections were people I actually worked with.  We would agree on a game that had potential and we would spend time trying to understand each others positions.  Some of the ideas were interesting and the developers would get really excited about them.  Most of the ideas didn’t have legs and it was my job to knock them down, before too much time was spent pursuing a dead-end.  Yep, I wasn’t very popular, but I learned a lot of new skills.

Fast forward to today.  I haven’t really stayed active in any of the games as my career has moved in a different direction. I could fill in all the gaps about the crooked CEO and the demise of a very promising company that had the potential to change an industry, but most of those wounds are a bit too fresh.  What I have done with the account that I set up low those many moons ago is connected with family and friends.  It is nice to catch up with old friends as time permits, but it has always just been that thing everyone does and I kind of pay attention.

The other evening one of my best friends from childhood posted something.  Although this would seem to be a routine, mundane happening, it really isn’t for us.  Low and behold, somewhere along the way she had reconnected with a mutual friend from all those years ago and we started catching up.  It was like all those years and distance was wiped away.  For the first time, I get it.  I understand the experience that social media can provide and I finally appreciate it.

Understanding My Bill (continued)

Wow! This has become quite the challenge to understand my bill.  Guess I was more than a little spoiled with my old provider.  I don’t know if it is because I was with them so long that I just knew where everything was and what it meant or if  I am just that dim that I can’t figure this bloody thing out.

So I log in the way I finally figured out how to get to my profile, consistently.  So far, so good.

I look at the landing page and everything looks pretty good, I guess.  Remember, I am a NEW CUSTOMER, so everything is still unfamiliar for me and finding what I want is mission critical to ensuring my satisfaction.

Cool!  They show my current usage.  I find this interesting, even though we have unlimited everything, save for the third line which is a data device we probably don’t need, but I wanted it anyway.  I don’t really need to know how much data that line is using because we have barely turned it on.  It is nice of my provider to give me this information.  As a brand new user who has no need to monitor my usage, I am not really sure this needs to be quite so prominent, but I will leave that up to all of the fancy-schmancy designers out there who know more than I.  I am pretty sure someone somewhere has done analysis and identified that this is the most important thing that most people should see.

Kind of annoying the fancy, splashy marketing message at the top of the page, followed by some random message about something that is being end of life’d the end of this month is in bright red across the top of the landing page.  I don’t care enough to find out what it is, but I am sure there are people out there who do need to know, just not me.   Neither the marketing message nor the warning message do anything for me.  Quite frankly, in the best of all possible worlds I would be able to turn them off.  (Keep dreaming!)

What I really want to do is look at my bill online.  The paper bill with its 9 pages of ridiculously small print is doing my head in and I can’t make hide nor hair out of whether it is accurate.  My thought is I should be able to log in and see the bill here.  Then I will either increase the view size so I can make out all of the numbers without squinting.  (I truly am fighting “11’s” and I prefer not to do anything to void all of that extra effort!)  I consider this to be a reasonable expectation of a webpage set up for me to manage my account.  Who knows?  Maybe I am irrational in that expectation.

After reviewing all of the information about my usage, my eyes move to the right.  I am American.  I read from left to right.  It would be cool to learn how to read another way, but I think I am too old to change my ways.  Old dogs, new tricks kind of thing.

To my delight, the next fancy box has a large header labeled ‘My bill’.   Phenomenal!  This is what I am looking for.  Points to the page designer.  The box lists the amount due on my bill.   The good part here is that it initially matched what my bill said.  It is less now as I logged on the other day and made a payment on the equipment plan.  Magically, that amount has been reduced from what shows in this box.  At this point, I am a bit concerned as I think I may have messed things up by paying for the equipment purchase plan, but I couldn’t tell if it was included in the amount on my bill or not and I would prefer to overpay rather than be late on anything.  (I don’t owe on anything other than my house, so I am not really familiar with purchase plans.)

The only thing that looks to be actionable is the big green button labeled ‘Pay my bill’.  Well that would be really silly as when I logged in the other day, I scheduled a payment to be made the day before the due date, so why in the world would I want to pay my bill again?  The funniest part, to me, is the message beneath the graph that shows how much my bill is confirms both the payment I made on the equipment plan and the payment scheduled.  The fact that the button is green, inviting me to pay my bill again, seems a little odd given those messages.  Regardless, there are teeny tiny little blue links that invite me to see my payment history or view the details of my scheduled payment.   Neither one of those options seem to fit what I am trying to do.

To the right is another large box with a header labeled “My account activity”.  It is nice to see that the most recent activity posted there matches what I did last – ‘New payment posted’ and matches the date that I put monies toward the equipment, so I am assuming that is the payment that posted.   At the bottom of the listing it does provide me an option to view more activity, so I click that link to expand the view of my account activity.  Marvelous!  The list matches what I remember doing on this account.  I expand the information in the top record on the list and it shows the payment I made the other day and automatically deducting it from the amount due on my bill.  At this point, I am positive I have overpaid my bill for the month.  I probably wouldn’t have done that if I had been able to decipher what I truly owed to keep me out of the dog house.  Hey!  This is where my budget before I started this little adventure really comes in handy!

Although all of this information is interesting, it is not relevant to the task at hand, which is figuring out how to see my bill online.  It is obvious, I am not going to find what I want here, or I have completely missed the ‘quicklink’ that is appropriately positioned in the top third of the page so that I will go where marketing thinks I need to go.  I am a NEW CUSTOMER.  I do NOT wish to buy one more thing, at this time.  Thank you very much.  I need to see my bill.


Quick recap here:

  • So far, I have logged into the site I know how to get to the place I want to be to edit my profile.  I know how to get here repeatedly.
  • I have viewed all of the marketing fanciness that splashes across my landing page.  Really?  Do I need this?
  • I have checked out every piece of information available in the three labeled boxes.
  • I have expanded the one that looked most promising, in my opinion.
  • I have failed to see my bill.  I can tell you the gross usage information.  But I still haven’t seen my bill online.


I could look at Usage.  It is nice to have a drill down capability to see the details that I am paying for, but I would still like to understand how much I need to pay, so this doesn’t seem to be the best choice, given the options on the landing page and having failed looking at the account activity.

I choose to look at the  box labeled ‘My bill’.  I don’t  want to push the button again as I have already scheduled my payment for this bill.  On second review, I notice there is a tiny blue link beneath the great big green button.  Low and behold, it says ‘View my bill’.  Okay, so I just didn’t notice it before.  Shiny objects and all.  Reminder:  Bright shiny object management theory applies to thyself!

Finally!  I found how much I owe on my bill.  Surprise, surprise, it actually matches what was printed on the ugly paper copy I received in the mail, but better organized.

As a NEW CUSTOMER – I think the real estate given to try and upsell me could be better used to provide me some of the hints and suggestions that appear as Quick tasks.   We are adults with unlimited plans.  I really don’t care about restricting the plans in any way, although I am sure there are people who do need this upfront.

I am thrilled at making it this far.  I may never need to try and read that paper bill, ever again!   Even better!  I found the option to print from here!  Yay!  A read only copy of my bill.  This looks so much better than the paper bill I received in the mail, it is ridiculous!   SUCCESS!  Now I can read the bill without squinting and if I decide to print it, I have better paper!

Excellent Customer Service

So I tend to go on an on about customer service, it is important to me. No doubt about it we are going to need it at one point or another in our lives.
Well, I ordered some hairspray. What can I say? There is a particular brand of hairspray that I really like, but it is hard to find, so I have to order it. Since I was placing an order anyway, I went ahead and order a couple of other items. Total items in the order 3.
Well the order arrived today. The pick list said all 3 items were included in the package. Alas, only 2 of them were there. Of course, the item that didn’t make it into the package was the item that I really wanted.
So I looked online to see if I could find an easy answer. No. I did find their customer service number and gave it a ring.
Wow! Was I ever impressed. I didn’t have to hold forever. I was put through to the nicest customer service agent I have ever encountered. I was ready to argue for what was right.
He was phenomenal! He asked me what the issue was and I explained how the order had arrived today sans the hairspray. He was great. Instead of pushing back and arguing with me, he was ever so kind and went out of his way to explain how these things can happen and immediately set me up to receive a replacement, no charge. No pushback. No discussion. Just pleasant customer service.
A big shout out to Mike, wherever he may be. You have made me into a believer. I will shop from you again.

My First Bill

Recently, I changed my cell provider. So far, I have been mightily pleased. Yesterday I received my first bill from the new company. All I can say is wow! I have encountered something that the new company does a whole lot worse than the old company. My bill is 9 pages long! Other than the ridiculous number of pages, I have a lot of thoughts about this bill and how it is formatted.

Page 1: Your Statement
I do appreciate there is a Summary on the first page providing me a summary of the information contained within the following 8 pages and has the requisite information about the due date and where to make the payment. Clearly this is my statement. My name shows up in 3 different places. I am actually pleased that all of the information repeated about me on this page is accurate. How awful would that be if one of them was wrong? Whose responsibility would it be to ensure it was accurate? The payer or the payee?   Fortunately, I do not have to ponder this possibility. Kudos for accuracy!
What I really care about is the Summary. It is rather easy to locate, it is right under the “Important Information”. Why does this little box appear above the Summary? This is supposed to be what is important to me. To me, the important information is the Summary. Don’t try mis-lead me into reading what you think is important. I know you think this is important information, you labeled it “Important Information” and it has its own little box above the Summary.
It is nice that their important information includes a thank you for becoming a customer, but in the grander scheme of things that I need to know on my new bill, it isn’t important. The rest of the important information is all about them. They want me to buy more stuff and simplify their responsibilities. They provide me the opportunity to go online and review everything I ever wanted to know about my relationship with them, or they imply that in the wording. Quite frankly, at this point in our relationship none of this screams important enough to be in its own box above the information I find important.  Because I paid attention when we completed this transaction I already know all of this information. Early on in our relationship I already completed the tasks that are mentioned in this little blurb of what they deem important enough information to push it to me before telling me what I want to know:

How much did I spend?

  • Gross cost.
  • Gross discounts.
  • Net payment due.

That is the important information to me, the brand new customer.

The bottom third of the document is the requisite stub to be returned with the payment due. Good, old-fashioned classic bill payment methods, as expected. What confused me was the garbage in the middle. I don’t understand exactly why this has to be in the center of the first bill I ever receive from my new provider. My guess is it’s the they are either legally required to provide or there could be a good-hearted bill processor somewhere in the world who thinks this is the only way the consumer will ever know about the current class action proceedings going on against the telecommunications providers regarding their historical per-message billing practices texts sent since 2005. My guess? This is required as part of the antitrust legislation. It is good that the consumer knows his/her rights, but I really don’t need this messaging on the front page of my first bill. Have you ever participated in any of these antitrust class action suits and received anything that was really worth the effort? Not me. I think the best I ever did was $50 and it really wasn’t worth the headache to produce the paperwork and do the homework.

PAGE 2: No Real Label
Basically this is the back page of page 1. There is all of the fine print about the things that you will be reading in the next pages of this bill. All the legal disclaimers that should be read if you are running really close to the budget and need to ensure you won’t be paying any unexpected fees. The importance of this page is different for every individual and is entirely contextual. There have been times in my life where I have scoured every letter on these pages of terms & conditions so that I could figure out everything on the bill. Today, I am blessed and am not in the position of having to figure out how to scrape up the cash to make ends meet for the things that I consider necessities. For that I am eternally grateful, so this page doesn’t carry as much weight as it did in my past, but I give it a quick read.
I was distracted by the printing itself. The weight of the paper was cheap. Okay. This is not a problem, merely an observation. Coming from the old school offices of the past where which paper you used depended upon the purpose, this is something I have been trained to observe my entire life. I just happened to notice this is more like the cheap copy paper I can buy at Costco or Staples. Funny I really hadn’t noticed that when I was looking at page 1.
Page 2 is definitely smaller print. To me, it looks offset. I understand this is because they put their logo vertically down the left side of every page, but the use of a box around the table of the fine print, really makes it look sloppy, to me. Possibly if this were on a more quality paper to have it appear to be letterhead the logo wouldn’t seem so out of place. I don’t know. I don’t really have an eye for the artistic part of bill creation, I am only interested in the content.
Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit. I do notice that the fonts are not the same size. Many of the things I am interested in reading are in really tiny font, while most of the exceptions and disclaimers are in a larger font, sometimes even bolded. Good for you folks in Puerto Rico and NM – you get larger fonts!

…to be continued…

Tech Support

This has been one long week!

There is so much going on at work everyday that when I get home the last thing I want to do is look at a computer.  Makes this whole attempt at blogging every single day tough.   Heck I had my forty in early this week, but that didn’t mean the work was done!  I need to fix that!

So what is the last possible thing I could need to do on a Friday night after a week like this one?   Tech support for my parents!  But I am not complaining.  It was like a light bulb went off while I was talking my father through his minor issue that the problem was between the keyboard and the chair.

To be fair, my father is elderly.  It isn’t like he is part of the generation that grew up on Nintendo.  My father is from the ‘tube’ generation where building your own heath kit television was a work of art and an inspiration for awe.  Computers were ‘work’ tools.  They did things like manufacture cars quicker and provide a consistent supply of utilities.  He knows how services work and understands filing.   The problem is he retired before computers were used for the mundane daily activities such as correspondence and filing.

It has only been in the last few years that he realized he didn’t have live under that mound of paper, that you could use the computer to store things too.  This is a blessing!  Gone are the days of writing the letter, printing it out, and then deleting the file.  The computer is more than a typewriter.  What a Godsend for me!

My Dad understood floppies.  Those were storage things you could use, rename and lock away for future reference if you ever needed it.  He actually likes the idea of the thumb drive and really appreciates them as gifts.  What he doesn’t realize is the price of storage has dropped drastically and that the volatility of the media has improved exponentially.  He doesn’t see the thumb drive in the same light as he does a floppy disk when in reality it would be better if he used the thumb drives.

The fact he understands how to change drives so that he can save things on a floppy disk is a plus.  Using this analogy we were able to overcome the problems he was having earlier today not being able to save things to the thumb drive.  I am terrified that the next time I go home I will find a billion copies of things he was trying to save on the thumb drive hidden all over the place on his hard drive.   But I am blessed that I will have the opportunity to find a billion copies of things on his hard drive and be able to help him.

I actually have an opportunity to solve my overworked problem and my father.  I could create a process manual for him to be able to do some of these things he wants to do and if I make it generic enough I could reuse it with my team.  If there are fewer things I have to do and there is guidance so I can delegate that task to someone else, I could solve my overwork problem.  Hmmm…..

Maybe It’s Because I Am OLD?

One of the challenges facing workers in the 21st century is defining what is work product and what is personal. For me, the line began blurring when I was in high school. It was that lesson that helped me to define the borders and not bend them. The easiest way to prevent any question about whether what is on my phone or personally owned device is mine or theirs, don’t put their stuff on my personal device. To me, this is a no brainer. To others, not so much.

Good heavens, I am trying to understand this new millennial workforce, but sometimes it is killing me!

First – value your time. We are not in a truly mission-critical role. No one is going to die if one call goes to voicemail. Been there, done that. No thank you very much. The stress of 24×7 on call, mission-critical roles is why I spend so much on beauty treatments to keep my “11’s” at bay! If you are in a role that someone might die if you don’t answer the phone, then ignore my advice. You are a much better person than I.

Second – that is my personally owned device. I bought and paid for it. What happens if someone who is sending you work information is violating a law somewhere? They could take my machinery. No thank you. What happens if somewhere up the food chain someone is making bad decisions and you just happen to be the dope working in the office across the way? I would be lost if my phone, my laptop, my ipad, my anything wound up in bankruptcy court or any court for any reason. This could happen. For me, not worth the risk. I can get the information I need without having to use my phone to constantly read my email! Now if the company is providing a device and paying for the service, well then that is an entirely different story. I have and will carry multiple devices to keep the break between what is mine and what is theirs very clear. If the company’s crap gets caught up in the minutiae that can be brought by the courts, well no skin off my nose. I just can’t be productive. Chances are if that happens, I am already looking anyway.

This core principle comes from my childhood. As a girl I adored spending time in an office, so I sought out an internship in a large corporate office. I sat at the desk, scheduled appointments, answered the phone, greeted visitors, made coffee, etc., etc. Imagine my shock when years later I was served with a subpoena for my blotter calendar. Because it was my first business job, I had kept it, mostly as a keepsake. I had to turn it over just in case I may have doodled something important. All they found were stupid things a teenage girl might write down, but this adventure has guided my decisions from that day forward. What is mine is mine. What is theirs is theirs and keep nothing. Makes for a cleaner house anyway.

Finally, pay me.  This is my device.  It is a nice device, but without the connectivity, electricity and my time on it, it is just a boat anchor.  If I am spending my resources on it and to make it work, then I should be reimbursed.  The old consultant’s line – ‘F#$% It – Pay Me!’ fits here.

I keep going back to it has to be because I am old and what I have experienced. I can’t help but think that one day these folks who are arguing about the increased security so they can use their personal devices for work will have changed their minds a bit by the time they are my age. One can only hope.


This is one of my better skills. I listen to what is going on and figure out what the correct next question is to help get us one step closer to a solution. Tonight I figured out why I am good at this.
During our evening call tonight, my mother had me panicked about a power outage and their deep freeze going out. It was a rather eventful day for her and she was still shaken.
If I had stopped listening at her description, I would be panicked and looking to buy tickets home.
Fortunately, my father was there. Repeating the information Mom had shared back to Dad, I was able to ascertain that someone left the door open on the deep freeze which led to a mess and Dad had turned off the power so he could fix it.
It took me awhile to get from ‘the sky is falling’ to reality, but I blessed to have that opportunity.
Thanks Mom for teaching me the listening skills.
Thanks Dad for teaching me the translations.

Father’s Day Targets the Geek.

It was spotting the snapshot of Woz riding his way into the WWDC and reading the marketing, encouraging me to follow Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman on twitter that got me thinking about the beginning of Apple.

[The path would have been a whole lot straighter, for me, if I hadn’t become distracted by the twitter suggestion.  I was raised in the seventies.  I lived through the John Ehrlichman trial.]

I do not bleed apple, but I do have a lot of respect for what apple has done for the adoption of technology.   I am not a huge M$ fan either, but it is hard to argue with the market saturation of M$ adoption.  I am not a technology loyalist.  I choose the product that best suites my needs to complete a particular task.  Let the early-adopters fight this one out.  I need to be productive but I am not inflexible.   I pay attention to the technology rags and noticed that Father’s Day Week is devoted to nerds.

Apple wants to take over the mobile payment market.  (Brilliant timing!)  Give the geeks the weekend to think about what will be the content of the upcoming Apple WWDC.  (Friday, June 7)

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.  (Monday, June 10)

3E 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo  (Tuesday, June 11)

A marketer’s dream!  You have all of the children trying to find something for Dad, so why not saturate the airwaves with next generation technology you know they will need!  Happy Father’s Day.