When you whine, I listen

Set the stage – for the last year the most uncooperative, self-important person I have ever encountered  has been talking about how awful the new  infrastructure is and how painful the process has been.

Every time she whined, I paid attention.  The negativity is annoying, but there are nuggets in those statements.  The way I see it?  Listening to tales of woe are invaluable when you are doing a task or designing a task.  If I can avoid encountering those issues by preparing on my side, the whole painful process will be less disruptive to productivity.   In days of yore, we called this pre-processing.  I think one of the buzzwords is operational excellence.

The little task I was bragging about yesterday?  She started that process last February!  I think she completed it in January.  I forgot.  I don’t really care.  The only reason I know about is frequent audits of her historical artifacts identifies missing responses from my teams.

I started the task on January 26, 2016.  I negotiated to minimize the impact on team operations.  The development team made my site read-only last Thursday – St. Patrick’s Day 2016.  Cool.  This is a system, infrastructure migration, a little maintenance time is necessary.  We didn’t decide to do this.  TPTB did.  We are merely complying.

I am proud to say that I was able to complete the mirrored migration in less than a week.  It isn’t a brand, new, beautiful, fully-functional site, but it is enough to keep us working in a brave new world.  I am readying myself for the adoption complaints, but that is when I see opportunities for improvement!!

Here’s a little insight into me, when you whine, I listen and learn….

 

Natural networker

This week was absolutely crazy, busy.  Nothing like hanging on in the middle of a storm.  This week, I helped bring on a couple of new team members to one of my teams.  I take a lot of pride in my onboarding process and it is really nice when someone truly recognizes the value.

Maybe that is the difference in the onboarding of seasoned folks verses initial entrances into a new career?  The folks who have significant, large organization experience seem to “get it” significantly better than the newer entrants.

Through this week’s experience, I was able to put my finger on another ingredient in my ‘secret sauce’ – networking.  It is all about networking.  The first couple of tasks open the gates to the network, but how those tasks get accomplished is through networking.

One of the guys told me I was a ‘natural networker’ and I took that as high praise and a smidgen of appreciation goes a long way.

Frontier Airlines – I am so disappointed!

Fourteen years ago I had the displeasure of being stuck on a last minute flight serviced by Frontier Airlines. It was such a horrendous experience, I swore I would never fly on them again.  Four years ago, I had no other choice but Frontier to be able to get someplace I needed to be, in a timely fashion. I was incredibly, pleasantly surprised. That trip experience caused me to revisit my earlier decision to exclude them from the options when planning a flight.
Last year, Frontier began direct flights from where I live now to my hometown. I was thrilled beyond belief. No one flies directly to my hometown! My parents are aging and it was easy to be able to go to my airport and land practically at their front door. Frontier had proclaimed my hometown to be one of their ‘focus’ cities and I couldn’t be happier. The terminal is clean. The staff is friendly. We took advantage of these flights. It was a marvelous experience.
In addition to actually flying where I wanted to go, Frontier had a tiered pricing strategy that allowed me to choose my experience and pay for what I wanted for my trip experience. Along with the other carriers, Frontier began charging for baggage, beverages, on-board entertainment, etc. Their differentiator had become the optional bundling prices. If you were solely interested in budget, you could choose their least expensive fare and fly on the cheap. If you were going to check anything, you could purchase the next level up and still not have all of the amenities. If you were like me and interested in minimizing the stress and strain of a trip by paying for the experience you desired when you traveled, you could go with their high-end priced ticket purchase. This simplified everything. You could check two bags, the cost was included. You could pre-select your premium seat, the cost was included. On-board entertainment was included so you didn’t have to fumble to locate your credit card if you desired to watch the television in the back of the seat in front of you during your trip. Automatically you received a beverage on-board while you were traveling between your destinations. For me, the less-headaches-make-for-a-pleasant-trip-traveler, this option was perfect. I liked paying for everything I wanted all at once. I liked knowing how much my trip was going to cost me before I left. I liked budgeting for the trip and knowing there wouldn’t be any surprises when I was aboard the plane. This set of options worked for me. The bookkeeping was simplified and the tracking was their problem.
Earlier this year, Frontier announced it was eliminating its focus city program and pulling all flights to my hometown. I was horrendously disappointed, but understood the economics of their decision. I realized this is probably one of the concessions they had to make to stay in business in the cut throat competition that is commercial travel. No problem. There is an airport not that far to the north where I can still rent a car and drive to my parents’ house. The bummer is it will cost me more. The facility fee at this larger airport is substantially higher than that of my hometown, but this was a price I would have to pay whether I flew Frontier or any of the other airlines that service the larger hub airport. I bit the bullet and bought the Frontier ticket, anticipating all of the other amenities that had made my experience better than that of the other air providers to be worth the difference.
July 10th, we set out on our holiday adventure to find our way to my hometown. The trip started amazingly well. The car I booked to get us to the airport wasn’t merely a towncar, they sent a stretch limo. The car service we use does this from time to time and I always get a chuckle out of watching the driver back the limo down a drive that isn’t much longer, or wider, than the car itself. The driver was amazing. He was friendly and entertaining. I like to have drivers with personality and this particular car service seems to hire those the best.
Our experience at the airport was wonderful. We had paid for the premium tickets, which includes the ability to use the quicker lanes through security. Save for the family headed to Europe whose children were the most entitled people I have met in a long time, even the TSA adventure wasn’t awful. We are planners, so we had planned for delays in security but we didn’t hit any so we were able to find our way to a nice restaurant in the terminal and have a drink and a sandwich before we boarded the plane.
It wasn’t until we were onboard the plane that the disappointment began to creep in. Frontier you are definitely showing signs of a company dying to stay alive. So sad to see them failing so quickly. Frontier had made so many strides in the early parts of the 21st century!  The decisions they have made have wiped out all of those improvements in less than six months…

• Changes to the product offering without any notice.
• Plane was dirty. Incredibly dirty!
• Seat pocket was broken.
• Seat was broken.
• Staff on the plane seemed tired and somewhat rude.

Seat Armrest
I had bruises on my arm and shoulder from where the seat banged on me every time we hit a bump on the ride.
Napkin from Frontier Flight
Really? Where are the perks? I can’t find them, even after I paid for them! The brunette steward made it clear she couldn’t care less about the passengers and we were annoying her. (Hey lady, there are things we all dislike about our jobs, but we didn’t choose to go into the service industry, you did!)
Storage?  Really?
FWIW – that is NOT my bottle of water in the seat pocket in front of me, although that is where I should be able to store mine, if the plane had been clean.

Since I traveled with them 6 months ago, they have lost all of the things that had impressed me….I guess I need to find a new airline, again. Time to do some research. There is always United. Alaska is entering the markets that Frontier has abandoned. Time to check out their schedules.
I know United is going to treat me poorly, but at least their planes are clean and they don’t lie to you and change their offerings as quickly, without any notice. I don’t have as much experience with Alaska, but I do have a few friends who swear by, rather than at, their performance. Guess it is time to give them a chance.  Increasingly companies are expressing their disinterest in brand loyalty. I am not a price only consumer, I look at the entire package and I do not feel like I received the value for what I paid to Frontier.  I have to take back all of the glowing statement I made about Frontier a year ago. To everyone I misled into thinking you would have a positive experience, my apologies.

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…