Humor

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

While Sir Ken’s talk is fun, clever and thought-provoking (view it, here), it is the tip of the iceberg. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Launched in 1984, this annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

If your business counts on predicting the future, hunt around TED.com whenever you want an invigorating jolt of future shock!

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PhoneSpam and the awesome power of the Do Not Call Registry…

2LoudGuysSOMEONE must be profiting from these brute force attacks on our time, and our every communication channel – just don’t let it be your company.

Like you, we get E-mail Spam, Fax Spam, Snail-mail Spam, and, yes, Phone Spam. And like you, we tried to fight back – at first. Remember “unsubscribe links” that did??? (There’s one to tell your disbelieving grandchildren!)

Then came the fall from innocence: “So wait… when I click on ‘unsubscribe’, most of the time a spammer is overjoyed because they now know my e-mail is valid, and it will ¬†(*sob*) INCREASE my volume of spam???”

Then there was the National Do Not Call Registry, with its promise of quiet phones. We registered in 2003, and for a while, it helped. Lately, though, we’ve been inundated by waves of pre-recorded, auto-dialing sales pitches thinly disguised as surveys or contests. ¬†We have 4 lines here, and sometimes ALL of them will ring at once. It would follow that Phone Spammers now use the registry as a ready-made whom to call list.

It happened again today – all lines ringing – and I snapped.

I answered 2 of the lines (sure enough, from the same company), triggered their recorded messages, pushed the conference button on my phone connecting the two cyber-salesmen – and went for a coffee.

Once I calmed down, I went to the Do Not Call Registry and registered a complaint. I used the Caller ID number to report them, but since they, too, are faked all the time (I’m sorry, Virginia, but it is true…), I really have no idea if the perp will be brought to justice, or if a legitimate company has been framed by some offshore phone spammer.

The business moral of the story – one we practice, ourselves, and drum into all our clients – is to never, never contact a prospect who hasn’t explicitly invited marketing or sales contact. That goes double for any automated, mechanical means of contact. If you do, be prepared to become a lightning rod for all the pent-up frustration the spammed hold for their hidden antagonists.

A word to the wise…

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007 Article Archive, Humor, Marketing, Technology No Comments

Little-Known Chocolate Facts…

On the fourth visit of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, he came
across cocoa beans, which he presented to the Spanish court. King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabel dismissed chocolate as a bizarre tribal
concoction.

Chocolate, after all, was considered an aphrodisiac by the Aztec
Indians, and as such, was forbidden to Aztec women. (Which explains
both Isabel's cranky demeanor in all those stuffy paintings and why
there are no more Aztecs!)

‚ÄúGiri Choco‚ÄĚ is a Japanese custom which means ‚Äúduty chocolate.‚ÄĚ It
calls for employees to give chocolates to their managers as a token of
loyalty.  This sounds like a ‚ÄėJim Dandy‚Äô custom that American
Businesses should swipe… TQM, Giri Choco, Toyota!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 14th, 2005 Humor, Main Page No Comments

Customer Service in the Afterlife

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that while grieving can be filled with sadness, it can also have blessed moments of silliness and irony that help us cope with the details of putting the deceased’s estate in order despite our grief.

The company in this true story, like so many others, had attempted to cut customer service costs by hiring cheap labor and keeping them working at capacity while keeping quality high and retaining customers through automation. But something went wrong for us…

Days after my father died, my 80-year-old mom and I were trying to¬†cancel his paid Internet fax service. The company, which we shall call¬†“iFaxForAFee”, provided no customer service phone number, so I helped her use the instant text message feature on the company‚Äôs website.

Here is the essence of the instant message session. As you read along, keep in mind that most of the rep’s responses were actually 3 beautifully worded paragraphs long, appearing 5 seconds after I sent my reply.

holycustomerservice

Me:    I wish to cancel an iFaxForAFee account because its owner, my dad, has died.
Him:    Sorry to hear that.
Me:    Thanks for your understanding.
Him:¬†¬† ¬†We DO want you to reconsider ‚Äď we offer an extra 2 months of service, free, if you will stay with us.
(Mom and I glance at each other, eyebrows raised. Then possessed by mischief, I type:)
Me:    We asked him to stay with us, too, but he died anyway. We just need to cancel.
Him:    What was your complaint with the service?
(Un ‚Äď believable!)
Me:    That iFaxForAFee doesn’t yet provide service in the afterlife.
(At¬†this point, mom and I are laughing out loud because as mom said: ‚Äúthe¬†representative must have to play by the rules and we‚Äôre off the map!‚ÄĚ)
Him:    We can offer you a further $10 off if you reconsider and come back to us.
(This seemed really inexpensive for a resurrection, and we were tempted…)
Me:   I know you have to say these things by policy, but the user is dead, and we really just need to cancel the account.
Him: We respect your decision and we’re sorry you are leaving us. We will cancel your account immediately. If you ever need faxing in the future, keep us in mind.
Me:    Thank you! Goodbye.

iFaxForAFee’s strategy had backfired in this instance. How could this have happened?

  • By heavily scripting their responses to a cancellation request?
  • By providing no latitude to override the script when called for?
  • By keeping them so busy that they could not register and react to exceptional circumstances?

It was fortunate for Mom and me that we were in one of those silly from stress moments of good humor, and took in stride the impersonal
automation in the face of our recent loss. On the other hand, I really wonder what the customer service person was going through, and how often that demeaning scenario played itself out in his day.

The best customer service interactions and recoveries I’ve experienced always feature a person who took time to really understand what I was
going through, and was empowered by their company to do everything they could to make it right. THOSE are the companies I’ll give my loyalty and my money to.

As for iFaxForAFee and their scripted, outsourced, cost-effective customer service?

Perhaps I‚Äôll consider them in the afterlife…


© 2005 Gary Ralston. all rights reserved

About the author: Gary Ralston founded Ralston¬†Consulting Inc. with his wife, Ann, to help accelerate business growth¬†for their clients ‚Äď from startups to global corporations ‚Äď across North¬†America. Based in Columbus, Ohio, Ann and Gary can be reached at¬†877-724-4099, 614-761-1841, or through www.ralstonconsulting.com.

The Refrigerator Test – Make Yourself Indispensable To Your Customer!

BrokenFridgeThe other day, we accidentally came up with a simple, new product development test. See, our refrigerator broke. Food spoiled. Sleep was lost. Teenage boys got really, really hungry. It was bad.

In the thick of shoveling ice into coolers, Ann recalled a line from “Big Yellow Taxi”, by Joni Mitchell:

” Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone…”

To a person, our family has a new appreciation for that big, humming box in the pantry. Thus was born the “refrigerator test”. Try it out yourself, right now: Is your product or service as essential to your customers as a refrigerator is to the modern family?

MEASURING HOW INDISPENSABLE YOU ARE:

Try the “refrigerator test” for each of your offerings. Interview your best customer, a prospective customer, and an ex-customer, and explore the following topics:

  • Would your customers miss your product or service if you suddenly took it away from them? Would they barely notice, or would they be screaming for it?

  • If the impact would be significant, how will it impact them? What price – hard and soft – would they pay in its absence?

  • What would it (or did it) cost them to SWITCH to your product?

  • What would (or did) it cost to switch to a competitor’s product or service?

When we put business leaders through a similar exercise in our strategy sessions, they quickly gain a new understanding and command of their business – from product development to competitive analysis to marketing and sales. Let’s see how the fridge test impacts our thinking about our market…

DISCOVERING SEGMENTS IN YOUR MARKET:

Talk to enough customers (and ex-customers) and patterns emerge. Different segments of the market put different value on features – price, reliability, distribution method, and so on.

Take our refrigerator example: as a bachelor, it would take days for me to notice the fridge was dead. I would have shopped for “cheap” and “reliable”, skipped the icemaker and would have been fine with one-week delivery.

Fast forward to life with two active teenage boys with insatiable appetites. We knew within minutes the fridge was in trouble. We went for reliability, capacity, and a crushed ice dispenser. Oh yeah – the guy with the low price but 10-day delivery lost our business.

Now go back over your customer segments in your mind. Sort them out by why they buy. Then, treat them differently! Change the messages, promotions and perhaps even models to reach deeper into each market segment with your advertising and development dollars.

CONCLUSION:

So that’s why we think the “refrigerator test” is, well, cool! It helps you understand why they buy. It helps you see how people think about your product and service – and how to keep them. It helps you see them not as a mass, but as groups or segments each responding to a different message. Most important, it helps you enjoy business success, long-term.

And how cool is that?

© 2004 Gary Ralston

About the author: Ann and Gary Ralston founded Ralston Consulting Inc. in 1997 to help accelerate business growth for their clients – from startups to global corporations – across North America. They live in Columbus, Ohio with two teenage boys, a wonderful dog, and a new refrigerator.

Contact Us Today

Technology can bring us face-to-face
- learn how, here…

ANN RALSTON

T 614-761-1841 ext 2

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GARY RALSTON

T 614-761-1841 ext 3

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