Saturday, July 23, 2011

The importance of business rule #1

I work in IT.
I am getting sick, watching our field grow a reputation slightly better than shifty used car salesmen. This is spreading like wildfire because people are forgetting business rule number one: Listen.

Here is a recent great example.
I got a call last night from my mom, who is about 700 miles away.
She was frustrated, exasperated and nearly ready to cry.
She was absolutely ready to throw her Roku box out the window.

My parents  are NOT technologically savvy.  Since my Dad's vision is worse, he can not see wires and connectors to help.
My mom is usually a little scared she is going to break something and less than confident when it comes to technology. If you have done any tech support, you know the type. If you have not done tech support, you probably have a Dad or an Aunt or a Cousin like this.  Just like not everyone is comfortable playing softball, not everyone is comfortable with technology.

We got my parents a Roku two years ago because we loved it so much, and they have loved it too. 
My dad is sight impaired, and they love that they can connect Flick.r and then my dad can see photos on the TV where they are large.  They do Netflix streaming ( at least for now) and a few other things on it. 

So, what caused her to want to pitch the Roku they have loved? Tech Support who wanted to sell them things instead of solving a problem. And not just Roku Tech Support, Linksys and Verizon got in the game as well.

They wanted to show a friend some pictures from a recent trip. When they went to open, they got an error message that the network settings were not correct and it could not connect.

They called Roku support. Roku support ( who they could barely understand speaking), had them read them the error message and said- it must be your router call them.   They called the Linksys customer service people and Linksys customer support (who talked mostly jargon and tech terms, rather than simple english)  told them that they probably needed to reset a code in their Verizon DSL Router, when they got a storm it can cause problems. They tried to rest the code, but did not have access in the Verizon hardware. So, they called Verizon DSL, Verizon DSL told them it would cost 29.95 to have that code reset. At this point, my mother thought every time they got a storm, they were going to have to pay 29.95 to get a code rest to make their Roku work. The Verizon people assured her she could pay 59.99 and get 6 months of support instead.
Luckily, she looked at my dad and said " we can buy a whole new Roku for only 79.99, I don't know what to do- let's eat dinner". Then called me , very upset.

I LISTENED. Actually, when she got to "my Roku gets an error message trying to connect to the network", I knew what to ask next- but I let her vent the whole painful story to get it out.
Then I asked " Have you tried to reconnect the Roku in the Roku settings?"
She stopped in her tracks. They had had this working seamlessly for 2 years and had completely forgotten that there were any settings there.
I booted up my Roku quickly, so I could look while I talked, walked her through the menu selections to get there ( about 3 clicks) and the built in wizard took over, found their router and connected.  Less than 3 minutes and her Roku was fixed, no expense.

I have no problem with the fact that people need to make money.
But this is the second instance in less than a week that we have crossed paths with tech support that was more anxious to collect cash for things other than a needed fix, instead of listening to the customer and fixing the problem and creating a happy customer who would come back for more sales in the long term.

Granted,  my parent's Roku is out of warranty. But if Roku had asked them "have you tried reconnecting from the settings menu ?" instead of pawning them off on Linksys, it would have short circuited 90 minutes of frustration. I would have been OK if when she said " How do I do that?" they said, we are sorry you are out of warranty, that support costs. Then she would have called me and asked and we would have had it fixed.

If Linksys had said " we do not support Roku, but let's check your router" and taken her through standard troubleshooting ( the fact that the other two computers attached to the Linksys router still talked to the Verizon DSL and got on the internet fine should have indicated that there was no communication problem between the Linksys and Verizon), then politely sent her away, rather than sending her into DSL reconfigurations would have been fine.

Verizon had in their records that they had a tech at her house a couple of weeks ago, who adjusted their network. If they had said- we had a tech there recently disrupting your network, you might have to reconnect devices to make them work correctly. They do not have to be able to tell her how to do that, it is not their responsibility.  But immediately telling her the DSL could have issues in a storm and trying scare tactics to get subscription support pisses me off.

It upsets me both because they jerked around my mom, but also because it makes IT look bad. Pretty soon, being in IT will be a little like being a lawyer. That is a horrible shame. We have the opportunity to make things that make people's lives fun, interesting, and even amazing.  Let's not lose this to make a few 29.95 fees that don't fix anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

5 Tips for Businesses New to Social Media // In which, I step on my Social Media Assumptions and give Small Business owners a bit of advice...

Every once in a while, I am reminded what an incredible geek I am.

When you swim in the geek every day, it is so easy to forget that terms like QR Code, Foursquare, G+, Podcasting, mp3,twitter,square, facebook page creation, blogging and video conferencing ( to name just a few) are either complete greek or else sound frighteningly technically hard to do.

I believe it is important for businesses to be involved in their neighborhood in ways that improve the neighborhood. Since part of what I do is IT and Social Media Consulting, my neighborhood is both digital and physical, so here is a little give back - 5 quick tips about using Social Media for Business.

1) Social Media - all digital interactions that involve people to people communication and conversation. This happens in many places (or platforms) on the internet- Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa , Google+, Quora, Empire Avenue, Foursquare are just a few you might hear people talking about. In the digital world, this is the same as the beauty shop/barbershop chat, the back fence or front stoop chat, the "after church coffee" chat or a postcard from someone traveling that comes back home. The same sorts of things happen in both places- people share news, movie reviews, baby pictures,travel pictures, product and business recommendations,or insights and opinions on politics, economics, and philosophy ( to name just a few). Just like in real life, there are people you trust and love, people who gossip, people you respect, people who are blowhards and people you avoid. Remember- Social Media is conversation and engagement- it is the online way to spread word of mouth advertising.

2) Facebook- one of the current leading platforms ( or places) for social media exchanges, although it is not always loved by the people who use it ( ask me why and I can post more). Most of you probably have a Facebook Account. If you have a lively Facebook community near your brick and mortar, or you sell online and ship product, your Business should have a Facebook page as well. This is frighteningly easy to do. Simply go to your home page, click on "pages" in the left menu and then click on the "create a page" button that shows up on the top of the page. Warning- just having a page is no good at all, unless you post to it, check on it, respond to people on it and make connections with it. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go to your page, then click on the "use facebook as page" option on the right. Now go forth in Facebook land. Like other pages that are strategic connections, comment on other people's things, be a lively and contributing presence and people will stumble across your page. [There is, obviously, tons more to be said about Facebook- you can contact me as a contractor if you want the full scoop or more hand holding]

3) Twitter- another social media platform, where the things you share are limited to 140 characters, but can be links to other things ( like youtube videos, pictures, blog posts, etc..). The nice thing about Twitter for businesses is that it is very easy to search and find people interested in the things you do, to "follow" them ( see the things they post) and respond back to start conversations. Twitter is all about conversations. This is NOT the place to broadcast only links to your press releases, details about your latest specials or your latest product releases. Those things are fine to include in the things you share, but remember this is a conversation- no onne likes listening to someone who only talks about themselves.

4) QR Codes. These are those funny looking square barcodes ( known as 2D or Matrix barcodes) that you are starting to see all around town. Big businesses and manufacturing have been using 2D barcodes for many years because they can hold more information than a regular barcode. Then someone got smart and turned them into a QR ( Quick Response)code that can used to show on the spot information. All phones that have a camera and run apps can get a free barcode scanner application ( most come already installed) that can be used to scan the QR Code and display the information. This information might be a link to a web page ( URL), some text( offer a discount or special sales promo), a link to other online services ( maps, Foursquare, youtube, yelp, etc..), contact information, a phone number, or to send an SMS (to your phone). If you have one of those phones, you can try this one and see what displays on your phone.    

5) FourSquare. ( also known as 4Square). As a personal service, it has lovers and haters. Some people love to "check in" and broadcast all over the internet where they are and what they are doing and some people hate it.  But as long as there are lovers, becoming a place that people can check into makes good sense.  When users check in, they share that information with all their friends online. This means lots of other people are seeing them come to your business.  You also have the ability to offer specials through Fourquare, and when users check in anywhere, they see a list of all the specials nearby, potentially reminding them to come to your address as well.  You do not have to personally use the service, but you do have to have an account and log in at your business to make it a place. You  want to create an account and search to see if anyone has already added your place. If not, go to the store, log into foursquare and add the venue. Then go to your computer, find your new place and "claim this venue".  Foursquare requires verification, which can be done via phone or email and then does a lot of hand holding once you tell it you want to claim a venue and you are off and running.

Hopefully those first 5 tips give you something to think about and act on and let you get started in Social Media for your business.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Infographics Made Simple:

I am completely loving the new infographics site,

Not only is it a gallery, where graphic artists can upload, share, critique, etc.. ( finally taking digital art networking seriously) it also includes an online toolset for everyday folks to create cool infographics.

While the toolset is still limited (they say growth will happen quickly, )

I was pleased with the results of the Twitterizer tool:

is what it came up with for my personal Twitter account. I was most intrigued when it came up with a couple of my apparently "made up" words as frequent topics of interest. Other than that, it is not too far off base... pretty impressive for an under 5 minute process.

How to Maintain a Tradition and still Innovate Art.

This hexagonal structure is a furnace that gets rebuilt every couple of years.

It is the furnace where they melt the ingredients for Kokomo Opalescent Glass.  We are incredibly lucky, here in the City of Firsts to have the oldest remaining factory in the US who still makes old fashioned Stained Glass sheet glass.  They have been making art glass on this site since 1888.  The glass comes in a multitude of colors/color mixes and textures that are "printed" into the glass when it is rolled into a sheet.
This glass, that starts its life as what looks like a pile of sand, and gets carried by running men in giant metal ladles to go into the rollers, has ended up in many cathedrals around the world.

The results of combining up to 5 colors of glass at a time and a multitude of textures is a series of rooms of gorgeous sheet glass- each one slightly unique in all the world.

In addition to being shipped globally to repair old stained glass ( a series of batches went out to Japan this summer to assist with repair stained glass in cathedrals damaged in their recent catastrophes), this glass also ends up in new art, like that made locally by Little Town Glass and OgreWorkshop. Look Carefully at glass in the top cog- what do you see that was created by the mixing of the glass?

The KOG factory does tours all week. The day we were there, there were stained glass lovers from three different states and some local folks as well. It made a great Geek Family Outing for three generations of our family that day. You can see more pictures, including shots of the glass blowing section of the factory, in this album:


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Mummies' Funky Jive Spiced up Kokomo

Thursday evening rolled the opening of the 2011 Haynes Apperson Festival, and this year it all started a little Funky.

A bit before 8PM, the crowds started gathering in front of the courthouse... and then the Mummies arrived.

Although the ending of the show can get a little bit Racy ( in the most fun ways), families gathered to listen, dance and enjoy the funky beats.
 I wandered about the crowd... for a bit we even went over to the food and rides side of the Downtown Festival but the sounds of the Mummies' Jive could be heard clearly no matter where you were. Everyone got the treat of their

As for the Mummies? They looked, and sounded good from every angle.

Check out more shots in the album: