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Some Technology Suggestions for Airline Customer Service Mon 30 Jul 07

Suitcase_kristian_mollenborg This past weekend I had the misfortune of traveling on United Airlines.  It was a rather frustrating and difficult process typified with customer service as everyone simply going through the motions.  This does not appear to be unusual.  In addition to this there were two significant instances where United could have easily excelled at customer service but instead chose to needlessly inconvenience their customers.  To be fair to United I've noticed that all the other airlines have also chosen to ignore these opportunities so I'll make this an open post to the airline industry on some simple technology suggestions to improve your customer service.

1. Notify people of their connecting gates while they are still on the plane.  Due to a delay in leaving Vancouver we were late in arriving in Denver and people were naturally anxious about making their connections.  The flight attendants announced that they no longer received connecting gate information and asked people to check the monitors after leaving the plane.  Connections to Kansas City and Chicago were apparently particularly tight.  A few minutes after their first announcement they did announce the connecting gates for Kansas City and Chicago which of course frustrated everyone else that was left with no information.

Announcing connecting gate information used to be commonplace and as this example it can still be done if airlines really wanted to do it.  I'm not sure why the don't do this anymore.  Presumably it is because the attendants are busy with other important duties which makes a prime opportunity to use technology to improve customer service.  Since the data exists and they already know which connecting flights are of interest to each incoming flights passengers why not either use the video monitors (if the plane has them) or put up simple announcement monitors with this information.  It would provide people with the information they want and not tie up the attendants.

If they really want to do it right, they'd also include the connecting flight status.  There is nothing more frustrating to arrive late, make a mad breathless dash across the airport only to learn the connecting flight is delayed.  Why not relieve passenger anxiety by letting them know that before they even get off the plane? 

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An IT Question: How Far Does Your Responsibility In Training Go? Wed 25 Jul 07

Help_cobber99_3 I often hear IT folks comment on the lack of knowledge of computers and systems within the user community.  When the discussion turns to training, techniques like user manuals, classes, FAQs and online help are often mentioned.  And yet our users still don't seem to have the knowledge they need to utilize the computers and systems efficiently and effectively and we are taken to task for this.  It seems as though we want to be held accountable for our efforts (providing the training) - the things we can control.  However we are often measured on the outcome (how much the users learn) - something not entirely within our control.

How far does our responsibility  go in making sure our users are properly trained?  Is it our job to simply provide the training or is it to make sure people are adequately trained?  What do you think?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

Got a question you'd like me to post for future discussion?  Email it to me using the "Email Mike" link in the left hand column.

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Improving Your Call Center Process Mon 23 Jul 07

Call_annais Katie Konrath over at getFreshMinds.com has a great series going on customer service and call centers.  Her most recent post "More ideas about improving customer service calls." is a follow-up to Part 1 and Part 2 on this subject.  In this follow-up post Konrath lists a number of suggestions but two of the ideas I found especially intriguing:

"What if customers calling the customer help line could "take a number"and then the call service would call them back when it was their turn?"

"What if customers could book appointments to speak to customer service representatives?"

I think these are excellent suggestions.  While many, if not most, of the calls to our Help Desks are not the kind our callers want to defer I would think many might be of the sort where the caller doesn't need to talk to the Help Desk right this second.  The important thing is that we are giving our callers a choice for them to decide what meets their needs best.  What a refreshing concept.

This is a great example of looking at things from the customer's perspective and designing the process around their needs more than yours.  Interestingly enough I can see where implementing this kind of approach could help both our customers and IT.  A classic win-win.

Have you implemented something like this?  Please share your experience.  Anyone have additional suggestions?

"Call" photo by annais

If this topic was of interest, you might also like these:

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For Those of You That Are Tired of Hearing About the iPhone Thu 19 Jul 07

Tired of hearing about the iPhone?  If so you may enjoy the following:

Without question the iPhone has lived up to its potential in this instance.

Now about all those news stories about Paris Hilton . . .

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An IT Question: Responding To A Request For "Just An Access Database" Wed 18 Jul 07

Help_cobber99_3 It's not unusual for a user with some degree of familiarity of PCs and programming to come to IT with a request - "I need help developing an Access database to analyze ZZZZ".   You know that the Access database could be done quickly and you know that the database would be beneficial.  You also have some concerns about security, documentation, testing, backup and support with these user developed systems.  Due to resource constraints it will be at least 6 weeks before you can provide an IT solution compared to a few days if you help them develop the database on their own. 

How do you respond to this request?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

Got a question you'd like me to post for future discussion?  Email it to me using the "Email Mike" link in the left hand column.

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PowerPoint: The Good and Bad Mon 16 Jul 07

Welcome_to_powerpoint_garethjmsau_3The jury is still out on PowerPoint as far as I'm concerned.  I can't make up my mind if it is one of those technologies that has changed our life for the better or instead has filled us with fear and loathing.  People seem to dread going to PowerPoint which is a shame because it has so much potential for good.

Last Thursday Kent Blumberg posted a number of links including a great video on how NOT to use PowerPoint (video below).  This is "Life After Death By PowerPoint" by Don McMillan.  It is a great send up of everything wrong you've ever seen in a PowerPoint.  The really funny part about it is that most of it really happens.

In a quirky bit of timing, earlier that week I mentioned to a colleague a presentation (video also below) I'd seen by Dick Hardt, Founder and CEO of Sxip Identity.  This is a great presentation on 2 fronts.  First the topic "Identity 2.0" is very interesting.  Second and most important in terms of this post is that the presentation is simply amazing.  I've never seen anyone give a PowerPoint like this before.  Finally someone has truly tapped in to the potential of of PowerPoint.

Lastly, I've included a bonus video about PowerPoint that you might like.  So on to the videos.

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Take The Test: Are You An IT A**hole Or An IT Hero? Wed 11 Jul 07

Stanford Professor Bob Sutton recently wrote a book with the catchy title "The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't"  This book deals with a problem that seems to be growing uncontrolled in the corporate world - a**holes in the workplace.  See Kent Blumberg's excellent review for more detail.  In addition to the book Sutton discusses this issue on his blog Work Matters

Like it or not this is an issue applicable to our IT departments.  After all IT does have a reputation with a certain a**hole quality about it.  For example:

Students_taking_a_computerized_ex_2 On his blog Sutton provides a quick 24 question A**hole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE) - Are you a certified a**hole?   This got me to thinking.  Why not a test of a**holiness for IT?  So I've developed my version of a test of for the IT department -- IT A**hole or IT Hero?  I did this on a departmental basis since that is the way we are usually judged, fair or not.  You may also think this to be unscientific, arbitrary, capricious and subjective.  Well you're right.  It absolutely is, but you have to start some place.  So take the test and let me know what you think.  If your not in IT take the test on behalf of your IT department and send them results.  Who knows what fun that will start?

So on to the test.

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An IT Question: HelpDesk Comments About Their Customers Mon 09 Jul 07

Help_cobber99_3 Rather than just me spouting off all the time I thought that from time to time I'd try to get your input and start some discussion by asking you a question about a how you'd handle a hypothetical situation.  So for our first question:

You overhear one of your corporate HelpDesk technicians working with a user over the phone.  Based on the conversation it is obvious that the user is extremely computer illiterate.  At times you can sense the technician's frustration but they do act politely and professionally at all times and ultimately solve the user's problem.  After the call has ended the technician sits back, sighs and exclaims loudly to the group, "What an idiot!  People like that should never be allowed near a computer.  If they're given a tool why won't they ever read the manual or take some classes."  A few others in the group chuckle in agreement or make comments in support. 

Is this just some harmless "venting" or is it a sign of problem?  If you see a problem what should be done?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

Got a question you'd like me to post for future discussion?  Email it to me using the "Email Mike" link in the left hand column.

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The Real Significance of the iPhone Wed 04 Jul 07

Iphone_markhillary_3 Now that we've seemingly survived iPhone Friday I thought it would be useful to take a closer look at the iPhone in terms of its real significance.  As I said earlier"

It really doesn't provide new functionality.  Existing phones provide email, Internet access, movies, music and you can even make phone calls on them.  The iPhone as best I can tell doesn't add anything to this.  What it does add is what appears to be a much better interface in that it is easier to use.  If this new interface lives up to the hype this could be a big step forward.

So while the iPhone is basically a phone (admittedly a very cool one) the interface is a very interesting new wrinkle.  The interface has had some criticism ranging from the touch keyboard is too small and cumbersome (and here too) to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer's comments on the lack of a regular keyboard make it impractical for business customer wanting to use it for email.  The criticism may be valid but I suspect the touchscreen concept will be improved and overcome these problems.  For me it represents the first real widespread practical roll out of this technology and that is what I think is the most important significance of the iPhone.

For a good demonstration of where this could eventually lead take a look at Microsoft's Center for Information Work.

Continue reading "The Real Significance of the iPhone" »

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