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Keeping Data Accurate Mon 28 Apr 08

Apple_e_binary_mlovittThis weekend I got a new windshield on my car.  A few weeks ago a rock chipped the windshield and propagated and 18 inch crack within a few minutes so I arranged for a windshield repair company to come to my house to replace it.  Things were going along pretty smoothly at first.  They removed the old windshield, took off the various registration and safety inspection stickers and prepped the car for the new windshield.  Everything was going well until it came time to put in the new windshield.  That's when they found out that the windshield they brought wasn't the right one for my car.

The repairmen called their office and verified that all of the ordering information was correct.  The problem turned out to be that the database of auto glass parts that they subscribed to had the wrong information.  They finally were able to figure out the right part number, brought it out to the house and installed it.  All turned out well except that it cost them an extra 2 hours of delay.  As they were about to leave one of them commented that they recalled that they ran into this same problem the last time they worked on my model of car.  It turns out they had to work with an inaccurate database that didn't have a good means for them to update or correct when errors were found.  In this case an inaccurate database became a customer service issue.

It's a fact of life that errors will find their way into our databases.  There are things we can do to minimize this but it difficult to entirely eliminate errors.  So this begs the question - "What do we do about the errors?"

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Photos on Flickr Wed 23 Apr 08

I've been using photos from Flickr with my postings for some time now.  A lot of people have been nice enough to post their photos there and have allowed me to use them through Creative Commons licensing.  So I thought it would be appropriate to start posting some of my photos to share with others.  Take a look if you're interested.

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The Digital Divide: Promise versus Delivery Mon 21 Apr 08

Digital_devide_palmetshofer The "digital divide", the gap between those with access to information technology and those without, gets a lot of play in the press and with politicians.  It is always expressed as a problem that must be addressed.  You typically hear of it in socio-economic terms: 

It really is an important issue worthy of thoughtful discussion - but I'm not going to discuss this in this post.  At least not this form of "digital divide" anyway.

We in corporate IT may be a little smug about the digital divide because for the most part we don't have to deal with it.  Generally, the groups we serve are all on the same level of access to technology so we don't have to worry about the divide.  There is however a digital divide that we do need to worry about.  In geo-political terms it is not nearly as important as the issues above but it is a local issue for all of us.  It is the digital divide between what technology promises (the potential of technology) and what it delivers (or how we use it).  This divide between promise and delivery expresses itself in two ways.

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Zappos: Integrating Systems and Business Processes Mon 14 Apr 08

Shoe_souk_shopping_jim_snapperWhen you run across a company the truly integrates their systems with their business processes it can be an amazing experience.  Dealing with these companies borders on fun because they take the effort to make it easy and have anticipated your needs.  Zappos, an online retailer of shoes and other accessories, is one such company.  Or more appropriately as they describe themselves: "We are a service company that happens to sell ________.

  • shoes
  • and handbags
  • and clothing
  • and eyewear
  • and watches
  • and accessories
  • (and eventually anything and everything)"

Since I'm a customer of Zappos I'm surprised that I hadn't written about this before.  Fortunately, Seth Godin's recent post, "Zappos wants you to return those shoes" reminded me so now is a good time to talk about them.

Zappos' service is all encompassing in how it is set up.  It includes: policy, processes, customer perspective, vision, attitude and systems.  Customer service for them isn't just putting a "Contact us" or "Customer Service" link on their web site.  Pete Blackshaw explain this in more detail in "Word-of-Mouth Marketing 101, à la Zappos.com"

Don't believe me?  Then check out these examples:

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When Robots Attack Mon 07 Apr 08

Robbie_robot_jopemoro_3James Taylor over at the smart (enough) systems blog posted an interesting article last week.  It was one of those that if it wasn't so serious it would be funny.  His post iRobot - Elite CRM, stupid returns system details his experiences of buying 3 systems from iRobot and wanting to return 1 of them.   As crazy as it sounds the only way he could do this was to return all 3 and then re-purchase the 2 he wanted.  As Taylor points out this is a poor way of doing business in so many ways.

Taylor notes that iRobot received a 2008 destinationCRM award for their automated customer service system.  However after his experience with trying to return a product Taylor notes " am sure the automated system for which they received an award is wonderful - I have not had to use it yet - but clearly they could do with making their return system a little smarter."  It does make you question how much thought they really put into the design of their system or if they tried to get any customer input into the system.

This example points out the need for 2 essential elements in good application development - the end user perspective and adaptability.  End user perspective can be obtained in a number of ways.  It can be based on the developers knowledge of how the system is used, input from the sales team,or directly from the end-user themselves.  How you get this input all depends upon the particular situation.

So why is all this important?

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