For the past 15 years I’ve been a part of, and managing, customer service departments in several companies, all consumer facing.
The main goal was always to make users contact you as little as possible. Sad, but true. The cost of the support team is always something you try to cut since it’s the only department with a negative ROI.
Those were the pre-social media days, contact forms were tightly hidden behind lots of FAQ’s, you had to browse through several pages, click “I really need help” a few times until you got to the desired form.
But things are changing, social media is here and your users are everywhere, talking about your brand. You want to be there and take part or just listen to what they have to say. More and more businesses are implementing real time chat engagement and it’s not just to get your credit card number but also to be there when you need their help.
The worst nightmare of every business owner is the people who are not happy and leave without saying anything. There’s nothing you can do about those and they leave your business and would probably tell others about their experience.
Those who complain are not a burden. Those should be seen as opportunities. They give you a real chance to fix the bad experience they just had. They *want* you to help them make the right decision the next time they think of using your service.
In the online world, the above means that if you hide your “contact us” page, you will most probably miss the opportunity to make that user happy. If the user cares enough, he will go to facebook and tell his friend about the experience. And what happens next? you get his message eventually, but now you have to perform your magic in front of the whole internet and the user is super frustrated because it took him too much time to find a place to say what he wanted to say to you in person.
The big change is here and you better be dancing the new move if you wanna stay relevant.
I remember the first days of Google. We were amazed by this new kid on the block. You could actually go to Google and find stuff. That was after a few good years of tremendous amount of junk that you had to go through on other portals in order to get a decent result for your query.
In the years prior to the Google invasion we didn’t have search engines. We had portals with loads of links and categories we could browse through. We had Metacrawler. Oh Metacrawler! That was a hell of an engine. It was searching simultaneously in 10 different search engines. Wow! We thought that was a real breakthrough.
…And Then Came Google
Google changed everything. A simple and clean interface with no interruptions. A big search box. One call to action. Don’t be evil. Oh yeah. Where do I sign in?
Where’s The Problem?
The years have proven that the world of Google is not that pretty. It’s one thing to want to organize the world’s information and another to monitor and control the content itself.
[Don't get me wrong, I couldn't care less about privacy and all that. Once you put your credit card online and have your billing address and name connect to it - any company can track you down.]
Say That Again
We’ve grown to believe that this smart search engine is built on a super smart algorithm that is the secret formula of Google and no one really knows how it works.
Thousands of SEO experts try to beat that algorithm every day and rank on the first page of the search results and Google on the other side is trying to improve the search results by… mmm… wait a minute. How do they really do that? Oh yes. By eliminating “low quality content” sites from the search results.
Wait a minute (number 2), isn’t that search engine neutral? not at all.
If Google has now decided to take an active part in deciding who’s going to “qualify” to be on the first page, if Google is making site owners to change their content in order to not be eliminated from the search engine… Than Google basically owns the internet.
This is no conspiracy crap
This is our reality. The search engine we’ve grown to love is not what it used to be.
Be honest for a second here. How many times in the last few months you tried to Google something and couldn’t find a decent result on the first page? How many times you had to rephrase your search term in order to fine tune the results? Probably more than once.
We Need a New One – NOW
Google has too much power over the internet as we know it. The SEO war outside is played by blackhat and whitehat SEO experts trying to beat the system. The clever ones rank high while the rest of them don’t even appear. Who’s in charge here? How do I find what I’m really looking for?
What we really need is a new search engine. A search engine that would do what wikipedia has done to the traditional information world.
The New Kid On The Block
While writing this post I came across DuckDuckGo. A stupid name (and logo) for a new search engine, but it looks promising. I guess I’ll give it a try in the next few days and see how it goes.
A boy ordered (through his mom) a Woody custom from Disney store. For those who don’t know, Woody is the character from Toy Story. The guy who wrapped up his package added a little hand written ‘Love, Andy’ signature on the box. (Andy is the boy from Toy Story… c’mon, you gotta know this).
My 2 Cents:
I just love finding those wonderful examples of how little things can make a difference.
When you teach your staff to give the extra human touch to the tasks they do, you:
I spend most of my day in front of a computer. At work, at home… the keyboard is my instrument. If you’re reading this blog, you probably do the same.
A few days ago I realized that although the keyboard is my main instrument, I’m not playing it as good as I think I should. If this is my main input tool I must get better at it.
It’s quite amazing that no one has ever taken the time to teach us, this facebook generation, the most basic task: typing. We no longer use pen and paper and I don’t see how that’s changing in the future. This qwerty keyboard is probably going to stay here for a while – so why not take a few minutes a day to get better at it and get rid of all the bad habits we collected over the years?
I did a little research (among friends at work) and it looks like no one has ever thought about improving or changing the way they type on a keyboard although they use it every day (most of them don’t even clean their main instrument… but that’s another problem).
I examined my typing habits and realized that I’m using 3-4 fingers on my right hand but only 1 finger on my left hand. crazy!
There are many tools online to get you better typing skills. I started using Keybr.com and scheduled 15 minutes a day to practice. Let’s see how it goes.
Something to think about
I went to a doctor a few days ago. He was a little old and it looked like he’s still getting used to “all these computers” that were forced on his daily routine.
He examined me for 2 minutes and then we spent the next 15 minutes waiting for him to write me a prescription using his ‘one finger typing’ mega skill… I could not help but thinking how much time and money this guy could save by just improving a little bit. It’s just a simple task that requires little effort. I guess the problem is awareness and education.
So the next time you go to a doctor… suggest a little practice.
Yesterday I had a problem with my PayPal account and needed their assistance in solving it.
I submitted my question through their website and waited for a response.
The response came 24 hours later and I could not ignore the fact that it contained a horrible grammar mistake. The email said:
I have reviewed your account and I could see that you have to credit cards
Really? *to* credit cards?
But then, while reading the entire email I figured why I didn’t really mind about that little mistake: This little mistake was a “proof” that the email was actually written by a human being and not a robot. This was not a template but a real response from someone who sat there and typed it in.
Now, I’m almost sure that other parts of the email were templates but I still felt the personal touch.
I’m not sure what’s the right ratio of manual Vs. template answers in an effective customer service center. But I’m sure that these minor edits and a personal opening to a response can really make a difference (even if they contain a mistake)
I just had one of those wow moments. I started listening to ‘Imagine – How creativity works‘ audiobook [BUY] on my way to work and realized that I might be doing something wrong!
I’ve been diagnosed with ADD just a few months ago and started taking Ritalin at work when I know I need to concentrate for a few hours. It changed my life! That’s for sure. I never thought I could sit for more than an hour and be so focused on what I do.
But, I’ve been living with ADD (without knowing it) for the last 35 years and managed to find creative ways to do what I want and achieve stuff by doing it my way.
Now I’m starting to doubt the benefits of taking Ritalin. Maybe it screws up my creativity? Maybe day dreaming and ADD’ing actually helps me get to new places?
I will definitely AB test it in the next few weeks.
I know nothing about electronics.
The last time I played around with building electronic kits was somewhere around the age of 14 when I was encouraged by my parents to try out new things that are not music related (that didn’t work out so good for them).
last year, I was just about to buy a vintage drum machine and found out some really exciting modifications that people tried on that specific machine.
I was shocked to find out that people are actually making new sounds out of this old retro drum machine that was produced in the 80’s.
I then started googling and found a new world called “Circuit bending”.
So what is it?
Circuit bending is basically taking old instruments/electronic toys, tearing them apart and modifying their circuit in a way that will make them make sounds that they didn’t even know they could produce.
The end result doesn’t matter as much as the actual journey you make with the poor toy. The most fascinating part of the journey (for me) is actually tearing it apart and taking my time to explore the circuit and try different points of bending and see what happens.
At this point I should stop and say that the only rule of circuit bending is “never play with electronics that are plugged into the wall”. The worst thing that could happen playing around with a battery operated one is that you can fry the circuit or get a little zzzzzzets.
Here’s an example:
This is a kids electronic organ I bought for 30nis ($10) in Tel Aviv.
I bought some parts as well (potentiometers,audio jacks and all kinds of different switches) and started playing around with the circuit.
I found 2 points on the circuit that made the keyboard go wild and decided to hook up an on/off switch to them.
I also thought that an audio jack might be useful so I can plug my new hacked device to an external speaker.
Here’s the result:
Thinking outside of the box
Since I started getting into circuit bending and DIY kit building I found myself thinking differently about almost everything I touch.
“Wow, that’s a nice guitar effect. I wonder what happens if I open it up and play around with its circuit”.
Suddenly every day to day electronic device is something that should not be taken for granted, everything is hackable, everything is upgradable (or downgradable… depends how you look at it)… and then you come back to work and try to do the same with every project and every day to day task: How can I “hack” this thing to do exactly what I want? How can I rethink the way I do stuff? What other tools can I use to make my day a little more productive?
My current DIY project is building an Atari Punk Console. It’s a simple circuit that produces a sine wave that can be modified with 3 potentiometers. This project is still “in progress” since it doesn’t really work at the moment… dahhhh.
But I’ll figure it out, that’s part of the process, Right?
I still don’t know a lot about electronics but I sure think differently on lots of other things.
I’m The Circuit Bender (aka Omri Levy). I’m a self taught individual who likes to try out new things. In this blog I will share my thoughts and tips around productivity, DIY and getting things done. Read more>