Love Them or Hate Them, They Can Make or Break Your Business

Over the last several weeks I seem to have run into a barrage of good and bad customer service experiences. One, being a personal experience and a couple other examples involving an airline and a toy company.

(This kind of sounds like the making of a good joke: Once upon a time there was a digital document guy, a baggage handler and a toy maker. I digress, sorry)

Being a Customer Service Representative has to be one of the most difficult jobs that there is. No one calls to say “everything is great” and CSR’s have guidelines that they have to stick to. But can those across the board guidelines, hurt your company.

I am going to make these brief and change the names of the companies to protect their identities.

The Digital Document Guy …. I ordered a PC from SamsClubski’s. Received notification that the order was processed, then cancelled. After spending an hour on the phone, the customer service rep (and supervisor) said there was nothing she could do, as I got one digit wrong on my credit card and it had been more than three hours. The order was cancelled. BUT I could re-order at the higher price if I like. Thanks. (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Got ticked off, cancelled the order and bought a PC from BestBuy for $150 more. Got angrier, called back and spent 20 minutes trying to get an address to send a letter, vowing never to order from SamsClubski’s again. Sent a letter, received a call from a VP at headquarters and promptly had a credit issued for the difference of what I paid at BestBuy and the sale price at SamsClubski’s.  (GOOD RECOVERY) I may buy from there again.

The Baggage Handler …. Guy is travelling with his $10,000 1965 Gibson ES-335 vintage guitar. He asked Deltoids Airline to carry the guitar on the plane but was denied. After landing in Detroit, the case carrying his guitar became lodged between the mobile service elevator and a rail on the loading dock. The guitar was smashed and sustained almost $2000 in damage. Airline offered him $1000, which her refused, Yahoo published the story, Deltoids apologized and they paid the $2000 to fix the guitar and gave him two free airline tickets. (Isn’t that what they did for the Triumph passengers?) (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Meanwhile, Gibson contacted the guitar owner, offering repairs on the damaged 1965 ES-335 as well as a brand-new 50th anniversary reissue of a 1963 Gibson ES-335, free of charge. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The ToyMaker:  A 7 year old boy does not listen to his father and takes his new Gego toy to the store and loses it. The little boy was so upset about the loss of his new toy that he decided to write a letter to the company explaining his misfortune. (The letter and reply from Gego are worth a read for any parent: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/luka-apps_n_2434781.html

The 7-year-old was shocked when a reply letter came in the mail offering not only to replace the toy but extra goodies for being honest. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The moral of the story ….

Customer Service IS the face of your company. They drive your corporate culture and are the front line to your customers. Sometimes customer service reps have to work by guidelines and rules but maybe those rules are a bit ridiculous. (Remember, “it has been more than three hours and we can’t change your order.”)

Some companies rise above it. I can’t imagine Gibson had a rule to fix a guitar and send a second one for free. Or Lego (oops that slipped) sending the lost toy for free along with additional goodies.

These companies obviously empower their people and allow them to humanize their interaction. The cost to these companies was minimal for securing two customers for life. PLUS Gibson and Lego received a great amount of good publicity as the stories were reported. (Deltoids not so much).

My advice, empower your people to do the right things and set the rule book aside when you should.

Any interesting Customer Service stories?

Remember Your Smartphone, Forget Your Wallet

In past blog postings I have spoken about change in the printing industry, technology and how people receive information.  I continue to believe that there is  room in the world for both print and digital communications and it should be YOU who determines how you want to receive, view and store information. Whatever is convenient for you.

Speaking of convenience, I ran across an article about Google Wallet and was intrigued with the whole concept of not having the need carry a wallet. I thought about the things in my wallet and what it would be like if all my “printed” documents: pictures, license, credit cards, membership cards, voter registration, etc., were on my smartphone.

Add the keys for my car(s), house and office along with the ability to pay everything by smartphone and my life becomes my smartphone.  In thinking about that:

• If I lose my  wallet, I have to replace everything. Call credit card companies,  get a new license and voter registration card, membership cards, etc, and I am out whatever cash I had in my wallet..

However, if I lose my smartphone, I go on your computer (or other web based device), try to find it using GPS, disable it if I can’t find it and send out automatic notifications to credit card companies who could tag the account and immediately issue a new “card”.

My license, membership card and voter registration cards have my picture (and maybe thumb print identification) so I would be good. I would lose no cash and I could change the code on my cars and the digital locks on my office and home. This really starts to look like George Orwells’s 1984.

Of course like anything, there are some drawbacks (and solutions):

•  Since I don’t need a wallet, what would someone get me for Christmas?
An  iTunes card or new smartphone case

• What if someone only takes cash?
A smartphone case with a money clip for emergencies

• How about cash discounts?
When was the last time you saw one anyway?

Check out the article on Google Wallet and let me know what you think?

Note to self: Need to figure out what to rename the smartphone since it is not a phone anymore but can make calls. How about a tablet?  (Nah)

Using Their Data To Create Your Future, Now

He who controls the data wins ….

I started to look at content for the upcoming issue of E-Document News and I was not surprised that I ran across yet another article on the demise of the transactional document industry and the impact on print service providers.

I must admit I am a ½ glass full guy but many of these doomsday scenarios and the demise of whole industry or markets is a bit distressing to me as many times the industry or market does not go away, it just looks different.

Let me say this: If you are a print service provider, your best days could still be ahead …. It is up to you, not the post office. Let me share my thoughts.

Let’s make (5) assumptions:

  1. The amount of transactional data is not going down it is going up
  2. The need for that transactional data to be communicated/distributed  to customers will NEVER go away
  3. Volume for printed statements and bills will decrease over time (not tomorrow)
  4. Volume for delivery of electronic documents will increase
  5. Some applications being done on presses will migrate to digital, so digital print volume will increase

So given that today you process transactional data, print and mail bills and statements using digital print technology I would think:

  1. In the future you would have more data to process
  2. That data will have to be distributed
  3. Some information may need to be mailed, sent via email, text  or sent via mobile
  4. There will be more digital print volume as print quality and costs improve
  5. There is HUGE opportunity in information and output (not just print)

So what do you need to do?

Think data and specifically think “who controls the data wins”. What print service providers need to be is the keeper of the data. They want to be the ones that process and format the data but also distribute it: print and mail, email, send SMS, text or support whatever new delivery phenomena comes in the future.

Print service providers should be educating themselves on these ancillary technologies and offering them as a service, one that can generate revenue.  If you just want to print and mail start figuring out your exit strategy. However if you want a bright future become a distributor of information.

Becoming an information distributor

  • Keep abreast of how people communicate
  • Get familiar with all the methods of output and the vendors who offer these products
  • Spend time keeping up to date on the latest digital print technology
  • Invest in yourself and company employees by attending industry events, webcasts, etc.
  • Remember “he who controls the data wins”

By the way, I told the folks at Rollsource that their future is bright also

P.S. –  Since this is my blog, I will shamelessly say you need to attend the upcoming Xplor Users Conference and Vendor Forum April 16-18 in St. Pete Beach Florida. In one place you can:

  • Hear the latest trends and best practices that are driving customer communications
  • Meet with the companies who have made this transition and who are happy to share
  • Spend time with the vendors who can provide the products to grow your business
  • Hear the latest trends presented by the Gartner Group, InfoTrends and Madison Advisors

Visit http://xplor.org/upcoming-events/annual-conference  to view a complete agenda and registration options. Or call 813-949-6170

For my blog readers, (PSP’s and end users) if you are interested in attending please email me at skip@xplor.org and I will send you a promotion code to save on registration. First (5) will save big.

To Blog or Not to Blog, That Is The Question

Over the last several months I have personally questioned the effectiveness of social media as tweeting, posting and blogging can eat up your time. As such I wondered if my time was being well spent.

At this year’s XDU On the Road I have consistently asked “How many people have a twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account? Write a blog?” The majority of the people raise their hands for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook with one or two writing a blog.

Then, I asked how many people tweet, use LinkedIn and Facebook AND how many people read blogs. Significantly fewer people raised their hands.

So as I was evaluating how I wanted to spend my time and resources in 2013 Deborah Corn of Print Media Centr sent me a report on my blog. Now, to make sure everyone knows, Deborah helps with my social media including Twitter and the Xplor Facebook page. As far as my blog, I write it, she makes it look great and then posts it for me. So, back to my blog.

The report I received from World Atlas stated the following.

  • My blogs had 5,300 views in 2012 on 26 posts – Average 204 per post
  • The busiest day of the year was September 30th with 261 views. The most popular post that day was Printing is not dead, it is different.
  • The top referring sites were: Facebook, Twitter, networkedblogs.com, globalnews.printmediacentr.com, linkedin.com
  • Blog was read in 117 countries (there are 193 countries in the world depending on what source you reference http://www.worldatlas.com/nations.htm)
  • Most visitors came from The United States, India & The United Kingdom

Now these numbers pale in comparison to many others but a couple key things came from them:

  • I know someone has been reading them, so there is an interest
  • It give me a base line to expand ….. My goal for 2013 is 15,000 views read in 140 countries
  • REALLY has motivated me to really see what I can do with it

Hope all of you had a Happy Holiday Season and I extend my best wishes for a happy, healthy, joyous and prosperous 2013.

Thank you for reading my blog, and don’t forget to pass it along if you think it is worthwhile.

Being Part of The Community: Oce’ North America

Last week I had the honor to attend the OCE FUTURE AUTHORS PROJECT book signing in Boca Raton Raton, Florida. I make the drive to South Florida each year and attending this event never gets old.

In its 7th year the Océ Future Authors Project, is a free program offered to middle and high school students. The eight-day summer workshop covers writing and editing to digitally publishing books.

The writing workshop is designed to help students become published authors. Students improve their writing and critical thinking skills, develop an understanding of how authors are published, and learn about today’s digital print and publishing opportunities.

Each of the kids creates a short story, they are compiled and put into a beautiful digitally published and bound book. The 2012 theme was “Pens and Papers Our Weapons of Mass Construction”.

There is nothing better than standing in line to have them turn to their story and sign their name. These kids get it.

Xplor became aware of the program four years ago. For the last three years Xplor International has been a sponsor as part of the Xplor Member Scholarship program. The program is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County and Océ North America. Other sponsors include grants from the Lawrence Sanders Foundation and Maroone, an AutoNation Company.

Congratulations and thank you to Oce’ North America.

I love writing about the good works that companies do within their communities. If your company is involved in any “give back” efforts, I would love to hear about them. Send to skip@xplor.org

Congratulations to the Graphic Arts Show Company

Well the Graph Expo 2012 is history, and the Graphic Arts Show Company should be extremely pleased with the results. I had the opportunity to see Ralph Nappi and Chris Price on the show floor and both had this kind of “Cheshire Cat” look on their face of satisfaction.

Attendance on Sunday, was the best I have seen in a couple years. Not sure whether it was the later start at noon, due to the Chicago Marathon or pent up anticipation to look at the latest and greatest technology, or both. Whatever it was, it worked.

Monday and Tuesday also had impressive traffic. (I left Tuesday afternoon to get back for a school activity for my daughter.)

The Xplor at Graph Expo Seminar attendance was down from 2011. Not sure if it was the day or time or the fact that there were a lot more educational events in 2012. We had great speakers, great feedback. Looking at doing something a bit different for Print 13.

Every year I say I am going to spend more time on the floor and every year I never get to see enough.  I will apologize to the dozens and dozens of vendors I did not get to but a couple highlights I saw in between meetings:

  • Congratulations to Deborah Corn and PrintMediaCentr on the first Printerverse – a new Show Floor Feature at Graph Expo! Went there on Monday and ended up designating it as my official meeting area. Neat application of the documobi technology, Girls Who Print and some great speakers including Kevin Keane. (If you ever have the opportunity to talk to him, it is certainly worth your time.)
  • Was great to see Delphax on the floor with new technology. Since I spent 10 years there I have always pulled for the company. General Manager, Steve Hubbard showed me their new elan™ System technology, which appears solid and puts them in the heart of the transactional document space again. For more information check out http://www.delphax.com/?s=products&c=elan
  • While visiting the RICOH booth, Eric Staples, Senior Product Manager gave me a glimpse of their new product “Clickable Paper”, which appears to have a great deal of potential.  For more information http://ricohinnovations.com/clickable-paper/
  • At the Kodak booth I spent time with Peter Bouchard, Paul Schiller and Rick Mazur looking at what was new at Kodak. Once again, as an alumni, I am always interested in see old friends and seeing what new things they have going on. I was particularly impressed with the samples they showed  from their “Fifth Imaging Unit Solution” on the NexPress. Fundamentally a host of different finishes which included gloss, spot gloss, red flourecing, linen, dimensional and watermark finishing. The samples popped. Check it out at: http://graphics.kodak.com/ca/fr/product/printers_presses/comm_sheet/digital_color/fifth_imaging/default.htm

Once again, I apologize to all of what and who I missed, but if you have any highlights you would like to share. Join the conversation.

Until next time.

Is gopost the future for rural America?

At a recent PCC Day (Postal Customer Council) in Tampa, the USPS spent some time reviewing a pilot program called gopostAlthough designed for package delivery it does not take too much imagination to envision this expanding to mail delivery.

In a nutshell, the post office places automated secured parcel lockers in convenient locations. You register on-line to get your account number/access card and PIN. You have your package shipped to the gopost address, they notify you via email or text that your package has arrived and you simply go pick it up at your convenience. For more information go to gopost.com

There are approximately 3700 post offices in the United States that serve 100 or less residents. The cost, certainly needs to come into play. Would it make sense to expand gopost to gomail?

In an article written in July 2011 by theeagle.com, it talks about the idea of Village Post Offices and more interesting is the discussion on the social aspects of the post office in rural areas.

http://www.theeagle.com/article/20110731/BC0101/307319991

For many people, especially seniors, getting out, going to the bank, post office or barbershop is a social event. I remember cashing my check on Friday and having a beer with my friends. Lost its luster with auto deposit somehow, kind of took the celebration out of it.

History may repeat itself. Walk into the general store, which is also the post office, buy your supplies, get your mail and get back into the buckboard (wagon) and head home. (and no I don’t remember this).

Analogous to today: go to Walmart, buy your food, hardware, other sundries, pick up your mail jump in your gas guzzling SUV and go home. Could also be a bank, but they are trying to go tellerless. How about the barber? Not good for the follicle challenged.

So what do you think the evolution of the rural post office will represent?

The Typewriter Breathes New Life

A couple weeks ago I read an article in our local newspaper, the Tampa Tribune that I thought would be fun to write about. The article talked about how consumers are “embracing the past” looking for old telephones, Airstream travel trailers and typewriters.

The article notes: “We see this as a manifestation of objectifying objects, the idea of replacing virtual worlds with physical counterparts, people fetishizing tactile things.”

I love technology and simply by my association with Xplor, I am certainly able to keep ahead of the average person (my age).  I have a PC, iPhone, iPad.  I Facetime, Skype, tweet, blog and post to Facebook.  All of which were not around 5-6 years ago. (with the exception of the PC)

I have embraced technology and leaving my virtual footprint.

But are we headed for a reversal? The article continues on to say: “The modern world is so full of perfect flat-screens and virtual, always-connected services from a digital “cloud,” Berelowitz said, that people feel drawn to a low-tech world with a human touch and feel. The imperfection and iron heft of a typewriter or orange glow of an old light bulb suddenly has strong emotional draw.”

I do enjoy new technology and new ways to communicate but I do sometimes long for “the good old days”, when things seemed to be simpler.

This new fascination of embracing the past does provide opportunity to have it both ways. The one product that caught my eye would marry my iPad with a typewriter. I do plan to order one, as soon as I find a typewriter. See website: http://www.usbtypewriter.com/

If this catches on, all those old, dusty typewriters sitting on shelves and antique shops will suddenly be breathing new life and increase in value.

The bigger questions to me are:  Will virtual peak?  Will we be drawn back to more human interaction?

To read the complete article click here: http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/flavor/2012/jul/10/namaino1-old-is-whats-new-ar-427546/

Is the demise of QR greatly exaggerated or a lesson for marketers?

RIP QR Codes????? ….. Really?????

One of the things I enjoy most about new technologies and processes is the ongoing debate of their validity, acceptance and predictions of their demise. QR codes are certainly not exempt from the discussion.

In an article sent to me by Mark Bonacorso of Media Ink (Xplor’s PR company) that was published in the Tucson Weekly they actually celebrate what they call the demise of the QR code.

“Due to the rapidly changing nature of information technology, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when a heavily lauded innovation winds up as a relative flop—and after the hype over QR codes, with claims that we’d spend hours each day scanning them to get information delivered to us on our phones, I’m actually sort of happy to watch the obituaries for them pile up.”

Their notable stat is that “Bloomberg News looked at the rapid demise of the QR code this week, and after all of that coverage of the technology, it’s estimated that only 5 percent of Americans scan one any given week—and that’s partially because most of these codes take us to destinations we don’t really like.” (To read the whole article: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/weekly-wide-web/Content?oid=3436949)

Conversely, I have just finished the latest InfoTrend report “How to Be Successful with QR Codes” and it is full of best practices, case studies, design tips and more.

What I surmised after reading the report that it is not necessarily the technology but the application of it.

Any thoughts?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you are interested in ordering the InfoTrends Report, my blog readers receive 20% off the list price of $199 when you check out with coupon code XPLOR20.

For more information, or to order the report please visit: http://store.infotrendsresearch.com/product_p/124380.htm

Thanks for stopping by!

The Cloud Turns 50

Read a brief but interesting article this morning by Denise Miano entitled, “Computing in the Cloud is Trendy — but is it really the next new thing?”

Denise brought up some great points and did a great job defining some of the attributes, benefits and definitions of the cloud.

As she pointed out the fundamental concept of the cloud was derived from “timesharing”, conceptually introduced in 1957 and first suggested in 1961 by Stamford Professor, John McCarthy.

To read the whole article click here

The Auerbach Guide to Timesharing 1973 edition lists 125 different timesharing services using equipment from Burroughs, CDC, DEC, HP, Honeywell, IBM, RCA, Univac and XDS. Think about how many of these computer companies are no longer in business.

So it appears we have gone full circle. Timesharing (the cloud), to centralized with everything on your laptop or desktop and now we are heading back to the cloud. (Ross Perot would be proud).

Of concern is what I call “all your eggs in one basket”. If your laptop fails, and you have not backed it up, the loss can be devastating. But you control whether you do back-ups and the frequency.

It may be because I was young when timesharing was in its heyday but I don’t remember the term computer virus. What could a lethal virus do?

I do remember computer bug however, but not virus. For those of you under 40 a little about the first computer bug, which in fact was a real bug: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/comphist/objects/bug.htm

In a pure cloud environment, what control do you have? What is your cloud providers strategy for disaster recovery? What are your liabilities?

Certainly questions you should ask.  Are our heads in the cloud on this?