I had a nice call this morning from Nick, the local store manager of the OfficeMax in Richmond. I'd recently had some really poor customer service experiences in that store with them and had submitted a narrative of those experiences for their review. I usually don't bother going back to a place after such occurrences - especially not a big box store - but in Richmond they are uniquely suited to sell a few products that I and/or Summersault consume, so I thought it worth at least trying to share my observations in hopes of improvement. Indeed, Nick mentioned that they'd "huddled" about/around the letter this morning as a staff, and that they'd be researching the issues I brought up. So I guess that means either (A) I'll be mugged in a dark alley by a bunch of disgruntled OfficeMax employees wielding letter-openers, or (B) I might actually have a better experience next time.
I called Vectren Energy Delivery (a.k.a. the gas company) the other day with a question about my bill, and was pleasantly surprised by a customer service measure they've implemented. When I had made my way through the phone tree to the point where I start to sit on hold, the system said "we'll call you back within the same period of time you might wait on hold - 47 minutes." Then they let me enter a phone number and record my name. Indeed, about 30 minutes later, I got a call back from an automated voice saying "please press 1 when Chris Hardie is on the line", and was then connected to a real person who promptly addressed my concern.
While I sort of question 47 minutes as a reasonable hold time (there was no known natural disaster occurring at the time of my call), I really appreciated having the option of making it their responsibility to follow up, instead of my responsibility to sit on hold. It also means they don't have to keep as many phone lines and support staff active, which theoretically reduces costs. I hope other call centers consider similar measures!
From 1962 to 1965, well before I was born, my father served in the U.S. Army. Most of his time was in Germany based at Bad Aibling Station, a military intelligence listening post, which was closed in 2002. During this time he wrote many letters and postcards to my grandparents and other family members, which they took care to preserve. In 2001, I took the time to transcribe these letters into a database and then into a navigable set of HTML documents. Despite some trepidation about making them globally public, I'm now posting these letters on my website in hopes that they will be interesting or useful to visitors here. As I mention in my editor's notes, it was pretty amazing for me to learn about my father through this medium, and to follow his adventures which, in some ways, I have mirrored.
There's a whole lot o' switchin' going on. I spent some time last night helping one of my recently-moved-in housemates, Damon, set up his new PowerMac G4, which is his first real experience with Mac and OS X, coming from the world of Windows. I was able to re-live my own excitement of that first switching boot-up a few years ago, and as I took him on a tour and showed him New Ways of doing things (including the Firefox browser) our session was filled with Damon exclaiming things like, "you mean, that just works?" and "oh my gosh that's pretty" and "I'll never use another f#@$@! PC again". Okay, so maybe I said some of those things too. 🙂 And then this morning as I was listening to NPR, the 7:50 story was about the increasing popularity of Apple, Macs, and the rumors that bubble up around the forthcoming Macworld Expo. The 7:56 story was about Firefox, the browser that I use exclusively these days because it is faster, better, and helps me browse ad-free...it really does everything I want it to (a surprisingly recent development in the world of browsers from my standpoint). The NPR story used the key phrases: "open source movement" and "eating away at Microsoft's market share". It's fun to see smarter/faster/better at work and taking hold in a world that often prefers mainstream-but-broken.