Friday, January 28, 2011

End of our side versus your side?

I "watched" the President's State of the Union Address this year with friends on Facebook.

I don't watch what passes for television these days but instead get my media fix via the internet. A Facebook friend had posted a link to the yearly address and I opened it in another browser window on my computer monitor. This allowed me to see and hear the speech while commenting to my Facebook friends about salient points. Let me say that I do believe HOPE is a strategy FOX.

In these iffy times in world history we need hope and not doomsayers or sowers of negativity and venom. We need our lawmakers to make good use of their time in office and by that I don't mean in planning for their next run for office but to insure the well being of the nation and its citizens. We need you to put aside the rhetoric and work together. My friends and I discussed the points of the speech openly on Facebook even though we clearly had different stands on some of the initiatives highlighted. During the Bush years I became a closet Democrat for fear of being burned at the stake. That wasn't good for me or the country.

One of the best things about the President's State of the Union, was for me not the speech. It was the bipartisan seating arrangement. There are reasons that college stadiums put the home team fans on one side and the visitors on the other and it isn't the spirit of cooperation. It is to foster an adversarial atmosphere. And the Republicans on one side of the House and the Democrats on the other (a few scattered independents down the center) only made the US vs THEM atmosphere in American politics worse. It even allowed one Republican  in Obama's first State of the Union to feel supported enough to Boo. OMG was that embarrassing.

So while FOX is calling this a ploy or trick I am calling it a first step not unlike our first step by man for mankind on the moon.

Hatched last week by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., the idea caught fire over the weekend after a poll showed a big majority of the public wanting lawmakers of both parties to sit together at the presidential address. A spirited round of private phone calls and e-mails among lawmakers followed, and by Monday at least five dozen House members and senators had announced they had bipartisan dates for the big dance.

Bravo! Let's make America work again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Rest of the Story

When last I posted I was fighting with HP about a computer that did not work and a customer service department that was from HELL.

I finally received a replacement computer that did boot up and seems to be working. I have not blogged about that success because every time I turn it on I hold my breath. My faith in computers was dashed by the whole experience.

Windows 7 is not as "all inclusive" as Microsoft will have you believe and I still have one HP printer (my favorite) that even with new driver downloads I cannot get recognized. And I fear my monitor is going out. I stayed with the old one so I could get more bang for my buck with the tower. Found a great (not HP) one on sale recently and it is arriving this week. I have not cheered about that because I have lost faith in new products working.

That whole experience with HP Tech support and customer service left such an awful taste in my mouth I don't know if I ever want to call them again.  But in chatting with friends recently I have found that nobody seems happy with product support provided by any major company. I have a few tips following my horrendous 10 day experience:

1) Move all tech support back to United States. English is a complicated language and non-native speakers seldom get it correct enough for highly technical conversations. Or all the cuss phrases a frustrated customer will use. And Asian accents are very difficult for English speakers.

2) Trash all the canned phrases and script! This did not work for Ma Bell before we broke up the telephone monopoly. It just made everyone angry enough to want to break them up. That isn't working very well for us right now. Definitely by the second call a customer ought to be bumped to someone that has the permission of the company to actually dialog - i.e. compose their own responses.

3) Which leads me to the world escalate: ditch it. Yes, I know it is a well used phrase in tech support communities these days but it is also used in wars. So keep that in house because with customers it creates a hostile environment. Tell the customer you are elevating their complaint to the next level. And have it truly be the next level up; not merely the customer support person in the next cubicle. "Hey, Mac, get a load of this broad."

4) Don't put all of us in the same box. One of the reasons I so hate tech centers is I obviously have to begin at the dumb blond lady level. I have been an electrician, I worked with computers when they had only 17K, I know every possible version of re-set on any electronic device I own (though to be honest I still have not been able to setup streaming Netflix through my Samsung Blu Ray/DVD player - who writes these manuals?). By the time I pick up the phone to call the 800 number I know the computer, television, modem, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, etc. is broken. I want permission to send it back. And not for repair but replacement.

5) Don't put us on hold. Every customer service division supposedly records this call for training, and keeps electronic files on our previous complaints (problems with your product). Get my telephone number, read the file, listen to the tapes, and then call me back with the answer! This is the era of no land lines or minimal land line service. Every single telephone call I made to HP cost me 3 cents a minute. And when the average length of a call is from 20 minutes to 150 I am not doing that on my cell phone with dropped calls and dying batteries. And verifying I am the same customer that called before and that the complaint has not changed routinely takes 2 to 4 minutes of every call.

6) Make it MARCH. Time is money for both of us. And continually hitting F11, F9, F8 while waiting for something different to happen on the screen is not marching. It is giving me carpal tunnel syndrome.

7) Apologize earlier and mean it. When I finally got an e-mail apology from HP I was already to I am never buying another one of your products level. It will, research shows, take me nine years to forget this experience. If I replace a computer on the average of once every three years you have lost out on a minimum of two other sales to me. And then there is the screen I just bought from Amazon, and the replacement printer I am looking to Epsom for.

In closing let me just voice a growing nagging concern  about the quality of the products being manufactured over seas by supposedly American companies.  My mother owned a Whirlpool washer that Dad gave away to a neighbor when it was 20. It still worked. My first cloned PC, with parts made in silicon valley, lasted almost ten years and the laser printer I gave to my ex-husband was still working at 20 years old.

Four years ago I replaced all my twenty year old baseboard electric heaters in my house because, while they still worked, they looked rather banged up. Two of those have already failed. My last Dell computer needed a new mother board at less than a year and I replaced the tower when it was 2. The first monitor with my last HP Pavilion burned out the day after the warranty.

I gave up buying electric drip coffee makers after going through 4 in 6 months. And a few years ago I returned three TV's within the 90 day warranty period because they failed. Does anyone else feel we are doing something very wrong here?