Basic Customer Service?

“The minute you feel the air conditioning aboard the ship your vacation begins, and there will be absolutely no stress or aggravation for four days.  The entire staff aboard the cruise ship is there to make sure you enjoy yourself!”  Our (absolutely fabulous!) travel agent promised.  It was easy to believe, because it was a story we had heard from all of our friends and family who had cruised before.

The porter promised that our luggage would be delivered outside out stateroom within a few hours, and when the first suitcase was delivered we figured the second would not be far behind.  When several hours later it had not been delivered we were told that it was not unusual.  What I found extremely unusual though was that while exploring the ship later that afternoon we came across our suitcase – in front of a different room on a different floor. 

I was upset, but mistakes happen.  I went to the Guest Services counter to complain… and after waiting in line for 90 minutes I was really unhappy.  They compounded the situation by firstly not believing me, then treating me like an idiot, and then (and continuously) mistreating me and generally refusing to be helpful or cooperative at all.

Shocked, surprised, angered, offended, stressed, aggravated.  These are just a few of the feelings that I felt throughout this ordeal, which to date has not been dealt with satisfactorily.  As a very frequent traveler I am not used to being mistreated like this – when American Airlines cancelled, then delayed, then rerouted my flight from New Orleans to Toronto in June (losing my luggage in the process) they were (or at least seemed) sympathetic to my plight.  The staff aboard the cruise ship did not seem to care as they contributed to the ruination of the first 36 hours of my cruise.

At some point during the next couple of days I came up with the thought that maybe the lack of customer service, and the automatic belief that I as a customer was probably lying (I wasn’t, but they can’t read minds) was our fault.  Not us, as in me and Theresa, but us as a society.

So many people are out to screw the system.  They want something for nothing, and are willing to go to great lengths to get it.  I have heard the same story with different players from different sources time and again; in the news you hear about people going after companies (and even individuals) to extract that pound of flesh… whether they deserve it or not.  I won’t say that it is the fault of the dingbat who spilled coffee on herself then sued McDonald’s… but that was part of the same ‘Gimme something I don’t deserve’ culture we seem to have evolved into.

During the ‘Stuck in New Orleans’ debacle I alluded to earlier I had dinner in a restaurant near the airport.  I didn’t particularly like the food, but that was not their fault (it turns out I don’t care for crawfish).  Without going into details the service that evening was terrible.  After the bill was settled up I spoke to the manager and started the conversation with ‘I am not asking for anything, but this is why I will not recommend your establishment.  I had paid the cheque, she knew I was not trying to get my meal for free, and I was not going to badmouth the restaurant… she took me VERY seriously because she knew I was not just complaining to try to get something for nothing, and maybe because of that she did offer me a free meal, drinks, whatever.  She respected that I was unhappy, but not trying to gain or profit from it.

The flipside of that are people – and I know one or two of these who have admitted to me that they do it! – who go to a restaurant (I am sure it happens with hotels and other service industries as well); they finish their meal and whether or not they enjoyed it they complain (often loudly) in the hopes of having the manager cancel their cheque.  I have also heard of people faking medical issues to get out of paying (going back a lot of years it was an episode of Three’s Company!).  Knowing that these scams are so prevalent, I suppose it is understandable that the Guest Service agent, faced with a customer with whom they have no history and who is claiming that their luggage was delivered to the wrong stateroom and that items are missing out of the bag, might easily expect that the customer was just trying to get something for nothing. 

Should they have handled it differently?  No doubt they should have; their behaviour was reprehensible and truly a black mark on the record of what I have heard is a pretty good cruise line.  I am not saying that I am so ready to forgive the way they treated me, but by taking a few days to think about what schemers and scammers they probably face on a weekly or even daily basis (if I am any judge of body language I was in line with one or two that day) I find it easier to understand why on a bad day they might take the position that they did.

…of course now it is up to the parent company to clean up the mess; let’s see what comes of that.  (You may have noticed that as of the original publication of this article there is no mention of the company or ship; that may or may not change later!)

Outlook Social Connectors Make it Easier to Keep Track…

Several years ago a friend of mine told me about a seminar that he attended where the presenter – the inventor of the DayTimer, if memory serves, put all of our different data collection methods in perspective; he had the audience count the places where they collected information, and came up with, among others:

  • Agenda
  • Personal E-Mail
  • Corporate E-Mail
  • Post-Its
  • Other notes
  • Business Cards
  • Cell phone / Smart Phone
  • Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)

It was shortly after that discussion (days, really) that I set aside a week to collect all of my contacts and appointments and enter them into my Outlook PST file.  I then imported all of my e-mails from all of my various accounts into my primary e-mail account, but with a plethora of Folders so that i could keep everything organized.  Although I have since changed my primary e-mail account a few times and am now on hosted Exchange, the system I came up with then essentially remains intact.

Since 2004 I have a couple of new information repositories that I rely on quite heavily… I also have thousands of contacts within those and it is nearly impossible to keep track.  Until recently when I received an e-mail from someone I might have to check my LinkedIn and Facebook pages, as well as my Outlook Contact list.  A couple of years ago I said to someone ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could track all of these profiles and contacts in one centralized location?  Obviously I was not the only person who felt that way… and somebody was listening!

imageIntroducing Outlook Social Connector for Outlook 2010.  It gives you the power of many of your social networking sites within Outlook.  With the Outlook Social Connector you can expand your social networks and stay up to date without leaving Outlook.

 

Outlook Social Connector adds a block at the bottom of e-mails and Contact pages; it shows the profile picture, what networks you share and are connected on, as well as recent activity.  Within the Activity window you can filter by:

  • All Items
  • Activities
  • Mail
  • Attachments
  • Meetings
  • Status Updates

image

Activities

Under Activities I can see new activities on Live Messenger (new friends), Facebook Posts and status updates, as well as updates from any connected services – so in the image of my own connection you see an item that says ‘Mitch is about to leave on a trip to Baltimore, MD.’  This post was brought into Facebook (www.facebook.com) from its connection to TripIt (www.tripit.com), which means that I now have more than simply the sum of the parts from the connections.

Mail & Attachments

image

I might have a rule that filters all mail from a contact to a specific folder, but often those lines get crossed when I have e-mails filtered, for example, by project.  The Mail tab allows me to see all of the e-mail from a specific contact, no matter where the mail sits.  The next tab lists attachments as well, which gets quite useful when your box is congested!

Status Updates

Whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace, all of your contacts’ status updates and activity will show up here. 

 

Currently there are social connectors for:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • SharePoint

That is not to say that there won’t be others, or that you cannot make one of your own and distribute it (maybe make a few bucks!).  For more information and to download the specific plug-ins visit http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/social-connector-for-microsoft-outlook-HA101794273.aspx.  They are architecture specific, so before you start downloading make sure you know if you are in x86 or x64 version of Outlook (if you don’t know then you are probably using x86!)

Oh, and because these files are all executables, they can be downloaded to be included in a Microsoft Deployment Toolkit infrastructure.  Just create a new application package, and set it up as a dependency to your Microsoft Office (or Outlook) application package.

Yet Another Bogus Virus Warning

In March, 2004 I wrote and posted this article to my website.  I was reminded of it this evening when I opened an e-mail from someone warning me of the latest and greatest virus.  Some of the wording had not even changed in six years!  My article is a bit dated, but worth the read. –Mitch Garvis July 10, 2010

Every so often I receive an e-mail warning me of the newest and most destructive virus ever.  Along with these warnings (which come in waves) I usually get a number of requests from friends, clients, or associates asking my opinions of these attacks, and what they should do about it.

Some of the more typical excerpts from these warnings will be 'Microsoft has announced the most destructive virus ever…' and '…as reported on CNN.'  The one that I like is 'This attack caused widespread panic in New York City yesterday…' and my personal favorite: 'If you are like me I would rather get this e-mail twenty-five times than fall pray to the attack once.'

Here's the thing: Microsoft does not announce virii.  They certainly do not classify or rate them on a scale of best to worst ever.  It is not what they do.  CNN does a fairly poor job of reporting computer threats, and normally do so after the fact.  Furthermore had there been widespread pandemonium in New York City you would have heard about it long ago.

I'll say it again for the cheap seats: NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF THE E-MAIL WARNINGS YOU GET ARE BOGUS.

Now here is the interesting part: WHY.  These warnings are attacks to the Internet, and by forwarding it you become an unwitting accomplice.  How it works is simple: The Internet works just like a road system.  When there is relatively little traffic then everything goes nice and smooth… and fast.  If you have driven along a deserted highway you were probably going faster than the posted speed limit.  You turn up the volume and enjoy the open road.  The more cars join you on the road, the slower you go.  The Internet works the same way: every byte of data that you send takes up bandwidth.  The more bytes (or packets) transmitted the slower things go.

It is difficult to understand how a simple message I send can clog up the Internet, right?  Here's a math lesson that should put the issue into perspective.  I have close to four hundred contacts in my address book.  However let's say for the sake of the problem that the average person has fifty.  Let's also assume that two in five contacts will forward the message.  That means only twenty people are forwarding the message to their entire contact list. Let's look at what happens if each person sends it six levels down: (1) I send it to 20.  (2) They send it to 20 each, that is 400.  (3) Those 400 send it to 20 each that is 8,000.  (4) Those eight thousand send it to 20 each that is 160,000.  (5) Those 160,000 send it to 20 each that is 3,200,000.  That makes 3,368,420 e-mails clogging the Internet.  Don't you love the little coup de gras at the end 'I would rather receive this e-mail 25 times…'How do you stop this attack on the infrastructure?  Simply delete the message.Now let me be clear about this.  There are many different virii, worms, and trojan horses that you need to worry about.  I have received over one hundred e-mails this week containing the Sobig worm, but by not opening them no harm was done.  You DO have to be careful.  However with the very rare exception none of the virii out there are going to do any physical damage to your computer. They are not going to blow up your monitor, and they are not going to infect your children with Smallpox.

If you are truly concerned about a warning, the premiere authoritative resource on the Internet is the Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center (www.sarc.com).  If you think you are at risk, or believe a warning is too real to be wrong, then check there.  Not only will you find information about every single virus, worm, trojan, and other threat known to computers, but in almost every case it will GIVE you the tools to clean it.

G-d Save the Queen, and the Royal Canadian Navy!

I had never been to Halifax (or anywhere in Nova Scotia) before, so I was not upset that a scheduling blunder gave me a free day to tour around. 

My arrival coincided with the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who began her 22nd Canadian visit here.  It also came during the celebrations of the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy.  To help celebrate Halifax Harbour was hosting the Halifax International Fleet Review (www.halifaxifr.com) in which twenty-nine vessels from eight countries (Canada, USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Brazil) were on brilliant display, and were reviewed by Her Majesty.

My first order of business Tuesday morning was to see how I could get involved.  I walked down to the harbour front and found a tent of sailors and Marines handing out brochures and souvenirs – nothing was on sale – to help get people in the colours.  I took a selection of trinkets for my son, including frisbees, a mouse pad, a lanyard, and more.  They then pointed me in the right direction.

Sub-Lieutenant WattersSeveral companies offer boat rides on the harbour.  I chose a voyage on the Harbour Queen, a Mississippi-style wheel boat that offered a 2.5 hour tour that included getting as close to many of the naval vessels as was permissible, and a great explanation by the captain of what we were seeing.  It was to set off at 12:30, so I had plenty of time to walk around.

The Queen was scheduled to dedicate a plaque aboard HMCS Sackville later in the day.  That ship, a World War 2 Corvette, was docked in front of the Naval Museum, and the dock was awash with preparatory activity under the watchful eye of Sub-Lieutenant Charles Watter, RCN.  I had a chance to speak with the Sub-Lieutenant at length.  As we looked out over the harbour he pointed to where several vessels were at anchor, although through the morning fog it was nearly impossible to make out even the silhouettes of the grand ships, including the USS Wasp, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle, and the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier with Harrier jump-jets on deck.  Fortunately the winds were favourable for a clear afternoon. 

Sub-Lieutenant Watters was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking to me both on- and off-camera.  He told me not only what he is currently working on – the anniversary celebrations – but also what he does most of the time.  On this 143rd Canada Day, I would like to extend my thanks to him and all of his colleagues for all they to do keep our nation safe.  I invite you to comment after watching the video and let them know just how much support they have!

Following my tour of the harbour and basin I switched to a much smaller, amphibious craft – a Harbour Hopper craft – the LARK-5 (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) is a Vietnam-era amphibious vessel that has been refit as a tour bus/boat (they got rid of the Light machine Gun that was normally mounted at the stern.  they drove us up to the Citadel and explained the military history of the city, and then drove us down through the old streets around the Harbour and then did something that most tour busses don’t do… next to the Nova Scotia Casino it drove into the harbour!  we got to see the HMCS Saint-Johns pull in next to the Sackville, although we didn’t get closer than the 200 metre security perimeter allowed (we came close… and a Naval Zodiac came close to us and warned us off).

We went feet-dry again and headed back for the end of the tour, in time for me to see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Edward, along with their Canadian escorts (Prime Minister Harper, Governor-General Jean) getting ready to disembark the HMCS Saint-Johns.  It was the closest I could have gotten – maybe 100m from the action, and my camera battery was dead.  Oh well, I still got to see her.  G-d Save the Queen!

My day nearly complete, I headed back to the hotel to change and then seek out the finest lobster in the land.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t the finest, but it was pretty good :)

As much as I do love the Queen, I was glad to hear that she was leaving Government House for the airport just as my flight was to take off, because they would have closed down the highways and I did not want any of that.  I am glad I got out of Halifax okay, and am looking forward to returning.

And for my new friend, Sub-Lieutenant Watters, I wish you fair winds and following seas, and G-d Save the Royal Canadian Navy!