Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chelsea Soccer Game

I went to a soccer game yesterday! That's something I wouldn't normally do in this country, for lack of premier soccer games played here. Being a fan, I shall refer to it in its true name - football.

Chelsea, the English premier league football club was playing Mexico's Club America in a friendly game at the Stanford Stadium. It was an incredible experience to see players like Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard and Scott Sinclair. I am not very familiar with the Mexico Club America squad, so I have no names to list, but I will say that they played extremely well. Chelsea won 2-1 at the end, but there were times I thought that they may not win the game.

Even though it was a friendly game (an exhibition game) there were 2 yellow cards handed out and a fight that broke out between some supporters. Attendance was estimated at around 45,000, an impressive number for a country that supposedly doesn't follow soccer.

There's something about being around soccer fans that's very - for lack of a better word - cool. It's a sport people are passionate about, and growing up in a family that never missed a world cup game, I am one of those people, well, I used to be. Having been in this country for 7 years, I have lost touch with the sport, but I always watch the world cup and the Euro Cup, and that keeps my love for the game going.

This obviously has nothing to do with marketing or innovation, but it was something that got me very excited, and well, its a big deal for me to see these players play! Just to throw something related to marketing in this post, I was surprised at the lack of marketing / advertising at the game. Perhaps it was because the game was held at the Stanford University Stadium and their advertising rules. I expected to see a lot more advertising for something that attracted 45,000 people to a single place in the Bay Area. How often does that happen, and why did Bay Area soccer teams and soccer shops not play a part in this event?

All in all, it was a good game, and an incredible feeling to be sitting about 200 feet away from some of the worlds best football players. Thanks for coming down to the Bay Area Chelsea!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Laws of Simplicity

This book has been on my list of books to read since it was published. I've been a bit of a slacker, and finally finished reading it today! The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda is one of the best books I've read in a while.

I normally hate text books, or anything that preaches endlessly like a text book does. This book preaches, but it's very practical industry like preaching that actually makes sense and can be enforced. The focus of the book is, like the title suggests, simplicity, as it applies to design, technology, business and life.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in a product development role or an innovation based environment, or looking to enter it. I am just getting into a product development role, and I know the Laws of Simplicity will be a good guide. I wish I had this book as a text book in college, as it would have brought in a different and conflicting perspective to all those innovation and product development classes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How to lose a customer for life

I know I have complained about this before, but as a friend told me when I told him about this, it needs to be documented- for its comedic value if nothing else.

I had sent in my HP notebook twice in already for overheating issues. They told me the fan was replaced, and I shouldn't have any more problems with it. Turns out they were wrong! The notebook got so hot I couldn't touch it and it would just shut down by itself. There were some other issues with it too, but that was the most annoying considering I had it sent in for that twice already.

So I call up HP and talk to a really nice lady. I explained how frustrated I was with the computer and she said since I had the accidental and damage protection 3 year extended warranty, she would arrange to have a brand new notebook sent to me. I was happy- for about 1 week. The address that HP put on the package that was sent to me was incorrect, and FedEx wouldn't let HP or me change it. The nice lady at HP called then and said since they couldn't send it to me, to send it back to them and they would resend it to the correct address.

Just to make sure that it was going back to HP, I called FedEx to check the status of it. FedEx told me it was going back to the sender - phew ... atleast it's on track... right? NO! The notebook came from the HP factory in China, so, FedEx was sending it back to China! I tried calling HP to talk to the lady that was handling my case, and she works normal US work hours, so she wasn't there, and her voicemail box was full. I was left helpless till the next morning.

I called HP and got a hold of the lady, and she said she would call FedEx and clarify the ship address. She did, and it got sent to the HP office in Tennessee. For the next 4 days, they couldn't find the returned notebook. How does a company this big and reputable manage to mess things up this much???

Finally, they find it, and send it out - BUT they get the address wrong again - this time instead of suite # 942 , they had suite #94. The notebook finally made it after I called FedEx and asked them what the address they were trying to deliver it to was - the tracking said that no one was there to sign for it. It finally made it, and so far, it seems to be a decent machine. But rest assured, I will NEVER, by choice, buy another HP product. I have to say though that the lady I was dealing with was cool and she did the best she could given the circumstances. In any case, that's how you lose a customer for life!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

How important is customer service - Part III

OK - last post on this topic.

I finally got the AC adapter a few days ago. It's been a whole month of frustration, but it's great to have a working computer again. Oh, I have HP's extended warranty, but apparently that din't count for much in this whole process.

Back to customer service.. In the small company I work at, all I have to do is run downstairs to see if we have something in stock when a customer needs something. All I have to do when there's a customer that's overcharged, is walk to our accountants office, and in under 5 minutes, we sort it all out and have a happy customer that's very satisfied with the service we provided. A customer received 2 defective products, and requested it to be tested before we sent out another one to him, so I tested it myself for 3 days, and sent it to him.

We are a small company, and of course, we want to grow- but how do we maintain the efficiency and amazing customer service once we reach the size that HP is? Are we still going to play basketball at 4pm everyday? Or are we going to be so busy expanding that we stop having fun doing what we do? Where's the balance? And more importantly, how do we reach the point where we are growing, and still keeping customers happy? HP certainly hasn't figured it out. Hopefully, along the way, we will.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How important is customer service - Part II

A whole week later, with no AC adapter, and a very unreliable laptop, I called HP again, once again to be on hold for a while... and when I finally got a hold of someone and asked him why I did not have my AC adapter yet, he assured me that it had been shipped and that I would receive it in the next day or two.

The day after I talked to this person who told me I would have a new AC adapter, I receive a voice mail from HP saying that they are back ordered and will not be able to get one to me for another week or two. I was pretty annoyed when I got that message for two reasons- I was lied to by HP, and I had pretty much been without a laptop or any other computer at home for over a week. So, I call up HP again to find out what was going on, and why I was given false information. Once again, on hold for forever, which only made the situation more aggravating, but even when someone answered, he could not help me, and there was no one senior to him that worked at that time. So, I asked for someone ( a case manager) to call me. When she finally did she said they did not have any AC adapters in stock- how is that possible for a company that makes laptop computers??? Anyways, she said there was nothing that could be done, but to wait 4-7 business days and I would get one in the mail.

4-7 business days passed, and still no AC adapter. I called them again, and once again, someone assured me that it was shipped out to me, but he had to transfer me to a senior technician again .. when I talked to the senior technician, he said that the item was back ordered again! So, I was lied to once again!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How important is customer service?

I talk to people on the phone a lot at the job that I'm at- and no matter what the situation, I try to be really nice to people, and never lie. Simply because, they spend money on our products, and we appreciate their business!

The company I work at is a small company, and although it is not a start-up, it has a start-up like environment. Although I want the company to grow and be super successful, I can't imagine it retaining it's culture- playing basketball at 4pm everyday, going to a company lunch every month, and having a company meeting around the table in the owners office, or the kitchen table.

I tend to go off on tangents when I write, so having just glanced over the title of this post, I’ll revert back to customer service. I know we all have our horrible phone and customer/tech support stories, but I have to share mine - this has to be the most horrible experience I've had - period! I recently had to order an AC adapter from HP for my laptop. Seemed like a simple enough product and I thought I would just call in, and ask them to send me a new AC adapter.

After being on hold for at least 30 minutes, I finally got a hold of someone- and I told him I needed a new AC adapter as the one I had was fraying and the insulation wore off and the laptop was not getting any "juice". Apparently, for just that, I had to be transferred to a senior technician, to see if he could miraculously remedy the problem on the phone.

I explained the problem to, once again, someone in India with an "American" name who spoke decent english, but had zero people skills, and could not understand the problem at hand. Now, I am Indian myself, and if I could not make sense to this person, how is the rest of world getting through to him, and all the other "Jack's" that companies are employing. Anyways, they put in my request for an AC adapter, and was told that I would receive it in 2-5 business days.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Digital Signage on Highways

I was on highway 101 going south towards San Jose, which is my daily commute going back home from work in Menlo Park. I was approaching the East Palo Alto exit, better known as the IKEA exit, and I saw a digital signage billboard that made me crack up. The message read "This page cannot be displayed", the exact kind that shows up in a browser. Ok, so it's really not that funny, but I was laughing thinking of how much money was involved in that- most billboards /digital signage costs are based on the number of eyeballs it catches. So, at 5:15 pm, there were a lot of people driving by that, and I'm sure it wasn't as amusing for them, but all that money spent for nothing was kinda funny.

I do that drive everyday, to work and back, and I've never noticed the ads on them, I know there are ads- but have never remembered a single one- except for when the "page could not be displayed". That's a little ironic.