Monday, September 28, 2009

Genius Bar Rocks

I had an appointment to go to the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store today and have them check out my Nano. I'm glad I went as the "genius" who helped me actually gave me a new Nano, replacing my suspect one with a refurb for free.

Very cool for me, and great customer service.

This after AppleCare declined to do anything, and didn't even tell me anything. There's a disconnect in Apple customer service, possibly on purpose, and it's a little annoying. However the service at the Apple Store I got will ensure I am happy and willing to stick with Apple products. At least some of them. I'll also be heavily considering a Macbook for my next laptop.

This started when my Nano started acting up. It constantly rebooted when I attached it to my PC. So I did a few troubleshooting things online and decided it needed a repair. Actually I didn't do much since almost nothing would work. I'd hoped to reformat it, but that didn't work.

So I scheduled warranty service with Apple. I'd bought this in Jan. and since it was post 6 months, I had to pay a handling charge. $30, which isn't bad, I guess. I could have bought an Apple care support item, but that would have caused me to pay $40 more for 2 years coverage. Debatable if that's worth it. Best Buy wanted even more ($49).

So I paid it, a couple days later a FedEx box arrived. I packed it up, sent it off, and about 3 or 4 days later I got a box back. I opened it, found my iPod with a pre-printed form that gave various scenarios. Actually it gave 3, all of which were bad news. One was liquid damage, so sorry, one was something else, and one was "damage caused by excessive force." Mine was the last one, with a nice little X in the checkbox.

That's it. No other information about what was wrong with my Nano. For all I know they opened the box, put the paper in there and shipped it back. I looked over my Nano, checking for issues. I find no evidence of damage. A few people suggested online I check the connectors, but they look fine. They charge the device, but it won't sync. It plays music, even logs Nike+ stuff. The only thing it doesn't do is sync. Sounds like software to me.

The options on the paper were almost non-existent. A few people suggested contacting the Apple Store, so I did. They said I'd likely have to buy a refurb, but that only the Genius Bar could look at it.

And I'd need an appointment.

OK, no biggie, I go to make one online, and they don't have any for 2 days. I make one, and show up today. Every person in the Apple Store has an iPhone, they can check me in, and they Q me up for the next slot. There are like 8 or 10 Genius' people, at 12:30pm on a Wed, helping people. My appt was 12:40 and 12:42 they called me up.

They guy asked me what happened, looked at the paperwork, and then plugged in my Nano. He agreed it was likely software, but said since he couldn't format it, and it sounded like that was the issue, he'd give me a new one.

It took about 20 minutes, mainly him typing and filling out paperwork. They didn't have another green one, but I said no issue, and got a refurb, 8GB blue one to replace my 8GB green one.

Great customer service, the people were nice, and the constant videos on the wall, all showing hints on how to use your iPhone, iMac, Macbook, or iPhone were cool. I learned a few things while I was waiting and want to try them out. I actually did try one thing out.

I also got a hint for my books on CD ripped to iTunes, so I need to try that.

(cross posted at my dkranch blog)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Protecting Your Customer

It's good to have lots of information about a customer. I know that lots of businesses are looking at business intelligence (BI) solutions to help them better understand their customers, determine who to market to, how to market, and maybe sell more to each customer.

However finding out that information isn't a science with many companies. Instead they tend to use the same information for potential customers that they do with their real customers. There's a business that I like, it's a national chain, and so I went to their web site recently to see if they were offering coupons. They had a signup for email coupons, so I clicked it. The form asked for:

  • name
  • address
  • email address
  • phone  (day and night)
  • cell phone

Very little of which is needed. What does all this information help you with? Maybe it allows you to mail things, but I've just asked for email coupons. I don't necessarily want printed coupons, but they could ask me.

Instead I'm annoyed by the large form, which could have been limited to email address and maybe zip code if you want to target a little more. Address isn't needed, and cell phone certainly isn't needed.

It's more information to secure, more for the customer to enter, and who knows how many people get annoyed and bail on the form.

Before you put something up, put yourself in your customers' shoes and see what's reasonable. I'm sure this is code being reused, but it's imposing a burden on the customer that can be detrimental to the relationship.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nice Quote

Business conventions are important because they demonstrate how many people a company can operate without.

Since I got to so many, perhaps I'm not that valuable?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Trolling the Internet

I had to run to Tires Plus recently to get a tire looked at. The sensor was showing it as low, and it seemed that I needed to fill it weekly. They looked at it, and when they were done, the manager pointed out a survey at the bottom of the form. It would only take a few minutes, and it would give me $10 off.

So I went home, and was disappointed the next day when the sensor came on. It took me a week to get back there, but the day I wanted to go back, I remember the survey, took it online in 5 minutes, and got a code to put on my form. I brought it back, they apologized and said they'd look at the tire again while doing my oil change.

They finished in an hour, and the next day my sensor came on. I think something is wrong, but I'm willing to overlook it a little.


The people there are very polite. They also thanked me for my blog. Apparently someone at Tires Plus scans the Internet, or apparently has a Google Alert set up, and noticed my blog. Not only did they let the store know, but the manager remembered it and thanked me personally.

Very nice service.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Great Business Model

Tia and I were moving dirt around the ranch this weekend. It was a chore that needed to be done, and we had some time to do it. Nothing was scheduled, no kid or family commitments, on a Sunday afternoon.

While we were working, a strange car drove up, and a lady got out with a package in her hand. Tia and I looked at each other, and since I was in the tractor, she walked over there to see what was going on. I finished dumping some dirt, and as I was walking back to the house, Tia came up to talk to me.

She showed me this:


The lady apparently takes photos of houses from the air, and then brings them around to sell. I'm not sure if she or her husband does this, but they offer the print for $119 or so, and then $30 for the frame.

Not a big money maker, but it can fund a hobby or some costs, and it's not a bad model. The power of showing a finished product to a client makes a big impression. While $120 isn't cheap, it's a nice photo, and is unique. I wouldn't, however, contract with them if they came by and said they'd go take a picture and bring it back.

I don't think that you'd ever earn a living with some hobby like this, but you likely could cover costs, perhaps even the fuel from flying your airplane around. If you had a similar hobby, woodworking, crafts, something where you can produce a customized product easily, making a sale can work well. Photography is easy: I see people taking pictures at theme parks, ski resorts, etc. and then selling prints later. It must bring in enough money to keep offering it year after year.

This is a nice example of contact hitting, making small, regular sales that people.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't Make Me Work, VIA Rail

I got an email the other day from Canada's VIA Rail, advertising "Discover Canada by Train" and the chance to save up to 70%. When my son was younger he loved trains, and one of the videos he had was of a train trip on VIA rail across Canada. It looked amazing, and they hooked me. I clicked on the link to see how much this might cost. I'm not necessarily looking for a trip now, but I might in the future.

I don't know how I got on their list, being a US Citizen, but they piqued my interest. A good thing.

Note: this applies to how the software APPEARS for VIA Rail. It's something you ought to consider when you're marketing promotions to your customers.

I got to this page, which looked nice, but it was WHAT WAS IN THE EMAIL. Don't waste my time. At this point I feel as though you've shown me the same commercial twice. Not what I want to see.


As a comparison, here' s the email:


Both of them essentially are trying to hook me, but neither one shows me

  • the cost
  • where I can go
  • when I can go

That's a big mistake, and it starts to immediately turn me off. However I continued on to look at the next page, where they presented me with a map:


and below that a series of routes on which there were specials.


Again, I don't have a price, so I'm not sure I'm interested. But this is a promotion, and maybe they want me more interested. OK, I get that, so I click a few of the map locations and that limits the list of specials. I pick one of the interesting ones, Vancouver to Toronto, just to see. I figure I'll get a high price.

I find one I like


and click "Book Now, " which seems like a nice, highly visible link. There are booking instructions, but how many people click the instructions first? I'm hooked, I want to buy. I get...


OK, now what? My route is populated, but the dates aren't, and if you look at my choice, it has a date listed for the special. It also has a discount code, neither of which I have at this point. If I searched through and found a fare here, it wouldn't necessarily be the special they're shown me.

What's more, on the special, it doesn't list the time it takes for this journey, so I have no idea of what the return date should be.

It's a slow site, the search takes minutes, and were it not for the chance to write this blog post, I would have just bailed and not bothered to continue. But I'm curious at this point, morbidly curious, how bad things can get. I pick dates I want in September, the wrong ones deliberately, and continue.

When it does come back, which is literally 4 or 5 minutes later, I'm amazed. It didn't time out. I see this


Not bad, they moved my dates for me, but then I don't see the special fares. I do see the discounted berth, which was mentioned in the ad. I'm assuming this is more than a day's journey and I need to sleep, so I pick it and continue.

Eventually (another 5 minutes) it comes back to say that my return date is invalid. For eff's sake, can you not give me more than that? Clue me in as to the possible dates? What timeframe should I consider.

Curiosity is failing, but I go back, enter in the date on the discount (Oct 9), pick 3 days later since I think I remember from my son's video that it was 3 days to get across Canada by rail.

Minutes later, I get a return. I'm not sure how long because I'm writing this and doing other work, checking the page once in awhile.


The first thing I saw was just the "Upper berth" item in the drop down. At first I was confused why this was listed when I'd suggested the "upper and lower berth - discounted" item. It's annoying to me to see other listings here, but more annoying to show them as "sold out" I don't know if the search was too slow, or if there is a crappy design, and I'm really not sure if it's worth even searching. If I were seriously considering a train trip, I'd be very, very turned off now. Were it not for this blog, I'd have moved on.

I finally get the results:


I can't say I'm that surprised at the cost, though I am surprised it says "discounted" berth. What's the discount? And why is passenger one paying $2,421 and passenger 2 paging $2,265 ($156 less)?

I continue on, thinking that at some point I'll put in the discount code and see the discount. I enter my name, fake address, fake phone, and get to the payment screen where they want my credit card number. No discount, no letting me know what the discount is.

At this point I think they have horrible software developers, and are hiding something. They feel worse than the airlines to me.

Out of curiosity, I check on Amtrak and look over some deals they have. Their site was inifinitely easier for me to find specials, and get a price along with the results when I searched on dates. Not a lot faster at times, but definitely easier to use. I didn't compare prices at all.

I buy airline tickets 5-6 times a year, and at no time have I had as much of a hassle in finding a price as I did on the VIA Rail site. Likely I'll not be considering a trip across Canada by rail anytime soon.