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Rich Tehrani
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Katrina Red Cross Concert

September 2, 2005

When disasters strike or there is a need for large amounts of money to be donated to charitable causes it is usually the teleservices outsourcing companies that come to the rescue. These sorts of companies have been called many things over the past two decades from telemarketing companies to now the more fashionable business process outsourcing or BPO companies.

Tonight, Friday, September 2, 2005 NBC will be hosting a Red Cross telethon and part of the coalition of businesses that will be supporting this effort is TeleTech a company that has earned the distinction of being a Customer Interaction Solutions TOP 50 winner repeatedly over the past 20 years.

TeleTech has offered employees an opportunity to volunteer to take calls during the telethon and has committed to match their time in a cash donation to the American Red Cross. The Red Cross anticipates that more than half a million calls from donors making pledges during the telethon. As a result, several hundred TeleTech employees will be needed to join other call center volunteers nationally to handle the volume.



Dell Dissatisfaction

September 1, 2005

Jeff Jarvis’ BuzzMachine blog seems to have become the place where Dell bashing can be done by a group of people who feel they have been treated poorly by the computer leader. Here is a single post from the blog and a search on a variety of Dell posts.

I wonder if this sort of public dissatisfaction with Dell is one of the reasons that MPC Computers is having so much success with their ad campaign that touts the fact that MPC agents are based in the US.

In addition to this blog entry about MPC Computers I wrote an extensive article with an interview of a top MPC executive in the September issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. If you don’t get this publication, you can subscribe to this free magazine here.



AOL Settles With Spitzer

August 26, 2005

AOL Settles With Spitzer
I stumbled across this article today and am not sure if it is recent as I can’t seem to find a date on the page. Whether my eyesight is worse than I thought or it is just a mistake is unclear but the article is pretty interesting and it talks about how AOL got into trouble with Eliot Spitzer who recently announced a 1.25 million dollar settlement with the company.

At the heart of the problem is AOL’s policy of incentivizing their workers for retaining customers who call to cancel.

This system, in which reps could earn tens of thousands of dollars, “had the effect of employees not honoring cancellations, or otherwise making cancellation unduly difficult for consumers,” according to Spitzer’s office.

AOL has 60 days to eliminate its program of rewarding bonuses based on minimum “save rates.” The company did not specify how bonuses will be allotted without the save rate, and adds that the program is “a work in progress.”

In addition the company has identified the employees who did not cancel orders at customer requests and has put a better monitoring system in place to ensure they do a better job of respecting customer’s wishes.








Rates Technology and Alcatel

August 25, 2005

In my blog entry on Rates Technology Inc I mentioned Alcatel as in default. Specifically:

After it became impossible to get them covered, RTI recently filed suit for willful patent infringement against Centrepoint Technologies, Inc. for much less money than Mitel and Alcatel (they certainly are a smaller company).

Mitel Networks was sued for $945 Million; Alcatel was sued for $1.155 Billion; and their default is pending in USDC EDNY. Hello Direct, GN Netcom and GN had been sued by RTI for patent infringement, and they recently settled with RTI; the terms are being kept confidential

.

Since that time I have learned the court has vacated the default meaning it is now in the hands of California courts since Alcatel sued Rates Technology Inc. first in California.





Offshored to Death

August 21, 2005

Will offshoring be the death of American companies? Perhaps not but what if intelligent competitors playing on inherent patriotism of potential costumers were to use offshoring as a way to take customers away from those companies that are known to put their service and support departments in other countries such as India?

Dell is one of the more famous companies using offshoring and we have all heard stories that many Dell customers are unhappy with the level of service they are receiving from the Texas based PC giant.

This environment presents a perfect opportunity for companies like MPC Computers to start advertising campaigns targeted at people who are sick and tired of dealing with offshored help desks. A new ad from the company has the following headline:

100% U.S. Based Service and Support

If you go to the specific site touted in the ad you see the following text:

100% U.S.-based service and support

At MPC Computers, we keep our tech support close to home.





At a time when most other PC companies are outsourcing their service and support to other countries, we're keeping our staff right here in the U.S. Our support reps sit right next to our product engineers-not in a different hemisphere. So if you have a problem, your question is answered quickly and accurately with as much technical information as you need.

MPC Computers builds products for speed, reliability and performance, like our new TransPort® 2300 notebook, featuring Intel® Centrino™ mobile technology and Microsoft Windows XP Professional, and the latest security features.

At MPC, we're committed to delivering great service and support, and we're committed to designing great products.













New Call Center Blog

August 19, 2005

Steve Brubaker is one of the nicest people you will meet in the call center business and he knows his stuff, really well. This is why I was so excited to read his new blog where he talks about how important call centers are to the US economy and how important it is to provide good customer service.

With all the companies offshoring and thinking they have o have agents in third-world countries, he asks:

Why aren't companies "wowing" customers today in the USA?  What is the real cost of bringing on new customers only to have them flee to the competition because of poor customer service experiences?

Why do customers have to wait on hold for lengthy periods of time to reach call centers?  Could it be because the bean counters are determining the number of agents needed and "acceptable" hold times based on historical data showing when people tend to hang-up in queue?
 
Why are Agents being hired who do not speak understandable English?  Could it be because the "cost" of agents in third world countries is a fraction of wages here in the USA?

It is no secret that more customer service agents are being off shored by the day and invariably the quality of customer service keeps diminishing. Customers will ultimately tell corporate America that what they are doing is good or bad. Losing customers however is a painful way to find out you have made a mistake.











Comcast Customer Service

August 18, 2005

This is one of those stories that is tough to even set up. I was pretty amazed when I heard about it. Apparently according to the AP, LaChania Govan said she got bounced around by her cable company when she called to complain. She made dozens of calls and was even transferred to a person who spoke Spanish - a language she doesn't understand.

But when she got her August bill from Comcast she had no trouble understanding she'd made somebody mad.

Wal-Mart and the Internet

August 15, 2005

I was meaning to write today about how Wal-Mart has changed the lives of people in Norwalk Connecticut. They came to our town with a few stores around five years ago and the by product has been the eventual killing off of other companies. For example the local hardware store closed down this past year (perhaps we can blame Home Depot here -- open for about five years) and also the local nursery which was unfortunately enough across the street from one of the Wal-Mart stores and Home Depot.

Today, I noticed the local photography shop was also on the way out and the owner told me the $4,700/month rent coupled with the trend towards e-mailing photos and Wal-Mart’s inexpensive photo processing made it impossible to compete.

This is not an opinion piece as I can’t say anything bad about Wal-Mart or online photo companies like ofoto (yes Kodak renamed it but I like this name better). I just think it is worth reiterating that you need to keep an eye on your business as models change.

As I got back to the office I went to the room where SBC is installing our T3 fiber connection and marveled at how we are keeping up with the technology as the world goes online.





Siebel Doing Much Better

August 4, 2005

Here is an e-mail I received from Siebel’s Bruce Cleveland recently. Look for an interview with him in the August 2005 issues of Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine (subscribe to Customer Interaction Solutions) in my High Priority column. As you will read in the next few weeks in the magazine, I really think Bruce Cleveland is one of the best things that ever happened to Seibel Systems. He has the energy and vision they need at Seibel and is willing to talk to the press in an honest and straightforward fashion that is quite refreshing.

SugarCRM Vs. vTiger

July 23, 2005

I was reading David Sims First Coffee column where he discusses SugarCRM and vTiger an offshoot of SugarCRM with some modifications and additional support. The article reminded me of a recent discussion last week I had with Mark Spencer of Digium and Asterisk at VoIP Sizzles in Texas.



Spencer was telling me that he thinks that there is a plug-in or one is in the works that will link SugarCRM with Asterisk. To paraphrase Mark, "That is when this stuff gets really interesting." Mark went on to say that the solutions n the contact center market are so expensive, a reseller can make a good deal of money selling customer contact center solutions based on open-source.



This opportunity is not lost on the open-source CRM vendors and according to Sims, there is some controversy between SugarCRM and vTiger as the latter claims the former sees them as a competitive threat and even threatened legal action. I am not a lawyer but it does seem based on the limited knowledge I have of this case that what vTiger is doing is legal based on an adapted version of the Mozilla public license.



In the open source PBX space there are two strong choices, Asterisk and Pingtel.

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