Customer service news to be aware of...

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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Customer service news to be aware of...

By David Sims

Other news you should be aware of:

Dell tries to find how exploding batteries can help improve customer relationships:

Dell Inc.'s recall of 4.1 million laptop batteries is a major headache and a logistical nightmare. But it may help the Texas computer giant in the long run.

Dell has been trying to improve its image lately after acknowledging that its customer service wasn't making the grade. Its stock has dropped about 40 percent in a year, mostly because its sales growth has slowed and competitors have strengthened.

The recall, issued because the batteries could catch fire on rare occasions, was a great opportunity for Dell to show it's acting voluntarily to protect its customers. If customers find the recall process easy and fast, their opinions of the computer maker may improve.

"In many ways, long-term, this will help in terms of the goodwill Dell is trying to build with its customers and potential customers," said Sam Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis.

What's more, Dell doesn't expect the recall to cost it very much -- not enough to make a material change in its financial results. Sony Corp., which made the faulty batteries, has said it's financially assisting Dell with the recall, though neither will say who's paying what.

AOL To Dig For Spammer's Gold from the Associated Press:

Dig this: AOL believes a renegade Internet spammer buried gold and platinum on his parents' property in Massachusetts and wants to bring in bulldozers to search for the treasure and satisfy a $12.8 million judgment it won in federal court.

The family says it knows nothing about any buried treasure and will fight AOL's gold-digging plans.

AOL said Tuesday it intends to search for bars of gold and platinum that the company believes are hidden near the home of Davis Wolfgang Hawke's parents on two acres in Medfield, Massachusetts…

At the height of Hawke's Internet activities, experts believe, Hawke and his partners earned more than $600,000 each month -- much of it cash -- by sending unwanted sales pitches over the Internet for loans, pornography, jewelry and prescription drugs.

"They were millionaires, if only briefly," said Brian McWilliams, a journalist who interviewed Hawke and wrote extensively about him in "Spam Kings," a 2004 book about e-mail spammers. McWilliams said Hawke lived a nomadic life as an adult, eschewed luxuries and described burying his valuables.

"Hawke lived like a pauper really," McWilliams said. "He drove a beater of a used car, an old cop car. He never owned a house or anything."

This just in from the Birmingham Post -- Customer service in Britain still stinks: 

Somehow my phone got lost in the taxi home… I rang up the air-time provider the next day to put a bar on the phone.

It took five failed calls over a 30-minute period to get the phone barred. I suffered the usual ridiculous messages like "your call is important to us and we pride ourselves on good customer service." Oh yes? Try staffing your call centre properly then and perhaps even training the staff and paying them well enough to stay and get some experience!

One very frustrating end to a call was a machine voice saying "we have had a technical difficulty -- ring back later." Of course the calls were being charged for at 0870 rates.

The point about this story is that the company cannot provide excellent customer service for the prices it charges me -- it feels like an unsustainable service.

There are many similar examples: credit provision in the UK is another. Just how long can the major banks go on generating the sort of returns they do when effective customer service has all but died? We have been trying to get one of our accounts hitched up to the bank's internet service for over three months. The only people we can get to speak (in a call center) simply do not have the power or training to do anything significant to resolve this service problem.

The Boston Globe: Running Of The Brides attracts advertising:

For the first time, Filene's Basement is allowing select companies to peddle their products at the Downtown Crossing "Running of the Brides" event, the twice-a-year spectacle when hundreds of brides line up for hours to hunt for deeply discounted gowns.

Filene's Basement said it had to turn away many other businesses, including hotels, Redken salons, and the consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, which wanted to give away Swiffer mops.

"The event has just gotten bigger and bigger. Everyone wants to be a part of it. Who would have thought I'd have to turn P&G down?" asked Basement spokeswoman Pat Boudrot. "But I just didn't feel right about giving women mops. And how were they going to carry them around with the gowns?"

The Basement's bridal sale, which began in 1947, will feature over 2,400 gowns, priced at $249, $499, and $699; the dresses normally cost $900 to $9,000 at bridal salons.

The event attracts newly engaged women and their entourages of shopping buddies from all over the country and from abroad. Boston hotels offer deals for the event; the Fairmont Copley Plaza's "Running of the Brides Package," starting at $559, includes accommodations, energy bars, bottled water, and a pair of running shoes.

The Dallas Morning News's Steve Davis finds the best customer value for sports in America:

It's Roller Derby, and it's not your father's Saturday night, tricked-up, made-for-late-night-TV version.

Three local teams form the centerpiece of Assassination City Roller Derby, where the skaters attack the flat track, maneuvering, bumping, falling and, yes, sometimes brawling their way to victory. (Just two teams at a time, of course.)

The bouts are roughly once a month, when a few hundred diverse fans, bonded by the kitschy subculture, fill the Pleasant Grove rink at 400 S. Buckner Blvd.

The skaters, some on the softer side, some with quite an edge, are as diverse as the fans. A few are quite athletic and nimble.

The bargain? Tickets are $10 in advance. Parking is free. And it's BYOB (No $6 beers!). Coolers are welcome.


Airlines allowing customers, oh, paperback novels back on board, UPI reports:

Air New Zealand, has relaxed some of the tough new restrictions on cabin baggage on flights to the United States.

Carry-on baggage was restricted to essential travel documents in a plastic bag. Air New Zealand now says normal cabin luggage and electronic devices will be allowed on its planes but passengers should expect to have them ready for inspection.

However aerosols, gels and liquids in carry-on baggage remain prohibited. They must be placed in checked-in baggage. Passengers also are not allowed to carry duty-free liquids in the cabin of aircraft on flights to Britain and the United States, to avoid possible confiscation on arrival, the airline said.

Get ready to drink the baby formula, parents.

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