A Little Unexpected LUVin’

Remember the unexpected detour to Omaha a couple of weeks back?  Just got a well-handled followup letter in the postal mail from Southwest.

Update:  Whoa.  Looking again at the letter, I just noticed that the department that Melissa works in at SWA is the Proactive Customer Service Communications department.  That’s very cool.

(click the image to make it larger)

SWA Voucher

Bend vs. Break

  Bend, don’t break. 
  Originally uploaded by HKCB.

When does a customer service process stop serving the customer, and begin to become detrimental to the relationship?  David Cushman tells us:

"My payment for my credit card bill had, apparently arrived a day late. I pay the bill with online banking from an account with another bank. I had set up the instruction to give it the requisite four days to travel through the banking system (and will someone, somewhere please explain to me why that’s still necessary when all that’s being transferred is a notional value carried in digital form?).

A Bank Holiday screwed up the calculation. The punishment for my crime was to be charged a £12 ‘late fee’.

I called to object, pointing out I’ve been a model customer for them for many long years and had made every effort to pay on time on this occasion.

No joy. The poor employee – reading out the script – is clearly told they must stick to the line no matter what the logic of the argument they are met with, no matter what the quality of the customer.

It’s their customer policy not to refund late fees.

Let me tell you. it’s not a customer policy at all. I asked how much my late payment had actually cost. Couldn’t answer. I guessed in the region of a couple of quid. And for this, you are willing to end your relationship with a model customer? How much more is it going to cost you to recruit the next one? Staggering!"

Staggering, indeed.  Remember the levels of interaction that occur as a customer relationship progresses:

Transaction => Conversation => Relationship => Community

If a vendor chooses to only concentrate (and remain!) at the Transaction level, that vendor is guaranteed to eventually become a commodity, lose its competitive differentiation and eventually be supplanted.  A customer service strategy that rigidly holds internal process over serving the customer’s needs is destined to fail.

Clue Unit #20: A Conversation with Derek Powazek – June 25, 2007

(iTunes) (MP3) (click here to subscribe)

Episode 20, about 30 minutes.

Today’s Topic:  A Conversation with Derek Powazek

  •     The Story of JPG Magazine
  •     Gaming the System for Good
  •     Extremism and Sites Like Digg
  •     Wikipedia and Big Ideas
  •     Threadless as Community Business
  •     Assignment Zero and Pro/Am Journalism
  •     Community Hangover?

Related Links:

Derek Powazek
for Community

Publishing Before the Web – Newspaper
JPG Magazine – The Story

Access and Control Lead to Relationships
Gaming Can a Positive Impact – Embrace the Game
– 10 Photos per day
– Use Theme
– Encourage Friends to Vote (Digg, etc.)
Editors Make Final Call
Extremism and The Problem with Digg
Kuro5hin – Built Without an
Tom Coates on Wikipedia
Wikipedia Required a Big Idea
Threadless and Creative
vs. Financial Rewards
Threadless as Example for Doing Community Business
Lulu for Printing
Community Business Model
for Pro/Am Journalism Wiki

"Community" – Using the Web For What It’s Good At

Supernova 2007

Am in the UK this week, and therefore bummed I’m not going to be at the VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) Open Space workshop on Tuesday leading up to the launch of Supernova.

A couple of links of note:

Main Supernova site is here.


Sean O’Driscoll:

"I can drop you as a service provider.”

“Yes, you could do

This was maybe the most depressing part of the call.  She
really didn’t care.  And it was clearly not because she’s a bad
person but because she has given up on her own employer.  I actually
felt sorry for her.  I couldn’t yell at her.  I said goodbye.

A Conversation With Doug Engelbart

Doug Englebart

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Doug Engelbart at his home, at the invitation of Mei Lin Fung.

We chatted for about an hour, covering everything from the changes he’s seen over his decades as a visionary and pioneer, to his current thoughts on Collective IQ.

We dove right in, and just before the tape started rolling he had just showed me a one-handed, chording keyboard that he’d invented in the 1960’s that he still uses today.  The first story is classic…using the same concepts as the chording keyboard, it’s a tale of how he taught his daughters to communicate silently with each other using base2, which came in handy when they were taking tests in school or when their mom thought they were asleep.  🙂

Have a listen.

Clue Unit #19: The Ad Model in Communities as Business – June 10, 2007

(iTunes) (MP3) (click here to subscribe)

Episode 19, about 30 minutes.

Today’s Topic:  The Ad Model in Communities as

  • Ads on Blogs
  • The 43 Things Model
  • Options in Serving Ads
  • How Ads Really Work
  • Impressions vs. Clicks
  • Exclusive Sponsorship
  • Self-Correcting Nature of Advertising
  • Markus Frind and Plenty of Fish
  • Bad Models
  • Online Community Unconference
  • Fun time bong hit sound effects…

Related Links:
Jake’s blog – no
Chris’s blog – no
43 Things #1 Result for
" on Google
Indie Click

Auction Ads
Blogher Ads

Matt Haughey’s Post on
Ads Really Work

Markus Frind
Plenty of Fish
Josh Ledgard –
on Ads in Community

Community Unconference

Howard Rheingold
John Coate
Cliff Figallo
Gail Ann

of the Amateur
– Andrew Keen


  Originally uploaded by christophercarfi.

It was that unmistakable, acrid smell of an electrical system gone bad.  Not strong, not overpowering, mind you, but definitely indicative that Something Wasn’t Right.

The problem was, we were at about 35,000 feet about an hour outside of Chicago, heading west on what was supposed to be a non-stop flight to Oakland.

About the same time the smell became noticeable, the plane started descending and the pilot came on the intercom.  Although there weren’t any anomalies showing up on the cockpit lights, he said, there was definitely something amiss and we needed to check it out.  (Interestingly, he was careful to never use the word "fire" in his descriptions.) Luckily we were just coming up on Omaha, Nebraska, which is both the most sizable airport in the region and happened to also be a city that is serviced by Southwest.  They cleared us for immediate landing and we were greeted by the entire fire brigade lining the runway.

Our landing roll seemed longer than usual; we didn’t do the customary slam-on-the-brakes and engage the thrust reversers.  Instead we used the length of the runway, and actually stopped on the runway itself so that the fire crew could visually inspect the outside of the aircraft.  Noting nothing immediately out of place, they cleared us to a gate, with trucks trailing us on both sides.

Pulling into the gate, they were adamant that we get our bags and deplane as quickly as possible.  Two firefighters, shielded in visors and full silver inferno gear, got on the plane as soon as the door opened.  They hustled us off and the Southwest reps told us "they’d know more soon."

Not knowing the situation, I high-tailed it to the next gate and got booked on a later set of flights, just in case our plane ended up being pulled out of service.

Indications were good, however, throughout the whole escapade.  Through the window of the gate, we could see that the pilot stayed in the cockpit.  Eventually, the firefighters gave a "thumbs up," and rolled their truck away.  It looked like ice was being loaded on the plane.

After about two hours, the "all clear" was given.  Apparently, an electrical circuit breaker or relay had failed in the galley, which had now been replaced.  The plane was given a full once-over, topped off on fuel and we were allowed to reboard. We then continued on our way on what we think was the only Omaha-Oakland route that Southwest has ever flown.

Major kudos to the SWA service folks through the whole affair.  In the air on the initial descent, they were extremely professional, and snapped brilliantly from the cheeky, joking Southwest mode to "ok, we’ve got stuff to do" mode while we were coming into Omaha on the diversion.  They did a good job keeping us updated during the time we were off the plane on the status, and as soon as any information came available, it was relayed to the passengers.  They made good decisions, and got us home safely.  A+ effort all around.

Terry Heaton And The Empty Box

Terry Heaton was sold an empty box by CompUSA for $269.  When he let them know about the issue, the first letter he received read as follows:

"Dear Mr. Heaton:

Thank you for contacting compUSA regarding your purchase at our
Lewisville store; we regret any difficulty you encountered or
misinformation you may have been given.

The Lewisville CompUSA was one of 126 stores that was liquidated and
closed on 5/7/07. The return policy for all merchandise, as printed on
your receipt and posted throughout the store, clearly stated ALL SALES

Keep in mind, new digital cameras are usually sold in a factory
sealed box; if the camera you purchased was a clearance item, you
should have inspected its content prior to purchase.

Although we apologize for any inconvenience this situation may have caused, we cannot honor your request for return or exchange.

Thank you,

Kevin Hain
Escalations Supervisor
CompUSA Executive Care"

"The web is changing the nature of authority. Businesses have black and
white rules, but the public isn’t black and white. This mentality is
fostered by a top-down, modernist culture that needs absolute adherence
to rules in order to function. But nobody consulted the people on this." – Terry Heaton

Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with Terry, who blogged it. His post was then picked up by the usual channels (Digg, etc.) and eventually must have been read by someone with a modicum of authority at CompUSA who finally recanted.  (Heaton now has a $300 gift certificate.)