Posts tagged “relationship”

We really care about you *STEVE * PORTIGAL *

farmers.jpg
In yesterday’s mail comes this silly glossy ad ahem magazine from Farmer’s (our insurance company) entitled you belong, with lots of great stories about how quickly they pay up after storm damage and so on.

And to really deliver the feeling that I do indeed belong, comes this highly personalized note from our local agent.
farmers2.jpg

I like the transition from [soft TV voice on] “Please don’t hesitate to contact me. That’s why I’m here.” [soft TV voice off] to the ridiculous dot-matrix font that throws in consumer-irrelevant database numbers like

05968090
directly in my face. Yep, I sure feel like I belong. A real personal connection.

This is a technical failure, a design failure, but also failure of “getting it” – some folks at Farmer’s are missing the point in a serious way.

Stones Club Show

The Rolling Stones played their usual end-of-rehearsal club show in Toronto. Local station Q107 suggested they were going to be simulcasting the show. Indeed, as the show started, they played a concert and played it very close to the edge of the truth. They didn’t identify the show they were actually playing on the radio as coming from 2002, they simply referred regularly to the show going on right now and their excitement about it. I don’t have any exact quotes but the DJ patter was designed to mislead, not clarify.

I grew up with Q107; I was horrified to see them playing a game like that with listeners. There were indeed fans around the world who stayed up late or got up early to catch this (supposed) simulcast, and were fooled. I wouldn’t have known what it was except that someone familiar with concert recordings posted to my Rolling Stones online community the actual source of the show being played. No doubt that others simply took the station at face value.

I wrote the station and encouraged others on the list to do so.

Come on guys – how’s about respecting your listeners instead of playing stupid games with them? If you aren’t playing tonight’s stealth Stones show, then tell us what show you ARE playing, don’t play coy games where you don’t actually literally directly honestly SAY that it’s tonight’s show but yeah (heh heh heh) you pretend that well, maybe we’ll reach our own conclusions.

That’s no way to treat people. Unless you are a telemarketer or a phone company. Q was never about the fine-print when I grew up listening to you. What the hell happened?

I have not heard back from the station, although others have. The first few I saw looked like this

Our sincere apologies if you are upset by the Q107 live programming with the Rolling Stones last night. We never claimed to be broadcasting the Phoenix show. We did say we were going to air live Rolling Stones. Our intent was not to deceive, but merely give the listeners who could not attend last nights show at the Phoenix, a
healthy dose of live Stones.

Thank you for your email, we appreciate comments from our great listeners.

The intent was absolutely to deceive. By being deliberately vague, they allowed people to come to their own (obvious, but incorrect) conclusions. Isn’t that deception?

Now we get this:

Thank you for your email note. We have received an inordinate amount of negative email concerning the Rolling Stones live broadcast which we aired last night on Q. You may have received a note from Q107’s Assistant Program Director, Michelle Dyer, or Andrew from Club Q…but I got thinking…”why should Michelle or Andrew take the hit on this?” While we did not come right out and say we were doing a simulcast from the Phoenix, we were perhaps vague in the way we positioned the program. I take full accountability for how this show was presented on air. Here’s what I’ve learned. Q listeners are extremely passionate about their music, and at no time should I take this for granted. It’s not like we aired bootleg Wham concert. Music matters here.

Having said this, here’s how I plan to take responsibility. I have asked John Derringer if I could be named tomorrow’s Tool of The Day. He has kindly said yes. So, tomorrow tune in at 8:20 to hear me take my lumps on air and apologize to our audience.

Regards,

Blair Bartrem
Program Director
Q107

This is the most awesome response I’ve ever seen! And hey, they turned into a bit of a PR opportunity as well!

I’m so burned out on corporate misleading and evasion and being ignored and all that – and here we’ve got a company absolutely stepping up.

It’d be great if they got around to writing me back too, but I’ll take this as a victory for the consumer!

All right Q107!

FreshMeat #13: The Name of the Game is the Name

========================================================
FreshMeat #13 from Steve Portigal

               (__)                     
               (oo) Fresh                  
                \\/  Meat

Gimme gimme gimme! Gimme FreshMeat, Gimme FreshMeat!
=========================================================

Over the last couple of years, the Safeway grocery chain
has attempted to improve their quality of service by
addressing customers by name. You see, if you use their
loyalty card, or if you pay by debit or credit card,
they retrieve the text of your name and print it on
your cash register receipt. Checkers are required to
thank you by name, which they read off the receipt,
before they hand it to you. This doesn’t work so well,
because it takes more than a few seconds for some
checkers to read some names, and that delay at the
conclusion of your service is intolerable. Add to that,
an increased likelihood of having one’s name mispronounced,
and you’ve got a customer service failure. I mean, if I
had a dime for every time they’ve called me “Mr. Portugal,”
well, I wouldn’t have to shop at Safeway!

(This customer service problem was parodied by Saturday
Night Live back in 1992. You can read a transcript of that
sketch here.)

Recognizing the long-frustrating problem of
mispronunciation of names during commencement ceremonies,
schools like Baylor and Worcester Polytechnic Institute use
the web to collect phonetic spelling info from their grads.

The need is clear, and the technology is ready. Products
like Espeech and Orator II can begin to solve this problem.
The technology that translates text to speech actually
builds a sequence of phonemes (the basic speech sounds
used in a language) that could be spoken (by a speech
synthesizer) or output as phonetics. Just add another
field to all those databases of customer names. Let the
software take the first stab at guessing how to pronounce
the name. Checkout clerks and telemarketers would be
shown a pronunciation key at the appropriate time. If
the customer offers a correction, update the field.

If the companies that consumers do business with (airlines,
grocery stores, phone companies, banks, etc.) are going to
be addressing them by name, is it really so crazy to spend
some money getting those names right? Safeway obviously has
an inkling that they could deliver better service and forge
the right relationship through judicious use of their
customers’ names, maybe they need to step up their efforts
just a notch or two, and get it right.

If you are interested in ideas for products and services,
check out http://www.idea-a-day.com/ (updated daily, as
the name implies, or available as a daily email), or
http://www.halfbakery.com/ (looks cool, but kind of
impenetrable UI.)

Update:
Received February, 2002 from Steven A. Burd, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Office of Safeway, in response to a faxed copy of this issue of FreshMeat.

Dear Mr. Portigal:
Thank you for suggesting that we use some of the new software that translates text into speech, in conjunction with our ongoing customer service initiatives. We appreciate your interest as a good customer whose name has been mispronounced occasionally by our clerks.
It’s an interesting idea, one we have considered before – but using voice recognition technology, the opposite of what you propose. To be honest, we haven’t pursued this since our initial research, because the applications available at the time were expensive, slow and ineffectual. While we have similar concerns about the technology you mentioned, our industrial engineers may wish to visit the two web sites cited in your newsletter.
Meanwhile, we’ll review our stores in your area to be sure any employees who are having difficulty thanking customers by name receive remedial training. If our clerks are unsure of how a name is pronounced, they are to ask the customers. Admittedly, this is a low-tech solution, but it seems to work well.
Thanks again, Mr. Portigal. We value your constructive criticism, and the friendly spirit in which it is offered.

Update:
As we automate our lives, swallowed in a bottomless maw of voice-mail, it’s hard not to heed that little voice telling us to listen

Susan Sward
Sunday, October 18, 1998

Mother used to say that by the time people die, the world around them has often changed so much that death does not seem so terrible. I thought about her comment off and on when I was growing up — partly because I wished that the world where I had played in the 1950s would remain unchanged forever.

Soon enough, I realized that wouldn’t happen. There were the darkened, tree-lined streets of Santa Monica, for example, where my sisters and I ran barefoot chasing after the neighborhood boys. The magic of that mysterious realm was lost forever when the city installed street lights and switched them on one evening. Lately, though, my mother’s observation has been haunting me — because I fear the inexorable march of the machine.

News item: Bank says it will introduce cash-dispensing machines with new software to recognize customers’ faces.

News item: Three industry giants are pioneers in using speech-recognition technology for services such as quoting stock prices over the phone, switching a caller to the right department and reporting the whereabouts of a lost package.

News item: Later this year, many callers wanting flight information from an airline will not speak to a person but to a computer that acts like one.

News item: The Mill Valley Public Library installs an electronic checkout system removing the need to deal with a library assistant when borrowing many of the facility’s books.

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