Saturday, May 30, 2020

How to Lose a Customer in Only One Day

I have an Apple iPhone.  And for full disclosure, I am not an Apple aficionado.  The only other Apple products I own are two iPods.  I own an iPhone because I started work at a company where I was going to be customer facing, and was working on my presence, and picked the same phone as the president of the company.  And I will never own another Apple product ever again.

This isn't really about Apple products, but about customer service.  And how your service department can do irreparable damage to your company's image.  

First a bit about me.  I started my career as an electronics technician, installing and maintaining high end medical X-Ray equipment.  Over the years I have attended a number of classes on customer relations and from the beginning have taken them to heart.  Most of my colleagues thought this was new age Bulls##t, but I saw the immediate value at what was being taught.  

There are two steps to customer relations:
     1) Fix the customer
     2) Fix the problem
In that order.  

Picture this.  You customer's GenerateCashOTron 2000 has been down all morning.  (when in truth it is 10 am so an hour and a half) You walk in and flip a switch, and everything turns on.  And then you walk out.  You have fixed the problem but not the customer.  He is still seething over the fact that his money maker was out of action at all, and he is going to let someone know about it!  You have to engage the customer and fix them as well.

A great video was created by John Cleese on field service as part of his business videos collection.  But he wants $1,000/ copy for it so only poor copies exist on YouTube as an example.

So my iPhone was broken.  I cracked the screen.  This is in the days where we were quarantined by the Covid-19 pandemic, so I couldn't just take it to the nearby Apple store for repair.  But Apple was up to the task.  One day later, I had a shipping box in my hand and a small manual with step by step instructions.  Well done so far!

One side issue is the size of this manual, the pages are 4 inches square.  One step to a page, and in 3 languages.  See below.
Pretty close to actual size.

There is a lot of white space here, so there is no reason that the print is 4 point font.  Making this more annoying to read is the choice of light grey lettering on a white glossy background.  Excellent production values, but a total failure in readability.

But read it I did, each step was understood completely as written.  But I could not execute step five, see above. I tried several times with tools at my disposal, but I could not get the SIM card drawer out.  So rather than risk further damaging the phone, I let it ride and decided to ship the card with the phone.  I am not a duffer here, I have repaired high end electronic equipment for decades.  I have tools that a Swiss watchmaker would be proud of, but none that could liberate that drawer.  

A week later the phone was returned, the screen shiny and new.  But on bootup, the phone went into first time startup mode and a message that the SIM card is missing.

Unknown to me then, Apple has a policy against shipping SIM cards with their products.  So someone actively removed my SIM card and disposed of it at the repair facility.  

I contacted Apple and told the fist tier responder that while my phone's original problem was fixed, it still does not work.

A bit of back and forth and she declared it was my fault because I didn't follow the instructions, see step 5, above.  

Nowhere in step five does it explain that if I do not follow this step that Apple will proactively render my phone totally unusable for the foreseeable future.

In the customer relations world, this is known as "Blaming the Customer".  Don't do this.  Ever.

I went up to the next level.  She asked me if I used the tool sent with the box to open the SIM card drawer.  There was no tool provided, and the example, refer to the image above, shows a paper clip to use for the task.  Which I also tried, but failed with.  And she also declared this was my fault that the Apple technician removed and disposed of my SIM card and there was nothing she could do about it.

So far Apple has not done either of the following:
     1) Fix the customer
     2) Fix the problem
In that order.  

And then Apple made the problem worse by blaming the customer.  Several times, by not following explicit instructions, and by not using tools that were not provided.

Even though it took a conscious effort by Apple to cause this problem in the first place.

Then I was pushed to the actual customer relations department.  He was compassionate, and he agreed this problem shouldn't had happened.  He called the repair department to see if the SIM card could be located.  He agreed it was not my fault. He agreed to go to the billing department to see if the cost of a replacement card could be removed from the bill.  I don't think that will happen but at least I was heard and acknowledged that this problem should not have occurred.

He went a long way to fixing the customer.  But not totally.  And he still did not fix the problem.  That was placed solidly back on the customer.  But he was good about it. 

In the end, Apple took a phone with a cracked screen, but still worked, and returned a phone with a repaired screen, BUT DID NOT WORK.  And cost shifted the repair to the customer, who paid to have it fixed in the first place.

I will never buy another Apple product ever again.

Update.  It is a week later, and the phone is still not working.  It is not strictly Apples fault, but the SIM card is being shipped by slow boat from Idaho.   But if they had not caused the problem, I would be a happier customer. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

We Are Now All Sorcerers

In the last ten years, we have undergone a profound change as a people.  We became Sorcerers.  By that, I mean we have come to have a level of control and abilities, indistinguishable from magic a hundred years ago.  It began with the invention of the smartphone (1992), and accelerated by the introduction of the iPhone (2007) and the melding this invention to the internet (1983).  Current smartphone penetration is approaching 80% in first world nations.

The smartphone has become our Sorcerer’s magic wand.  Through it we not only communicate, but have information retrieval abilities exceeding all the libraries of the world anywhere in time.  With web enabled products, we also have the controls to perform magic.  However, these abilities rest on a vast infrastructure, that can only be described the largest, most complex machine, ever built.

This is really not a new event.  Since the industrial revolution, the average person has at his beck and call powers and abilities that kings would have envied.   Hot water on demand (1889)?  Plentiful food of all types year round (early 1800's)?  Chariots with the power of 100 horses (1910)?  To travel thousands of miles a day (1903)?  To communicate anywhere around the world instantly?  We have grown accustomed to these marvels.
Galaxy Smartphone.  Image stolen without permission.

Why the comparison of this technological marvel to the fantasy world of magic?  There are so many apt analogies.  What is fiber optics but ley lines, embedded in the earth?  What are nodes but intersections of ley lines?  Your baud rate diminishes the further away you are from nearby towers, is akin to drawing mana from magical sources.  Cameras are our wizard eyes.  Web sites our weather predictors.  Audible indicators that someone is trying to reach us are invisible servants.  Create light spells on demand! This doesn’t begin to count sensors you can add on to tell you anything you may want to know.  Geiger counters, breathalyzers, printers, weather gauges, 3 D imagery glasses with heads up displays of things around you. 

Most of us are now Sorcerers, we know how to use the magic, but have no clue as to how they work.  Some of us are Wizards, and understand the underpinnings and create new spells (Apps).  But the truth is, we are all still very low level at this time, and still learning, adapting and creating in this new world we find ourselves in.

I am more of a Wizard than a Sorcerer.  But my wizardry is more involved with the deep underpinnings of how the infrastructure works.  As such, I am not a very good Sorcerer.  But day to day life with my own magic wand for the past few years has improved my abilities in that regard.  When I use an app, I don’t just see the result, but I internally diagram how the whole system works, from the display on the screen, the interconnections to the towers, the internet, servers, data storage, and back.  Along the way I see redirects and calls for advertising, cookie reading, and encryptions.

Learning the use of the apps has been a steep learning curve.  Every app is crafted by a unique individual.  Each person does things they way they think best.  And there are millions of them.  Each works a little differently but each one also increases your magical abilities. 

I experienced a culture clash in this regard about 7 years back, when my nephew was thinking about completing his education overseas.  Which I thought was a good idea until he said he was thinking about Argentina.  His rational was simple.  He has friends from Argentina.  I thought this was a bad idea because Argentina was in an economic meltdown.  “What will you do if there is a revolt or if Argentina steals all your money in the bank”?  They already had done this.

He held up his phone, “My money is in a New York Bank.”

I thought about that, and the systems involved.  “That’s ok, until they cut off the internet from the rest of the world.  You won’t have access to your money.  Then you better know where US Embassy is.”

I could tell my words had no meaning to him.  For his entire life, the internet is omnipresent at all times.  It took some time to explain it to him, using examples from Syria and China.  I don’t know if my words took root, but eventually he finished his schooling elsewhere.

It was then I came up with the metaphor, “Wizards and Sorcerers”.  I was a Wizard, he was a Sorcerer.  I knew intimately how the technology worked, but not how to actually use it.  He was reliant upon the magic, and was skilled at its use, but had no clue how it worked.

I have revisited this metaphor recently.  I have had a true smartphone for 3 years now.  How much I have grown dependent upon my magic wand is amazing.  This came home last week as I had to ship it for repairs.  With the current Coronavirus Pandemic, there was nowhere within 50 miles to get it fixed, so I’ll be a week or more without it.

The things I could not do any more until it returns.  Many of these things can be performed by other means, but not with the same convenience as with the magic wand.
1)      After my Car GPS Failed, this task was replaced with the smartphone.
2)      My home thermostat has to be adjusted by hand.
3)      Many of my streaming services are on the phone, then casted to the TV via a dongle.
4)      I have to talk to my home assistant to turn on and off the main lights in the house.
5)      When watching TV, I cannot look up things that strike my interest.
6)      My phone immediately lets me know there is an email coming in.  My computer is set to send/receive every 15 minutes.
7)     I cannot receive incoming calls, nor access my voice mail. You would think this would be number 1 on the list.
8)     No texts.  Some of which currently would involve home improvement/repairs currently in progress.
9)      My ambient noise generator I use to sleep to.
10)   My information services, via podcasts.
11)   All my music.
12)   I use the camera for a number of functions.  Including measurements of distances.
13)   A ready flashlight.
14)   Ready information when on the road.
15)   This is pandemic related.  Picking up orders from take-away restaurants require texting them to let you know you are there so they can run your food to the car.
16)   Weather
17)   Stock prices
18)   Commodity prices
19)   Magnifier
20)   Games
21)   Peeking around corners or behind unmovable objects.
22)   I didn’t have my phone set up with some form of digital payment, but in these days of the pandemic, I see the value.  In the drive through lane, people just hold up their phone and it is read by a scanner.  No physical contact with cash or credit card.

Dilbert visited this issue a couple years ago:

In a final note.  There is an overused quote, more true now, then ever, “We are all connected to everyone and everything in the universe”.  And while we all have more power to affect our surroundings, we are also more aware of how great our surroundings are, and how small we are within them.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Disney World, 2020

Disney World, 2020
Written Feb, 2020

This blog post is assuming the reader has some familiarity with Disney World and is mainly about recent updates to the park. 

Disney has been heavily promoting their recently built Star Wars themed area, Galaxy's Edge.  You can't even get out of the Orlando airport without seeing at least one subtle advertisement for the park.
The tram from the concourses to the baggage claim.
Before you go, you will need two things, a smart phone, and the Disney World App.  The app looks like this:


You probably will want a spare battery to keep your phone charged.  Once you are used to this app, you will be using it a lot.

This app does a number of things for you.  
It allows you to select 3 rides for Fast Pass.  This can be done up to 60 days ahead of time.
It allows you to sign up for a boarding group for "Rise of the Resistance"  This must be done in the park on the day of your arrival.  More on this later.

It allows you to view the wait times for all attractions in all the parks.
Image result for my disney experience app hollywood studio
The view of Hollywood studios using the app.  With a touch of your fingers, you can zoom in and out.
It uses the GPS to position you on the map.
You can make reservations at the various restaurants.

In short, this app will save you a lot of running around, leaving you time to enjoy the ambiance of the park.

Arriving at the park can be done via bus, Uber, and the new Gondola system.

Gondola running from the Riviera resort to Hollywood Studios.
I arrived by bus at 6:50 am, and was greeted by the aroma of fried onions.  That was cruel, and I never did find out where they were coming from.
The red dawn lights up the Tower of Terror.
7:10, and the park was already filling up.
Star Tours has been around for a while.  But it has been upgraded with movie clips from the latest move and worth seeing.  And, because it is not physically in Galaxy's Edge, it was largely ignored by the masses.  I have read that there are a number of different ways it plays out, but I saw the same show.  Also, the Standby time stated 15 minutes, but I walked right on.

The entrance to Galaxy's Edge.
At first I thought the entrance a bit odd, but after I thought about it I think it is about controlling the transition from "Hollywood" to a "Galaxy, far far away"  You walk into a dark tunnel, turn the corner, and then...

You are in Star Wars.
Theming abounds.
Slightly newer model X-Wing.

and more droids.
Great landscaping.
The local market.
Monkey-Lizards on a stick.  These ride on your shoulder.
Kid sized transport
The Millennium Falcon.
The above is the back drop for the ride, "Smugglers Run"  The queue is well decorated, with characters walking about, including Chewbaca.  Once inside there is an engine repair shop with things going on, and a refreshment stand.

The Millennium Falcon has seen better days.

Remember Luke's first comment?  "What a hunk of junk!"
Chewbaca complaining to the repair crew.
Good lines on her though.
Hondo explains the story.
The latest animatronics are amazing.  You can tell they are not real, but only just.  Later you see the Mon Calimari, the Navi, and they are all amazing.

"Blah, Blah, Blah"
Then you are split up into groups of 6, and are taken on board the Millennium Falcon.  I was one of those who waited in line for 2 hours to see the original Star Wars, so stepping onboard the Falcon just sent chills down my spine.

And they you get to take her out for a test drive.
I have to say, this ride alone was worth the price of admission.  The feelings of being on board something that we have been seeing stories about for 40 years just cannot be put into words.

A speeder workshop.
First Order's fighter.
Troopers checking the ID's of everyone. 

Kind of a more personable TSA Agent.

For sale, $25,000, and in small print, allow 6-8 weeks to deliver, no refunds.  Amazon does not exist in the Star Wars universe.

But phone booths still do?
I love the Indiana Jones stunt show, I see it every time I am here.
I am not sure if there is a landing pad up there or was there a crash.
The theming of the park is excellent.  As it is a star port, occasionally you hear ships flying by with noticeable Doppler shifts.

It is time to explain the "Rise of the Resistance" boarding group system.  It is very similar to Fast Pass, but it is on it's own system.  And you have to be in the park, on the day, to get a boarding pass.  Once you sign in, you get a number, and they will sequence though the numbers and when your number is up, you will get a text that it is time to board.  You have 2 hours to respond.

To give you some numbers.  I talked with one person who was there at 4 am, and he was assigned boarding group #3.  But, there is a bit of randomness, as someone behind him was assigned boarding group #60.  From what I can intuit, on a normal day, Disney expects to get 88 groups through.  I signed in at 7:10, and was assigned group 102.  But the park was opening early, and closing late, so I could expect get on.  And at 3 pm, the text arrived.

At that point I just walked up and allowed on.  If you hadn't got your cardio in yet for the day, you will now.  The queue is about a half a mile long.  But other than that, it was a walk up to the ride.  

I hate to use the term, "Takes it to a new level", but in this case, the immersive experience really does take the ride going experience to a new level.  You are recruits for the Resistance, and after you are introduced to BB-8 and Rey, you are told the your base has been discovered and you have to evacuate.  Outside there is a transport, and you pile in.  The transport, has standing room only, and is driven by a Mon Calimari.  Another, unbelievable animatronic.  Excitement ensues, but in the end, it is a pointless effort, as your transport is caught by the First Order in a tractor beam.

BB-8 and Rey provide the intro.

Then the evacuation past a sleek black X-Wing.
And after you are captured, and leave the transport, this is what you see:
Image result for disney world app hollywood studios image
You are in a frikken Star Destroyer.

You are now prisoners of the First Order.  This is the part of the immersive experience.  About 90 Storm Troopers are standing guard, while the officers of the First Order split you up into small groups for interrogation.  I honestly didn't know where to go with this.  Make light humor while breaking the fourth wall?  Go along with experience?  I was stunned, and found my self in a staring contest with an officer.  

I lost.

We were split into groups.
The interrogation starts and then stops suddenly.
After that it gets even better!  The escape, the special effects, the near magically controlled self driving cars. I won't add anymore spoilers here.

As good as Smugglers run was, Rise of the Resistance blew it away.

More little goodies.
Borrowing a page from "Build a Bear Workshop", there is a Build a Light Saber Workshop. 

He was going for the Kylo Ren/Darth Maul version.

On to the Magic Kingdom.

Because all Magic Kingdom articles have a castle shot.
So what is new or going to be new?
A new roller coaster based on Tron  is going up right next to Space Mountain.  Open some time in 2021.

Cranes building Tron off in the distance.
Pirates of the Caribbean has been updated to include Captains Barbarossa and Sparrow.  The auction scene has been made more politically correct.
And what is this?
Another restaurant, based on Beauty and the Beast.
It's the dead stroller grave yard.
The parade is marvelous.  And I am not a big fan of parades.

Quite a few princesses make the parade.
My favorite is the clock-work dragon.
Image result for disney dragon parade images
And it shoots fire.

The Haunted Mansion has had some updates. 
Image result for haunted mansion blinking eyes
A blinking tomb stone greets you, don't blink, or you will miss it.

The hitch-hiking ghost animations have been updated.
The Jungle Cruise has been updated to include a underground Cambodian city.

Who knew there was an actual barbershop on Main Street?
Left overs from the now defunct "Adventurers Club"
 More on that later, ConGaloosh!

The final show of fireworks and lighting is well worth waiting for.  Do not leave early.  The show is now 19 minutes long, so the buses are on their return trips from those who did leave early.
 A Video on Youtube can be seen here.  Well worth putting this on your 4k TV.

On to Epcot.
As of 2/2/2020, I recommend you do not visit Epcot.  The park is going through major renovations and a lot of construction going on.
Test Track is down for renovation
World of Energy is being replaced with a Guardians of the Galaxy Ride
A Ratatouille ride is being built in France.
The main entry area is getting some sort of update.  I think it will be a show stage.  The effect is half of the main entrance is closed off.
Cherry Tree Lane (Mary Poppins) is being added to the United Kingdom pavilion.
Canada's 360 has been updated.

The effect is running into constant blockages and disappointments.  I entered the park at 4pm, and rode everything I wanted (that was open) and was out by 8.  Epcot should be deeply discounted while this is going on.  But after these updates, it is going to be marvelous. 

And since I am on disappointments, lets talk about one area where Disney is leaving you wanting, the food.  There is nothing good you can say about the food services.  Long lines, high prices, disappointing portions.  For a company that does everything so well, this is surprising and I was willing to ignore the deficiencies.  Because this is not what the Disney is about and I need to lose weight anyway.

Item 1, Long Lines.  I don't understand any organization that skimps on personnel whose job it is, is to take money.  This is your ultimate goal!  If there are 50 people in line for an ice cream bar, or heaven help you, just an egg-roll, there is something wrong here.  The exchange is as simple as it gets. 

Item 2, High Prices.  From what I have read, the prices have gone up 20% a year for several years.  A bottle of water was $3.50, and a 7 inch round of pizza $10. 

Item 3, Disappointing Portions, What is this?

Image result for deconstructed blt epcot
This is called a "Deconstructed BLT"

My first clue should have been the minimal sized line.  I saw BLT and thought, sandwich.  I should have paid attention to the word "Deconstructed".  What does Deconstructed mean?  Presentation over substance.  Above is a quarter slice of bacon, on an ounce or so of tasteless pork, topped with a sprig of arugula and an egg.  Combine this with a spoon size that cannot handle a runny egg and you have nothing but a disgusting disappointment here.  Just enough food to get you to the next food cart, 50 feet away, but leaving you leery of what you will find there.

And don't get me started on what they call pizza there.  But I live near Philadelphia, where the best pizza in the world can be had just about everywhere.  

Animal Kingdom
Closing out out this article is the new addition to Animal Kingdom, The World of Pandora

The floating islands look great.

Closeup on the same islands.

The whole area is just lined with cliffs and vegetation.

Excellent theming.

Lighting, Navi style.
The river ride is gorgeous.

The camera can't do it justice.

A shop full of Banshees.  You can get one to ride on your shoulder.
I found a quiet sit down location just across the river from the Tree of Light.  It's on a small porch, free of strollers and carts. 
Modeled after an Indian Snake Temple.
Fun Puns

The Flight of Passage is the other major ride in the park.  The line varied from 2-3 hours in length.  Plus size humans will not fit.  However, there is a bathroom in the queue about half way through.

Flight of Passage ride queue

Interesting reading.

Disney Springs, formally Downtown Disney, is a shopping area nearby.  It can be visited via bus or from some resorts, by boat.  As of this writing, it has 104 shops, 64 restaurants and 23 "Attractions, Shows and Events".  I have been visiting this location since the mid 80's and it has been steadily attriting the reasons to actually visit the place.  My favorite places to visit were the Adventurers club, populated with excellent theming, shows, and animatronics.  Then the comedy club, and lastly, Disney Quest.  The first two have been replaced by more stores, because 102 wasn't enough, and the last by "The NBA Experience".  What is that?  I didn't care to find out.
As with my rant in Epcot, Disney seems to have a shortage of cast members whose job it is to actually take your money.
A store worth the visit.  I walked by the Dragon twice before I saw it.

If it was real, I would have been dead.

The sea dragon has been on location for 20 years.  It says something about the durability of Legos.
Rainforest Cafe, with a live volcano.  One of the few places worth eating at in the whole complex.
The other is the T-Rex Cafe.

I saw 3 of the remaining 400 Amphicars cruising the lake.
The balloon ride looked unmanned.

Another "Build a Light Saber" store.  And you don't have to fight the crowds or pay the entrance fee of Hollywood Studios to get one.
Partially completed models.
Why?  Disney Quest was something unique here.  3-D gaming salons.  Rafting down river with dinosaurs, Light saber duels.  And they trashed it for what?
A little tip here.  Disney buses have charging ports lined up at the bottom of the seats.