Monday, February 23, 2009

Having fun with the help center reps

Today I had a "Live Chat" online with my bank about an auto loan with a loan agent who was all but unreachable. Slightly frustrated that my issue was diverted to a cross-sell for a product I essentially already use, I decided to take a different, to the conversation.

I would also like to point out that, while I understand why scripts are necessary, I really hate them being read to me--especially via text chat. It feels like I'm talking to a robot.

Personally identifiable information (other than my name, since you already know what it is) has been changed.

Duration (actual chatting time) 00:14:11
Operator Gertrude

Chat Transcript
info: Please wait for a representative to respond.
info: Hello. My name is Gertrude. Have you financed a vehicle with Rich Uncle Pennybags in the past 18 months? In the event your vehicle was stolen or totaled in an accident, have you considered how you would pay off your loan and/or come up with a down payment on a replacement vehicle? Rich Uncle Pennybags has a low cost solution that will assist you in these situations. Would you like to hear about it?
info: Your confirmation number for this chat is 123ZOINKSLIKEHEYSCOOB4
Gertrude: Hello Michael, how may I assist you today?
Michael Paul: Hi Gertrude, I just recently got approved for an auto loan and want to know if I can just walk in to a Rich Uncle Pennybags branch to finish the paperwork, or if I still have to deal with "KT", the person assigned to my loan, over the phone.
Michael Paul: KT seems to be unavailable whenever I call.
Gertrude: I will be happy to assist you with this today. In the meantime, have there been any changes to your mailing address, telephone number, or e-mail address?
Michael Paul: no
Gertrude: Thank you for your patience. You will not be able to walk into a branch and sign paper work. Once you and K.T. are able to talk he can set up an appointment with you to visit a branch. While I have you online, I may have a way for you to monitor your account easier. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Michael Paul: sure, go ahead.
Gertrude: How often do you use Rich Uncle Pennybags' online banking?
Michael Paul: every day
Gertrude: Great! Based on the fact that you use Rich Uncle Pennybags' online banking often I would recommend Finance Works. We are proud to offer Finance Works, a free personal money management tool. This great software is offered by Intuit, the same company that offers Quicken. Rich Uncle Pennybags is the second financial institution in the nation to offer this valuable money management tool. Finance Works will save you time because you can track, organize, and itemize all of your expenses. You can integrate your other Rich Uncle Pennybags accounts, as well as accounts you hold with other financial institutions. With this convenience, you can manage your expenses in one online banking session!
Gertrude: Would you like me to walk you through setting up Finance Works?
Michael Paul: No thanks, I already use Quicken connected to Rich Uncle Pennybags, but i might look into it in the future
Gertrude: Great! Is there anything else I can assist you with today Michael?
Michael Paul: Yeah, I'd like to assign my loan to someone else, because I'm having no luck with K.T. The guy seems impossible to reach unless you have the secret Bat Phone number.
Michael Paul: :-)
Gertrude: I have his direct phone number, would you like me to provide you with this number?
Michael Paul: No, because I have that direct phone number, too.
Michael Paul: ...unless you have the direct number to his Bat Phone ;)
Gertrude: I will be happy to see if I can get another loan officer to contact you.
Michael Paul: That would be outstanding, I really appreciate it.
Gertrude: May I get your best contact number?
Michael Paul: cell phone: 269-867-5309
Gertrude: Great! I will try to have someone contact you soon. Is there anything else I can assist you with today Michael?
Michael Paul: No, you've been great Gertrude! Thanks so much for having someone else contact me.
Gertrude: Thank you for choosing Rich Uncle Pennybags. If you need any assistance, please contact us at (800) 867-5309, or Live Chat at! We appreciate your business! Have a wonderful day!
Michael Paul: You too :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What can Google Apps for your Domain do for me?

I recently decided to set up Google Apps for my domain,

"Whether your business is moving everything to the cloud, just wants an affordable email solution or struggles to give employees access to critical information, Google Apps will help you stretch resources and work smarter."

This allows me to do a few things, for free:
  1. Email. Use Gmail--including the web interface--for all my company's communications. That means that mail coming from actually gets written, sent, checked and managed through Gmail, just like I'm already familiar with. (What, you aren't already a Gmail user? Go sign up and try it out today.) Why is this nice? Because I love being able to use all the features that gmail offers, like labels, filters, searches, keyboard shortcuts, etc. Once you get used to the web interface and what it has to offer, you'll wonder why you ever used that beastly beast called Outlook.
  2. Document sharing. We're always working on different documents, whether they're recipes, notes about past and upcoming shows, or copy for upcoming newsletters. And spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets. Wouldn't it be great if our staff could collaborate on documents without being in the same room? Now we can. In fact, there's no "locking" of a document like there is in a normal office setting. While you're editing your spreadsheet, someone else can come in and make edits while you make yours. Google makes seeing who's where in your document a breeze.
  3. Calendars. Oli's Products goes to several trade shows per year, and it's helpful for our customers to see where we've been and where we'll be next. With Google Apps, creating that calendar is very simple. Embedding it into our website is even simpler--just copy and paste some code.
  4. Corporate IM. When you're logged into your domain's Gmail account, you have a chat list right in the left side of the web browser containing all of your domain's users and online status. You can, of course, add and remove people at will.
  5. Sites. If you need a basic web page for something--planning club meetings or activities, for example--you can create basic web pages to suit your task using an easy WYSIWYG editor. No coding required... just drag and drop. Click and edit. Simple.
Perhaps the best thing (for administrators) is the admin panel. It boasts a simple to use interface that lets you command and control just about everything you could think of, from sharing options to resetting peoples passwords.

So, if you're a small company looking to get it all together, give Google Apps a try. It's free, so there's nothing to lose.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get things done... using Things (for Mac and iPhone)

Straight to the point: if you want to get things done efficiently and all the other to-do managers have failed you in the past, give Things a try. Things, by Cultured Code, is for the Mac and has a companion for the iPhone that's slowly working its way up to have the same feature set as the Mac version.

I'll leave the description up to the creators of the program, but I will tell you this: it's remarkably useful and simple to use. It's got a very simple user interface, and there are too many useful features to pick a favorite. One of them is the ability to tag a task with keywords like "15 min" or "easy" or "errand". Since you can also sort by these tags, you can quickly create a "calls" list or an "errands" list or a list of things to do that will take "15 min" or less.

Another great feature about Things is the ability to organize tasks into Projects and Areas of Responsibility. Projects are large tasks that require smaller mini-tasks. For example, I might have a project called "Paint the house" and the mini-tasks of that project might include things like "buy paint", "find some help", and "check the weather forecast".

Areas of Responsibility allow you to group tasks by how they fit into your life. Is it a financial type of task? Relationship? Are you a blogger? Then you might have an area of responsibility called Blogging.

One final feature that sticks out is the virtual shoebox. That is, say you have a task that's just something you'd like to do, but not necessarily today. It can be done someday in the future. But what do you do with the task since you don't want to clutter up your lists with things you'd like to do someday, but not today? Simple. Just put those tasks in the Someday box. Using this Someday shoebox, you can remove those tasks which don't need to be done anytime soon, but still keep them somewhere in the system for reviewing at a later date.

If you own a Mac and an iPhone, the iPhone version is worth purchasing as well. It's not quite as fully featured as the Mac version (yet) but they're working hard on bringing it up to speed and have made many significant improvements to it over the past several weeks since it's been announced.

And now, I can strike this item off my to-do list.

Blog about Things

Ah, that feels better.

Things for Mac: $49.95
Things for iPhone: $9.99