Outsourcing: The difference between average and great

I use a lot of different contractors depending what I need done.   Most of them are great, some are just average.  And average drives me crazy.  I almost spend as much time (and certainly more money) than if I did it myself.

How can you tell the difference?  An average person does exactly what you put in the specifications.  A great person anticipates what you need and does it.   An average person micro manages to a schedule.  A great person delivers to major milestones.

If I pay expert rates, I expect greatness.

Pay attention and never settle for average.

Subaru Customer Service

Aa  I drive a Subaru.  Yes there is a lot of snow here, but as important, the dealer service is great and the factory tries to do the right thing.  Even if it may take them a while.  4 years ago I was getting a gas smell on really cold days.  A couple of years ago I had the fuel rails replaced.  Turns out it was a design / supplier problem, and they are paying for the repair after the fact.  How about that?

Sprint Bait & Switch: Unlimited Data is not the same as Unlimited Data

I think Dan Hesse and Sprint have been doing a good job.   Until today.  Last week I called to upgrade 2 of my 3 year old phones.  I could put them on my plan and after rebates, etc. the cost would be $29.99.  Sounds good.  I went out a couple of days ago to look at the phones.

Today I called to order them, and guess what?  The cost is $179.99 each (no we won't give you the $150 upgrade credit we said we would) and I would have to upgrade my plan for a 50% cost increase.

You see, I have a phone which has a browser, runs applications accessing the Internet and GPS applications.  I have an unlimited data plan.   The new phone also has a browser, runs applications accessing the Internet and GPS applications.  But marketing will NOT allow the new phone to be put on my existing plan. Instead I have to buy a new plan for a lot more money.

Oh, did I mention Sprint is hemorrhaging customers?  Dan, read Seth's post on the value of existing customers.

update:  It's a week later and I didn't hear from Sprint.  So I wrote them again.  Found out that if you upgrade to a Windows Mobile phone, you don't have to change plans.  You're only penalized if you choose an Android or the new Palm OS phone.   

Intuit Quickbooks + Mac + Flash = Disaster

I had been running Quickbooks on XP.   I upgraded to Quickbooks 2010 for Mac so I wouldn't have to fire up the virtual machine and save some memory.  Installed great.

It's when I went for some support that things started heading south quickly.   Since this is a new company I know I needed some help getting the charts of accounts set up and equity accounts and all that fun stuff.   I signed up for an hour of consulting.   

Then the wheels started to come off.  Intuit has this nifty flash based utility for scheduling time.  But it doesn't run on Safari on a Mac.   Luckily I had Firefox and it did come up. 

I'm amazed that people don't test out their systems on different browsers running on different operating systems.  Especially an outfit like Intuit.   Just remember to have a very good test plan before you release anything.

Snow Leopard Upgrade on Mac Mini: No Problem

It was with great apprehension when I decided to upgrade my OS.  Remembering the pain of several XP upgrades I suppose.  I backed up everything and made a bootable drive just in case.   Installed the disk, told it o.k.

Aa Two hours later it was done, rebooted my machine and everything worked perfectly.

I was flabbergasted.  

It just worked.  And that's a worthy goal whenever we do software development.

Citibank Increase Credit Card Rates by 50%, Citigroup loses 27 cents per share last quarter

Found out today Citibank increased their Master Card rate to 29.99% from 19.99%.  That's prime plus 26.74%.

So, they are making 800% return on money they lend you.   But if you "opt out" (read cancel) your card, you can continue paying off at the 19.99% rate.

We give Citi $45B in taxpayer TARP money and they return the favor by burning us.   

And Citigroup wonders why they lost 27 cents a share.   Maybe people aren't as clueless as Vikram thinks.

JP Morgan Chase Online Support Crash

Chase seems to be having another problem with their IT.  They have this nifty secure internal email system to which they will reply within 4 hours.   I started a discussion the other day about why they cut my credit card limit by 80% without telling me.   (I thought that was pretty rude).   

Anytime I try to send a message, the system logs me off before sending.  That's one way to control customer support costs I suppose.

Cream of the Crap: American Express touts J.D. Powers Ranking

I like spin as much as the next person, but American Express takes it to a whole new level.  This was on their home page:


Aa  Amex repaid their TARP money in June and is now restoring compensation cuts they made.  And how did they do this?  By increasing interest rates up to 50% and lowering credit limits.

So how did they get this wonderful rating?

Let's see what J.D. Powers has to say:

Fees and Rates Drive Decline in Overall Credit Card Customer Satisfaction

Driven by a significant decrease in satisfaction with fees and rates, overall credit card customer satisfaction declines to a three-year low....Overall satisfaction among credit card customers remains the lowest across the financial services industries....

Ah, so consumer satisfaction has dived for credit card companies, but among the fallen American Express is the best of the worse.  Now that makes sense.

Pigs can fly!

Darigold - Great Milk - Great Customer Service

I like milk.   I've milked cows and had fresh raw milk from a Jersey.   It was rich, but not my favorite.  The milk in France is quite good but make sure you order it "froid" or cold.  Warm milk never did anything for me.  When I was 19 I drove a milk truck and did home deliveries.  Getting up at 3:00 every morning kind of ruined my social life, but I did enjoy the job driving around the different apartment buildings in Chicago. 

Never did care for that watery stuff packed in plastic bottles in the supermarket chains.  A I was delighted when I found Darigold carried at a grocer in town ( a little out of my way).   Their freshness dates are a full month longer than anyone else and they package them in waxed cartons (prevents leaching found in plastic).  By far, the best tasting milk I've ever had.   I'm not sure if they use other than Holsteins for their herd or if it's in their processing, but it is a superior product.

A week ago the milk had a different taste which took me a while to figure out.  It was the hint of almonds.   Interesting flavor, but did not belong.  I dropped a note to the comment line.  Within a day they wrote back, apologized and offered to send some coupons to replace the milk.  What was the most interesting is when they told me what happened: the line had produced an almond creamer and the lines were not 100% flushed out.   And this was from a consumer advocate (everyone should have one I think).  

This I liked.  They figured out what happened, told me about it and made things right.  Contrast this to back in 1985 when we had a problem with Jewel's dairy in Chicago and they stonewalled us.

Service Breakdown: The Case of Nordstrom

It is really important that you have consistency across your organization dealing with customers.  Zappos comes to mind.  You would think Nordstrom would be good at Aa this, but I guess that doesn't apply to Utah.   I have had issues with them before.   Just last month I wrote a customer comment card with my contact information.  Did anyone follow up?  No.

Shoe shopping wasn't much better.  They didn't have the right size.  The sales person gave us a list of stores who carried them but explained "We don't do transfers, you'll have to go online."  I thought this was fishy so I went to customer service who said "We don't do transfers, you'll have to go online."  Hmmmm, this must have come from the store manager.

So I went online.  Guess what?  The online store didn't have the correct size.  So I did an online chat and explained my situation.  The person was horrified that our Utah store didn't contact the stores who had the shoes.  So she contacted them and 10 minutes later a store in Maryland called and shipped us the shoes.

Nordstrom built a new store here.  I think they need a new store manager to go with it.