Friday, October 29, 2010

Customer service in real time

This morning I left some slightly negative feedback about a purchase on the Amazon website (the packaging overkill issue I blogged recently).

Within a minute (literally) of clicking submit the company that fulfilled the order called me to address the issue.

One of the most critical parts of delivering good customer service is to actually listen to your customers; that's the only way to learn about problems so you can fix them, and it has the added benefit of making your customers feel valued.

You'd be amazed how many companies don't get that (like the hotel I blogged about yesterday, who haven't bothered to respond to the email I sent them). clearly get it. I'll happily order from them again knowing that if there's a problem they'll be on it faster than Usain Bolt.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What does guaranteed mean?

In the thousands of nights I've stayed in hotels I've never needed or wanted a room with two beds.Well once, about 15 years ago when I shared a room on a business trip with my good friend Raj, and he hasn't stopped talking about how restless I am (stillness is not my karma).

Hotel rooms are small enough without half the space being taken up by a bed that you are not going to use. So one of my pet hates is booking a room with a king bed and finding at check in that they only have rooms with two queen beds available.

This is annoying enough at hotels that primarily serve business travelers, but it is inexcusable at hotels that attract couples wanting a romantic get away, like the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa which seems to have a constant stream of unhappy couples (yes, including us when we stayed there) checking in only to find that for 300 plus dollars a night (room only) they'd be sharing an old fashioned double bed instead of the king bed they'd requested.

One of the reasons I prefer Marriott hotels is that they track rooms with king beds and rooms with two queen beds as separate inventory, so that if they have a king bed room available when you make your reservation, they guarantee it.

Or so I thought. I received an email today from a Marriott that I was planning to stay at tonight saying "We wanted to let you know in advance that based on our occupancy, your bed preference might not be available today during your stay."

I'm sorry, but which part of guaranteed do I not understand correctly?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I just tested out Facetime, the video calling technology built into the iPhone 4, with my friend Rob.

I've used a number of video calling technologies before (e.g. Skype) but this is the most natural by far. You immediately forget the technology; it just feels like a face to face conversation.

The only problem is that it's a closed system; you can only call other iPhone 4 users. Let's hope Apple open the technology up. Otherwise it will be the same old story; due to the network effect an inferior but open technology will come to dominate the market.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall winter storm

Steamboat was hit yesterday with what the weather service calls a winter storm. But there's a difference between a true winter storm and a late fall storm; the snow is much wetter and heavier than it would be in a true winter storm, and many of the trees still have their leaves (and berries), so it looks quite different. Still beautiful, just different.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The unfriendliest place in Steamboat is...

... the Post Office parking lot. Something comes over the fine citizens of Steamboat Springs when they are on a mission to collect their mail; they'd rather drive right over the top of you than stop than let you back out of your spot (even if you're 3/4 of the way out)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Packaging overkill

I ordered a product online recently which arrived in this box.

Here's what was inside.

And here's the actual product.

Here's a comparison of the actual product and the mailing box. I calculate you could fit approximately 200 of these in this box.

If you are wondering what this is, I'll explain it in a forthcoming post. Hint: it fits on a helmet and I'm going to use it during the ski season.

Friday, October 08, 2010

First snow

To remind us that it's only 47 days until the opening of the ski season, Mother Nature delivered us our first dusting of snow on the mountain today.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Perfect rainbow

Driving back from downtown this evening we saw the most perfect rainbow I think I've ever seen framing the ski mountain perfectly.

Within the limits of my iPhone camera I needed to take two shots to get it all. You can see that my photoshop skills are limited!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Traditional publishers are idiots

Look closely at the pricing on Amazon for this book. The hardcover is $7.99 and the Kindle edition is $9.99!

Electronic books cost less to produce and distribute than physical books, there are no costs for inventory or returns, you can't lend them and you can't sell them when you are done. So they should always be priced lower than the physical book.

This is not Amazon's fault. The initial Kindle pricing model was that Amazon would set the prices. The publishers disliked that so much that they threatened to withdraw their books from Amazon with this very publisher, HarperCollins, leading the charge.

You might wonder what HarperCollins' agenda is. I can only surmise that they hope that they can sabotage the move to electronic books and maintain their current business model. Of course they would think that, because resisting digitalisation has worked so well for the entertainment industry!

When Amazon write "this price was set by the publisher" I don't know how they can resist adding "who are complete idiots and deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs."

Update: 6 October. I wrote this before I saw this article on the same subject in the New York Times.

The article discusses two specific examples and the publishers are quoted as saying "...those two books were the first they knew of that cost more as e-books than in hardcover on Amazon." Not only are they idiots, but they are either liars or completely and utterly clueless. I've seen dozens of examples on Amazon including some where the electronic book is more expensive than the paperback!

Hopefully enough pressure is building on publishers to stop this nonsense. By the way, I think the New York Times is much less imaginative with its headlines than I am!