Tag: ethics

How was the first day with minimal telephony?

GREAT.  I was able to contact T-mobile and get my phone to ring for much longer, giving me more time to answer a call in lieu of the now-disabled voicemail system picking up.  That alone has already come in handy, as I have been able to pick up calls from my wife and my techs long after it would have kicked over to voicemail, inevitably leading to phone tag and wasted time.  I’ve instructed my technicians that calls asking for me are to be screened aggressively, and only those which they are completely unable to assist should make it to my desk (as in one customer today who inquired about a custom computer and needed to discuss the options for getting that custom computer.)

Because I am being interrupted less often today, I have managed to mostly finish converting a multi-language website for one of my long-time business clients to a PHP-based and easily managed layout, including langauge-coded folders and more standardization across the board.  This has been difficult to work on for days now because of all of the unnecessary interruptions that customer service matters have caused.  Now that only essential issues reach my ears and break my concentration, my productivity is already seeing a significant boost.

This is the way it should be.  A business owner needs to focus on one thing only: the business and making it better.  Customer-oriented approaches to doing business are as crucial to success as ever, but the best advice I can give to a small business owner starting out is this: learn the value of making the people you supervise handle things; that’s what they’re there for, and you can’t do your job of supporting their efforts if you’re too busy doing theirs. A business relies not only on good personnel who know what they’re doing and have enough authority to help customers sufficiently, but also on good managers who can coordinate and support the creative and assistive forces of those personnel to ensure that they work together optimally.  Put another way, it seems impossible to coordinate and supervise your workers if you spend too much time doing their job and not enough doing your own.

Separating myself from customers and letting my people shine, both on the phone as well as in person, is proving to be crucial to my ability to do my job.  My techs can’t be expected to do work if I’m not out there revamping the website or performing SEO or passing out flyers or hitting up local businesses or whatever else I have to do as the most important manager in the business.

I can’t emphasize enough that this doesn’t mean I won’t ever talk to customers or do tech work myself.  It’s important for a manager of any kind to be “in touch” with what’s going on amongst the managed, and to provide guidance and assistance when it is seriously needed.

The problem is that many of us want our business to succeed so badly that we forget about the high-level management stuff as we worry over minutiae.  I’d say that as of today, I’ve learned that lesson, and I hope that this post helps others to do the same.

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Telephone? Bah! Why I am making myself scarce on the phone.

“Well, if we’re all done, I’ll just make myself scarce.”  I don’t know where I picked up the expression, but it’s really cute and gets a chuckle now and then.  In a more serious light, though, “making one’s self scarce” is exactly what I’m doing with phone calls, starting today.  Now, me being a small business owner may incite much questioning about this new policy.  Doesn’t a good business owner answer the phone and talk to customers?  What could possibly be the reason behind this?

There is an article that covers this topic well which deserves an honorable mention: Should You Turn Off Your Telephone? Now I’ll answer the question about why and how I am getting away from the telephone.

I have access to three professional telephone numbers: two at the shop which are daisy-chained together by call forwarding, and my own cell phone.  Both sets of phones have voicemail at the end.  Well, had voicemail.  About 15 minutes ago, I cut my T-mobile voicemail service off completely.  Every time I made a voicemail greeting, it would politely recite the shop phone number, insist on calling that number, texting, or calling back in 10 minutes, and explaining what to press to unblock a call, followed by a request, then a demand, to not leave voicemail because I won’t get it.  That request was not respected at all, and my phone would constantly blip up voicemail notification reminders despite my explicit demands to simply wait on a call back! Where did people lose their ability to understand basic English, and to respect my explicitly spelled out request and warning that I don’t check voicemail?

I felt disrespected beyond belief every time someone left a message.  It’s like they said “okay, I’ll leave one anyway because I don’t give a damn about what YOU want, Mister Smarty-Pants Business Owner!”  It’s like someone else spitting in my face.  There’s no excuse for it.  Nowhere in the realm of human decency is ignoring an explicit request even remotely close to existing, yet people do it daily.  I’ve come to realize that many people simply do not consider the human factor of people in business.  The reasons are obvious, but the most significant one is that each ten-minute conversation to them is one ten-minute conversation, while to me it’s just one ten-minute interval in a huge flood of calls that eventually ruins almost half of my potential work time per day.  I need that time to grow my business, write some software, redesign the website, print business cards, and things like that, but instead it is completely drained away having conversations that my technicians could easily handle if callers would stop demanding to talk exclusively to me for anything and everything under the sun.

I want to be available to help everyone, but I am being forced to come to terms with the fact that I am one person with only 16 hours a day to do everything that must be done.  I understand now why corporate types rarely talk to customers: it’s simply not possible to do that and still get their own jobs within the company finished too.

I have decided that I must take charge of my time.  I must manage my time and treat it as the most precious resource in this company, as well as in my life.  It is limited and non-renewable, and I need to make all of it count for as much as possible.  If that means making a customer upset because they can’t speak directly to me, then so be it.  If a customer would refuse to do business with my business simply because they can’t talk directly to me whenever they feel like it, then I wonder whether they are the kind of customer we are in business to serve.  I hired and mentored a team of professionals so that I could extend my capabilities to more people, and it is extremely important that customers take advantage of their knowledge and willingness to help.

Not to mention the fact that some work might actually get finished around here now…

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Time ensures that things rarely remain the same.

At Tritech, many things have changed since even just one month ago. Here’s a spiffy list of such things. By the way, my new favorite word is “terse.” The magic of the word “terse” is that practically all of its synonyms not as terse as “terse.” It’s a self-fulfilling definition! ^_^ So, what’s been going on during my silence, you ask? Read on!

Why you shouldn’t trust big box store clerks…

UPDATE: The TigerDirect store being referenced is under new management.  I have spoken with the management about this issue; he already took care of it.  Turns out their commissioning model before the new manager arrived was causing employees to reach return rates of 30%-40%, which is egregiously high, because they would up-sell too much garbage to make the commission.  He also fired half the staff there; the people that I have worked with recently have proven to be a delight.  The store in Durham, North Carolina is the one I was previously referencing, and I’d encourage anyone in the NC Triangle proper to visit there, because good management means a good business.  The salespeople know they make some kind of minimal commission on their sales, but they aren’t made privy to the details and so they don’t know what to “push,” meaning they just do their jobs right and they make more money–as it should be!

I received the following E-mail today, and it bothered me enough to bring about a nifty little anecdote about why clerks at major chains generally can’t be trusted.  Note that I frequently shop at TigerDirect and send clients there quite often as well (with a warning to be careful about the advice from the salespeople), but one can’t deny problematic business models, and this irked me enough to open my big fat mouth.

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Hey Jody.

Everything seems to be working well. I was able to return the CA software to Tiger Direct, but they gave me a big hassle.

The guy said CA is better than Avast. Is that true?

Thanks,

[CENSORED]

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My response (true story):

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A little hint…

I overheard some TigerDirect employees in the [CENSORED] store talking one night before they closed up.  They were discussing how successful each of them had been making sales that day, and they discussed it in terms of how many COMMISSIONED ITEMS they sold, along with some “best of” stories from their sales history as well.

Guess what they get commissions for selling?

You got it:

* CA products
* PC Pitstop Optimize
* WaCa extended warranty/service plans

All three of which I strongly discourage the purchase of.  If you know of Clark Howard (consumer advocate and personal finance radio host), you know how much he hates extended service plans, too.

I have literally hundreds (as in triple-digits, probably to the tune of at least 200) customers on Avast as their only virus protection.  Most of these customers have been repeat customers for at least one additional session, and it has served all of them well enough that I have had single-digit rejections of Avast long-term in favor of other products–usually because of the customer’s bias (I am thinking of one specific customer who MUST have Norton or bust, in fact) rather than the product itself.  It does better than Norton, and unlike Norton it does not do so at the expense of your machine’s performance and stability.

Yes, CA is better than Avast.

If you’re making a commission selling it.

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If a representative from TigerDirect corporate wishes, they may contact me and I will gladly explain and elaborate.  Having commissioned salespeople is a great way to chase off customers, primarily because when they discover that they’ve been played like a fiddle and up-sold one too many times, they don’t typically stick around.  In all honestly, I only send customers there because they have great prices.  If they want to go somewhere where the staff is much more knowledgeable and the salespeople are not commissioned, I send them over to Intrex instead.  (I don’t worry about either store taking away my service/repair clientele–I overhear pretty long turn-around estimates from their repair counters measured in weeks, whereas my business is measured in hours or days at the worst!)

While I’m poking at specific players in the computer field, I have to say what every other computer technician already seems to know:  Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” is the worst computer service provider in existence on all counts.  Extremely high prices, a plethora of customer complaints, duplicating customers’ private data for personal purposes, disastrous complaint handling (as seen in the hateful remarks of a certain “Agent Orange“), and if you don’t believe a word of it, check out the ten-page confession from a former employee that resulted in a lawsuit being filed against the company.  Or two.

Oh, and don’t let me start talking about Circuit City’s “Firedog.”  They have their own insider employee confessionals as well.

This is what happens when you engage in a race to the bottom, hiring salespeople that are morphed into “computer technicians” that will accept the lowest pay imaginable in a skilled trade while still getting the job done just barely good enough to shut the customer up, and if they get a few of the customer’s private nude photos to add to their collection (or a video of the customer showering), so much the better.  I guess the notions of “privacy” and “paying people what they’re worth” and “hiring experienced employees” and “making the customer happy” don’t matter when it’s all about the quarterlies, baby!

Honestly, I’m surprised that those two big box stores stay in the computer service business at all, given the horrible track records they’re developing.  I used to debate starting yet another computer service business until I came to the realization that these stores aren’t even close to being called my “competitors.”  After all, how much competing does Tritech really have to do when the biggest and best-known “competitors” are in the process of self-destruction?  It’s half depressing and half exciting, but one thing is for sure:  because of their failures, the door has been opened wide for the success of companies like mine that haven’t developed a disconnect from the customer’s needs in favor of the almighty dollar.

The ultimate irony?  Geek Squad and Firedog, in their attempts to gain as much money as possible while paying out as little as possible, actually lose more money to their poor customer service than they would to hiring good people and paying them what they’re worth.

If you are from Best Buy and would like to hire me as V.P. of customer relations while simultaneously preventing me from slowly eroding your business due to my superior philosophies on customer service and strict ethics enforcement, please email jody@nctritech.com with what you have to offer.  Thanks!

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