Archive for February 22nd, 2008

Filed Under (Funny) by Sean on February-22-2008

This Non Sequitur comic by Wiley Miller was published in today’s Houston Chronicle. Classic. Click on it to get full sized image. See other Non Sequitur comics here.

Get Rich Quick Seminar

Filed Under (Business, Life) by Sean on February-22-2008

I can certainly identify with this Business Week story about Sprint’s business troubles, largely stemming from customer service woes. I was a customer of Sprint’s for 3 years, relatively happy with the service. The trouble came when I decided to switch service plans to reduce my minutes since I was taking time off work and no longer needed the huge pool of minutes I previously required. Using the Sprint website, I modified my plan. I had my online banking configured to pay Sprint automatically the same amount every month. After confirming the service plan change, I modified my online payments to reflect the new amount. I got a service disconnect notice about 3 months later (I never really paid much attention to the online bills and opted out of receiving paper bills) with a bill attached for nearly $300! Upon calling customer service (this is in 2004), I learned that my service plan in fact never was changed. Of course they had no record of the change I made and it was my dumb luck I didn’t write down the confirmation number the website had given me (nor saved the website – I always do this now). The customer representative said she would be happy to change my plan once I paid the amount due. Explaining my story resulted in nothing more than, “well I’m very sorry.” I had her escalate me to the manager on duty. Again I explained my story and said I would even prepay or renew my contract (I was month to month since my initial contract had expired) if they would simply give me the benefit of the doubt. I thought I had some leverage since I had been spending a decent chunk of change with them and even kept the phone active when I was living in Europe in 2001! Nada. Zip.

Needless to say I was quite exasperated by this point and simply wasn’t going to tolerate it any longer. I told her something to the effect that they could shove my account and balance where the sun didn’t shine and they would never get another penny from me, ever. After going through 3 other providers, including Cingular (another customer service nightmare), I landed with T-Mobile and have never looked back. The mobile phone service providers really need to use T-Mobile as a case study on how to run a customer service organization.

I still haven’t paid Sprint and never will.

Filed Under (Business, Internet, Technology) by Sean on February-22-2008

Business Week has re-released its original story about the importance of Social Media (i.e., blogs). This time, many of the predictions and facts are annotated with updated information snippets. It is certainly an interesting re-read to see how far we’ve come!

Filed Under (Business, Technology) by Sean on February-22-2008

I would like to think Steve Ballmer read my damning indictment of him and his company and my recommendations when deciding to share more of the company’s secrets. The New York Times story quotes Ballmer as saying the company was adapting to “the opportunities and risks of a more connected, more services-oriented world.”

According to the story, by Steve Lohr in today’s Technology section:

Microsoft said on Thursday that it would open up and share many more of its technical secrets with the rest of the software industry and competitors. Microsoft executives, in a conference call, characterized the announcement as a “strategic shift” in the company’s business practices and its handling of technical information . . .

The broader goal, they said, is to bring Microsoft’s flagship personal computer products — the Windows operating system and Office productivity programs — further into the Internet era of computing. Increasingly, people want a seamless flow of documents, data and programming code among desktop PCs and the Internet, especially as they make the shift from using software on a PC to using services on the Web.

The story also quotes Microsoft’s general counsel as saying, “qualitatively and quantitatively different from anything we’ve done in the past.”

I think this is great news, however I am not 100% sure of its sincerity. Did Microsoft finally wake up and realize the world around them or is this some surreptitious strategy to gain regulator approval to pursue Yahoo and continue with business as usual?

I suppose I’m the eternal optimist and hope they really are changing their tune and overall company strategy to fit the realities of the current marketplace. Microsoft has plenty to teach the industry; they certainly have much to learn from it.

We will have to stay tuned and see. Microsoft has much to do to de-vilify itself and step down as the industry bully and consider itself an important part of the technology ecosystem. It needs to become a shepherd of open standards and interoperability. A rising tide of industry-wide innovation will lift all boats and broaden technology’s reach, which will help technology achieve its promise.