DISGRACEFUL United Airlines

To all decent human being out there…


Think twice about United Airlines. 


They overbooked a flight and then forcibly removed passengers that had paid for their seats. 


What right does anyone have to sell something that they in essence don’t have to sell?


And then treating their passengers like animals, smashing them and busting their lips, and dragging from from seats they paid for!


These passengers just wanted to go home. 


On top of it, the joke of a CEO of United Airlines, Mr. Oscar Munoz, defended this abhorrent violence against his paying passengers stating:

“Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose [not that he regrets that they oversold seats and then beat the sh*t of this passenger], I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to do above and beyond to ensure we fly right [this is what he “commends” and consider going “above and beyond” and doing what’s “right”–what a complete moral disgrace!].”


While Mr. Munoz had a heart transplant last year, apparently he truly has no heart at all–these are subhuman actions whose defense can only be considered to be the vacuum of any decency or morality in the leadership of United Airlines. 

If no passengers took their offer of $400 or even $1,000 to get bumped, then let them offer $10,000 or more–whatever the market price is to get the seat–but they have NO MORAL RIGHT to force this passenger out of a seat he legitimately paid for and was already sitting in. 


Either United Airlines should immediately apologize and extraordinarily compensate this harmed passenger, promise never to do this again, and fire their corrupt CEO or the public should boycott this disgraceful airline.


Where is the Federal Aviation Administration? 


Where is the board of directors of United Airlines?


Where is justice for this passenger and protection for airline customers?


Please G-d, justice will be done. 😉

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What Is This World Coming To?

No Biz No Whiz
This sign from a business on trendy Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale…for real.



Pay for the water you drink, the air you breath, and the doings you leave behind. 



Money makes the world go round, but what happened to love, friendship, and brotherhood. 



It only goes as far as the restroom apparently! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Talk To The Hand

Hand
So you know the saying “Talk to the hand, because the face ain’t home…”?



Well IPSoft has an artificial intelligence agent called Amelia that handles service requests. 



Instead of talking to a human customer service rep, you get to talk to a computer. 



The question is whether Amelia is like talking to a hand or is someone really home when using IA to adroitly address your service issues?



Now apparently, according to the Wall Street Journal, this computer is pretty smart and can ingest every single manual and prior service request and learn how to answer a myriad of questions from people. 



On one hand, maybe you’ll get better technical knowledge and more consistent responses by talking to a computerized service representative.



But on the other hand, if the interactive voice response systems with the dead end menus of call options, endless maze of “If you want to reach X, press Y now” along with all the disconnects after being on for 10 minutes already are any indication of what this, I am leery to say the least. 



The Telegraph does says that Amelia can service customers in 20 languages and after 2 months, can resolve 64% of “the most common queries” independently, so this is hopeful and maybe even inspiring of what is to come. 



These days, based on how much time we spend online in the virtual world, I think most people would actually prefer to talk to a knowledgeable computer than a smart alec human who doesn’t want to be handling annoying customer calls all day, anyway. 



The key to whether Amelia and her computerized brothers and sisters of the future will be successful is not only how quickly they can find the correct answer to a problem, but also how well they can understand and address new issues that haven’t necessarily come up the same way before, and how they handle the emotions of the customer on the line who wishes they didn’t have the problem needing this call to begin with. 😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Vernon Chen)

Murderous Customer Service

This is a funny video about some really bad customer service experiences.

– From Seinfeld who goes to the trouble of making a reservation, which the company doesn’t hold.

– To Steve Martin who waits and waits for customer service, but the attendant keeps yapping obnoxiously on a personal phone call.

– To Michael Douglas who just wants breakfast, but the order taker will only serve him lunch.

– To Rod Farva who can’t order a burger without the threat of the fry cook spitting in it.

– To Judge Reinhold who refuses to give a customer’s money back, despite the 100% money back guarantee hanging prominently overhead.

Wow, we’ve all been there…”mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” but just when you think it can’t get any worse, the customer service rep disconnects you and you have to start all over again. 😉

When Requirements Go Awry

When Requirements Go Awry

You may have seen this before–it is a great comic strip on how requirements can go awry.

When you look at how product or service requirements look from each person’s vantage point, it is easy to see how they can be misunderstand, misinterpreted, or misrepresented.

Getting clarity of the tire swing before we start can save a lot of wasted time, effort, and money on building contraptions that no one wanted or needs.

Get the business and technical requirements spelled out in as much detail as possible from all parties; document, document, document; and have the customer approval and sign off on these.

Build to specification, on time, and within budget and make sure it meets the operational mission needs and strategic vision of the organization.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to tamingdata.com)

>Customer-driven IT Management

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For many years, we have witnessed the failures of excessively product-driven management, where companies focus on the development and sales of products (from automobiles to toaster ovens) to their customers—whether the customers really want those products or not. This was epitomized by the “build it and they will come” mentality.

Numerous companies faltered in this over-the-top product mindset, because they were focused not on satisfying their customer’s needs, but on selling their wares. Think GM versus Toyota or the Days Inn versus The Four Seasons.

Now however, organizations are moving from product- to customer-focused management, with the basic premise that organizations need to engage with their customers and assist them in getting the most value out of whatever products meet their requirements best. In the world of IT, this is the essence of user-centric enterprise architecture, which I created and have been advocating for a number of years.

Harvard Business Review, in January-February 2010, has an article titled “Rethinking Marketing” that asserts that “to compete, companies must shift from pushing individual products to building long-term customer relationships.”

· Product-driven companies—“depend on product managers and one-way mass marketing to push a product to many customers.”

· Customer-driven companies—“engage individual customers…in two-way communications, building long-term relationships.”

The old way of doing business was to focus on the products that the company had to offer and “move inventory” as quickly and profitably as possible. I remember hearing the sales managers yelling: “sell-sell-sell”—even if it’s the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge. And the driver of course, was to earn profits to meet quarterly targets and thereby get bigger bonuses and stock options. We saw where that got us with this last recession.

The new way of doing business is to focus on the customer and their needs, and not any particular product. The customer-driven business aligns itself and it’s products with the needs of its customers and builds a long-term profitable relationship.

“In a sense, the role of customer manager is the ultimate expression of marketing find out what the customer wants and fulfill the need), while the product manager is more aligned with the traditional selling mind-set (have product, find customer).”

The new model for a customer-driven enterprise is the epitome of what social computing and Web 2.0 is really all about. In the move from Web 1.0 to 2.0, we transformed from pushing information to stakeholders to having a lively dialogue with them using various social media tools (like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, discussion boards, and many more)—where customers and others can say what they really think and feel. Similarly, we are now moving from pushing products to actively engaging with our customers so as to genuinely understand and address their needs with whatever solutions are best for them.

In a customer-focused organization, “the traditional marketing department must be reconfigured as a customer department [headed by a chief customer officer] that puts building customer relationships ahead of pushing specific products.”

I think that the new organizational architecture of customer-driven management is superior to a product-focused one, just as a emphasis on people is more potent that a focus on things.

Similar to customer-driven management, in User-centric enterprise architecture, we transform from developing useless “artifacts” to push out from the ivory tower to instead create valuable information products based on the IT governance needs of our customers.

Further, by implementing a customer-focus in information technology management, we can create similar benefits where we are not just pushing the technology of the day at people, but are rather working side-by-side with them to develop the best solutions for the business that there is.

>The Forgotten 60%

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IT Leaders are often worried (almost exclusively) about the technology—Is it reliable? Is it robust? Is secure? Is it state-of-the-art? Is it cost-effective? And more.

This is what typically keeps IT management up at night—a server outage, the network being down, an application not available, a project off track, or a security issue such as a virus or worm.

While much lip service has been paid to the statement that “people are our most important asset;” in reality, too little emphasis is generally placed here—i.e. people are not kept high on the IT leadership agenda (for long, if at all), technology is.

Hence, we have seen the negative effects of outsourcing, layoffs, cut training budgets, pay and incentive stagnation, and other morale busting actions on our workforce, along with customers who have been disappointed by magnificent IT project failure rates—with projects over cost, behind schedule, and not meeting customer spec.

Our people—employees and customers—are not being properly cared for and the result is IT projects failure all around us (the stats speak for themselves!).

In essence, we have lost the connection between the technology outcomes we desire and the people who make it happen. Because what drives successful technology solutions are people—knowledgeable, skilled, well trained, and passionate people—working collaboratively together on behalf the mission of the organization.

A book review in ComputerWorld (21 December 2009) on World Class IT by Peter A. High identifies the 5 elements of IT leadership, as follows:

1. Recruit, train, and retain world-class IT people.

2. Build and maintain a robust IT infrastructure.

3. Mange projects and portfolios effectively.

4. Ensure partnerships within the IT department and with the business.

5. Develop a collaborative relationship with external partners.

Interestingly enough, while IT leaders generally are focused on the technology, information technology is not #1 of the 5 elements of IT leadership, but rather employees are—they are identified at the top of the list—and the author states that CIO’s should tackle these issues in the order presented.

Further, of the 5 key IT leadership elements, fully 3—or 60% are all about people and relationships, not technology. #1 are employees, #4 is business-IT partnership (customers), and #5 is external collaboration or outreach.

So unfortunately for our organizations, people are the all too forgotten (or neglected) 60%.

I do want to note that I do not fully agree on the order presented by Mr. High; in particular I do not think the customer should be 4th on the list, but rather as the customer represents the mission and the requirements to carry it out, the customer should be unquestionably to me at the very top of the list of IT leadership focus—always. We are here to serve them, period.

Overall though, the key point is that IT leaders need to reorient themselves to people and not overemphasize the technology itself, because if they generally respect and take care of the people and the relationships, the technology will follow and be more successful then ever.