Terrible TV

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So we bought a new big screen television. 


That’s exciting, right?


We brought it home from Costco. 


And we gave our prior model away to a family member. 


It was a shlep to move that $2,000 Panasonic behemoth from 2007!


By the time we got back home and connected our new LG TV, oy vey what a disappointment. 


It had this brilliant display in “test mode” that when hooked up to the cable box looked dark and worse than lackluster. 


Even when fidgeting with the settings to offset the dark screen, the gorgeous test display mode still came out looking like crap in actual tv mode. 


But the worst part was that there was a black line down the middle right of the screen. 


When we looked it up on the Internet, it was a known error. 


The instructions said to call LG and make a service appointment. 


WTF!  To heck with this sh*tty TV–it’s supposed to be brand new and actually work–so it’s going back to Costco where this crappy product came from. 


I dragged this widescreen TV back to the store and put it on one of their flat wide carts. 


The problem was that the wheels on one side of the cart were busted, and it kept turning into the fence, store shelves, and wall.


When the lady behind the returns desk called me for my turn, I tried to push the cart and it wouldn’t move. 


Not being able to budge this thing,  I gave it shove forward and the TV went flying from upright to horizontal–SMASH!


The lady behind the returns counter goes to me sarcastically:


“So what was wrong with it BEFORE you just knocked it over???”


Well to make a long story short, I returned the lousy LG television and got a refund. 


And instead ordered a new Samsung curved TV from Amazon–hope this one works!


As for the horrible quality control of today’s electronics–it’s a shame that they can’t seem to make them without problems–they’ve only been making televisions for like 100 years or so. 


In fact, we recently bought a Dell laptop and within like 5-6 weeks, the motherboard died.  


As you can see, the vendors are wringing profits from the products they are making at the customer’s expense. 


There is no quality control to speak of–instead be ready to return the junk electronics to the garbage vendors that make them. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon’s Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 


Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!


For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.


But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 


Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 


Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 


Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 


For a long time, they didn’t even charge sales tax!


It seems people can’t even imagine not having Amazon–where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don’t even want. 


So here is the rub.


Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns–with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 


Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 


Amazon got us all as their slave customers–and we let them and love them for it. 


And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?


I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don’t like that they’ve built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 


Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you…


Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  


Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.


In the end, that is a winning strategy that won’t land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 


Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it’s not product returns that you’ll be for long worrying about. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazing Amazon

Amazing Amazon

So Amazon should be renamed Amazing, because they are.

They are the best online retailer–love ’em!

SELECTION: Amazon has everything.

PRICE: Amazon is reasonably priced.

SPEED: Amazon Prime gets you your goodies delivered in under 48 hours.

RETURNS: Amazon takes returns easily; virtually no questions asked.

Amazon is so customer focused that you can even email Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO himself, at Jeff@Amazon.com.

Aside from their highly successful retail operation, they have the Kindle tablets, Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud computing, Kiva Robots for warehouse operations, and more.

So what’s the secret of their success?

One thing, according to the Wall Street Journal, is their tough hiring practices.

Amazon has “several hundred” interviewers called “Bar Raisers” that give candidates extremely thorough interviews.

Bar Raisers typically have conducted “dozens or hundreds of interviews and gained a reputation for asking tough questions and identifying candidates who go on to become stars.”

Typically, it “takes five or six employees at least two hours each” to evaluate and vet an applicant.

Amazon makes all this effort in recruiting to weed out people who are the wrong fit for the company.

They believe that it’s better to invest in a sophisticated recruiting process than to make costly hiring mistakes.

While this certainly sounds like a well thought out and vigorous hiring process, the article makes little to no mention of performance measures showing that their hires really are better matches, have superior performance, or stay with the company longer.

The one anecdote given was of a Bar Raiser who found a candidate for a programming job that “didn’t know much about the specific programming language.”

Barring some real statistics though, either you could conclude that Amazon’s hiring process is truly superior or perhaps question why it takes them 5 to 6 interviews to do what other successful companies do in 1 or 2.

Either way though, Amazon is a amazingly great company. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>It’s the Customer, Not the Technology, Stupid

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Two of the finest customer service companies these days are Amazon and Apple. Amazon with free shipping and generous return policy for just about any reason is amazing in their no nonsense customer-service orientation—they inspire virtually complete customer trust. And Apple with their try it, you’ll like it stores full of computers, iPhones, and iPods, as well as their extended product warranties, training classes on products and awesome service desks is just another great customer shopping experience.

We need more of these positive customer experiences:

· Products—products should be true quality through and through (not the shoddy stuff made on the cheap to maximize profit and minimize customer satisfaction).

· Commitment—companies stand by their products with hassle-free money back guarantees (forget the 15% restocking fee, the mandatory return authorization number, and the 4-6 weeks to get your money back).

· Service—customer service has got to be easy to access and quick to resolve problems (banish the cold and calculating automated calling systems with the loop-de-loop dialing—“dial 1 if you want to jump out of a window!”—and where routine service problems are resolved without having to escalate numerous levels to get a supervisor only to then get accidentally disconnected and have to start all over again; oh, and did I forget having to give your basic information over 3 times to each service rep you speak with).

Aside from these basics, we need new ways to improve customer experiences to give the customer an absolutely satisfying experience.

In this regard, I loved the recent commentary by Steve Kelman in Federal Computer Week entitled Customer service Tips From Developing Countries, where some simple yet novel customer service innovations were identified, as follows:

· Chinese Passport Control and Customs provides a kiosk for passengers to “report on their travel experience by pressing a smiley face or a frowning face.” Whoola instant feedback!

· Saudi Arabia ATM Machines, while withdrawing money “offered an option of paying parking fines and some government license fees.” That couldn’t be simpler and quicker.

· Singapore Passport Control “placed a bowl of candy at the counter.” A tiny gesture that goes a long way.

From a simple smiley/frowny face feedback mechanism to a candy bowl as a way to say thank you; it is not rocket-science to be kind, gentle, and caring for customers—most of the time, it’s the basic manners your mother taught you.

In technology, these customer services lessons are especially apropos, since it is easy to get enmeshed in the technology and forget the people and processes that we are supporting. (Or to put it in another way, “it’s the customer, not the technology, stupid!”)