Friday, 31 August 2001

Newsletter Issue 30, August 2001

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 30, August 2001
Hi guys,
Here we are in spring, already. The grass is starting to grow and its time to think about spring cleaning in a whole load of areas. With that in mind our topic this time is Remember Customer Service? .
A bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at the meaning of software "features" courtesy of FOLDOC (the Free Online Dictionary of Computing) in  Was that a Feature you were wanting?
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Remember Customer Service?

Ooops! You've managed to make a customer very angry. 
No one is exempt from mistakes. It's inevitable. The important thing is HOW you deal with it. 
And why is how you deal with it important? Did you know the stats on customer service? A bad experience will be related to an average of ten people. A good experience will be related to two. A bad experience with a good recovery where the customer feels that they "got one over on you" will get told to six people. 
Needless to say, that is not a recommendation for poor service delivery: you will probably only get the opportunity to muck things up once with a customer. If poor service happens a second time - or heaven forbid - a third, you will erode that customer's trust and it probably won't matter what you do: you will not be able to recover their custom.
The other issue is that if you have to do a lot of disaster recovery with a number customers, word will soon get around. Especially here in the "provinces" where nearly all trade is based on personal recommendation! 
And another important stat? Did you know that keeping repeat custom is six times cheaper than recruiting a new customer. Why? Because you don't have to train them in how you work, how you bill, who to speak to; you don't have to advertise to get them interested; you don't have to have promotions to get them in the door in the first place; and you don't have to educate them on the services you offer for starters.
So it pays to keep your customers happy. Cheaper for you. While academics and professionals may disagree on the exact numbers, some estimates say that a 5 percent increase in customer retention can improve profit by as much as 70 percent.
Following are some guidelines for turning disaster into delight. 
  1. Listen to the customer. Validate their concerns just by letting them tell their story and get it out of their system. Don't interrupt. Be calm and measured; and your calmness will start to wind the customer down also.
  2. Apologise. Straight away. 
    • If the issue is your fault, let the customer know that you know that and you are sorry
    • If the issue is not your fault, apologise anyway; for any inconvenience or miscommunication 
    • The customer DOES NOT need to get lectured about company policy and how the entire incident could have been avoided if blah blah blah...
    • Promise to look into it and get back to them. Set a time to do so.
  3. Focus on the solution, Not the Problem. 
    • Focus on resolving the customer's complaint first 
    • Find out what you can do for the customer to put things right by asking them
    • Allow your customer to save face. If there is the slightest chance that your company could have been at fault or even partially at fault, take it on the chin
    • If the customer insists on pointing fingers at you, simply apologise again and change the subject back to solving their immediate problem
    • NB: Once the complaint is resolved, research where the incident originated (it's easy to point fingers when a mishap has occurred. However, trying to determine who's to blame will not solve the customer's problem) 
  4. Quickly find a solution. The faster, the better. But GET IT RIGHT. Double-check. If a shipment didn't go out in time, offer to ship air-freight or same-day courier; if information wasn't emailed, send it immediately. Keep your customer informed. Get back to them when you said you would do so.
  5. Follow up to check that the solution was implemented. This is really important. Call the customer to make sure that replacements were received or that a techie has arrived etc
  6. Give them something for their trouble. If the problem was your fault, and was material, send the customer a small gift. BUT. There are a few things to remember when sending gifts: 
    • Make it inexpensive. Try small gift baskets, flowers, wine, movie tickets, chocolate, etc 
    • Buy it in. Do NOT send something from your business (eg Garage sending a free Lube). It needs to have actually cost you as the business owner to have real value in the customer's eyes
    • Do it quickly. It will lose its impact if sent several weeks after the incident occurred
    • Make it personal for the customer, if you know them. Don't send golf tees to a skateboarder
    • Make it consumable. This makes an impact on arrival and then allows the mishap to be forgotten. A gold-plated business card holder is nice, but each time someone comments on it your customer will remember how they got it; and will retell the story again... and again...
  7. Find out how the problem occurred. Check with your staff, suppliers and others involved. Think about ways to prevent this happening again. Implement your best solution. Communicate the new procedures or processes to your team.
  8. Check back later. Check back with the customer after a little time has gone by to ensure that everything is now going well;
    • If you have found out how the incident happened in the first place, let the customer know AND let them know what you have done to ensure this doesn't happen again. Thank them for helping you to improve your customer service. This should be a formal communication in a letter 
    • If you put out customer surveys, ensure you always check the returns from customers who have had problems to make sure that you are now getting it right
    • Call the customer if you don't have a formal survey process to find out if you are getting it right (a letter is not appropriate for this type of feedback as it is seen as too impersonal and "easy")
Using these techniques will afford you a little more comfort knowing you have a plan of action . . . just in case!

Was that a Feature you were wanting? 

A feature can have many meanings. For example, a great site, FOLDOC in the US, lists the following:
  1. A good program property or behaviour (whether it was intended or not is immaterial). 
  2. An intended program property or behaviour (whether it is good or not is immaterial; but if bad, its also a "mis-feature")
  3. A surprising property or behaviour; in particular, one that is purposely inconsistent because it works better that way. This is a feature and not a bug (this kind of feature is sometimes called a mis-wart) 
  4. A property or behaviour that is gratuitous or unnecessary, though perhaps also impressive or cute. For example, one feature of Common LISP's "format" function is the ability to print numbers in two different Roman-numeral formats 
  5. A property or behaviour that was put in to help someone else but that happens to be in your way 
  6. A bug that has been documented
  7. Sometimes means the author of the program missed that bit, and that the program responded in a way that was unexpected but not strictly incorrect
Turn a Bug into a Feature
A standard joke is that a bug can be turned into a feature simply by;
  • documenting it (then theoretically no one can complain about it because it's in the manual) 
  • use the feature extensively in your advertising as a selling point 
NB: An "undocumented feature" is a common euphemism for a bug.

Term Relationships
The relationship among bugs, features, mis-features, warts and mis-warts might be clarified by the following hypothetical exchange between two hackers on an airliner: 
A: "Hey - a bug. This seat doesn't recline." 
B: "That's not a bug, that's a feature. There is an emergency exit door built around the window behind you, and the route has to be kept clear." 
A: "Oh. Then it's a mis-feature; they should have increased the spacing between rows here." 
B: "Yes. But if they'd increased spacing in only one section it would have been a wart - they would've had to make non-standard-length ceiling panels to fit over the displaced seats." 
A: "A mis-wart, actually. If they increased spacing throughout they'd lose several rows and a chunk out of the profit margin. So unequal spacing would actually be the Right Thing." 
B: "Indeed." 
Bloody hell.

Quick Tip for Defraggers Everywhere

Do you , like me, have trouble getting defrag to run cleanly on your machine? Getting sick of having to Ctrl Alt & Del to get rid of all those MS system applications that are running in the background before defrag will run, and even then it taking 10 hours or coming back with a message stating that defrag has restarted 15 times due to the Hard Drive being accessed and asking do you want to continue?
Well, there is an easy answer in a few simple steps;
  1. Turn off your screen saver by right clicking on the desktop and selecting Properties from the popup menu. Go to the Screen Saver tab and change your Screen Saver on the drop down list to "None" 
  2. Go to Start |Shut down | Restart
  3. Hit F8 a few times as your PC boots back up 
  4. Select "Safe Mode" from the DOS screen list (should be number 3)
  5. Run defrag in Safe Mode (Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Defrag)
  6. Go to Start |Shut down | Restart
  7. Your PC will boot back up into Normal mode
  8. Turn your screen saver back on
Regular defragging, for those of you who didn't read the last issue, will make your PC work much faster.
Safe Mode is a stripped down version diagnostic of Windows, loaded with minimum drivers. You will find that the colours are appalling, the screen resolution is dreadful, the image size is huge and everything takes forever to run. But worth it to give your hard drive a health spa once a week. 
Piece of cake.

TLAs for SMEs

Here is this newsletter's TLA for you;
  • ABEND or abend, Abnormal End. Unexpected software termination, crash or lossage. This comes from an old error message on the IBM 360, and is used by hackers and code grinders
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
Another Function key for you - this time it's all you can do in MS programmes with a straight F8
Windows "Change Start up Mode (eg Start in Safe Mode)"
And in applications software it is all about extending your selected (highlighted) text or fields;
  • Access "To turn on Extend mode (EXT appears in the lower-right corner of the window); pressing F8 repeatedly extends the selection to the word, the field, the record (in Datasheet view only), and all records" 
  • Excel "Turn on extending a selection by using the arrow keys (click f8 then right or left arrow key once for a column, up or down arrow key for one row)" 
  • Word "To turn on Extend mode (EXT appears in the lower-right corner of the window); pressing F8 repeatedly extends the selection to the word, the sentence, the line, the paragraph or cell, and all pages" 
  • Publisher "Select all text in a text frame, all text in connected text frames, or all text in a table cell"
Hot Linx
Do you know what questions to ask potential employees at an interview? To find out all the right questions, go to,,1837-613552,00.html 
A "do you remember site" for all of you who still own a pair of Docs. Check out what the good Doctor Marten is up to at
For feet with a slightly more hip and funky Kiwi flavour (!), you must check out my favourite place at
And for those of you to whom chocolate is pretty much as good as it gets, you must go check out the Sweet Seductions Chocolatier site to find out what kind of chocolate lover you are. Their retail shop is unfortunately down at the moment, but you will find a host of information on the humble cocoa bean at 
And what trip to Chocoholic's paradise would be complete without Lindt of Switzerland? Check out the site and do their what-chocolate-4-U-today-style quiz at 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here