Software is easy, people are hard. I’ve said it many many times. Managing your customers take more than software, but software sure can make it easier. Good software. Good CRM that makes the customer confident but doesn’t go into the creepy stage.
I have no idea what software Safelite auto glass uses, and this is probably a better story because of that. I could totally build their CRM in my head in Dynamics CRM, but again, I don’t know (or really care) what software they use.
So, I have a chip in my windshield. Not sure how or when it happened, other than not long ago, this window is only a few weeks old (that’s Colorado for you). I call my insurance to make sure that I’m covered for chip repair and setup an appointment. This was a bit of a miserable call, the agent was obviously new and sticking to their script, and apparently I have little patience on Monday mornings. But, this was my insurance company, not Safelite. The good part of this is that they could directly schedule my appointment for the repair (yea, integration!).
Shortly after the call, I get an email confirmation. Simple, to the point and a little stylized (yea, email marketing add-on!).
This morning I get the following email. Click on the image, open it up, look at it.
Let’s review this email. We’ll start at the image of the technician at the top and go clockwise.
Often these people would be coming to your home, for me it’s my office. But either way, YEA for giving me a picture of who to expect. Build trust. Maybe I’m a young mom home alone with a couple of small kids, super cool to help ease that adult version of stranger danger.
Around to the column on the right. Continue that trust building thing. Tell me about how you check your techs for criminal records, drug screening and driving records. Now you continue to tell me how skilled they are, not just trustworthy. Again, lots of points here.
For me the middle, the body of the email, is meh, mostly irrelevant.
Now that left column is full of winning.
Confirm customer contact info.
Confirm location details for service.
Confirm car that you are servicing.
Could it get better?
Well, yes, because it doesn’t stop there.
About an hour after the email, Joseph the technician calls me to narrow down the expected time for him to be here. The email gives a four hour window, on the phone that was cut in half.
Joseph carries a mobile device that shows appointment details. Comes in, confirms with me and gets the keys to my car.
After fixing the chip in the window, he comes back inside, tells me he’s all done. Is there anything else?
Before he’s even out of the building, I get the email with the survey link (my response is this blog post).
I know I am. I hope to see a few of you there. I will be one four panels this year; two for MVPs and two talking about new features in CRM 2013.
One of the most exciting parts for me of this year’s conference our user group, xRMVirtual, celebrating five years! It’s hard to believe that five years ago, on a bit of a whim Shan McArthur and I jumped off a cliff and started this great virtual community. We share a passion for the user community and love to bring the meetings to you every month.
Here’s the standard advice for any professional conference:
See you there.
When I got into the software development world by accident many years ago I was amazed at this professional community. Shocked that there were people out there that wanted to help others, their (gasp!) competitors even, to do better. To learn. To share. And then there were whole groups, a great big organized eco-system of people helping people just because it was the right thing to do, not because someone paid them. Wow. Just wow.
I had to be part of it.
I couldn’t watch, I had to DO IT too.
I co-founded and worked with my local .NET group (www.southcolorado.net) for many years. It was great to watch it grow from two or three people to several hundred. That group is still going strong and is a great resource for our local professionals. And with meetings at The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the group has the coolest meeting space that I know of.
From that group we met several other local .NET leaders and together worked to make what started as a code camp but wound up being the Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta. The event was for coders, DBAs, server folks, SharePoint techies and more. It has been awesome. These free all day events each had over 500 attendees, giving up their Saturday morning sleep-in time to learn and to share.
Now my time is spent working with a virtual group for Dynamics CRM developers (www.xrmvirtual.com). We are about to hit our five-year anniversary with over two thousand members. With such a specialized technology family a virtual group seemed the way to go to get the audience we needed. We have had a handful of spin-off traditional groups in areas where there are enough developers to have those meetings.
It is my honor to be here to serve this community.
Please tell me no.
As I’m rushing out of the house this morning. Coat on. Purse, computer, keys and dog in hand and the phone rings. The landline at the house. Who calls a landline anymore? It must be important.
May I speak with Julie please?
This is she.
How are you today?
Fine thanks, and you?
I’m great, thanks for asking. This is so and so from such and such car warranty company. I’m calling about your 2007 blah blah car to see if you know it’s no longer in warranty and would you like to add an extended warranty for this car.
Seeing as that car was totaled in 2009, I’m pretty sure I don’t care if it has a warranty or not. Have a nice day.
Not even thanks for your time or goodbye. I try to recognize that this lady is just doing her job. But she was preventing me from going to my job. I had to find that happy medium between you’re a human too, but I know you’re wasting my time, so let’s just get this moving along.
Now let’s take this apart. I have no fantasy that my contact information is safe or secured or private in any way. I’m way past that.
The car, was a lease, in 2007. Seven years ago. How hard is it to write your query to say exclude if type equals lease? Or exclude if lease term has expired?
Add some simple integration to your CRM. This car has not been “mine” for FIVE YEARS. Can’t you run a quick check against current registrations and see it’s no longer registered? Or do a darn Carfax report to show titled type equals totaled? Then add that line item to your query for your call agents.
And why not add an item to their call script…once she knows I no longer have THAT car, why not start a conversation about what cars I might have now? Could she help me with those? This automation stuff is not that hard.
I just get frustrated when companies fail at the most basic parts of customer relationship management. I know how easy it is to make small and impactful changes. Sure, there’s some pretty big things we can do too, but save that for the big companies, I get it. But for me, this call this morning, came from a tiny call center. With one day of consulting from someone that knows a little about software and process automation and the differences could be huge. And heck, it doesn’t even matter what software you choose. Obviously if you’re here you know I’m building this in my head in Dynamics CRM, but really any of them could do this basic CRM.
I have driven all over the world in all kinds of conditions. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t know how to drive on wintery roads (but still insist on doing it).
· You, the driver, are the best safety feature of your car
· You, the driver, are the most dangerous feature of your car
· Four-wheel drive is not four-wheel stop
· Assume the other guy is an awful stupid driver
· Don’t be that awful stupid driver
· If everyone around you is going slow, you go slow(er)
· If cars ahead of you are all braking, you brake
· Pay enough attention to those around you to be able to recognize those last two items
· Know why bridges, overpasses and hills are more dangerous so you can better drive on them
· Never underestimate the power of good tires
· Never underestimate the power of bad tires
· Go slow, it seriously hurts less to crash at 40mph than to crash at 65mph
· If the roads are bad and you’re in a hurry, leave early or don’t go
· If you’re nervous, give it a try, go slow, you’ll probably be ok
· If you scared (like skeerrred), stay home
· Stick to the main roads, you’ll have more cars to deal with but they will be cleared first and better maintained through-out the storms
· Put more distance than normal between you and the car(s) around you
· Yes, even at stops, more space between cars
· You can most likely live without milk or juice or whatever for a day or two, that’s not usually reason enough to go out (and I’d bet your neighbor has an extra roll of toilet paper if you go ask)
· If you are approaching an intersection and you realize you won’t be able to stop, draw attention to yourself. Honk your horn. Flash your lights. Do your best to make the other cars see you so they can avoid you since you’re not in control.
· Above all, realize that you are not the only person on the road. Everyone around you is special to someone and you do not want to be the arrogant jerk that was going too fast, tailgating or what not and cause mommy or daddy to never come home again.
Has it really been over two months? Have we really travelled all the way around the globe? We’ve crossed the equator three times and will a fourth on the flight I am about to board. In one trip we visited 10% of the world’s countries. Not too shabby.
Lessons learned and other miscellaneous observations:
· Doing this with hubby was the perfect choice, no one I’d rather share these memories with AND I still really like him
· I am a much more social creature than I realized, I missed my kids and friends a ton (yes, the dogs too)
· I would make sure we met up with more friends along the way than we did (see item above)
· There were some places along our road trip portions where we stayed a single night, I would change the minimum stay to two nights; time to enjoy the journey AND the destination
· Packing was just about perfect, I packed one pair of pants that I hardly wore and I packed more plug adapters than I needed
· It was harder than I thought to not shop
· I love food, but somehow almost always felt hungry
· We found great wine everywhere, but in Asia they didn’t have locals wines available, they liked the exotic feel of wines from far away
· Every airline has a different definition of business class
· I felt like I worked a lot but didn’t get nearly the amount of writing done that I predicted or needed to do
· If I had to leave the US and move anywhere else in the world, it would be New Zealand, Queenstown to be exact
· You can never take too many pictures, that’s why we’re digital no?
· I spent more on some things than I expected and less on others
· I would return to anyplace we visited except for Bangkok, it’s hot, smelly, dirty and gross (and the only place I felt discriminated against as a westerner)
· There are yummy sweets everywhere but nothing beats a good Oreo (and they are everywhere too)
I’m sure there’s many many more that will come to mind later, but I do have a plane to catch, heading to the MVP Summit, via Honolulu and San Francisco.
Ok, no not really.
This is the story of how three cheetah hunted and killed an impala. They ate until their bellies were almost full.
Only to lose the kill to a leopard.
The hyena arrived, stole a bit of the impala, testing the leopard.
Then the leopard lost it to a pair of hyena. Notice the leopard hauling ass up the tree.
Poor poor leopard.
(Disclaimer: I am not a Lord of the Rings person, so I did not look for nor did I find any hobbits)
Wow, this really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Seriously. The scenery is stunning. The people are nice. I would totally move here if not for leaving behind my kids. And friends. And dogs. And my whole life. But maybe I could come back again and again, for a few weeks at a time.
The biggest fault I can find is the cost of things is on the high side. Your food costs are easily 30% higher than in the US. That goes to loading up on groceries and cooking your own and eating a meal at a restaurant. Not sure I understand why the wool is so expensive, sheep are everywhere (seriously, you cannot exaggerate this).
We started in Queenstown for a few days, went down south toward Invercargill and Nugget Point, up the east coast to Dunedin, then back over to Queenstown, up through Christchurch via Akaroa, and finally a night in Kaikoura before driving to Picton and hopping on a ferry to the North.
If you’re here, you know I travel a lot. So when I say that of all the places I’ve been Queenstown feels like home to me, you know I’ve seen a lot and don’t say that. The town has stunning views everywhere you turn, enough shops to find what you need and again, nice nice people. Things are so pretty in Queenstown that I even got up (mostly voluntarily) before sunrise to see things like this (sunrise in Glenorchy):
There are mountains and lakes all around, and the water is so blue. I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks manufactured sometimes. I can only imagine this is mostly because of the care of the environment you see around here. It doesn’t feel off or inconvenient, it’s just the way it is. Lack of pollution and a little bit of paying attention to the world around you offers things like this (I assure you this is exactly how my camera gave me the image, I do not have the software or the skills to mess with it).
Some highlights from our stops and drives for you, there is not enough time nor blog space to give a full rundown of the last several days. We tried where possible to stay in apartments with kitchens as much as possible. We were driving all around, so keeping some groceries was easy, and we had a cooler to transport cold items too. One thing we would change if/when we do this again, stay longer at each place. I know I preach that already, never be in a rush or you don’t see anything. And we thought we planned that way. But, in New Zealand, the roads are long and windy and full of distractions. Take whatever time the GPS says you will arrive, add at least 25-50% to that and you’ll be close to the actual time of arrival.
Queenstown- We stayed at Peppers Beacon, great location, great facilities. Regardless of where you stay, make sure you have a view of the lake. Dave went on the stargazing tour on the top of the gondola and enjoyed it. He got some great images too. You are close to wine country, so certainly make time for a tour. We went to Gibbston Valley and had yummy wine and yummy food. Take a day or two and drive out to Milford Sound. If you’ve never driven around fjords, you’ll thank me. If you have, then you know it’s beautiful and will thank me for the reminder. Last time we went to Milford we had typical overcast skies. This time was blue, vibrant, very very pretty and good contract for pictures.
Invercargill- this was a small stop, but really we wanted to go to the bottom of New Zealand, and this was our gateway.
Nugget Point- There is a lighthouse and a penguin reserve and that’s about it. We had the top floor of a little outbuilding on the coast. We technically saw two penguins on the beach, but they were so far away it feels like cheating to claim the sighting (remember, the African safari was only a few weeks back and I was less than two feet from a lion). The image below was somewhere along the drive. Can you find the Dave?
Dunedin- Apparently we missed the memo that this was a college party town, and we didn’t see any of that either. For us, it was a great few days. We took a train out though a gorge. Drove over to a penguin reserve and saw a handful of yellow eye penguins. We were there on November 5th, so plenty of fireworks going on too. We also took a drive up to Moeraki Rock beach area, pretty cool (and weird) round boulders on the beach.
Akaroa- Stunning. Stunning. Stunning. You drive down into this valley, water all around. Sheep on the hillsides. We stayed in a little (really little) cottage, but it was perfectly adequate for what we needed. Not everything has to be 5-star (ok, as long as you know good pillows are on you next stop!).
Christchurch- we actually didn’t stay here, we ate here and drove through downtown. Food was good (with good company). Downtown was still rather sad. There is some rebuilding happening, but it was still rather much a ghost town.
Kaikoura- Again a beautiful drive to get here. Very small town. Nice enough, but too small town for me. The goal here was a whale watching tour for Dave and because of our first day with bad weather, that was cancelled. The apartment was nice (the pillows were awful ).
Ok, so I didn’t really co-pilot, but one of our flights was on a tiny airplane and I was in the seat by the pilot, so if something happened, I either learned how to fly or we all died. Read on.
We arrived in South Africa via large commercial jet. We started in Istanbul, then changed planes in Dar Es Salaam and again in Johannesburg before we arrived in Cape Town. We stayed Cape Town for a few days, then flew (commercial) to HDS, Hoedspruit. From there we drove to Thornybush Lodge (ok, we hired a driver). Then after Thornybush, another car ride to Mala Mala. And finally from Mala Mala we flew via a semi-private charter to Johannesburg.
Flying out of Cape Town to Hoedspruit was on a commercial jet via South Africa Airlines regional carrier. It was a smallish jet, but a jet nonetheless. The flight was unremarkable, but after landing, while taxiing in, the pilot did name off the small antelope that blocked our path as we waited for it to clear the taxiway. Hoedspruit was the smallest airport I had ever traveled through or even seen in person. To call it an airport would be generous. We grabbed our carry-ons, walked off the built-in steps of the airplane, and walked over to the “gate”. We went into the arrivals lounge, which resembled someone’s jungle theme living room. The luggage tractor gathered our bags from the cargo hold, and delivered them to us on the sidewalk in the parking lot.
Flight status board at Hoedspruit. Note the fee for overnight parking, converts to about $2.50.
Our drive to Thornybush only covered a few miles as the crow flies, but it was almost all dirt roads and never a direct path and took an hour or so. We did see random people wandering out in the (literal) middle of nowhere. I always find that odd. You could be miles away from anything and you will still see people out walking in South Africa. Thornybush Lodge has an airstrip, the only time I saw it was when two amorous lions decided to get it on there. (Doesn’t feel right posting a picture of lion sex, but I have a few, it didn’t last long)
When we left Thornybush to go to Mala Mala it covered more miles as the other drive but there were also few roads that led from one to the other, lots of dirt roads, lots of random small towns. Road closures with little if any warning and guesses on how to get where we needed to go. Cows. Goats. Donkeys. All wandering around on the sides of the road, on the roads too. We passed many shopping areas. But we’re not talking what many of us would think of, we’re talking open front sheds (many with electricity) lined up as stalls on the side of the road.
Our original plan for leaving Mala Mala was via a road transfer, a 5-6 hour drive in an air-conditioned van. Doesn’t that sound great?! So, we changed once we were there to use the semi-private charter via Federal Air. They go from airstrip to airstrip of these private reserves picking up passengers and going to Johannesburg. We were the last stop at the reserves, so when we took off from Mala Mala, we went straight to Johannesburg.
One of the Mala Mala drivers drove us from camp to the airstrip, took maybe 8 minutes. We saw two planes on the airstrip, a small one and a smaller one. Any guesses which was ours? Yes, the smaller one.
There was a uniformed man that took our luggage from the Mala Mala driver and placed it in the rear of the plane. And by rear, I mean the back door, next to the last seat in the back. We walked over the the front door of the plane and climbed up a half dozen stairs and once on the plane realized it was even smaller than we thought, we couldn’t even stand upright. I was in seat 1, Dave there in the back was seat 8. Next to him was the luggage area.
We load up and the nice man that loaded our luggage follows me onboard and closes the door. He then tells me that there are food and drinks for anyone that wants them, we should help ourselves (I discovered they were actually belted in, so I couldn’t pass them back, looks like I was serving).
Then the nice man gives us the standard flight safety briefing and then hops over the center console of the cockpit and lands in the driver seat. He was luggage, flight attendant and captain.
I realized that if something happened to the baggage handler/flight attendant/ pilot man, I would be flying this plane. So much for my regular napping on airplanes.
The flight was mostly smooth, quick and uneventful. Just like we want them.