Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Application Release Planning’

If you stay with me for a minute or two, you’ll know this is not the usual rant of an irate customer. Rather it’s an outside-in perspective of an interaction with your organization from some one who has been in the service industry for 30+ years. I’ve also taken the liberty of including some possible actionables (in italics).

Residing in Mumbai, I am an owner of Panasonic split A/C unit for a little less than a year now, recommended by the dealer. Happy to say it has been a trouble-free experience.

panasaonic

During this time I’ve had three interactions with the your company personnel (or those from your authorized service-center): during a no-fuss installation, the first service call within a month of installation (My friend, this call could have been avoided if they had shown me during installation when and how to clean the filters) and the third – the subject of this post – was a no-charge in-warranty preventive maintenance call offered by you.

As instructed, I called up the 800 help-line and registered a ticket. This was again hassle-free: a) every time, I was able to reach with the first try itself – may be you had equipped it with enough lines or there weren’t too many complaints flowing in:-) and b) unlike most interactive voice response systems that drive one crazy with a zillion buttons to be punched I was able to reach the person immediately after language selection. A great start to a user experience – all credit to you for a smooth process.

The youngster at the other end right away recognized the caller and was courteous in registering my request. I was told a technician would get in touch with me in 24 hours.

2-3 days passed, there was no call. I called up the help-line again to inquire. He – this was another guy, but mercifully there was no loss of continuity – assured me he was sending reminders to the service-center.

A few more days passed before I made another call. I was informed a fresh ticket was being generated now. The earlier one showed its status as closed for lack of complete information! I did not pursue with my line of sure-to-be-infructuous inquiry on what information was lacking and if so why did they not call me up to find out,

The next few days saw one more iteration of my calling up and being assured of reminders being sent. This time I expressed my wish to escalate the matter to someone senior in your organization – these friendly reminders were obviously not jogging memories in the field. The youngster was obviously not equipped to handle a request for escalation – my friend, please note. He repeated himself on those reminders and the 24-hour-call-back. When I pushed him, the poor fellow tried to be helpful by giving me the contact numbers of the local service-center for me to check directly.

So over the next few days my calls went to the local service-center. In the first call a senior lady at the other end sounded like being upset over my intrusion into the comfort of her daily routine. I dreaded at the prospect of running into her in every one of my subsequent calls. My friend, could you please ensure these customer-facing people are basically service minded (We all know not every one is) and trained for the job? Luckily for me it was not to be.

VOIP-Desk-Phone

And every time I was assured by the call-dispatcher I spoke to: the technician in the field has been informed and he would contact me. Apparently checking at the end of the day whether the technician had attended to the request or it was still pending for the following day was not part of the dispatcher’s job. She would know the job wasn’t done yet only when I followed up with her next day.  My friend, do they have systems in place to assist them in dispatching calls and track pending ones?

Coming back to my story, by now, I was in a fit enough to climb a tree. Before going to town with my story, I decided to give it one last resort try. I went to the dealer who sold me your product. To him, I painted your service-center in the blackest of inks suspecting sinister designs in those missed deadlines. He called them up and gave them a piece of his mind. A comic relief: in the same call the lady at the other end wanted to know my address from me. Why would she need it? She already had it as part of the registered ticket. Some address verification process in play? Well, it turned out quite unexpectedly: she did not have it with her presently to give the technician as her system was down!

The dealer’s call did what I couldn’t over the last week or two. Two lads turned up within a couple of hours taking address and directions from me after finding the dispatcher’s information to be incorrect.

I asked them if the management has changed hands at the service-center – why was my third interaction so difficult for me when it was not so on earlier occasions? I was told there was a severe shortage of field staff, this being summer vacation, hence the delays in attending to customers. In fact this duo was pulled from a different geography to attend my request. I promptly thanked them and the dispatcher in my mind for the initiative and explained: My request was for preventive maintenance – it was not a breakdown call requiring urgent attention. I was willing to wait for their service. If I were given a date and time even five days later, it would have been okay. My nervousness and the overreaction perhaps emanated from the steady stream of promises made and not kept. Was I being forgotten or worse, ignored for a reason unknown to me? My friend, please train the staff to ascertain the urgency for service and negotiate acceptable response times thereby relieving the pressure on the field resources. And most importantly to make good promises made and follow up until the request is closed. You’ll find many customers quite reasonable with their demands if the cards are put on the table.

Once they finished their job, I waited for them to write out a service/call report for me to sign off. Their response made me realize how much out-of-step I was with the times: ‘Service Report? What Service Report? We go back and close the ticket, that’s it.’ Brilliant!. An utterly wasteful step cut out! We all know no one at the service-centers or even with the manufacturers ever reads these reports.

Well, I’m sure many similar stories go around all the time especially concerning white-goods. What I hear is: Most equipment manufacturers outsource field support to third-party service-centers. And there is not enough money on the table for these guys to be motivated to operate efficiently and render good quality services. The manufacturers know it and are hesitant to push these guys hard lest they lose them altogether (significant turnover of these third-parties is very common). Rarely their systems, processes and people are tested, for example, with dummy customers. My friend, I don’t know how it is with you. It may be worth your while to take a hard look and make the business viable for these service -centers.   

To draw the curtains down on this story, all concerned know the A/C unit is close to end of warranty. No one is lining up at my door for the annual service contract. Not much in it for any of them, my friend?

Thank you for hearing me out patiently Panasonic. And pardon me if you consider it impudent of me to make those suggestions.

Yes, I forgot to mention: I sent a ‘Thank You’ message to the dispatcher after the technicians’ visit.

 

End  

.

.

Credits: image from openclipart.com ()

Read Full Post »

Coming back after a long hiatus.

Many products and services are not bought by customers for they think ‘it’ won’t happen to them. This is the ‘Invulnerable Customer’ syndrome. This is not something new in the market segments of Insurance, Healthcare, Vehicle and Home Safety. It is in this context, the following interesting story comes from Roger Dooley writing at: http//www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/ articles/invulnerable-consumers.htm

“…The prescription for this marketing dilemma was found in a hospital, of all places. Can you imagine a group likely to be more careful about hand-washing than healthcare professionals in hospitals? Not only are they well educated about hand hygiene practices and the reasons for them, but they actually see patients who suffer from the same kinds of infections that can be transmitted when hands aren’t washed properly. Surprisingly, according to Penn psychologist Adam Grant, even among health care professionals hand-washing practices leave a lot to be desired.

Grant attributes this behavior to a feeling of invulnerability on the part of the healthcare pros. This feeling is amplified by the fact that they are exposed to germs often in the course of their work but rarely become ill. So, Grant conducted an experiment by placing a sign next to a hand hygiene area. One version of the sign read, “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases,” while another version said “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.”

Bearing out the invulnerability theory, the sign that pointed out the threat to the healthcare professionals didn’t change their behavior at all. In contrast, the sign that changed just one word but pointed out the danger to patients (a group seen as vulnerable to disease) increased the use of soap and sanitizing gel by 33% and boosted the probability that the healthcare pros would wash their hands by 10%. (See Science Daily and the original paper. HT to Wray Herbert.)

Many products are sold on the basis of self-concern, and rightly so. But, if that’s not working with some customers, alter the message to reflect the risk to others!…”

Well, Insurance companies are already on this track talking about protecting near and dear ones.

How about relooking at civic-minded injunctions that presently score nil impact and may even be distracting like:

‘Do not litter here.’
‘Keep Your City Clean.’
‘Do Not Cut Lanes.’ …

And, throw in visuals too for drama and numbers for emphasis. Well, at places, statistics on road accidents or the run-away population count do appear.

There are numerous other scenarios, I’m sure, where this principle could be tried out. For instance, should we apply to pithy time-worn injunctions in ethics?

While the above expresses it as a sales/marketing problem and a possible solution, let me point out a interesting manifestation of this principle of concern for others in an entirely different area: Information Systems!

I recall how we designed an application for an insurance company. Our UI design experts claimed their design had taken care of many things: colors, images, etc. Shorn of these frills, the main business was done on a screen displaying a form to be filled in by the customer. And on this screen, the usual UI gimmicks meant very little as it was a plain and simple form-filling exercise. How can the user-experience be improved at all in this all-too-common context of form filling? I wasn’t happy with what we came up with though I could not put my finger on how it could be done better to push our experts.

That’s when I got onto the net and zeroed on software solutions providers in the same space. And I found my answers with one vendor! He had used two devices that vastly improved the interaction, I thought:

a) He called the column that we had titled as ‘Persons to be covered’ as ‘Beneficiaries’. A small thing, you would say. But the word ‘Beneficiaries’ is much more positive encouraging the user in what he is doing for his near and dear.

b) More importantly there was a small pie-chart that showed what is the coverage he is buying presently and what he has left out, prompting him to think about including more. The dreary form-filling chore now has a little more punch of value to the user as well as the service provider!

While these may not be the ultimate in what could be done, it certainly gives you a flavor of what could magic could be wrought by an imaginatively designed IS application. A small sliver of what is meant by IT as a business-enabler.

Let us not settle for less with our designers!

End

More interesting stuff at http//www.neurosciencemarketing.com.

Read Full Post »

I recall how a leading multinational hi-tech company applied triaging in planning releases of a key international business application. The basic question was: Which enhancements from the backlog should be taken up for the next release? If the answer to this simple and basic question was not arrived at in a fair and logical and consensual manner, it could lead to a lot of heart-burn in different pockets of the company, not speaking of the misalignment with the company’s established priorities.

The governance mechanism established over-all principles (or it could be the CEO setting the credo for the company) in defining which attributes mattered and how much. For instance, ‘Customer Satisfaction (back then, ‘Customer Experience’ was not yet in currency) is the number one priority for us this year, followed by Internal Operational Efficiencies.’ Statements such as these act as the guideposts for actions and decisions in a variety of situations, and more specifically in this context, helped in putting together a base set of attributes and defining priority weights for these attributes consensually with in the company. Obviously these weights were subject to revision with passing time and changing priorities. Presently, we will ignore the nag who heckles us with: ‘Can I trade 2 units of Efficiencies for 1 unit of Satisfaction?’

Representative users of the application (it was a global application for the company, remember?) assembled and heard out a short presentation on the what’s and why’s of each enhancement tabled for that release. Immediately after the presentation and clarifications, they voted as to how the enhancement contributed towards each attribute on a simple scale of 1 to 5. Each attribute score was averaged over all voters and the composite score was computed for the enhancement, combining the attribute scores with respective pre-defined attribute weights. This was repeated for all enhancements planned for that release. The enhancements were now sorted high-to-low on their composite scores. Effort estimates for each enhancement were available apriori, as also the total available effort capacity for the release. Now, the enhancements were taken up in the order of their scores and assigned to the planned release up to the point of using up the available effort capacity. There were, of course, some enhancements which for a good reason ‘jumped the queue.’ This process also pointed to any augmentation or cut-back to available effort capacity needed to pack more or less in a release.

Most companies follow similar processes in planning their application releases amidst conflicting push-pulls.

(Note: The above is a fairly generic description of the triaging process without any client specific information.)

Read Full Post »