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Shawn Weaver - Weevnet.com Administrator

Customer Service

This isn't exactly a technology related topic, but it was due to technology that got me thinking about this.

My cell phone (LG G4) died yesterday, it is less than a year old, so it is still under warranty so I called AT&T expecting to have to jump through all sort of hoops to prove to them that my phone was dead and then have to argue with them about replacing it.  I was very surprised and happy to say that my experience was quite the opposite.  The lady who answered my call was very nice and friendly, after explaining my issue and the steps I took to troubleshoot, instead of asking me to go back through the steps or try additional troubleshooting steps she took my word for what was going on, had me verify the moisture sensors were not triggered than ordered the replacement phone.  After she finished with that she asked me how the battery was on the phone, I told her it is acceptable but has lost some life from when it was new, she responded by saying "you only have 45 days left on the warranty so I am going to mark your battery as bad too so they will replace that free of charge," an extra step that she did not need to take but was more than happy to, and this small gesture really resonated with me.

This is an example of good customer service, a representative going out of their way to not only resolve an issue for a customer, but to show the customer value in doing business with their company.  This is also something that is lacking from many companies.  I work as a department manager for an IT service provider, and as such I need to provide customers with valuable service, as well as deal with vendors who have to provide both the end user and myself with service so I have a lot of experience in this matter.  I can tell you from personal experience typically the bigger the company the worse the service is, but with good leadership and a customer first attitude even the largest of companies can prevent poor customer service.

Employee's attitudes truly come from the top down (sure there are some people that no matter how miserable they are they have an incredibly happy outward appearance and vice versa, but those are the exceptions) and if the work environment is enjoyable for the employee then that will typically show in their attitude to the customer.  If management is constantly bean counting and interrogating an employee when a call goes longer than their matrix says it should than you are creating an environment where employees are less likely to feel capable or willing to go the extra mile for a customer.  This approach may look good on your metrics, but if you aren't giving the customer the level of service they expect they will go elsewhere, and it is far cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new customer.  That extra 5 minutes of time that the AT&T rep took to ask about and order a replacement battery is 5 minutes she could have spent with another customer or waiting for her phone to ring, but it has guaranteed AT&T a customer for a longer period of time.  It is also positive experiences like this that can help overcome a negative experience that may happen in the future, after all there are times when you just simply cannot make a customer happy. However, if they have 1 negative experience for every 10 or 20 positive experiences that goes a long way toward not having the negative experience drive them off.

As a manager I have a delicate balancing act that I need perform, I need to monitor my employees to ensure they are not unnecessarily taking up time that could be spent helping other customers, but I also cannot be so over bearing that they start to lose their desire to help resolve an issue, or feel that any deviation from the norm is unacceptable.  I want my employees to feel free to speak to a customer, get to know the customer and make the customer feel valued, because my customers are what makes the company money, and without that none of us would have jobs.  If that means answering an occasional question about a customers home computer, or their iPhone then so be it.There is, however, a thin line between friendly answering an occasional question and provide free support (after all businesses exist to make money) and that is where the balancing act comes into play.  Telling a customer you can't help them with what they think is a small problem on a computer that isn't covered by their support is not fun, and needs to be done with a great deal of tact to prevent them from being upset and learning how to have that level of tact is another key skill to providing good customer service.  All too often managers get lost in the numbers and the metrics about an employee and forgot to actually look at how that employee is servicing customers and if the customers are satisfied with that employees service.

Good customer service is something that seemed to be heading toward extinction for a while, but as competition is becoming tighter in most industries, companies are starting to realize that customer service is the single biggest key toward winning and more importantly keeping customers.  With that realization more and more companies are starting to work on revamping their customer service strategies with a customer first concept.  They are also starting to realize that while price is a huge factor in a consumers purchase, good customer service is something many people are willing to pay a little extra for.  I hope this trend continues and customer service continues to improve across all industries.  A happy customer is a loyal customer, and a loyal customer is a profitable customer.

Playstation Vue and Cord Cutting

So I recently moved, and given that I have now moved to a small community with horrible municipal cable service (they only offer standard definition, and a very limited channel list) I decided that now is a good time to look into cord cutting.  It also just so happens that Sony PlayStation launched their Vue service nationwide at pretty much the same time.

So the first thing I needed to do was determine what sort of programming I actually watch live, and was in need of a streaming service to fill the void.  This list quickly narrowed its way down to NASCAR events as the only thing I really cared about live, and a few shows such as Agents of Shield, and Forged in Fire that I wanted to be able to see on demand with in a day or two of the live episode.  This brought me to look at SlingTV and Playstation Vue.  On the surface SlingTV looked like the better option, at only $20/month, but it has far fewer channels, one of those channels that is missing is FS1, which covers a lot of the NASCAR events, so for me that was a strike against sling.  The other big strike against Sling was that they only allow 1 simultaneous stream per account, where as Vue allows up to 5, as I have a TV in our Living Room, Bedroom, and Garage this was a huge plus for Playstation Vue.  

Now some of the negatives with Playstation Vue vs SlingTV, device support is a big one, currently Vue is only compatible with Playstation 3 or 4, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and iOS devices (you can chromecast it from an iOS device), where as Sling is supported on almost every major device you can think of.  I am sure as the Vue service gets more popular Sony will include more devices so hopefully before too much longer I can enjoy Vue from my Android tablet, but for the way I consume TV this wasn't a deal breaker.  Another thing that Sling has that Vue doesn't is History Channel, and as I mentioned above, History's Forged in Fire is a show I don very much enjoy, but thanks to the fact that History has a stand alone app and I have access to a login for Charter cable I am able to get that for free outside of Vue.

The last big problem with any streaming service is local channels.  Vue does offer On-Demand of most popular Fox and ABC shows, but I do enjoy watching a little bit of news as I get dressed in the morning.  To combat this gap I purchased a $40 HD antenna on Amazon.com, only to find that my house is not well positioned to pick up over the air TV with an indoor antenna, since then I have purchased an outdoor antenna and will post a follow up when I have that installed.

So now lets talk about my impressions of Vue, first off, just like Sling they offer a 7 day trial, which is enough time to make sure the service will work as advertised.  I find the app to be a little bit clunky, especially on my PS3, a little less so on my Amazon Fire Stick, but I have very poor internet speed (5 Mbps) which is likely the largest part of that problem.  The interface is not very intuitive and takes a little while to get comfortable with, but it works.  The picture quality is as good as any HD TV service (even with my poor internet speed), and although I experience a fair amount of buffering, I am sure if I had faster internet that would alleviate that problem.

Overall, given the cost savings over Cable or Satellite TV I like Playstation Vue, I am not positive if I will keep it long term at this point though, my internet speed and possibility of DirecTV will determine a lot of that for me in the future, but as there is no contract it serves me well for the time being and if I choose to change I can do so easy enough.

I will keep you updated on my experiences with cord cutting, but so far I am happy enough with it.

LG Urbane

I few days ago I broke down and decided to join the smart watch crowd and bough an LG Urbane.  Now I am not the biggest fan of wearable tech, but I do feel there are certain use cases where a smart watch is useful, particularly someone like myself who finds them selves in and out of several meetings during the day, but still needs to keep an eye on incoming emails and text messages.  I hate taking my phone out in a meeting to see if a notification was something that needs my attention, but as a manager of a small growing department with few employees I need to make sure one of my engineers doesn't need me for an emergency,  This is what drove my to research smartwatches, and as a happy owner of an LG G4, the LG Urbane made the most sense.

First lets talk about the watches style, it is a true round screen, unlike that of the Moto 360, I opted for the silver bezel, but they also produce one with a gold bezel if that is your style.  The watch looks more like a traditional wrist watch than most other smart watches on the market, but it is a very large watch.  For a big guy like me this isn't an issue and the watch looks at home on my wrist, but if you have smaller wrists the watch may look awkwardly large on you.  The band is made from leather, and even though I have a difficult time finding watches that fit my wrists the band fits me well, although at the last hole, it is a nice looking band and fits well with the overall style of the watch.  Overall I would give LG an A on the style, the only thing I would like to see them do is make the watch a bit thinner.

The screen is quite clear and has a surprising good depth to it when looking at the watch face, it adds to the illusion that you are wearing a mechanical watch and not a smart watch.  Android Wear is responsive and works well, I get all my notifications to the watch, and the vibration that accompanies those notifications gets your attention, but does not make the loud buzzing sound we are used to with a lot of cell phones today.  You can even choose to not have certain applications send notifications to the watch.  I also love how a quick push of the button on the watch when silence the ringer on the phone when it is ringing.  The music player control is a dream to have when listening to music with your phone in your pocket.  Battery life has also proven to be much better than I expected, from a full charge in the morning I am down to 40 - 50% when I go to bed.

Now for some of the disappointing parts, if you are looking for a fitness watch this is not a good choice.  It does have a heart rate monitor, that I have yet to get to give me a heart rate and can't seem to figure out why it won't work.  The pedometer seems to me to be inaccurate, either that or I take more steps during the day than I thought I did, the numbers the pedometer comes up with aren't insane, but more than I thought I did.  Clearly the fitness aspects of this watch need some work.  Also the ability to voice dial from the watch seems flawed, and maybe there is a setting I need to tweak for this, but earlier today I used OK Google on the watch to attempt to call a friend of mine, and instead of finding him in my contacts it found on google the phone number of a cpa with the same name in Florida and began dialing that phone number, I label that an epic fail.

Overall I am very happy with my purchase, the watch performs well, and despite the few issues I have located, it fills all the needs that I had for a smart watch, and looks good while doing it.  I would highly recommend it.  I plan on doing another review of this watch in a few months to see if after using for an extended period of time I feel the same way.

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