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23 June 2010

An End to Technology?

I got to thinking about technology this morning and came up with the following observations:

  • Technology is only considered "advanced" by human standards. We come up with new things and we think that we're so intelligent. When in fact, God is the Creator of the universe and doesn't need a smart phone to stay connected.
  • Technology is NOT a bad thing. Some may say because of my first point, there is no need to advance technology. But I suggest technology is from God. When you break it down, God created us, and we're attempting to create things. In essence, God gave us the ability to create advances in technology - suggesting He knew all along we'd wind up where we are. It's up to us whether we use the things we create for good or evil.
  • Someday I'll be out of a job. Think about it like this: When we arrive in Heaven, all of our technological advancements will remain on Earth. God doesn't need our technology and we won't either.
  • God has His own "technology." We don't begin to understand what is possible with God. For all we know our bodies will be capable of flight, we'll be able to communicate via thought transfer in the collective conscious or maybe we'll be able to transport ourselves to a place by simply picturing that place in our mind. Whatever the case - we're in for a real eye opener when we leave this Earth.

14 June 2010

Coffee + Uppity = Irritating

I was in an "uppity" restaurant the other day. When I asked for coffee, the response was, "Would you prefer the Ethiopian or Guatemalan blend?"

I stood there for a second and then answered as if I had a strong opinion, when in truth I could have cared less.

Why? As long as my coffee isn't Folgers, Maxwell House or McDonald's "blend," I'm typically good.

I think what really made me laugh (inside) was that the coffee they were brewing probably cost $6 a pound even though they were making it out to be expensive "gourmet" coffee.

What I should have said was,
Actually, I was hoping you had Blue Mountain Coffee from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.
If he knew what I was talking about, I would have been really impressed. You see there is good coffee, and then there is amazing coffee. And if they really wanted to impress me (in a genuine way) - they would have Blue Mountain Coffee flown in weekly for my drinking pleasure...

Please Make Your Point!
A bit over the top, I know. But it made me think about our websites - or more specifically our "digital footprint" as churches.

Are we offering people a little of this or a little of that because it sounds impressive? Because it's the latest thing? Because we were able to find an amazing plugin that didn't cost much but makes us look really innovative?

Or are we giving people what they need? What their souls are craving?

Are we stripping it all down and offering them the gospel in digital form?

Are we giving them "uppity fluff" or the stuff straight from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica?

I'm as determined as ever to figure out what we're doing well and what we're putting out there to look cool. Hopefully this year we'll strip away all the fluff and help people truly see God through our digital presence.

05 June 2010

Sprint. Customer Service. Lessons Learned.

I wasn't going to write this post at first because I knew the negativity, frustration and anger would come shining through.

But I think I'm finally over it, and capable of learning from it.

I'm part of a team that oversees an eCommerce site that provides customer service during the week. So I've been trying to apply some of the things I learned in this recent episode toward making our customer service for that much better.

My Scenario
As a Premier Level Sprint customer I'm allowed to upgrade my phone yearly with no penalties. However, due to my wife being listed as head (accidentally based on a Sprint error) neither of us were allowed to upgrade this year. This was corrected, but due to the error I wouldn't be able to get my upgrade for close to two weeks after the phone (HTC Evo 4G) came out. Since it was a Sprint error (and because it would kill me to wait an extra two weeks to get my phone) I began the process of having the "one billing cycle" problem corrected.

After numerous calls (some lasting close to an hour), multiple trips in to the local Sprint store and promises that turned out to NOT be true - I still don't have the phone.

Now I know some of you are saying, "Dude, chill out! It's just a phone and it's only one day past it coming out. Aren't you making a mountain out of a mole hill?"

To that I would agree - not that big of a deal. But it's the time and energy put into it (all the while being told it would be a simple process) that has me worked up.

Lessons Learned
So, after dealing with the massive and slow moving engine that Sprint is; I think I've learned the following things about customer service:
  • Don't die by the process: I was originally told it would take a full billing cycle for the changes to be made - because this was the process in the "system." However, with it being a Sprint mistake - there should be an immediate fix that can happen outside that system. A supervisor or department head should have the power to go into a customers account and change whatever they want to change in order to fix problems that arise. It appears to be possible - but the journey to find this person and get them to make the change is much more difficult than it should be.
  • Don't complicate the calling center: A calling center needs to work together as a team. Don't have multiple departments in multiple locations - each not understanding what the other does. I told my story at least 6 times throughout this process.
  • Hire intelligent employees and train them well: Your front line employees need to be awesome trouble-shooters. In my case, the minute they understood the problem they should have been able to transfer the call to the department and person capable of clicking one button to fix the problem. In my case I had numerous front-line employees tell me nothing could be done - only to find out later that things could be done if you had the right person in the right department.
  • Maintain a smooth-running business plan: A business needs a well designed business model with strict guidelines as to how their product, retail stores and corporate call centers network and interact. In this case the call center told me I had to go to the retail store to have the over-ride done on my account. In the store they said they didn't have the ability to do over-rides and that I would have to go through the corporate call center. All the while leaving me feeling lost and incapable of moving forward. Make sure you have things like this planned for and that there is a simple and documented process so that things like this can be quickly fixed.
I feel like I could add a few more - but they deal with things like being nice, assuming the best in your customers and stuff like that so I better leave them alone :)

Hopefully these observations will keep customer service at running smoothly as well as your efforts in providing support to your customers.

I'll let you know if I ever get to upgrade my phone!

04 June 2010

I've Had It Up to Here!

I've been silent for over a week now, but not because I want to be. Truth is, we're in the middle of a very large project - one that will change the face of our team and how we do what we do.

Sounds pretty ominous eh?

Actually, it's just different than anything we've done before. Instead of it being a project where something gets created or redesigned, we're actually attempting to remove or combine.


Because it seems like this is the typical pattern with most teams:
Each team member starts with a few regular tasks and has the margin to go above and beyond in their sphere of influence. But over time - we keep adding tasks until that is all the team member does - no more above and beyond. They simply become a clock puncher...getting their stuff done and going home.
And this has become true of us. We're all so tied down to tasks that we can't pick our heads up to dream again. So we're doing something about it.

In every setting this might look different, but in ours it looks something like this:
  • Stop: There are things we have done for years that just don't need to be done anymore. Identify and cut.
  • Combine: There are countless tasks that live independently of each other - but what if they could be combined? Identify and combine.
  • Move: There are thing we do that take HUGE amounts of time and energy. But it is only because of the process. If there were a simpler way to do it wouldn't that be better? Identify and move.
  • Grow: There are things we are doing that are "old school." We simply haven't grown into the technology that is available in that area. Identify and grow.
  • Simplify: And in all things ask if there is a more simple way of presenting the content. Are our websites still too bloated? Have we let our media players get too full? Etc. Identify and simplify.
I've been pretty vague - partly because we haven't completely finalized our plan of attack. But when we do I'll post again and offer specific examples of each area.

Sound like fun? Give it a try in your environment.