Friday, August 10, 2012

All It Takes Is A Good Beating

Once upon a time Telstra had a web page that gave you the details to contact a specific director with a problem…I don’t know if it still exists…if it does I’m guessing its so deeply buried on the web site that you’ll have to do an Indiana Jones to find it…I’m guessing they got rid of it.

So Peter had enough and decided that the nuclear option was the only thing left so he called the AE for one of the companies he consulted to and explained to him that if they couldn’t transfer a phone because of different internal Telstra billing systems that he would have to advise his clients and suggest they move to another carrier.

All of a sudden after a few phone calls things started to happen and magically the transfer could be executed.

So it now the base line was set - if you want to get something happening with Telstra all you have to do is threaten to take away a few hundred thousand dollars worth of business but if you can’t do that then you are well and truly and comprehensively screwed.

So finally, after three months and having to threaten to take away business a single mobile phone was transferred from one account to another and moved from one billing system to another.

What excellent customer service. The David Thodey promise is being delivered.

But here’s the kicker.

About two weeks ago a headhunter contacted Peter and asked him if he’d be interested in working at Telstra.

After Peter stopped laughing and picked himself up off the floor the headhunter told him it was for a project that Telstra was getting off the ground that was to look at workflows and processes and cross functional business units to address customer service shortfalls.

Peter was amazed, he’d been told about this by a couple of Telstra directors that he met with. The company has spent hundreds of thousands on consultants to put together a plan to address the issue - Peter told these guys that if they wanted to save the money all they had to do was get customers who think Telstra’s service blows goats into a room and find out why…really find out why rather than pay lip service and they’d know how to fix the problem.

The feedback from Telstra was that they wanted to use an internal guy, or had someone in mind for the role.

This initiative from Telstra is doomed to failure because institutionally they just don’t want to hear how fucked up they really are and Peter was the guy, he’s been dealing with them for over 15 years and knows warts and all what’s broken internally and more importantly he can bring the consumer prospective to the table.

Good luck Telstra its going to be another wasted effort and lots of shareholder dollars will go down the toilet.

I predict that there will be no change after all the hoopla.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

So You Think It Can't get Any Worse

Now as Peter was telling me this story I thought to myself that it couldn’t get any worse - I didn’t realise how wrong I was...

So enough was enough for Peter so he hit the phones and started to escalate up the Telstra chain until finally he got through to someone who started to make things happen - or so he thought.

Everything sounded good, he sent scanned versions of the paperwork and the ephemeral voice on the other end of the line told him he could rest peacefully knowing it would all be taken care of.

…now we fast forward four weeks…

Peter stormed into the T Life store on George Street and came across the guy who originally was supposed to deal with the issue just lounging on a chair kibitzing with another one of his overworked brethren. They locked eyes. The Telstra guy made a beeline for the office but he was too slow and Peter intercepted him.

“Hi. I’m not leaving until this gets fixed. Where’s the manager?”

The Telstra guy looked like he swallowed a T-Pad and scrambled for the office. Peter waited.

To paint you a picture the office is behind a featureless door with a numeric keypad lock, you can’t see in.

Peter waited some more. Finally after waiting for nearly twenty minutes he pulled out his mobile phone and called the T-Life store. Eventually when he got through he asked to speak to the manager. When he got put through Peter told the manager that he wasn’t planning on leaving until the matter was settled.

The manager walked out of the office.

Note to Thody, David Telstra CEO:

This is not good customer service.

After much back and forth the manager basically gave up and said ‘They told me we can’t do anything for you so I’m sorry there’s nothing more we can do. You can’t consolidate the service.”

Peter decided enough was enough. It was time for the nuclear option.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Telstra Improves Service from Screw! You! to Up! Yours!

So, in yesterday’s entry I started telling you the story of Peter and how Telstra treated him to a telco initiated pineapple enema, today I can tell you how they escalated the pineapple to a telephone pole.

So after a few months of everything going right Peter found things weren’t working again so he started hitting the phones, spending yours on hold and dealing with call centres in the far flung corners of the globe with staff whose concept of customer service was ‘the customer is here to serve us’.

So after getting nowhere with the various call centres, including the Bigpond one which has been set up inside a Black Hole because all communications go in, but, nothing ever comes back.

Finally he gets things rectified after a couple of months of calls each week, averaging between 45 minutes to over an hour on hold.

…only it wasn’t…

The idiots at Telstra had associated his personal account with that of his employer without any authority, written or verbal from Peter and he didn’t know. All of a sudden his ability to log into online account maintenance disappeared and he just chalked it up to typical Telstra efficiency he didn’t know what they had done.

He let it slide because he was going to consolidate all his services to one bill and then get his wife’s mobile on the same bill so that he could just have one bill to pay per month…you’d think this would be an easy thing to do…but…ohhhh noooo…this became another example of Telstra.

So getting his Internet, mobile and landline onto one bill was easy so after he got the first bill and all looked good he decided to move his wife’s mobile onto the same account.

And then Telstra customer service reared its ugly head and the the telephone pole was turned into a cellular phone tower.

Tomorrow we can talk about what happened when something that should have been easy to do encountered Telstra’s internal workings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Telstra spells service - S-C-R-E-W! Y-O-U!

Finally back in the world after dealing with one of those too big to be killed but everything that can go wrong did projects.

I spent the last week catching up with friends and one of them told me this story which is just the greatest example of why David Thodey is flogging a beached whale in his search for customer service.

I’ll call my friend Peter. Now - back in January 2010 he discovered that his email address, that he had since the days when 14.4k modems were blindingly fast connect speeds, stopped working. After a whole bunch of phone calls he found that Telstra had migrated the account from an ‘old’ billing system to a ‘new’ billing system and everything broke. They got it fixed, but then the next month - same problem and again many phone calls, hours on hold with call centres and finally got it all back online again. Next month, same problem and same process - by this point in time he was getting pretty pissed off with the whole process.

He also discovered that somewhere in the tinkering that Telstra did his ability to access his online billing stopped working. A few phone calls to get that sorted and still no luck. So he just stopped paying the bill - that way when Telstra rang up to threaten him with disconnection he could tell them the whole sorry saga and get the notes associated with the account history and then pay them. This also went on for a few months until finally he got onto someone in Telsra who showed some initiative and wanted to proactively fix the problem for the customer.

Now I’m guessing that they got their ass fired because they were too customer focused and wouldn’t fit in with the Telstra culture of approaching the customer with a jar of Vaseline and charging them for the table to bend over.

So they called around, spoke to people and finally told him I’ve found a group that can fix your problem. They did, but, to fix it they had to change his user name for the billing system. Now he’d spent time setting everything up so he could login with the one user name for everything he did with Telstra and some ‘customer service’ fool told him that Telstra’s systems could not support what he wanted and so he could either accept what they were telling him or go away.

So given such a wide range of customer focused options he accepted it and trundled along.

Unhappy but, like most of us resigned to the fact that even this piss poor outcome was pretty good for Telstra.

In the next entry I’ll continue along with this story and you’ll be amazed at how comprehensively Telstra can screw things up and then blame the customer for the problem.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Gerry Harvey

Dear Gerry,

I’d like to offer my condolences to you.

Your retail business is slowly sinking into the morass of an established business model that has been bypassed by younger, faster and more agile retailers. They realise to survive in retail today you need to do more than squeeze your suppliers for bigger margins to be in your catalogues and have loud advertisements on prime time TV.

Your inability to realise that the goal posts have moved and that you don’t know everything about retail is the greatest drain on your business.

Having low paid poorly trained staff in a shop full of things with prices screaming the size of the discount just won’t cut it any more with the buying public. You need to change and if you don’t you’re going to die.

You gave your online strategy four months before you started to change your expectations, the problem is your organisation has become so addicted to the ‘catalogue cycle’, where results can be measured within days that anything requiring an attention span longer than that of an average toddler seems to be too hard.

Adjusting your expectations of online contribution downwards by so much, so soon after launching just screams impatient loser, would you shoot one of your horses if it lost its first race?

If I had the resources you have to throw at an online strategy I’d be able to deliver better results, but, you’re too wedded to “yell and sell”.

Can I give you a few little suggestions for your online strategy as well as your ‘bricks and mortar’ stores.

Firstly for the stores you really need to get the staff to provide fantastic service, not good, not great, but fantastic - I mean the sort of service levels where people just want to go back because they were delighted by the way they were treated, not by the size of the discount.

Maybe the thoroughbred business has more of your attention nowadays but don’t forget the stores let you get into that executive circle in the first place.

Seriously Gerry, you're on a slow, painful decline to oblivion unless you realise the model that worked oh so many years ago ‘just don’t cut it no more’. You need new blood to turn it all around. I know your franchisees are going to get pretty pissed off if your online strategy means they’re going to have to reduce margins to compete, but, what you're doing just isn’t working.

Let me leave you with the experience I had at one of your stores not that long ago.

I walked in looking to buy something I needed for home. I knew what the rough price range was and so I went to my local store.

It was quiet, the staff were just standing around talking amongst themselves, judiciously ignoring me while I looked at the item I wanted. No one was willing to talk to me, obviously their discussions were too important to the business to provide service to a potential customer.

But then, the moment I picked up the box and started to walk towards the counter they broke ranks and rushed at me like a bunch of NFL players looking to crush a quarterback. They all wanted to write it up for me and carry the item to the counter. Where was all this concern for me when I was looking?

Now I don’t know what incentives you provide to your staff, but I’m guessing there’s something about the number of items they write up at a terminal before it gets to the regular check out counter. That really annoys me because it makes me, the customer, feel like I’m getting the service at the end only because it helps to line the pocket of someone who not five minutes before wouldn’t give me the time of day.

If I feel this way, I’m sure a whole lot of others do too.

I mean I know you did that Undercover Boss infomercial that was supposed to show how you were trying to improve customer service by doing the disguise thing - all it did was prove what everyone is saying about the abysmal level of service in your stores.

In the end I was so offended by the behaviour of the ‘sales’ staff that I actually left the store without buying the item, went to your opposition and got it for less and without having to deal with rapacious sales staff that barely hide their disgust for me as a customer.

I’m sorry Gerry but unless you listen, and I mean really listen you're going to end up as another piece of retail jetsam.

Mr. 1% Spend

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Google. Microsoft. Cloud Based Apps. Fight!

So Microsoft is feeling the heat from Google Apps.

Must be the case if Monkey Boy’s Microsofties have decided to go for an all out attack on the Gnomes of Mountain View.

Microsoft recently released a video telling Monkey Boy truths about Google Apps.

Now while I don’t necessarily believe that Google Apps is the greatest thing since Cuban Cigars and Premium Vodka, its not a bad product and it has a pretty good price point story to tell.

The truth is that Office 365 is very expensive, especially in Australia.

Now a friend of mine showed me a couple of emails relating to Office 365 discussions he had with Telstra before he told them to get a grip on reality.

The first, and biggest question was based around the variation in cost between most of the world and Australia. Across the planet the cost, predominantly, equates to USD$24 per user per month, for the plan he was looking at, in Australia its AUD$40.10 per user per month for the same plan.

As I write this the exchange rate is hovering around USD$1=AUD$1.06.

This means that it should be costing around AUD$22.64 per user per month. Its a cloud service, no boxes to move, distributors to take a cut, product to feeight into the country, DVD’s to produce, packaging to manufacture and so on so where’s the price differential?

I mean the data centre that runs Office 365 for Australia is in Singapore and is the same one that is used in Singapore where the cost is $24 per user per month and in the absence of anything else it looks like its priced in the local currency.

So what was the explanation from Telstra for the price variation?

As to pricing differences between AU and US, It is a common practice by all multinationals to have price discrimination based on Geography. If you compare the prices of Petrol, iPods, TVs Big Macs, there is a price discrepancy based on the purchasing power of that that country.

We still believe that purchasing Microsoft Online Services will be more cost effective than on premise software. But also consider this, the Australian currency is the 4th most traded currency. Between July and October 2008 our currency fell from 97c to 61c.


So the strongest argument Telstra had was that ‘all multinationals to have price discrimination based on Geography’, unless you live in Singapore, in Russia the price converts to USD$30 per user per month, and that three and a half years ago the Australian dollar fell from 97c to 61c.

Sorry but that’s ancient history.

Here’s the thing AUD$40.10 converts to USD$42.75. So if we use USD$25 per user per month as a base price someone in Australia is levying a massive tax on all Australian businesses to use a product that supposed to help reduce costs.

Lets do the math.

A business of 100 staff in the US will pay $2500 per month or $30000 per year to use the cloud based Office 365.

A business in Australia with 100 staff will pay $4010 per month or $48120 per year to use the same product running on a data centre ‘out there somewhere’.

Convert the annual US price to Australian dollars at todays exchange rate and the price becomes $28122 per year.

So it costs an Australian company $19998.00 per year more to use Office 365 in Australia than it does in the United States for an equivalent number of users.

No wonder Microsoft is taking aim at Google Apps.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Samsung Big Ass Mobile

So Samsung, and now LG have a phone that comfortably (?) sits in that uncomfortable space between a tablet and a smartphone.

The question for me is why? I mean its too big for comfortable use as a phone, unless your one of the genetically privelidged who can hold a competition basketball comfortably in one hand.

So when you use this phone you’ll look like this…

Not the look you need when you’re trying to look cool with your new smartphone.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This may be a bad omen...

One of Samsung’s staff has come out to say that they are not much concerned with the appearance of an ‘iTV’ from Apple.

Now if I think back to the comments from ‘the industry’ prior to Apple delivering the iPhone they weren’t too different.

Things like, “they don’t understand the market sector’, or, ‘their phone is too expensive’, or, ‘we have better battery life’, and so on.

Now Samsung swings into action with their AV product manager saying that TV sales are driven by picture quality and that Samsung can’t be touched in that respect.

He said “TVs are ultimately about picture quality. Ultimately. How smart they are…great, but lets face it that’s a secondary consideration.”

I dunno, if there’s a TV on the market that lets me access my media content by voice control as well as giving me a consistent interface across my phone, tablet and so on with a good picture quality…I’ll consider it.

Here’s the thing. Go to one of Gerry Harvey’s “yell and sell” palaces and you’ll see a wall full of TV’s and the picture quality varies wildly. In fact you’ll find that the staff adjust brightness and contrast to benefit whatever they’re trying to shift. I’ve seen it.

I’ve had the staff adjust all the setting to be the same on several TV’s I’ve been looking at and found that the nicest suddenly became ‘not so nice’.

I’m not saying that Apple will dominate the market, but, Chris Mosely from Samsung should acquaint himself with the word hubris, just like Monkey Boy did after his comments in the video above.

Monday, February 13, 2012

So NFC is a good idea?

A while back I put up an article about some concerns I have with NFC implementations.

Just the other day there was a big hoo-hah about Google Wallet being hacked on rooted Google Phones. Now it turns out the Gnomes of Mountain View actually left a security hole big enough to drive a truck through.

This piece on Boy Genius Report goes into more detail on the mechanics of the hack.

My problem with this is “what were they thinking”?!

From looking at the video this isn’t the sort of security flaw that’s taken hundreds of hackers millions of lines of brilliantly executed computer code to discover and exploit.

I mean, really, are we supposed to trust our personal and financial security to a bunch of code-monkeys that leave security holes like this in a product?

Makes you really feel safe about that RFID chip in your passport and your credit card too.

This is a technology that requires a whole lot more thinking about.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Halliburton dumps Blackberry

So Halliburton has decided to give their 4000+ Blackberrys the flick for iPhones.

This is not good news for RIM.

They’ve been losing corporate customers at a massive rate and their much vaunted Playbook has just turned out to be just another very expensive paving brick. Just to move stock they’ve had to decimate price and in Australia some carriers are giving away a playbook with every Blackberry activation and they’re still having trouble moving stock.

RIM is a living (?!) example of what I described in an article I wrote for Australian Anthill a long time ago If you don’t change, you will die!

The problem with this company has always been that they thought because they created the smartphone market they knew what everyone wanted. The reality is they didn’t and the market is punishing them for it now.

They took their eye off the ball and it hit them right between the eyes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More about PC Sales

Just following on from my last entry.

According to this piece in The Register:

Apple was the only major computer maker to increase its shipments into the UK PC market during the final three months of 2011.
The article was quoting figures from Gartner that excluded iPad sales, despite that Apple showed a growth in shipments of 17.2% when comparing Q4 2010 to Q4 2011.

Comparatively HP dropped 27%, Dell dropped 32.2%, Acer lost 62.4% and Toshiba lost 5.4%.

The big question is if this is being driven by:

  1. Everyone wants a Mac because Windows is so yesterday.
  2. Everyone is waiting for Ultrabooks running Windows.
  3. Everyone has decided to skip Windows 7 and wait for Windows 8.
I do know that many training providers for the corporate markets are now offering Mac training on a regular basis so maybe there is a change happening in the market.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Apple in the Workplace

I recently heard about a company that was moving away from their Mac environment to a Windows based environment. Their IT staff argued against the idea but the CFO argued it was what all corporates are doing. The Board of this public company committed to spending several hundred thousand dollars to change platforms, but, without a single functional improvement, just a platform shift.

It turns out that the bean counter was wrong and the IT staff were right.

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald Cracks appear in Windows’ corporate dominance seems to bear out what the average person is seeing - Apple gear everywhere

The most interesting section of the article was:

Microsoft has traditionally dominated the corporate workplace and more than 85 per cent of corporate computers still run some version of Windows software. But products based on Apple operating systems - including Macintosh computers, iPads and iPhones - are increasing in demand.

Apple declined to comment on its hiring moves. But Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said a rash of recent job ads by Apple is “strong evidence that Apple is responding to the demands of companies for a direct, formal relationship” with the company rather than buying products from the Apple Store.

The growing appetite for Apple products in the workplace underscores the changing nature of the corporate market. Workers want lighter laptops, tablet computers with longer-lasting batteries and smartphones with apps in the office environment. And information technology departments and buyers are listening.

Last year, 46 per cent of companies in North America and Europe issued Macs to employees, according to a survey from Forrester Research.

More importantly the demographics were telling:

Younger workers and those near or at the top of the corporate ladder were more likely to use Apple products in the office, according to the survey. Forty-one per cent of Apple users were directors, 43 per cent earned more than $US150,000 a year, and 28 per cent were between the ages of 18 and 24.

In other words the future decision makers were packing Cupertino hardware as were company directors and corporate professionals.

This doesn’t bode at all well for Microsoft and their Windows platform.

In Australia the Commonwealth Bank has made the decision to jump platform from Dell to Apple for their laptops.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the current and future decision makers is being fought right now and Ballmer and his crew of happy Microsofties are not doing too well.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When Plan 'B' is actually Plan 'F'

It never ceases to amaze me at exactly how blindingly ignorant management are when it comes to a Disaster Recovery Plan.

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine, who I’ll call Sam, who told me this story. It’s so good that I’ve transcribed the conversation as it was described to me. I pity the poor shareholders in this ASX listed company.

CEO: So we need a Disaster Recovery Plan.

Sam: Great. That’s a good idea.

CEO: How are you going to do it?

Sam: (confused) Why do I have to do it?

CEO: Well if this place burned down what would happen to our data?

Sam: It would be fine. The data is backed up to tape as well as hard drives. The hard drives are in a room that has a four hour fire rating and tapes are taken off site daily.

CEO: Excellent. So we’re fine.

Sam was really confused at this stage.

Sam: What about the rest of the business?

CEO: What do you mean the rest of the business? You’ve got backups what more do you need?

Taking a deep breath…

Sam: Well lets assume that the place burns down.

CEO: Okay.

Sam: So what happens the next morning?

CEO: You restore our data from the backups and we’re back up and working again.

Sam: Uh-Huh. How?

CEO: Well you know. You just restore the data. You know, all that technological stuff.

Sam: Okay, what do we restore to?

CEO: Computers.

Sam: What computers? The place burned down.

CEO: You know you can just go to a local store and pick up a few computers so we can get working again.

Sam: What about the phones?

CEO: We’ll redirect them.

Sam: To where?

CEO: Mobiles.

Sam: What about the staff? Where do they go?

CEO: They come to work.

Sam: Yeah, but that’s just burned down, so what do they do when they get here?

CEO: Uhhhh…we’ll give them mobiles.

Sam: And where are we going to get the mobiles from?

CEO: Our telco.

Sam: So 50 staff show up for work at the burnt out wreck of the building and I’m supposed to have 50 mobile phones ready to issue to them?

CEO: That’s right and with their computers they’ll be able to work.

Sam: That’d be the computers we just bought from Harvey Norman, right?

CEO: Yep.

Sam: And where do they use their computers?

CEO: Don’t you think you’re being a bit negative about this. You should be giving me solutions to all these things you’re bringing up! You’re not being a team player.

Sam: So lets just assume for a second that the staff show up and the computers are here, they all need to be setup, installed, configured and have the data restored to them. They phones need to have SIM cards and be activated and then we need to redirect each phone to the correct new mobile service.

CEO: See. That’s the spirit. Now you’re getting it.

Sam: But the building has burned down and there’s no power and nowhere to work and set up the computers and activating 50 new phones is going to take a while as well.

CEO: See. Now you’re not being a team player again. You’ve got to find a positive outcome.

Sam: Positive outcome!? The place is a pile of ashes, I’m surrounded by 50 computers and the software they need to run, 50 mobile phones that I need to activate, there’s no power and nowhere to work!

CEO: We have faith in your ability to deliver on all of this.

Sam: But what about our business system? It doesn’t run on a computer I can get from Harvey Norman.

CEO: We have continuity of business insurance, just buy what you need.

Sam: It may take a while to get it ready to go.

CEO: That’s okay. Just so long as we can collect money we can use it as an excuse to delay paying everyone we owe money to.

Sam: Oh. Okay. So long as you’ve got a plan.

CEO: Well I do, but I’m not so sure about you and your team. You should work on it some more and address the shortfalls I’ve identified but the rest of the business has a plan.

Sam walked out of the office shaking his head, certain that the business was on a course that mirrored the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ballmer Disses Andoird

So Steve Ballmer thinks that Android is cheap and complex.

Lets cast our minds back a few years when Ballmer gave us his opinion on the iPhone.

So now Ballmer is telling us that Android is no good. Based on his other prognostications I guess that Android’s going to go like gangbusters at the expense of Microsoft.

I seem to remember Ballmer telling us that the Kin - remember that one? - was going to set the world alight. By the time of its merciful death it is rumoured to have sold less than 10000 units. What was left are supposed to have been buried in an unmarked mass grave somewhere.

Then there was the rumoured Zune phone, that Ballmer dismissed as impossible and against the company’s mobile product philosophy.

Its starting to look like you could do worse than betting against Monkey Boy and his tech pronouncements.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Another Year

If you subscribe to the dingbat theories espoused by the credulous with too much time on their hands and access to a Mayan calendar it’s game over at the end of this year.

A lot of guys I know in the IT industry are hoping these dribbling prognostications are right because there’s only so much stupidity you can take before you want to go postal.

Late last year I wound up on a big project and managed to relax over Christmas and now its back to the grind.

The good thing about the tech industry is that nothing has really changed.

RIM is still waiting for someone to come in and turn off life support. On the upside Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille have given up as being co-CEO’s. On the downside they still don’t have anything new and/or interesting to provide in the way of products.

Nokia is beating the drum telling the world they’ve shipped a million WinMoPho’s - the big question is what’s the sell through rate? Just because you’ve shipped a million handsets to distributors it doesn’t mean that a million people are going to part with their hard earned to buy one.

Ballmer is still telling everyone that Microsoft is relevant, unfortunately sales numbers in the PC world are telling a different story.

The patent wars continue with the legal profession making out like bandits as multi-billion dollar corporations behave like a bunch of whining pre-schoolers arguing over the red truck in the sandpit.

Finally there’s been no change in the level of stupidity found in the rarified air that is senior management.

Welcome to 2012.