Archive for March, 2007

What an experience

I just got off the phone with a customer service rep. Now, prepared to be shocked.


Yes, it was that good. I’ve been searching around for a new bank account and a friend mentioned ING Direct. It turns out they offer 4.5% APY on savings accounts, which is a lot better then what I was getting at US Bank. What’s important here was the service. I was trying to set my new account up with my direct deposit and I just couldn’t find the information I needed online. (I know it’s there too because I’ve seen it before, so frustrating)

So as a latch ditch effort I called the 1800INGDIRECT (1-800-464-94198[2]) and was anticipating being on the phone for 15 minutes or so before I was helped, or at the minimum legions of menus for me to go through so could “route my call to the correct representative”. The phone rang once, and then a very cherry voice greeted me and thanked me for calling and asked what she could help me with. ONE RING (that alone blew my mind) I asked my question and she took verified that I was a customer which is normally pretty boring and long but she was very quick and friendly about walking me through the correct steps. What impressed me the most, was not her friendliness (although important), nor her efficiency (though she was) it was the fact she was human. Yep, human. She didn’t sound like she was part of a scripted process, she even mentioned that a lot of people call in to get the information I was requesting. In making the process real, in responding like a person, I felt like one when I was done. She was pleasant to work with, and it was a great experience. I won’t hesitate to call back. You shouldn’t either.

So this begs the question, what are the crucial elements to great customer service?

Have a great day everyone.

sliding off track


The weather down here in Knoxville has been gorgeous, sunny and in the high 60s. Yesterday I took advantage of this weather and went mountain biking for the first time this year. It was a great ride, good traction, a slight breeze and they’d done some trail improvement from the fall so the loop was much faster. On one downhill switchback I went sliding off the trail into the the leafs and subsequently that led me into a tree which stopped my slide. Now sliding into that tree hurt, not only my hand (which connected solidly with the trunk) but my pride as well, I’ve been riding for a few years, I don’t think I should be sliding off the trail into trees. I got unclipped and untangled and hopped back up on the trail. Then it happened again, different curve, different tree, same pain. This time it happened I thought about it a bit more. As I rode away I realized that I was forgetting a crucial element, I wasn’t steering. As soon as I saw I was going off track I would neglect to point myself in the right direction and I would focus only on stopping. The next time I came around a switchback I made the decision to turn the direction I wanted to go, regardless of the consequence. Surprise, surprise I stayed on the trail, now it wasn’t the most controlled turn I’ve made, but it got me around the corner.

Now how often in our business or interactions do we forget to steer? We are so focused on maintaining speed, we get caught up in our daily actions and forget to steer. Creating new products or improvements of existing improvements are crucial, but sometimes the trail changes direction. We can steer better by learning from our customers, to talking with them about the product/service. If not our customers directly, then our salespeople who are the next closest. On my ride If I would have looked ahead I probably could have seen that the turn was coming and prepared for it (and not hit a tree).

Strategy is important too, we must look forward unless we want to join the likes of companies that have been industry leaders at some point, and they become so myopic and focused on what they do, they neglect to look forward until they are at the turn in the trail, and all their momentum, their investment, is propelling them off the trail into a tree.

Going off the trail into a tree hurts, the same is for business. If we’ve been in our market for a long time, like I’ve been biking for a while, we expect the similar performance. We forget that our idea’s that got us started had risk, and that the cycle of change is always happening.

To avoid trees and to make it through switchbacks I think we have to steer and look ahead. What do you think? Is one more important than the other? Or is their an “x” not considered here that trumps all others?

sushi design


This past weekend a friend and I went to downtown Knoxville for a concert. On our way we decided we’d have dinner downtown; I’m becoming a lover of sushi, so we headed to a great little place called nama. Excellent atmosphere, great food, great service, overall a wonderful time. I’d highly recommend it. When you go I suggest asking your waitress about specials that aren’t on the menu. We had two of the fore-mentioned specials and they were fabulous. This isn’t about the food though, this is about design.

So on our way out I grabbed a business card so I could put the number into my phone for future reference. When I got back to the house to put it in I noticed that the front of the card is fairly normal looking.


A pretty clean trendy design. When I flipped the card over to put in in my drawer I noticed that the graphic continued to the back side, creating chopsticks holding a fish. Now I find that ingenious. Sure it’s just a little design kick, but it’s the attention to detail that I find intriguing.


Which reminds me of an e-newsletter last week from a local design group, Hornsby Brand Design, who incidentally does great work. In the newsletter they quoted an interview Tom Peters did for Corporate Design Foundation’s @ Issue magazine (Vol. 6, No. 1). He had great stuff to say, but the line that struck me the most was the following.

“I think 99% of us appreciate design on a personal level. Why else do we agonize over what color car to buy and what style reflects who we are?” he said. “But we turn it off when we come to the office…Pay attention to stuff that turns you on or turns you off–and don’t worry about why. You’ll begin to find that your preferences go from the deep soul aesthetic stuff to ‘usability’ features.”

Essentially, we all care about design when it’s “Me, Inc.” that will be represented, but we stop when it’s our company brand that is on the table. Personal preferences matter, because without them we develop brands without preferences. Which makes it like sushi rice. Sushi rice has pretty much no taste, but when you add the various meats, sauces, garnishes, ginger and wasabi it comes to life.

I know I need to be more diligent in this application in my own life.

What about you?

Have a great day everyone.

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