Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brexit: Micro Decisions in a Macro Economy

With the Brexit vote and the surprise decision of the UK to leave the EU, for most of us here in the states, the biggest immediate impact is probably the market trouble and the financial uncertainty. And yet, as you watch your 401k value drop, like many macro economic shifts, there's not much you can really do. But over the past couple of days as I've had time to reflect on Brexit, I've discovered a really significant business impact for myself and, depending upon the size of the business that you work with, you may find yourself in a similar circumstance.

We run multiple web sites on Rackspace Cloud. We have also discussed building a globally centralized web site architecture, something that would enable us to centrally manage a number of localized regional sites. At the same time, running sites for different global regions can present some legal challenges, specifically in the areas of privacy and data retention -- the difference between European and US laws. One approach to help address the European legal restrictions is to operate the European web site in Europe.

For us, this was an advantage with Rackspace Cloud. Rackspace has multiple data centers here in the US, and they also maintain a data center in the UK. Initially, when we looked at this international architecture, our strategy was to simply replicate the core framework of the site across to the UK data center and, in a matter of minutes, have a European compliant site up and running.

Brexit calls that whole plan into question.

Sure, the UK is part of the EU right now. Sure it may take a couple of years for the change to take place. It's even possible that the UK may negotiate the to maintain a similar level of legal equity on privacy issues. However, and this is the big one, with the Brexit vote they've created an environment of uncertainty. Uncertainty makes a poor foundation for architecture.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Mistakes and Credits

So, I've written a lot about Enterprise Car Rental lately. Part of the reason why I took this up again was that, after my contact with Miami regional manager Jose, I expected to receive some sort of communication, either explaining the issue, something confirming that they had credited my account -- something.

Just to check, I went back and looked at my credit card statement and there was a charge of $-54.87 on my card from Enterprise on June 2. Since this charge was in the same date range as some of the hotels that I had stayed at during my trip, I thought that this was the disputed charge.

This morning, after more attempts to get a response from Enterprise customer service, I finally decided to call my credit card company in order to dispute the charge. The customer service agent at the card company informed my that the June 2 number was a credit of $54.87, and that the prior charge was in May for $54.89. Essentially, they had credited me back the entire charge. Or rather, the entire charge, less two cents. I told the agent that I was okay with the two cent charge and we had a chuckle and left it at that.

In some respects, I owe Enterprise Customer Service an apology. They did actually credit my account and respond. At the same time, considering the back and forth that we had -- and the number of times that I tried to follow up with them -- I'm surprised that they didn't email me some notice that they'd credited my account. It would have saved me a month of albeit misplaced frustrations and it would have saved them from the stuff that I posted online.

At this point, I'm unsure as to whether I will rent from Enterprise again. Prior to our trip to Miami, I was raving to everyone about the great rate that we had received from Enterprise. We were excited. I was an evangelist. Now, I just don't know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Enterprise Car Rental: Customer Lip Service

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I was finally contacted by Enterprise Car Rental. Back at the beginning of June, I spent some time on the phone with Jose, who claimed to be a regional manager for Enterprise in the Miami region. Jose listened, he was apologetic, and he told me that he would take care of everything for me. He also asked for my home address, the implication being that he was going to send me something as a symbolic apology. I also asked for a complete postmortem in an email.

And so, I left it there, waiting to see what Enterprise would do, what their response was. And, as things happen, I was very busy over the next couple of weeks. But I didn't forget. A week or so ago, I even called Jose on the cell number that he provided me, and left a voice mail requesting follow-up.

Since we first spoke, however, I have not heard anything nor received anything. Enterprise still has not credited my card for the incorrect charges. In short, they haven't done anything.

Earlier this week, I tweeted multiple follow-ups to @enterprisecares. They told me that they would follow up with Miami. To date, I still haven't received any response.

As I mentioned on Twitter, Enterprise Car Rental has inspired me to add a new tag to my blog, Customer Lip Service. This is one of those when they say that they'll take care of you in an attempt to make you feel better, but don't actually follow up with any real action. Remember when Iomega customers actually had to sue the company (and win) in order to get support for their ZIP Drives?

If you're considering renting a car, you should seriously consider this customer experience horror story as a cautionary tale. Data Importer - Customer Support Stories

As I've written about previously, I've had lots of issues with's new Data Importer tool. Recently, while importing a number of leads, I came across an issue that I wrote about on Twitter -- namely, that when you import records with the new tool, if you set "Record Type" in the interface, the import doesn't actually respect that setting, instead assigning the records to the default record type. If you're importing a lot of records, this can be a real pain in the ass.

And so I fired out a series of tweets.'s Twitter customer support replied back suggesting that I create a case. Sure enough, when I did, Salesforce customer support contacted me back and informed me that it was a known issue -- and how to subscribe to updates for when it would be fixed.

The workaround, he informed me, was to use the legacy Data Import tool. I didn't think that was still available, but he directed me to a link at the top of the "Import Leads" page. It's subtle, and it would be nice if they included a more prominent button in the interface, but the good news is that the old tool is still there. Until early 2017.

Helpful Customer Service -- When They Talk To You
Overall, discussing the issue on the phone with the customer support rep worked out well. Much better than some of the responses that I've received online in the past. My favorite is when the Twitter customer support sent me a link to "How to Configure Your .CSV file" in response to my complaints about the new Data Importer.

While talking with the rep on the phone, I also took the time to complain about how the new Data Import engine forced you to add a "Lead Status" field when you imported leads. His explanation is that the legacy tool didn't bother to verify whether required fields were populated or not and that, technically, the new tool works better. From an engineering perspective, I understand that this is a technically valid point. However, as I mentioned during my call, if you're importing LEADS, it's reasonable to assume that they are "OPEN". If not, you could easily add a Lead Status Field and import them with a different status. While it is technically operating closer to defined rules, it's not operating smarter.

We even spent a bit of time arguing about whether the Data Import Wizard would allow you to continue through your import if you left some fields unmapped. He adamantly swore that it would. My experience tells me that it doesn't. But your mileage may very.

Perhaps my biggest take-away from the experience is a reminder of just how much better it is to actually talk to a customer support person at Salesforce. It's a reminder that that aspect worked much better in the past, when they did more to support their customers before the days of expensive tiered customer support and the need to spend a ton of money just to access the human infrastructure.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Marketing Foods with Nutrition Science

Here's an interesting article about the industry for nutritional studies, How Candy Makers Shape Science. It's a deeper dive into how nutritional studies are funded by the food industry and a look at why you get studies like, "Children who eat candy weigh less than those who don't," paid for by candy manufacturers.

For me, one of the most significant quotes in the piece is, "The only thing that moves sales is health claims." It's worth a look.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Enterprise Car Rental Update: Contact.

So yesterday afternoon I received a call from a regional manager for Enterprise Car Rental in Miami. We discussed the issues that I had experienced and he apologized. He said that they would credit me back the incorrect charges. I asked for a more complete postmortem. I'll let you know when I have more. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Enterprise Car Rental Update: Still No Response. No Escalation?

So it's been over a week since I first raised this issue with Enterprise customer service through @Enterprise and @Enterprisecares on Twitter. On Monday night, I was informed by one customer service agent that they had created a case. On Friday morning, I was informed that my case was submitted a second time.

When you're setting up, the default length of time for case escalation is 3 days. While I don't recall whether there was a default escalation schedule in Zendesk, there is no question that customer service CRM tools all recognize the importance of operating in a timely fashion.

For those that might not be familiar with it, case escalation essentially raises the importance of a case. When you first contact customer service at an organization using a customer service CRM, they typically create a case to track your issue. All of your communications with the company go there. There's also a status tracker that references what stage in the process of solving your problem the issue is in. Most cases are working toward a process stage of Closed - Solved. This is the customer service equivalent of a Sales Opportunity being Closed - Won.

This is why when you deal with some customer service organizations, they will specifically say something like, "Have I answered all of your questions" or "Is there anything else", followed by a "then can I mark this issue as closed" or something to that effect.

Escalation is the process where certain cases trigger automatic alerts, typically to managers who are supposed to have the oversight to step in and make sure certain kinds of issues don't get out of hand. Since many customer service contacts can be for fairly minor things, good customer service organizations use these tools to help prevent issues "falling through the cracks". The last thing you need is to contact Comcast for help setting up your cable, only to have them forget about you for a month. These are the kinds of things that alienate customers.

Customer service queuing is why customer service software is often used to send out status updates. It's a whole lot easier for you to feel like you're being taken care of when somebody informs you of their progress along the way. Imagine if you went to the customer service department in a store and the clerk listened to your story, said "I'll be back," and disappeared. How long would you wait before becoming frustrated? One hour? Less? Would you wait through the end of the day? Would you come back the next day?

So when you see things like my issue with Enterprise Car Rental, as you watch their customer service act and respond, you can't help but compare many of these actions to industry standard practices. These practices are not unknown. And when I asked their customer service about them over Twitter, they confirmed several aspects of them. This is not some 'Mom-n-Pop' organization. So where's the sense of progress? Where are my status updates? Where's my escalation?

And while it may seem crazy to be this dogged about something as minor as a $30 overcharge, it's important to remember -- this is the same customer service mechanism that you would deal with if something far worse had happened. For example, what if they were claiming damage to the vehicle or that, despite turning the vehicle in at an Enterprise Rental Car return, that they hadn't received the car and that it was missing? All of the gloss and friendliness at the front end of the rental counter doesn't mean anything if the customer service back-end sucks.