Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Comcast XFinity Provides Internet at Hotel California

So I'm getting ready to move and one of the things that I need to do is schedule to disconnect my Comcast Internet service. I've been putting this off because I already know from stories that I've read online that it's going to be a pain. But I figure, maybe if I don't have to talk to anyone, it will be less of a hassle.

So I go online and start looking through the web site. There are a lot of options on the Comcast web site, but canceling your service isn't a very easy one to find. Eventually, I switch to search. I found a page that says that there are three ways that you can disconnect your service:
  1. Send them an email
  2. Visit a Comcast store
  3. Send them a letter in the mail
So I follow the "Send Comcast an Email" link and it takes me to a form. You need to enter your account information and there's a required checkbox for when you prefer to receive a call. The reason for this is listed at the top of the form. "Comcast will call you in within two business days to confirm that you want to confirm your request." The other two areas of the form that need to be filled out are this pull down list with the reason for "why do you want to cancel your service". The available answers are:
  • No XFINITY where I'm moving
  • Current service doesn't meet my needs
  • I no longer want my XFINITY service
  • I am an active duty service member
Those are your choices. Oh, and if you're moving, the form doesn't actually have a date field that you can use to specify a scheduled shut-off date. Instead, there's just a comment field below your "why" list.

Needless to say, when I first looked at this list -- and the lack of date -- I didn't see a form that matched my needs. So I got on Comcast Chat. In the past when I've been setting things up, they've always been quite helpful. And so, working with the customer service rep using their online chat, I tried to schedule my end of service date. However, she gave me three options. First, she informed me that she could lower my bill. I informed her that since I was moving, unless she was going to lower it to $0, that wouldn't be very helpful. My other two options were to use a web link or to speak with a Comcast rep over the phone. I chose the web link -- which returned me to the very same form. She also told me to put my date of disconnect in the comments section.

So I filled out the form. I chose "No XFINITY where I'm moving", and I expect a call in the next two business days. I also fully expect that the rep on the phone will want to know where I'm moving and try to validate that there's no service that he can't sell me at my new location because "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

So I s

Friday, July 22, 2016

Semicon Booths and the Diminishing Resource Customer Service Problem

If you've seen my Twitter feed, you probably saw my most recent round of disgruntled ranting about Semicon and the booth rebook process this year. While it's worth briefly talking about my issue with Semi and the way that they organized rebook this year, what I want to focus on is the inherent customer service problem -- what do you do to make your customer happy in an environment where you're dealing with diminishing resources?

First, lets revisit my Semicon rebook problem for some background. The first thing that you have to know is that Semicon West typically takes place annually in July at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Historically, it has been the premier event for semiconductor equipment manufacturers and their suppliers to exhibit. Since about 2008 or 2009, the show has partnered with the Intersolar show to occupy Moscone South, North and West halls during the event. However, because there is a large construction project to upgrade the Moscone Convention Center, the South hall will be closed during next year's Semicon West. This means that, for a show that has often had many companies booking their space in the same basic location year after year, the playing field was being upended.

For 2017, the Semicon West show will be located in the Moscone North hall and in the first floor of West, while Intersolar will occupy the second and third floor of West. Now, here are a couple of caveats that may shape your perception of the problem. First, you must realize some things about the layout of the exhibit halls. There are three entrances into Moscone South; however, there is really one entrance for the North hall and call it 1.5 entrances to the West hall, so if you've been located near an entrance, the available options have declined significantly. What's more, depending on the location you were considering, many of the larger booths near the entrance in the North hall actually faced away from the entrance -- unlike many shows, the minimum size for an island booth at Semicon West is 20'x40'. Anything below that, and you're in a peninsula, so the direction you face is a consideration.

But there are some additional considerations as well. The Semi people informed us that registration would only be located in the West hall, so theoretically everyone who picked up a badge would go through West. Another factor that is often worth considering, traditionally Semi has segmented the show floor into "Wafer Processing" and "Test and Assembly". For 2017, they decided to scrap that -- they still collect the information from your company, but there is no segmentation on the show floor. So, if you're hoping to locate near similar businesses, there is no longer any guidance to direct you where to go. It's like offering customers products with no differentiation or segmentation.

As someone with an early selection, I watched as some of the most ideal North hall spaces were taken. Then when it came to my time to pick, I had a choice between some less than ideal North hall spaces or what could potentially be a much better spot in West. I opted for West, only to watch as more and more of the companies that we wanted to be around selected spots in the North hall. Increasingly, what it looked like was that I had selected a premium spot in a location that with much fewer related businesses. I could consider changing my selection, but that would have resulted in a worse selection that I would have had initially. So after complaining about it on Twitter for a while, I decided to go in and complain to the staff at rebook. And this brings us back to the diminishing resource customer service problem -- while the guy that I spoke to could talk to me for a while and try to sooth me and tell me that he expected that it would all work out, realistically, he had limited options to provide relief.

Like the Stubhub problem, if they cancel your transaction or for some other reason it doesn't go through, there is no guarantee that there is a comparable replacement for that. So what do you do?

In the case of Stubhub, they fixed the account problem and waived their fees on a replacement transaction. While that might not have worked for an event that was in high demand, it worked for mine. Airline overbooking is another example of this customer service issue. The airlines usually resolve it by things like offering vouchers as an incentive to people who want to volunteer to get off the flight. In the case of Semicon West, well, there is still a significant amount of time between now and next year's event, so things may change.

Do you wrestle with customer service and diminishing resources? How do you address this kind of issue?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

LinkedIn: Goodbye and Good Riddance

Oh how I have grown to loath LinkedIn. What once was the most useful social network has devolved and deteriorated. What was once a site that I visited once per day has become a site that I may visit once a month. And it's not just that I don't like what I find -- or fail to find for that matter -- on the site. It's that when I go there looking for specific content that used to be available, it isn't there. Or it's nearly impossible to get to -- certainly not intuitive.

Remember when the contacts you linked to was almost like an address book in the cloud? This feature has gone through waves and waves of changes, sometimes making it next to impossible to contact people.

Meanwhile, these days, the main feed runs more like Facebook, with people posting "brain teaser" puzzles, "inspirational" posts. Oh, and ads. A rough estimate is that your feed has become 90-95% crap. Remember how the feed used to contain status updates for your connections? That's moved to an annoying click-through widget at the top of the screen that tries to force you to engage with it to see all of the actual "updates" on your contacts.

Most recently, I found myself on the Jobs page. Years ago I created several saved searches. It used to be a great way to lock down parameters. Now, what do you have?
  1. A new search bar, so you can start all over again
  2. Links to your saved searches that crash, telling you your search has expired and delivering no results
  3. A "browse these jobs" picture interface similar to "people you may know" -- because, hey, that's a great way to look for jobs.
  4. An ad for their premium tier.
  5. And finally, more "companies you might recognize that are in your network" picture listings. Apparently, you can shape this list by setting up some preference parameters.
The bottom line? The only thing that LinkedIn was theoretically even remotely useful for -- job searches -- it's just killed that functionality.

It's mind-blowing!

And it's little wonder why they needed to sell the company -- that ship seems to have a laser-like focus on hitting every iceberg it can. But it's not like I expect Microsoft to return the utility to the software. As surprised as I am to say this, especially considering what it was even 5 or 6 years ago, I think LinkedIn is toast.