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Book Review: Influencer

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I enjoyed this book a lot. I’ve read it twice now. Well, actually, I read it once and I listened to it once. I’m continuing my trend of listening to books on CD. (Book Review: Primal Leadership) Spending 90 minutes in the car every day gives me plenty of time to listen. Ironically, my crazy travel schedule meant that it took me about a month to listen to the entire book.

Influencer is subtitled “The Power To Change Anything.” And the book lives up to the title. The collection of authors, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler range literally across the world to draw on examples of influencers. These are men and women who are literally changing the world. From eradicating the Guinea worm parasite in Africa to reducing incidents of HIV/AIDS in the Himalayas to rehabilitating career criminals in the United States. The influencers that the authors cite are an impressive group. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes said, give me a big enough lever and I will move the world. These people have found that lever.

At the heart of Influencer are six influence strategies, any one of which can exert influence, but the combination of some or all of which literally changes lives, countries and continents.

The six strategies are:

Make the Undesirable Desirable
Harness Peer Pressure
Design Rewards and Demand Accountability
Surpass Your Limits
Find Strength in Numbers
Change the Environment

Part of the reason this book resonated with me is that several of the areas of influence matched up nicely with my own 16 Management Rules that Make No Sense.

For example I believe that Money Is A Lousy Motivator and rewards can be both an incentive or a detriment. (They Switched To A Cash Prize and Totally Blew It.) But, where I had only my own experience to draw on, the authors of Influencer range far afield to find people of influence.

Listening to the book this past month, the ideas were as fresh as they were years ago when I read the book the first time. I appreciated the fact that the content didn’t seem dated.

I rate this book as one of the five best business books I’ve ever read. I cannot recommend this book to you highly enough.

What it means to you
We are all influencers, parents, bosses, employees, church group members. I literally cannot think of anyone who does not exert influence. And this book will help you do it better.

What I liked
The flow was very engaging. The authors opened multiple threads and kept them active throughout the book. The examples were relatable. Even though I may not travel to Africa, the story of the Guinea Worm made perfect sense to me. The challenges and the methods for overcoming them were easily understandable and realistic. The authors return to certain concepts multiple times over the course of the book. Each time they build on the principals already established. Like building a house, they first lay the foundation, then add framing, electrical, plumbing, siding, roofing, lights, etc.

What I didn’t
I really had to search for something to put here. While the authors described situations where failed influence methods were attempted, I would have liked to see more. For example, how did Dr Mimi Silbert figure out her method for rehabilitating convicts. She must have had some setbacks in the beginning. When we meet her, she is a master influencer who evidently has it all figured out. But, honestly the book is great without these examples. It’s not a deficiency, simply something additional I’d like to see.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Too Hot To Handle. . .Writing To Provoke

I don’t think we are going to use the gay marriage article.

Okay. . .

It just doesn’t fit the personality of our paper.

Well, I knew it would be controversial when I wrote it.

Actually, the editing staff had a discussion on it. My thought was that we should print it even if we don’t agree. The editor and the board felt differently.

This is a discussion I had with my publisher about two weeks ago. As many of the readers of this space know, I write for my local newspaper, The Timpanogos Times. I can’t link to their website because they don’t have one. It’s that old school.

The paper is in the process of turning from a quarterly into a monthly. It’s really a labor of love for the publisher. I’m sure he loses money on it every month, but he’s an old fashioned newspaper man who believes that a community needs a local paper.

I approached him last year while looking for work and decided that writing for a newspaper could help bolster my resume.

Hey Calvin, do you know any paper that I might be able to write for?

You can write for us.

Oh?

Sure, I’ll give you a regular column. Just write about whatever you choose to.

My column is called “Bliss Bits.” My lovely wife came up with the name. I write about topics with a local connection. My “gay adoption” column wasn’t my first controversial column. last month I wrote about race relations in Utah. Being the father of seven black children, the topic is very personal to me. (An Uncomfortable Conversation about Race) I had to convince the publisher and editor to run it. It generated a letter to the editor.

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Who writes letters anymore?

Of course, he didn’t agree with my take and accused me of harming race relations in Utah. I wrote him back.

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Amazingly he wrote again. My publisher handed me the letter with a kind of amused look on his face.

He still thinks you’re wrong. He wants us to print his letter as a rebuttal.

Do you do that sort of thing?

No. And we don’t intend to start now.

I admit that the reaction to that column a month ago gave me the courage to write one even more provocative, my “gay adoption” column. I’m not going to reproduce it here, because the contents are more political than business oriented. But there’s a link at the bottom to a blog where I post more personal information.

The point I wanted to make in this is the power of writing. We’ve all heard “the pen is mightier than the sword.” And It’s a testament to the power of words that whenever a power seeks to control a population, the first thing they do is limit communication.

So why not write everything provocatively? Why not seek to inspire revolution, even just in thought, in every post? Don’t writers want to change the world? Or do we only care to document it?

Every post cannot be a change the world post for two reasons.

First, as a writer, it takes a lot of work for me to write a manifesto. I researched my “gay adoption” story for weeks on social media. I gathered quotes and comments. I engaged in discussions. I spent way more time on it than a have to devote to every post in a five day a week blog. There’s just not time to do that for every post or column.

Second, as readers it can be emotionally taxing to read a change the world piece. Movies, even action movies have a rhythm to them. You cannot offer up non stop action. The audience becomes weary of being kept on the peak of an emotional mountain. The best movies give readers, I mean viewers, a chance to catch their breaths, a chance to digest and think about what they’ve just seen, a chance to anticipate the coming conflict and in the anticipation, emotionally prepare for it.

To wrap up with a business application, if every email you send is TYPED IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE YOU ARE REALLY UPSET OR ANGRY, pretty soon, people will start ignoring your email. They will assume that you are just one of those angry people and typically we want to avoid angry people. Likewise, if every email is full of weeping and emotional land mines, people are going to tend to skip over those emails as well.

But, if you have a reputation as a pretty even keeled person, when you do send an angry email, or an emotional one, it will resonate far better with your audience.

Feel free to write with passion, but give your readers a chance to catch their breath as well.

Here’s a link to the “gay adoption” column that was rejected by my editor.
Should Gay Couple Be Allowed To Adopt?

And here are some of my previous columns for the Timpanogos Times.

November 20, 2014 My Year Long Job Search

October 8, 2014 An Uncomfortable Conversation About Race

June 21, 2014 Doing It The Hard Way. . .Sometimes On Purpose

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

My Year Long Job Search

The Timpanogos Times came out again this week. Here is my latest column wherein I explain the challenges of being out of work for over a year.

Just a foreshadowing for tomorrow, this was actually my second proposed article. The first was deemed “out of place” for my quiet little town’s paper. I’m actually pleased. It means that I have found the editorial borderline. It means I’m not boring.

Anyway, this is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the November 20, 2014 edition of the Timpanogos Times.

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Hello, Rodney?

Yes.

We’d like to offer you a position with our company.

The relief was palatable. Like I’d been holding my breath for 13 months and finally could breath again. I never thought it would take this long. What I discovered about myself during the year long search for a new job was both enlightening and more than a little scary.

First a bit of background. The above conversation happened back in March of this year. But, that wasn’t the first time I was out of work for an extended amount of time. In 2007 I went into partnership with a guy in Wisconsin. It was a rafting company and literally out of my league. After 23 days on the job I figured out my “partner” was a liar and a crook and when I found out, he fired me, the final indication that we weren’t really partners.

It was rough. I had 12 kids at home. I was heavily in debt and I was living in a part of the country (Northern Wisconsin) where I knew no one needed my computer skills. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about the wolf at the door. Finally, I ended up in Utah working for a large non profit organization. That was about six years ago.

I realized that being out of work wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was being out of work and owing a lot of money. My lovely wife and I spent 5 years paying off our cars, our credit cards and every bill except our house. We were just about to start on paying down the house when I got the news.

Rodney, I’m really sorry, but we have to cut 8% of the IT department and your position has been eliminated.

I was disappointed, but not terrified. In fact, I wasn’t even particularly worried. I loved my job and was sorry to leave, but the severance package was very generous. They offered 7 months salary and offered to pay our COBRA, or continuing insurance for a year. With eight kids still at home, that was a huge benefit. And besides I was confident that I would find something soon.

My friends at church were naturally concerned. We had moved into our neighborhood in east Pleasant Grove, UT a little more than a year earlier.

Will you guys need to move, do you think?”

“Move? Why would I move? My house has 9 bedrooms. No one is ever going to want to buy a house with 9 bedrooms. I’m never going to find another house with 9 bedrooms. No, I’ll find something locally. Either that or I’ll commute.

That was one unshakable requirement. We were not going to move.

Utah is a great place for IT, or computer jobs. Adobe recently moved here and opened a big office in Lehi. Novell is still around. There are literally hundreds of small to medium sized computer companies along the Wasatch front. And I can read an unemployment report. Utah’s unemployment rate was well below the national average. I couldn’t have picked a better spot to get laid off. My real challenge would be in deciding which company to go to work for; which offer to take.

Except the offers didn’t come pouring in. They didn’t even come trickling in. I tried all the strategies. I created a custom resume for each job. I researched companies. I went to networking events and job fairs. And the money in my bank account got smaller every week.

I even cast far afield. I used to work for Microsoft in the Seattle area. Working as a consultant the money was fantastic, anywhere from $60-$100 / hour. I figured if I could stay with family in the area, I could afford to commute back and forth to Utah. Except no one at Microsoft wanted to hire me either.

Desperation started to set in. And the doubts started. At first, when I didn’t get an interview it was easy to move on. There were lots of fish in the sea. It was their loss if they didn’t want to hire me. But then, I didn’t get interviews for jobs I really knew I could do. . .or did I only think I could do them? Maybe I really wasn’t qualified to work in IT. Maybe I’d gotten too old (late 40’s) and I’d let me technical skills slip enough that I just couldn’t compete.

In the mean time, I took whatever jobs I could to bring in some money. I mowed lawns. I worked on houses. I got a great temp gig doing a research project for $5000. I got a book contract.

A couple of things that finally turned it around for me were something I did and a piece of job training. The thing I did was start to write. I was offered a chance to write for Timpanogos Times. I also started writing a blog everyday at www.rodneymbliss.com. The blog focused on business lessons I’ve learned over the years. If a prospective employer did a Google search on my name I wanted them to find examples of my job successes.

The second thing I did was accept job training through LDS Employment Services. I’m a project manager but I never got the certification for it. I never really felt the need to take a test to prove I was good at what I did. A year of futile job searching cured me of that. I took a Project Manager Professional (PMP) course and passed the 4 hour certification exam. I then went back to some of the jobs that I hadn’t been qualified for, at least on paper and started my job search anew.

Last March, after three rounds of interviews I got the phone call. Health benefits from my new job kicked in just as the COBRA was ending. Through the grace of God we had avoided an gap in insurance coverage.

As I looked back on the year I spent looking for work, I thought about how it compared with my terrifying experience 6 years earlier. The recent job search was humbling. But, because we had decided to stay out of debt, the wolves mostly passed us by. While I was frustrated at not getting interviews, I didn’t dread the mail arriving with a stack of bills everyday. I realized I’d learned from my earlier mistakes. I wasn’t thrilled to get a chance to put those lessons in practice so soon, but I was glad I had them.

Most importantly, I didn’t have to take a job that required me to commute out of state, and I got to stay in my every-kid-has-their-own-room house surrounded by my wonderful neighbors in Pleasant Grove.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

What Do You Mean It’s Not Ready? It’s Due Tomorrow!

Rodney, we aren’t going to make it.

Make what?

The launch tomorrow, the turnstiles aren’t going to be ready.

I don’t swear. I don’t swear at work or when I’m not around other people. It’s not a judgmental thing. I’m not horribly offended by those who do, it’s just that it’s not something I grew up with, and I find it easier to not pick up the habit as an adult.

About a hundred swear words and phrases flashed through my mind right then.

We had been planning this launch for 3 months. For three months I held status meetings every Monday at 2:00 PM Mountain Time. For three months my security analyst had assured me and everyone on the conference call that the turnstiles would be working properly when we launched.

This wasn’t our first rodeo. This was actually the 5th project we had run that required turnstiles. To hold back the information that the turnstiles were a risk and then only share it the day before the launch looked like a form of sabotage.

My job as project manager is to plan and drive our project, but I’m also a troubleshooter. If someone’s portion of the project is behind schedule, I have resources that I can throw at the problem. When needed, I have the email addresses of everyone up the management chain to our most senior company leadership.

Sure, everyone has those email addresses. They are in the company Global Address Book. But, in my case, I’ve had those executives personally tell me, “Let me know if you run into any roadblocks and I’ll be happy to help remove them.”

So, given a problem with part of my project, I can find additional ways to resolve an issue. But, when I’m given one day. . .not even a whole day, Marcus told me Tuesday afternoon that the Wednesday morning, 8:00AM launch wasn’t going to happen, I’m pretty limited in what I can do about it.

But, like I said, I’m a problem solver. I got with our account manager and we immediately started working on alternatives.

Maybe we could fix it with security guards?

You mean have extra security located at the turnstiles?

Yeah, they manually check the badges.

That might work.

I also started pressing Marcus for specifics about what wouldn’t work and why.

Just three days earlier we had had our final project planning conference call. We had a list of items that the client hadn’t liked during their security audit and they wanted them fixed before we went into live production.

Thanks for joining our project call. Let’s start with security. Any thing we should know about?

Nope. We’re good.

Ah. . .you mean the turnstiles are working?

Well, not yet.

Do you mean the security guards have been replaced like the client requested?

Not really.

Have we figured out the issue with the door alarms going off?

Not quite.

What exactly is your definition of “Good”?

I didn’t actually say that last line, but I was thinking it. That conversation should have been a red flag for me. But, I figured on two things. First, the turnstiles always came right down to the wire and they always got them working. Have a little faith.

And second, I really needed to believe that security was not a problem. I had a bunch of other pieces that also had to be done before launch. It was tempting to take the “Oki-doke, we are A-OK” response. So tempting that I took it

So, the day before the launch we do not have the security processes worked out. In these situations, the worst thing you can do is hide. They will find you.

I started sending emails. Lots and lots of emails. I shined a spotlight on the issue. We had our contingency plans with the extra guards, but if the client decided that we couldn’t launch on time, it was a $300,000 penalty. If we were in danger of paying that penalty, I wanted to make sure that EVERYBODY knew about it in advance. Eighteen hours wasn’t much of an advance, but it was all I had.

In the meantime, security redoubled their efforts. It wasn’t the analyst’s fault . We were working with a local installer who was new to our system. They just hadn’t figured it out yet. And they hadn’t figured it out for the past 3 months.

As often happens, after I pulled the fire alarm by sending all my emails, 5 hours later the problem finally got resolved. It wasn’t perfect, but it met the client requirements.

Crisis averted. But also, crisis postponed. Our security team had nearly knocked the entire project off the tracks just as we were about to cross the finish line. What should I do? What would you do?

I considered emailing his boss, and our VP of Project Management and Security. But to what end? Punishment? Retaliation? Frustration?

Was I thinking about throwing this person under the bus because I was angry or because it was for the good of the project?

Finally the account manager suggested we wait. That we wait until the next project and then give security less flexibility; make the security audit be two weeks before production instead of 4 days.

Don’t go looking for trouble. Deal with trust issues when you need to, but not necessarily before you need to.

And try to remember not to swear.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Catching My Breath Before The Next Wave

Rodney, we have decided to postpone the ribbon cutting for Louisville.

Till when?

January 14th.

I got about 45 minutes. That’s how long my travel calendar was free. This job was already turning into one of the most traveled in my career. (Five Percent Travel)

Louisville was our final call center opening for the year. We had squeezed the project schedule down to just over 2 months. And the team, my phenomenal team, pulled it off. We were all fairly burned out. My desktop engineer had literally passed out multiple times by pushing himself so hard.

The Fall is birthday season at my house. We had to carefully schedule birthday celebrations for the few days per month I would be home.

And it all wrapped up November 12 when our agents took their first call. Originally the schedule called for starting on Tuesday November 11th. But, that’s Veterans Day and we chose to honor the day by waiting. (And it didn’t hurt that it added an extra day to my schedule.)

But, the rest of the year was completely clear. I have a personal trip scheduled in December to fly “home” to Olympia, WA and be the best man as two old high school friends get married. . .to each other.

I wasn’t even done with my last trip when the Account Manager told me that we were coming back in January for the formal opening. Okay, but that’s just one trip. I’m sure that now that the site is up and running my schedule will settle down.

I got this letter in the mail.

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You might be able to see the signature, but it’s signed by Matthew B. Durrant, Chief Justice, Utah Supreme Court.

Jury Duty.

Don’t get me wrong. I think jury duty is not just a duty but a privilege. My employer, like many employers gives me the time off. But, I had a problem. The summons was for next year. They said I might get called any time from Jan 2nd to March 31, and did I have any potential conflicts during that time?

Well, I knew I had one, but I was pretty sure there were going to be more. I went back to Scott, the Account Manager.

Do you know when we are planning to release the new lines of business next year?

I should.

What does that mean?

It means, I know we have 4 new product lines being released between January 20th and the end of February. I’m still a little fuzzy on the exact dates.

I’ll just say last two weeks of January and the first three weeks of February. . .

Don’t forget we have a trip to Texas for the Quarterly Business Review with the client in February.

. . .all of February.

I never imagined that 3 months out was not enough time to get something on my calendar. We are also opening another call center next year. That will be another month of travel.

Maybe I’ll get picked for a jury trial? Hopefully a really LONG jury trial. . .with a sequestered jury.

(Actually, I’m just thrilled to be working at a job where I get to solve interesting problems every day.Having a job is much better than no having a job.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

No Refunds? I Don’t Think So

I’m sorry. It’s our policy to not grant refunds.

I understand that, and I know you didn’t make the rules. So, let’s talk about some ways that we can resolve this.

Sometimes there is no way out except through. For example, if you signed a cell phone contract and two months later you want out, you are going to pay. If you want to break your lease and you don’t have a tenant to take it over for you, you’re going to pay.

But, there are occasionally times where you can work a deal. I don’t consider myself an expert negotiator by any means. But, sometimes I’ve gotten lucky.

Satellite TV

When I was leaving Wisconsin (The Worst It Can Get?) I left a satellite receiver on the roof of the house. We had installed it for TV, but also for internet. It was one of the many things we could no longer afford, but that didn’t stop the company from continuing to bill us. I didn’t want them to know that we’d abandoned it. But, I also didn’t want to keep paying money I didn’t have for a service I could no longer use.

Mr. Bliss, I’m really sorry, but our policy is if you cancel the contract you are responsible for the remainder of the contract.

Then it’s not really canceling it, is it? It’s just paying the entire thing in advance.

Yeah, but it’s all spelled out in the contract you signed. Can you tell me what features you no longer find valuable?

Look, I just realized that I don’t need satellite TV, and I don’t want to pay for something I don’t need and won’t use.

What if we upgraded you to the premium channels for a year? Would that make a difference?

Not really. I don’t want the channels I have. More channels won’t make any difference.

Well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m not going to use your service anymore. I’m also certainly not going to pay for something I don’t want. So, you can continue to bill me but I will ignore them. You can send it to collections, but we both know that it will cost you more money than my contract is worth. And unless you sue me, you’re not going to get any more money. Now, that seems like a lot of trouble. We could save both of us a lot of aggravation if we just agree to cancel the contract right now.

Well, I can see your point. I suppose it does make more sense to simply cancel your contract.

Thank you.

If you’ll just box up and send us the control module from the dish, we can call it even.

Yeah, that was going to be a problem. I was in Washington, the dish and it’s control box were sitting on a house in Wisconsin.

Look you guys sent out an installer and he did everything. I’m not even sure where it would be on my roof.

Well, it’s really easy to find. I can walk you through it.

I’m not comfortable getting up on my roof. If your installer can come retrieve that will work best. Tell him to not bother ringing the doorbell. Just go ahead and get the box.

Yeah, come anytime, we’re gone.

Part of what made this negotiation work was that I was willing to take the consequences. I figured I was headed toward bankruptcy or close to it. I had very little to lose. However, I didn’t want additional debts. If I could get this one shut down, that was one less company that I would have to deal with later.

I’ve talked about my negotiating strategy before (Decide What You Will Accept and What You Will Give Up. When You Get One Or The Other, STOP.)

I also figured that the company had a point in the discussion beyond which they agreed you were a lost customer.

The second example was not as easy. I didn’t have nearly as much leverage. Sometimes you have to lay your cards on the table.

WebEx
Let me say that I love the WebEx product. It’s an intuitive, full featured conferencing system. In fact, I loved it so much that while president of RESMARK, I signed us up for a year of web conferencing services.

They are good, but they are also expensive. When RESMARK started to wind down, the WebEx contract was one of the things my investors wanted me to cancel. Like most companies, WebEx had a policy that if you signed on for a year, you had to pay for the year even if you wanted to cancel.

We don’t really have a cancellation policy. You can choose to not renew when your contract is up, but until then the contract is binding.

What if the company is going out of business?

We weren’t, but it was worth a shot.

Then, we would look to the owners to honor contracts. Are you going out of business?

Well, not exactly. We are combining with our parent company and they already have a corporate web conferencing system. We don’t need two.

We’ve found that we typically compare very favorably with other conferencing software. The parent company may want to switch.

No sadly. They are going to stick with their own.

Then, I’m not sure I can help you.

Look, we are not going to use your software. We also are not going to keep paying for a service that we don’t use. So, what’s it going to take to get out of this contract?

Ultimately I think we paid a one month penalty. Again, I tried to show the agent that it would be easier for them if they let me go than tried to keep me. I didn’t really have leverage on them. The company was a going concern, and wouldn’t have ignored monthly invoices if WebEx kept sending them. But, given a choice most people will be reasonable.

My final example is a product that we never used even though we were paying for it. Blame confusing cell phone bills.

Text

I was late to the texting world. Maybe it’s because I’m old and don’t like new things. Maybe it’s just that I never used it therefore I never needed to use it. Whatever the reason, my wife and I didn’t have texting on our phones. This was back in the flip-phone days. Six months into our contract, I happened to scrutinizing the cell phone bill. I was trying to make sense out of the hundreds of line item add-ons when I saw a strange line,

Text Messaging. . . . . .$5

That was weird because my phone didn’t have texting ability. So, I looked at the previous month. Sure enough, another $5 charge.

My wife keeps very careful track of bills. We had phone bills back to the beginning of the contract. They all had a $5 text charge. So I called support.

Thanks for calling in today. How can I help you?

I had a question about the $5 charge for texting on my phone bill.

What’s your question?

Why is it there?

That’s your charge for text messaging.

Yeah, but I don’t have text messaging.

Sure you do.

Huh?

Not my most brilliant response.

Yes, your account is set up to send and receive unlimited texts.

Can I get that money refunded?

Why would we do that?

Because, if you’ll check your records you will notice that I have not sent or received a single text in the six months I’ve been your customer. I’m pretty sure the salesman said we weren’t getting it.

I’ll have to check with my supervisor.

Yeah, go ahead. I’ll wait.

Let’s be clear, they did not have to give me anything back. But, remember that customer service reps are people too. Appeal to their better nature and sometimes you’ll be surprised.

Mr. Bliss, we’re going to go ahead and credit your account for $30. Did you want to cancel the text messaging feature?

No, I think I might actually start using it.

One thing I’d didn’t do in any of these scenarios was to get mad. I didn’t lose my temper for three important reasons. First, I chose not to since I didn’t think it would help. If I thought it would help i’d have done it.

Second, the person I was talking to didn’t make the rule. I wanted them to want to help me. Yelling at a customer service agent is generally counter productive.

Third, the agents were used to dealing with angry people. (I’ve been a phone rep.) I wanted to try to exceed the expectations of the agent. If I could exceed their expectations high enough, they would want to reciprocate. (Exceeding the Speed Limit And Expectations.)

I don’t get a refund, or avoid a speeding ticket every time. But, it happens often enough that I’ve found the reasonable approach is the best first strategy.

And sometimes it’s just nice to be nice.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

A Dish Best Served Cold

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I don’t do it very often. And if I were a better man, I wouldn’t have gotten so much pleasure from it.

I needed something from one of the engineering teams at headquarters. I knew it was going to be difficult. I tend to refer to the engineering teams in our company as “my engineers.” Not because I’m trying to build a fifedom, and they certainly don’t answer to me, but because I spend so much of my time interacting with our client, who has it’s own engineering teams, it’s just easier to talk about “my engineers.” But, HQ had their own separate team of engineers. Our two divisions shared a name, but little else. But, still I needed something. It came up while I was trying to solve a customer issue with a member of my network team.

I’ve done all I can Rodney. We need the DDNT engineers from corporate to tell us the IP address range they are using.

Who do I need to engage?

Ha. No way are you going to get one of their engineers to touch this problem.

The ironic thing was that my network engineer was extremely difficult to get hold of. The network team tended to hide their online status in our instant message product. Their status was always set to AWAY. However, most times you could simply start typing and they’d answer. . maybe. Their phone numbers were unpublished.

I would schedule meetings with him. Then, the day before the meeting, I would remind him and inform his manager about the meeting. Then an hour before the meeting, I would call and leave voice mail for him and then 5 minutes before the meeting I would call his manager to get him on the phone.

No, it’s not a good system. It’s a broken system, but it worked after a fashion. Getting an engineer from HQ was going to be part detective, part bulldog and part just bull. . .

First stop was our official liaison with the DDNT team. He worked in our division and he was the guy who was supposed to coordinate between the two teams.

Lars, I need to talk to a DDNT engineer.

Did you have a trouble ticket?

Yes, but I just need a couple questions for this custom DDNT route we set up for our client.

Has it ever worked?

No. We are building it from scratch.

Put it in a ticket and then if they don’t get back to you let me know.

I DID put it in a ticket. They said since it’s a custom setup they don’t support it.

If you already had your answer, why are you bugging me?

Yeah, Lars wasn’t going to be my way in.

Next stop was our incident management team. These guys are the ones who get tasked with coordinating outages. They have to be able to contact anyone in the entire enterprise. If anyone could tell me the right place to start it was them.

Paul, I need to know who to engage with if I have a DDMT issue?

Well, Walter Smothers is the VP. Chris Jones is one of the engineers. But, be aware that Walter is very protective of his teams.

Noted.

I didn’t have phone numbers, of course. Paul liked me, but not that much. I used our Instant Message program and talked to Chris. It was a near repeat of my conversation with Lars. No way was he getting on a phone call with either the customer or my engineer. Put it in a ticket and we’ll get to it when we feel like it.

Okay, I guess I’ll try the front door. I created a ticket.

Please ask the client for their source IP, destination IP, URL and any error they are receiving.

The problem was that I’d already asked the client all that information and included it in the ticket. But Chris wanted it sent again.

I should point out that I had worked this issue with our client for 7 months. That’s an eternity in the IT world. The client was getting pretty upset with me and my company. No way did I want to go back and ask them the exact same questions I’d asked 3 weeks earlier. The answer wasn’t going to be any different. I tried to explain this to Chris. Finally, his patience wore out. He reminded me that I wasn’t to talk to him unless I’d escalated through Lars first.

It was time to call for close air support. If you are going to square off with another department, always ALWAYS have air cover lined up. In my case I had a VP and a couple senior directors.

Kurt, Allen and Renée, I need your help. . .

And of course, I cc:’d Chris Jones, and his VP Walter Smothers. I let my executive team know what was coming.

The emails started flying fast and furious. It’s one thing to tell me, a “lowly” PM to go away. It’s harder to tell a VP to take a flying leap. When the dust settled, the DDNT team committed to work my issue and talk to my engineer if we would open a ticket and put our questions.

I’d spent a fair share of political capital, but I’d gotten what I needed, a commitment to let my engineers talk to their engineers.

Remember how my network engineer was hard to get hold of? Yeah, he just dropped off the net. I finally had the communication channels open and he quit talking. Three days went by with me begging my engineer to put some questions into a ticket and let me send it over.

Now I needed a second airstrike, this one closer to home.

Allen, could you escalate to our Network managers?

Two hours later I got a call from another network engineer.

Rodney, what help do you need?

Here we go again. Fortunately, our second engineer figured out how we could solve the entire problem just with information that we and the client had. No need to go back to the DDNT team.

Finally, after 7 months, the client could access DDNT from their location. I was thrilled. I bought the engineering team a dozen doughnuts. I let our executive team know, I informed the client. . .and then, I got to take my revenge.

Dear Walter and Chris, we got DDNT setup and working for the client. Thank you so much for your help in getting our client access to the tools they needed.

Was it childish? Maybe a little. Was it true? Not a bit. They hadn’t done anything to help and they knew it. They also knew that I knew it. But, by offering them a sincere thank you for work that they didn’t do but should have, I got to get a little of my own back.

I wouldn’t recommend alienating your engineering teams. You absolutely need them. You need to take every opportunity to validate them and their work. But, occasionally, when they’ve forced you to beg and scrape it’s satisfying to remind them, in the nicest possible way, that we should all be focused on helping customers and clients.

If that reminder comes across a little cold, well some dishes are best served that way.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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