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Elephants and Children

How do you get an elephant into a cherry tree?

You plant a cherry pit, get the elephant to sit on it and wait.

I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard for how to train teenagers.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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Always Take The Survey. . .Especially If You Are Satisfied

You hear it at the beginning of each call every time you call customer service:

This call may be recorded for quality purposes. Please stay on the line for a short survey.

Everyone gets the first part of the message. Many people get the second.

If you are like most people, you called customer service because you had a problem, or a question. And like most people, you are busy. You’re life doesn’t revolve around talking to someone on the phone. At least not your bank, or your credit card company, or any of the other services you may find yourself calling during the day or night.

Once the call is over, your problem is solved, or your question is answered. All you want to do is move on to the next question or problem that you need to fix. Who has time for a survey that is just going to add some data bits to a database, right? I mean, it’s just a simple survey, right? It’s not like it makes any difference, right?

Oh sure, if you had a bad experience, we all want to tell someone about that experience. But, the agent on the phone was super helpful, right? In fact, she was exemplary. You’re thrilled. Goodbye and have a wonderful day.

But, there are people whose life does revolve around talking to someone on the phone. That agent, or customer service representative that you talked to spends six to eight hours per day talking to people just like you.

We’ve come a long ways from the days when I started as a customer service rep for WordPerfect and then Microsoft corporation. Operating system have improved dramatically. When I was doing customer support calls I had to rely on the the customer to be my eyes.

Can you tell me what you are seeing on your screen?

We’re way beyond that stage now. Now we can share screens. We can remotely control a client’s interface. We can even see a user’s phone screen if they grant permission.

There are a few ways that call centers rate their employees. In addition to tracking how long people are at work and how long they are available to take calls, one typical measure is number of calls taken. They also track how long an agent spends on each call. It’s called AHT, or Average Handle Time. Another common metric is how many calls are resolved on first contact.

But, the gold standard of how to evaluate employees is customer satisfaction. That’s why a bad review is so devasting. And I can tell you from personal experience, a bad review does get looked at. And if an agent gets too many bad evaluations, they will be given the opportunity to be successful somewhere else.

But, what about the good reviews? What about the time the agent fixed your issue in record time? What about that review?

For the agent, that review is the most important of all. In call centers I’ve worked in, each superior rated survey is not just acknowledged, but celebrated. Some call centers have a flashing light on the ceiling that goes off when someone get a 10 on a survey. Others ring a bell.

Agents that get multiple perfect surveys quickly rise to the top of the organization. They are the first to be considered for promotions, and raises. They become trainers and team leads.

Their calls are used as an example for others to show them what works and how to be successful as a customer service agent.

Here’s the hidden secret. Agents are never allowed to tell you that. Not a hint of how all important that simple 90 second survey is. But, a good survey is literally money in the bank.

So, the next time you talk to a customer service agent that does an exceptional job, take the time to answer that survey. You will be brightening their day way more than they brightened yours.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Would Bill Gates Pick Up A $100 Bill?

I found some money today. It was just laying on the ground. I stopped and picked it up. Why not? It’s free money.

There are people who honestly think I shouldn’t pick it up. They’ve done a cost/benefit analysis and think that there’s a certain amount, below which it’s actually counter-productive to stop and pick up money.

Here’s how it works. You take your annual salary, let’s suppose it’s $80,000/year. That means that you make about $40/hour given a typical 40 hour week. If you break that down into a per second rate, that comes to $0.011 per second. That means that if it takes me longer than a second to pick up a penny, it’s not worth it to pick it up. The more I earn the more impractical it is to pick up money.

Let’s look at Bill Gates. It was while working for Microsoft that I heard someone make this analysis. In 2013 Bill Gates made $11.5B. That works out to $33.3M per day, $1.38M per hour. Or $385 per second.

So, imagine Bill Gates walking down the street. He sees a $100 bill laying on the ground. Should he pick it up? The cost/benefit analysis says that he shouldn’t. Not if it will take him longer than a quarter of a second. Obviously, it would take him longer than that to reach down and pick up a bill off the ground.

BTW, the cost/benefit anlysis is wrong. Bill Gates absolutely should pick up the $100. He will end up $100 richer. Not that he needs the money, of course, but he won’t lose any wealth by choosing to pick up money off the street.

The problem with the cost/benefit analysis is that it assumes a zero-sum-game. It assumes that any time spent picking up free money off the street is time that will not be spent earning money in your regular profession. That’s not true. If Bill Gates picks up a $100 bill or a $5 bill, He will still earn the same amount.

My job pays me a salary. I don’t earn money by the hour. My boss, of course, expects me to put in an honest days work. And, trust me, that’s an important thing for me. But, my days don’t start and stop at scheduled times. Monday, my day started at 6:45AM and ended at 9:30PM. Tuesday, I had a doctor appointment at 10:00AM. My day started before that and then continued afterward. I finished up Tuesday night with some testing we were doing in Lynchberg at about 12:30AM.

So, how much do I make per hour? It’s not enough to just divide my salary by 2,080 hours worked in a year. (40 hours per week for 52 weeks.) If I cannot determine my hourly rate, the cost/benefit analysis mentioned above makes no sense.

I’m pretty sure Bill Gates doesn’t keep office hours either.

Moral of the story? Free money is free money, not matter how much you earn.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

There’s A Little/Lot Of Down Time On This Job

You worked 60 hours last week. . .what did you get done?

A couple of phone calls.

Really? That’s it?

Well, they were really long phone calls

We had a product launch last week. We handled it remotely, which means that most of us were dialed into a phone conference. Just a couple of team members were at the launch site. We had plenty of agents, but those of us on the team, were able to avoid travel to Vicksberg.

We all dialed into the phone bridge at 8:45AM.

Thanks for joining everyone. It looks like we are probably about an hour away from the first call.

Should we stay on the bridge, or dial back in?

No sense sitting on a bridge for an hour. Let’s just all regroup at 9:45.

The people on the launch bridge are different than the people on my IT bridges. I convene an IT bridge for two reasons: outages and maintenance testing.

Outages are by their very nature, impossible to plan for. It’s one of the most frustrating parts of my job. This week, my kids had a choir concert. It’s the Christmas concert. (We still have those in Utah.) The concert was at 8:00PM. Two hours before we were supposed to leave for the concert, my phone rang.

As the hours ticked by it became obvious that I was still going to be on the call at 8:00. At times, I’ll actually take my phone with me. That’s what headsets and mute buttons were designed for.

Not this time. I had to not only be at my computer, I had to do a fair amount of talking. Not considered good “concert etiquette.” I was still on the phone when they came back from the concert two hours later.

The next night, I had maintenance scheduled for 9:15pm. Fortunately, the concert was two night. I attended the second one, by myself, but had to hurry my kids home to join my maintenance call. It was scheduled for an hour. We finally finished up after two hours.

In both cases, it was a requirement of my job to be on the call, but, I really didn’t get to accomplish much. During a five hour outage call, it’s not unusual to get hourly updates and have dead time between them.

You might think we should take the route the launch team did. Just reconvene. But, the problem is we never know when we will need to validate or test a potential fix.

My record for long phone calls was over 12 hours. I learned that my office desk phone’s “call timer” maxes out at 12 hours. After that it resets to CALL LENGTH: 0:00.

I once got a call from my cell phone provider. They were going to shut down my phone because they suspected I had set it up as a cheap data connection. You know, you just dial into a system and leave the phone on.

Sir, you are not allowed to use your phone as a data monitoring device.

I wasn’t.

But, on the date in question, it shows your phone was on a call for 549 minutes.

Yeah.

Well. . .that looks like a monitoring call.

No, that was an actual phone call.

For nine and a half hours?

Yes.

And I thought my calls were long.

Okay, he didn’t say the last part, but he did turn my phone back on.

Sometimes I feel like I’m working hard, but hardly working.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Early Christmas. . .What Happened?

I’m a news junky. I have been for years. I was the only kid I knew who read the Wall Street Journal in high school. I left at 19 years old to serve a two year mission in Chicago.

Six days each week we were focused on service, spreading the Gospel, and teaching. But, on Mondays we had time to ourselves. Well, in pairs, we were still Mormon missionaries, of course. Chicago has great pizza, two baseball teams and two newspapers.

I would get a copy of both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times each Monday and read them cover to cover: Metro, politics, religion, sports, and especially the comics.

When I returned home, I read our local paper, The Daily Olympian. High school sports, business, politics and of course, the comics. I attended college at BYU. I enjoyed the university paper, The Daily Universe. I fell in love with political cartoons. The letters to the editors were always entertaining.

Eventually, I quit taking the local paper. The internet came along and with it, dozens of news sites. Politics is a passion for me. But, so are technology sites. And, of course, there are the comics. The only one I follow on a regular basis is Schlock Mercenary. It’s written by my friend Howard Tayler. He’s updated it every day since June 12, 2000.

For Christmas my lovely wife gave me a very thoughful gift. She got me a subscription to the local paper, the Daily Herald. It’s the real dead-tree edition. Local high school sports, politics, and of course, comics.

It’s odd, reading the paper in print edition. There are no hyper links, obviously. I regularly read the website for our local paper. So, many of the stories that appear in the morning edition I’ve already read the day before.

But, the comics. The comics are new each day.

The paper delivery started on Monday. The editions are thinner than the last time I took the paper. A few stories and a lot of ads. It was comforting to hold newsprint in my hands. The paper was delivered in a red plastic bag to keep it dry.

Sunday’s edition was larger, of course. The first Sunday I was so excited. There were going to be ads and more articles, but I was looking forward to the comics.

My kids also like the paper. One son enjoys the sports. Another likes the gossip pages. My daughter likes the ads.

So, when the Sunday comics came up missing, I assumed the worst. I had to wait an entire week for the next edition. And that’s when I realized that the newspapers had changed. The stories are still there. The ads are there. And on every day except Sunday, the comics are too.

Things change.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Office Grinch Or Santa Claus?

There’s a pile of presents in our bedroom. Each one an identical small box with white wrapping tied up with a red ribbon.

My kids are not interested in these packages. Even if they were, it wouldn’t do any good. Each one is labeled for specific people.

The month of December means several things at my work. People try to spend the last of their “use it or lose it” vacation time. Our systems become unstable as every IT team tries to get their projects implemented prior to the end of the year. And people decide whether to give their coworkers gifts.

It’s a strange protocol. Anyone can decide to participate. Typically gifts fall into two categories: food and non-food. Typically food is safest. If you don’t have a close relationship with your coworkers you can buy them a nice candy bar or a box of chocolates works great.

Homemade treats are an option as well. Rice Krispy treats, or brownies, or cookies.

For people you know better, you can give non-food. But, typically you shouldn’t give non-food to people you don’t know well. Why? It’s too personal. Food is easy. Food doesn’t represent a commitment. Just like the fast food worker is committed to the Crispy Chicken Sandwich they are making for you. Food is impersonal. Even homemade brownies.

But, non-food represents at least some level of involvement. You had to choose a particular puzzle or book, or knicknack. And food is perishable. For better or worse it will be gone in few days. Non-food, on the other hand can stick around forever. Or worse, you ditch that knick knack and later the person who gave it, asks you about it. Then what?

That’s the route my lovely wife is taking. The pile of presents are for coworkers.

The challenge with gifts is who do you give them to? And that’s the challenge with playing Santa Claus. Unless you work in a small office, or are very wealthy, there are going to be more people than you can provide gifts to, no matter how many cookies you bake.

And the other challenge with gifts, is reprocity. Did Sally in Accounting get you a coffee mug? Do you need to get her something? Does it have to be non-food since she got you a non-food gift? If you grab a candy bar from the vending machine and wrap a ribbon around it, is that enough? Will it be weird if you only give one to Sally? How many candy bars are in the vending machine, anyway? And where can you get some ribbon at this point?

That’s why you might want to consider the Grinch route. Basically, you wish people Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, maybe a Happy Hanukkah. And then, you just go through your regular days.

It helps if you take all your stored up “use it or lose it” personal time during the holidays.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

And Then He Twisted His Pen

The rest of the people in the room didn’t even notice. It was just a typical gesture that people who are bored in meetings make all the time. The lead consultant idly twisted his pen. Where it had been horizonal across the top of his yellow notepad, it was now vertical along the side of his notepad.

The junior consultant, who had been presenting the PowerPoint slide deck quickly brought his presentation to a close.

I participated in a multistate conference call today. It was set up by our client. We had people on the call from five different states. It was an important launch. But, launches are tense. If everything is perfect, we come online at the scheduled time. If anything goes wrong, we have a delay.

We try to avoid delays.

In addition to the launch bridge, we set up a second bridge that was chat only. It included the players from our team. Questions get asked on the chat channel first, before they are voiced on the launch bridge. Answers are discussed and researched on chat prior to being voiced on the launch bridge.

It’s actually pretty standard procedure. Most times the chat channel is pretty bland. But, occasionally it can save us from an embarrassing situation. It can also give us a chance to tell each other to stop talking. I’m pretty sure our client does the same thing on their side.

It’s an age old practice. It’s much easier in the age of Skype, chat and text. Prior to private chat channels, we had to use more rudimentary methods, like twisting your pen sideways.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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