Archive for November 13th, 2008

Computers Are Too Smart to Take the Blame Anymore

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I’m fascinated to see my name when Amazon.com greets “Jeanne,” and my address printed on the cover of a magazine [instead of on a label], and how LinkedIn alerts me to people I might know-and I do.

How do they do that? Spooky. Google gets its arms around flu epidemics faster than the Center for Disease Control because it can track and report inquiries for “flu symptoms” almost as fast as they happen. When technology works, it’s miraculous.

I become annoyed when it doesn’t which is every time I open e-mails from a certain company. Why? Each message starts out, “Lauren.” No Lauren works at the agency, nor have I ever worked with a Lauren.

People spell Jeanne wrong all the time, so I’m used to that, though I try not to spell anyone else’s name incorrectly. But getting my name wrong altogether reflects the slapdash way this company would treat me, or my clients. Happens once it’s a mistake–we all make and forgive those. But Jeanne gets the Lauren e-mails weekly.

That’s why I often take the time to do some jobs the old fashioned way even when technology is supposed to simplify and speed things. If, when using the newest and latest technology, I can’t be positive about the outcome, I select a proven, if longer, path.

While President-Elect Obama’s flawless campaign was largely run on the Internet, volunteers visiting voters door-to-door or calling them on the telephone, not depending on robo-calls, accomplished a critical element of his outreach. [My name was always correct in his campaign's e-mails.]

Not taking care can be very expensive for the sender as well as annoying to the recipient therefore defeating the purpose.

I got an attractive 6 x 11-inch color postcard from a big box store announcing a blowout handbag sale. On the card was the instruction: “If you want to be notified of other special promotions in future, please sign up on the web.” It was Saturday and I tried, frittered away precious time, wondering why the site would not accept the numbers, and finally dashed off a note to the company.

The response: “Although the sweepstakes entry states a ‘10′ digit postcard code, it is actually the ‘13′ digit code that we are asking that you provide. You will want to enter the entire 13-digit number from your postcard. We apologize for any confusion.”

First, there was no sweepstakes. Second, I wasn’t confused-they had made a mistake. I think in an upcoming post we’ll cover the issue of taking ownership of mistakes and how doing so relates to service.

I didn’t return to the web to enter the code. By the time I’d heard from the store I was back at work and I’d lost or tossed the postcard with the numbers on it. After spending hours writing, designing and printing the project, nobody took 30 seconds to test the system. [Don't you always call a client's toll-free number before noting it in material to make sure the number is correct?] What an expensive mistake this was! Add to the cost of printing, handling and postage the fact that the company annoyed loyal and potential customers while adding few customers to its database.

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