Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Service of Small Events Not As Important to Police as Big Ones

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

I’m in awe of how NYC rallies to protect its citizens at major events such as New Years Eve in Times Square or the Fourth of July fireworks on the East River.

But it doesn’t always do an even passable job communications-wise when confronted with an unexpected crisis or infringements on everyday safety for pedestrians.

Steaming Angry

There was a Con Edison steam line rupture recently in midtown Manhattan that spewed debris on 52nd Street between First and Second Avenues. The public was assured it was not asbestos—although it was plenty messy. We were told it would take a few days to clean up.

I’d put it out of my mind as I headed home in the evening two days later expecting to take a bus downtown when I saw that Second Avenue was closed to traffic. I walked to First Avenue and headed south.

There are a few blocks on First that I never walk in the dark so I wanted to return to Second Avenue as soon as I could. The streets are deserted and poorly lit so as soon as I thought I could go west–back to Second Avenue—I checked with one of many police people standing on First. Before walking down the block, I wanted to know if Second was open to pedestrians.

The police told me “Yes,” with great authority, on several streets. The information was wrong each time. I zig zagged back and forth in the 40s between the avenues, becoming increasingly annoyed. At one point I’d stop police for sport to see if they could inform me. Not one could tell me which block was open to pedestrians on Second Avenue.

How hard is it for headquarters to text or email key information to police assigned to an area? Why would anyone on assignment go to the scene of a problem without asking for the basics. This was two days after the drama when the heat of the crises has cooled. What good is uninformed law enforcement?

Watch Where You’re Going

It wasn’t my day to end up in hospital or worse this week. What happened is a daily occurrence in NYC.

I was crossing with the light at 33rd Street and Second Avenue and I looked for cars, bikes etc. from the right direction when a man on a motorized bike flew by from the other way—against the traffic. He must have come around the corner because I hadn’t seen him on the avenue as I waited for the light. He was so close that his jacket touched me and he continued to speed away, no apology to my “Hey!” Had I been an inch farther into the street I hate to think.

Traffic agents are all over the city in this area. Most do nothing to protect pedestrians. The speeder wasn’t stopped by the ones a block away on 34th Street.

At another crossing a half hour later a car without muffler driven by an angry driver bolted onto Third avenue, making a racket and going so fast that he would have been unable to stop had someone been crossing. The traffic agent looked around passively.

These agents should be able to call ahead to a colleague, take a photo of a license–something.

Have you experienced similar disappointments or dissatisfactions with those hired to keep things safe and streamlined?

Service of When a Communicator Can’t Connect with a Communications Company

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

I’ve done well helping clients communicate with consumer and trade audiences. So why can’t I get through to Verizon Wireless, a communications company? And how can a vendor expect a customer to spend as much time as I already have, simply to accomplish a routine thing—and still not succeed?

I tried on and off for three days to update my credit card information for auto pay on my business account. Every time I feel a sense of relief because I successfully navigated press 1, press 6 to get a person, I’m disappointed. What have I accomplished?  I think that I’ve paid twice for March service.

I was promised a callback that never happened. Why did I need one? The customer service rep told me there was something wrong with the system which didn’t accept my information and she’d get back with me. [Reps aren’t able to take credit card numbers over the phone for security reasons.] CVS and Trader Joe’s had no trouble with the new card.

After countless misfires I finally reached someone to send me the link to input the new information and she said it went through. I did a happy dance that turned into a scream when after the call I received a Verizon notification that I’d discontinued Auto Pay! Huh?

To rectify this I tried Verizon Chat—to get to it I went through another time consuming rigamarole–and soon learned that Alex handled personal not business accounts. She shared a few more toll-free numbers.

I’d already tried all sorts and if I got a person he/she was inevitably in the wrong department. When promised to be transferred to a person, I’d wait on hold for minutes and find myself back to the automated voice asking me to “press 6” which meant what I needed done didn’t match any of the options. I tried yelling at the phone and hitting 000000000000000 and #######. Or sometimes I’d hit number 1 as instructed—which promised me a live person–and it didn’t register so soon after punching in my phone number and responding to a link texted to my phone proving I’m legit, a computer voice would say “You didn’t respond. Goodbye.” My phone is new, by the way.

I’ve written to the CEO of the business division. I figure I have a month to work it out. How can my phones be disconnected when I’ve probably paid twice for this month? I’ll find out.

Think of the millions who must do the same thing because their card was lost, stolen or updated. Why is the staff clueless? How come a communications company in the phone business makes it so difficult to speak with someone?

Have you been frustrated trying to accomplish a routine operation at a giant corporation?


Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay 

Service of “Hello, Hello Is Anyone There?”

Monday, December 12th, 2022



Image by Nebraska Department of Education from Pixabay

I called a pharmacy to see if it would deliver a prescription and instead of speaking with someone up the street, I ended up at a call center in India. The person kept asking me when I wanted to make a Covid vaccine appointment. He disconnected me—inadvertently I suspect–and I ended up in a survey. You can imagine what grade I gave each of the questions between 0 and 10 about the effectiveness of the call. I got a person but…..

When calling an insurance company or large corporation I must be in a good mood, preferably on a sunny day. I know in advance that my question won’t fit one of the choices—“Press One for billing; Press Two for technical assistance,” etc.—or that I’ll be directed to the website and that I’ll be left hanging and frustrated.

Wall Street Journal reporters Rachel Wolfe and Allison Pohle wrote: “It’s Not Just You: Businesses Are Making Their Phone Numbers Hard to Find” with a subhead “More customer-facing phone numbers are being replaced with chat boxes and virtual reservation systems that can make connecting to an actual human being next to impossible.”

They reported: “A 2,200-person Morning Consult poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows that about half of respondents said they had to search a company website extensively to find a number in the past year, and 41% of all respondents said no number was available. Some 43% of survey respondents said they prefer talking with a customer-service rep over the phone, while 5% prefer talking to a bot through instant messaging.”

Replacing a phone service with automated chat functions or with communications through social media is cost-saving but is it good for business?  “Consumers say those options leave them spending hours sorting through FAQ lists, sending emails to nowhere and talking to less-than-helpful chatbots to resolve issues that could have taken minutes to fix with a human on the phone.”

The reporters wrote about a 26 year old who frittered away five hours trying to reach an airline with nothing resolved. Her brother and father had no better luck. Finally, a customer service rep fixed the problem on Facebook Messenger***. According to that airline “the shift to digital service ensures customers get the information they need as efficiently as possible. The airline says it had found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels and that live agent support is available 24/7.” Really?


Image by lindsayascott from Pixabay

***Are you up the creek if you’re not on Facebook?

A large Las Vegas hotel uses a digital tool that wasn’t working for one guest who tried using it a few times to report he had no hot water, so he didn’t bother to try yet again to note there was gum and hair in the sheets. Calling the front desk didn’t work either. He landed in “a general call-services center.” And in person? “The line at reception often snaked around the hotel lobby.”

Only after the Wall Street Journal reached out did the system accept an update with a driver’s license change on a customer’s profile at a major car rental service. The customer had tried unsuccessfully to provide the info for over a year during which time he’d rented many a car.

The reporters offered a tip: A free online database, “GetHuman,” shares intel on how best to reach 10,000 companies. The director of operations told them: “……. users are very particular about where they are spending their money right now. It’s a bad time to be making enemies.”

Do you have tricks for getting through to a company that doesn’t want anyone to speak with you? Are there any companies that do it right?


Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Service of Conversation Starters

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Not since my broken foot was in a boot ages ago has something attracted as much attention as my Kusama tote bag [photo above and right]. Then, strangers stopped to ask me how I broke it and to share their story. At the time I thought I should lend it to friends who wanted to make new acquaintances.

T

Now, when I carry the bright yellow bag it receives a compliment several times a week. Sometimes people recognize that it came from the New York Botanical Garden gift store because the pattern features the sculptor’s trademark polka dots. Her sculptures enhanced the garden last summer. Other times they simply say “nice bag.” It’s happened on the bus, in stores and at cash registers.

What’s extraordinary is that in NYC women carry tote bags everywhere. I have for years. None of my others have attracted as much attention.

The bag has a history. On a warm winter day I walked from home to Bryant Park and halfway there I realized the tote was no longer on my arm. It is feather light and dropped off the arm of my slippery leather jacket without my noticing. My heart sank. I ran halfway home retracing my steps and couldn’t find it.

I returned to the park and the Christmas shops to distract myself from the sinking feeling I get when I’ve lost something I love. I stopped on the street to try to buy one on my phone from the garden shop website but there were none left. In addition to liking the tote, a good friend who knows I love polka dots, bright colors and that I had enjoyed Kusama’s sculptures gave it to me. Another friend, following the same intel, gave me a pair of Kusama-inspired socks! Am I lucky for having such caring and observant friends–or what?

Not enjoying myself in the park I soon went back home. As I reached Lexington Avenue and 41st Street I saw a bright yellow bag on the sidewalk. It was mine–my Christmas gift to do list was inside. The Pandemic saved it for me: there weren’t many people on the street that day and the few who walked by didn’t want to touch a stranger’s bag.

Does something you wear or carry attract cheery conversation?

Service of Expectations III

Monday, December 27th, 2021

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Discounts III

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

It’s just been two months since I wrote about discounts from legitimate businesses that edged towards scam. I recently came across two instances involving price cuts that I thought illustrated clumsy marketing or poor communications more than attempts at fleecing.

Don’t misread the customer’s willingness to overpay for postage

The NY Public Library gift store promoted a discounted price if you bought two tote bags. The sayings printed on a few were perfect for friends. In the last window of the ordering process they charged me $8.95 for postage/handling. There was no curbside pickup option. The feather-light textiles could be stuffed into poly mailers in seconds, no other packing necessary.

In addition, during the ordering process, I gave them my email address and mobile number to enrich their database so they could send me store updates. For this I was to get a 10% discount [which would have covered the tax]. The 10 percent code was refused. The bounce back message said I had already received a discount and was ineligible for a second.

That did it. I cancelled the order. With the extra $12 the new total came to more than I wanted to pay for tote bags.

The retail department at the library may need to rethink its strategy. Overcharging on postage is not a good way to make more money if it causes you to lose sales. Offering a discount without a warning that it might not apply does not inspire customer confidence. The operation is sophisticated enough that twice I was reminded I hadn’t completed my order. [Missing was my credit card information.]

Greetings from dotted i’s and crossed t’s

In a second instance a text from a favorite greeting card company announced a sale: $3 instead of $4.50/card. When I linked from the text in my phone all the prices were $4.50. I thought maybe there were only a few of the cards on sale and tried to find them. No-go.

I sent an email to customer service. I learned 1) the discount would appear during checkout and 2) all cards were subject to the discount. There was no mention of either in the text or on the individual online sale sheets. After I heard from customer service I placed an order from my laptop. There, on the home page, was a notice that the sale price would appear at checkout.

Just a few more words of clarification in the text would have solved misunderstandings and confusion and saved time. I wonder if the company lost sales from others who didn’t take time to clarify the sales information.

Have you been misled or confused by online or traditional purchases involving sales? Have you cancelled an order because of exorbitant postage/handling charges?

Service of Business Cards

Monday, March 9th, 2020

You may remember that I posted previously about something I overheard at a craft fair in New Paltz a few years ago. A little girl around six chided another child who’d grabbed a stack of business cards from one of the exhibitors. She said: “Put those back! He may be looking for a job and will need them.” She may well have been similarly admonished at home.

Such cards have been around a long time. “Calling cards, also called visiting cards, visiting tickets, or compliments cards, originated in their paper and ink form in France in the 18th century and their popularity quickly spread across Europe and the United Kingdom,” according to Claire Green on hobancards.com.

Does anyone use them today? According to Te-Ping Chen the carte de visite “can be used as fire starters or toothpicks, folded into origami or just cherished as ‘a little slice of time.’” Most of his Wall Street Journal article is actually about what people do with cards that no longer apply though the subhead I just quoted leads a reader to think otherwise.

I keep a few in my wallet but I’ve met a few people recently who don’t have a card on them which I find strange. The other day I met a chef/restaurant owner, a guest on a Sunday morning TV news show, who said he’d given away his last card. Nuts. I am not good at remembering names so he and his eatery are lost to me and my friends.

I’m grateful for a card if I visit a new doctor, vet’s office or restaurant. I input the vitals to my phone’s address book when I have a minute. I don’t keep the cards. When I was selling my house I resented it if a real estate agent didn’t leave behind a card to prove he/she had been there. This happened more times than not.

Vistaprint told Chen that sales are growing and that it prints almost six billion/year. Another company, MOO, claims it sells 250 million+ a year.

Do you still hand out and/or take cards from others? Do you save other people’s cards or your old ones? Are there certain businesses–and people–that should continue to use them for the foreseeable future even though some may think that they are old school? Should retired people have business cards?

Service of Technology: What I love and Dislike about Texting

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

“Although we are separated in miles, we have the internet.” An 84 year old wrote this about her 6.5 decade friendships. She was responding to reporter Andrea Petersen’s Wall Street Journal article about the service of friendship and her letter, and those of other readers, made up a subsequent article.

My mother was an early adapter of gadgets and fan of the Internet. She felt independent with the help of her laptop in spite of physical constraints that eliminated her ability to go out alone and shop in person. In her late 80s she became a member of chat groups and she bought gifts online. Mom died 20 years ago so she didn’t have a Smartphone. But her example and that of the 84 year old in the first paragraph is clear: stay abreast of technology whether or not you need it for work, or you’ll miss out. You know it or you wouldn’t be reading this post but I suspect many still don’t.

My friends who don’t email or text don’t much hear from me these days. I find it a quick and easy way to stay in touch and share thoughts and news.

At first I avoided texting. I haven’t mastered the dictation option on my phone because it takes me so long to correct all the mistakes that happen when my phone’s ears mishear me. It’s often faster to type. The tiny keyboard combined with my big fingers still makes typing on the device a challenge.

Outweighing this hassle are many benefits starting with the freedom it gives me to be responsive to clients and friends who need to reach me quickly regardless of where I am.

So I’m an enthusiast.

When I watch a debate, the Oscars, a sports event or visit a museum exhibition I’m a text away from a friend with whom to share my reactions and opinions and seconds away from hearing theirs. They can respond when they want–I’m not interrupting them with a phone call–and yet it’s as though they are in the room with me or walking with me in a museum or trade show or store.

Do you text? Do you make it a point to stay abreast of technology? Do you know people who don’t write emails or text?  I wasn’t able to ascertain if currently there’s an app for the visually impaired to hear a tweet. That would be something to chirp about, don’t you think?

Service of Logos that Give the Wrong Message: They Don’t Communicate

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

You can’t read some logos and others give the wrong message. One awning featured a spelling error. You’d think folks would take better care of these crucial and basic marketing tools.

Deirdre Wyeth posted on Facebook the logo above that advertised a nail and spa salon in her neighborhood. Its name remains a mystery as it’s impossible to decipher the script.

I followed a friend to a restaurant bar on Manhattan’s west side to hear jazz and as I entered, I couldn’t decode its name on the awning in the time it took to slip inside. The orange card–photo right–with its disturbing italic font provides a clearer clue [but is it Sugar or Suggr?].

I felt sorry for the bistro on the upper east side that the windows indicate didn’t make it. I snapped a shot of the awning [photo left] from the bus. The logo for “Le Paris” was OK but the owner of the supposedly French restaurant didn’t know how to spell bistro. Maybe the chef didn’t know how to make French bistro fare any better than the owner knew how to spell a standard French word.

The captions were as funny on the “Bad logos” post on firstwedesigner.com as the logos are faulty. For the dentist’s logo [above right] the author wrote: “That looks like a lot more going on than your regular cleaning if you ask me.” And another logo, for The Detail Doctor, stood out from the many on the website[below]. The caption: “Based on the sketch of this car, seems like this doctor needs a better understanding of the word detail.”

Do you think that poor logos happen when a business owner hires his/her kid, friend or in-law to save money?  Have you seen memorably bad ones?

Service of Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose–Redux

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Before a significant launch, a client invited the marketing experts who promoted his product to his conference room in the Pacific Northwest. He wanted us to hear and see others’ plans, to tweak ours if necessary, and eventually to coordinate and amplify the marketing effort to ensure we were all singing the same song. I was there for public relations and there was someone from direct marketing, advertising, graphics, customer service and so forth. My client was the puppeteer pulling the strings. It was years ago.

While he didn’t give it a fancy name–nor did he have access to the bells and whistles we now do–some 2019 jargon lovers might call what he did “360 degree marketing.”

Its offspring is 360 degree digital marketing that too-frequently falls off the lips of [trying to be] hip PR folks these days. Here’s how Wheelhouse Advisors explains it: “a 360 degree approach is all about taking a broad and all-encompassing view of your entire customer journey, from discovery to purchase, across multiple devices and touch points.” Sound familiar?

Wheelhouse listed the basics [the words in parentheses are mine]: “SEO [Search Engine Optimization]; PPC [pay per click]; Customer Communications; Website; Content; Social [LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube]; Inbound Lead Nurturing and Outbound Email.”

The longer I’m in business the more I slap my head when I see decades-old strategies dressed up in buzz simply because a few more communications elements have been added. Clients went berserk when the web was in its infancy, tossing all their marketing dollars at their websites, leaving none to promote where to find them. [Customers with no access to the web at that time were briefly kicked to the curb.]

Another popular word that marketers love lately–borrowed from the world of medicine–is “holistic.” An awful like “360 degree” to me, and what primo marketers have been trying to achieve all along. In fact, if some businesses are zeroing in exclusively on 360 degree digital marketing today they are making a gargantuan mistake. You know who you are.

Are there attempts in your industry to dust off the old and give it a fresh coat of paint–I mean words–to make it seem cutting edge simply because some of the tactics have changed? Is it only the insecure, hip-prone marketing world that falls for/sells this gobbledygook based on the premise everything we do must seem new?

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