April 18, 2013

Demo Mobile: The revolution is at full throttle

Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures at Demo Mobile on Wednesday (Photo by JD Lasica).

Startups show disruptive potential of mobile tech

JD LasicaAs regular readers know, I straddle the social media marketing and tech startup worlds, and increasingly I’ve been drawn to events focused on the disruptive changes wrought by the mobile revolution.

I stopped going to DEMO events a while back, given the richness of the Launch and TechCrunch Disrupt startup conferences, but yesterday I attended DEMO Mobile and came away impressed by the fervor and tumult evident on stage and off.

Here are 27 photos I took yesterday in this Demo Mobile set on Flickr.

As always, let me begin with a disclaimer that I didn’t attend to provide a comprehensive blow-by-blow of all the speakers, all the sessions or all the entrepreneurs in the Demo room. Instead, here are a few takeaways and highlights that struck me as particularly interesting with a focus on startups and entrepreneurs — to be sure, a decidedly small slice of Demo Mobile. Continue reading

July 26, 2010

‘United Breaks Guitars’: Social media tips the scales

United Breaks Guitars: The interview from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

Musician Dave Carroll’s advice to companies: Respect your customers

JD LasicaAsmart company these days understands that everybody has a voice. So the best way to avoid a public relations nightmare is to give great customer service right out of the gate. “It’s a bad day when a customer’s upset,” says Dave Carroll, creator of the viral three-part musical trilogy United Breaks Guitars.


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I met Carroll just after his keynote at the annual conference of the Society for New Communications Research (I’m a senior fellow). Carroll gave a funny and wise blow-by-blow of the PR and customer support blunders by United Airlines after baggage carriers broke his Taylor guitar.

The incident has gone down as perhaps the ultimate self-inflicted customer relations screw-up by a major corporation in the social media era of empowered customers. The original video has been seen 8.8 million times since it went live a year ago and is the 12th most-watched video in the history of YouTube.

“I was almost out of options but I wasn’t because social media allowed me to express myself in a creative way.”
— Dave Carroll

“Companies providing poor customer service can’t ride out the situation as in the past,” Carroll says. United ran Carroll through the bureaucratic ringer for 9 months before giving him a definitive answer about his compensation claim: No.

“I was almost out of options but I wasn’t because social media allowed me to express myself in a creative way,” he says.

Watch, download or embed the interview on Vimeo
Watch or embed the video on YouTube

In the interview, Carroll discusses his take on the idea of “a market of one” — the notion that today there are no statistically insignificant parts of the marketplace. “The market of one is everybody,” he says. Incorporating good customer service should be part of a holistic approach to a company’s business processes — not because it’s right but because it makes sense from a competitive business standpoint. Continue reading

December 9, 2009

How Dell handles customer service and sales through social media

David SparkAt the Le Web conference in Paris, I spoke with Richard Binhammer, better known as @RichardATDell on Twitter. Three years ago Richard, who was and still is working in public affairs, was told by his boss to start getting engaged in blogger relations. It appears that Binhammer’s move into social media was one of the many responses to the 2005 Dell Hell outburst initiated by social media consultant Jeff Jarvis, who wrote an open letter to Dell complaining about Dell’s customer service. At the time, Dell’s response was, “We don’t respond to bloggers.”

Continue reading

November 19, 2009

HP responds to ‘Why I love public transportation and hate HP’

David SparkAt the beginning of November I wrote an article titled Why I love public transportation and hate HP after a horrible customer service experience with HP where I had to wait two hours for technical service after I had paid for their tier 2 service. I compared it to public transportation in San Francisco because now we have transponders on our buses letting us know how long we’ll have to wait. That information is very valuable, allowing us to make a decision on how to proceed. Should I wait, take another bus, or hail a cab?

While I like HP products and the actual service was excellent, the wait angered me so much that it has irreparably damaged my opinion of the HP brand. I was contacted by two people at HP and spoke to one of them on the phone off the record. I wanted something on the record that I could print here, so I sent two questions for which the HP representative said he would get an “on the  record” response. After a week and a half, here are the responses to my two questions from Jodi Schilling, Vice President, HP Global Customer Support Operations for the Americas. I reserve my opinions and follow-up questions for you readers until after you read the responses.

My Q&A with HP

David: What is HP doing to educate customers about their wait time online for customer service/technical support? I don’t want to know that on average you answer tech questions in 10 minutes. I want to know how someone who either gets stuck online for a while can figure out what’s happening so they can make an educated decision. For example, when I look at the Muni wait time and it says 45 minutes for the next bus, I know I should take an alternate route. If I know I’m going to be waiting for two hours on hold, I know to take an alternate route.

HP’s response: HP’s focus has been to answer all calls in a timely manner, and we typically do so in 2 minutes or less. In your particular case, it appeared to have been during a time period of unusual and extremely high call volume and we are currently increasing our staffing to ensure minimal hold times. It also looked as if you were transferred twice, which added to the wait time, unfortunately. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Thank you for your suggestion about the wait time notification system. Although HP currently does not have a system like this in place, we may consider adding one in the future. With the volume of calls coming into HP and being routed to multiple call center locations, estimating hold times is no easy task. The length of technical support calls can also vary widely depending on the issues being discussed and the level of technical expertise of the customer, so providing accurate estimates would be a challenge.

David: Is the official complaint line [email protected]? How are people supposed to know that? Is there a phone number people can call? You said that hundreds of thousands of people send emails, but I’m sure plenty more would if they knew that. Have you done some type of PR campaign to promote that email address? I know that if I click on a couple of screens and scroll to the bottom I can find that, but really, who would know?

Mark HurdHP’s response: Customers are asked for feedback on their support experience after nearly every support interaction, either by phone, on the HP Customer Care site, or following support chats and via email. We greatly value customer feedback and take action on it whenever feasible. If customers have specific complaints, they are encouraged to submit them online here. (Note: This is a form to “email HP CEO Mark Hurd [pictured at right] your suggestions and complaints.”)

My take on HP’s response

While I appreciate HP reaching out to me, I wasn’t that impressed with their response.

1. They’re very sorry about my two hour wait, yet they took a week and a half to answer my two questions. That doesn’t jibe. Continue reading

November 2, 2009

Why I love public transportation and hate HP

Public transportation. Source: George L. Smythe

David SparkWe all complain about public transportation. It’s slow. It’s crowded. It’s delayed. It’s boring. Public transportation can be miserable, but for me it’s not anymore. It’s not because San Francisco MUNI and BART got any cleaner or faster, but because they provided me with some information. They told me when the next bus is coming.

Using the NextMUNI or the Transit.511.org service, I can find information about when to expect the next bus. While it may be very costly or impossible to make trains and buses move faster, by letting me know where they are and then calculating an estimated wait time, it provides me with information to plan accordingly. I could take another bus line or grab a coffee and wait somewhere a little more comfortable than a bus stop. I actually enjoy taking public transportation because it gives me a chance to listen and watch podcasts on my iPod.

Restaurants do this as well when you put in a reservation. If they say 10 minutes before you’re seated, you’ll wait. If they say an hour, you’ll move on to another restaurant. By providing that little bit of information, restaurants are delivering great customer service. They’re empowering the customer with information to make an informed decision. They’re not leaving them in the dark. Continue reading