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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

MoviePass – Better Than a Gym Membership

16 Sep 2017

MoviePass – Better Than a Gym Membership | DaveTavres.comI love business. Especially small business. And I love to see ideas grow from a couple of people at a kitchen table, to something that goes viral. And I especially love seeing one type of business plan applied to something that looks completely different (but actually isn’t.) That’s MoviePass.

MoviePass is a month-to-month membership site that (now,) lets you watch an ‘unlimited’ number of movies in the movie theater for the low monthly price of… $9.95. Yes – less than the price of a single ticket. With e-ticketing, or a physical card, you can go to a surprising number of theater chains to see any standard movie (standard means no 3D, no IMAX, no D-BOX, etc.) So, what’s the catch? Read on… But for the moment, look at MoviePass as being basically the same idea as Netflix or a monthly membership to Planet Fitness.

Discount theater tickets | DaveTavres.com

HOW is it the same as a gym membership or a streaming video service? I’m sure there’s a technical, economics term for it, but in regular words – people are more likely to pay for it and not use it, than those who pay for it and over-use it. At $10 per month, most people don’t think twice about that “small” amount of money being automatically charged to their credit card. Especially since the average cable bill in the US pays over $100 per month. Add on to that, Netflix at $10/mnth, Hulu at $8/mnth, and anywhere from $20 to $150 per month on a ‘subscription boxes‘, plus the daily Starbucks charges. Most people just don’t think about such a “small” amount of money for something they thought was a good idea one day – but often forget about the next. And just like that gym membership people sign up for but don’t use, they keep charging your card each month until you cancel it. Brilliant! Charging you for a service that you rarely use. That’s money in the bank – for the business.

Sure, there are people like me who will get every penny’s worth of using MoviePass, but I’m unusual. And just like how Expedia and Kayak and Orbitz and Travelocity and Priceline work, I’m pretty sure that MoviePass is just buying “tickets” in bulk, at a good discount from these chains around the Country, then letting you grab the seats (or tickets) if there’s any left for that movie. It seems to have worked for the travel companies. And there’s lots of hotel rooms and airline seats that get purchased but never sold, because the those online sites have done the detailed math to figure out how to charge just the right amount to make a good profit.

MoviePass... like Orbitz and Planet Fitness | DaveTavres.comAnd, along with copying a couple of good business plans, MoviePass is also ‘assured’ cooperation from the theater chains, because the movie theaters are losing a lot of money to home entertainment systems (and lots of awful movies getting made!) As long as the box office sales are down, theaters will happily sell those otherwise empty seats to MoviePass. I’m just wondering how long before Priceline and Orbitz ‘copy & paste’ their algorithms for plane tickets, to the movie theater tickets and cash in there too – or, until people start dropping MoviePass because they only have “3 tickets” for ‘that’ movie at ‘that’ time. When subscribers figure out that they aren’t getting their moneys worth because there’s no inventory, even though they’re paying the monthly fee, they’ll be searching for “how to cancel my account.”

Well, until that happens, I’ll give them $10/mnth and take advantage of a good, ‘new’ idea. Let’s just hope it’s not as difficult and frustrating to cancel MoviePass, as it is to cancel your cable subscription.

 
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Posted in Business, Technology, Websites

 

Please Just Say "I Don’t Know"

28 Aug 2017

I suppose it’s human nature to want to look smarter than you really are. But when it comes to customer service, there’s nothing worse than having someone try to help you when they know less than you do. People often fall back to circular talking, trying to say the same thing in different ways, mainly because they don’t know the answer to the question – but they don’t want to concede that fact.

Please Just Say "I Don't Know" | DaveTavres.comSomething I learned very well as a Guest Relations Host at Disneyland was that it’s okay to say “I don’t know… but let me find out for you.” That phrase is powerful and helpful for everyone. The customer won’t get a sense that they are getting the run-around, and the person trying to help doesn’t feel trapped into circular talk. Saying “I don’t know” may not feel good – but it will drive (a good person) to educate themselves on whatever the topic is, so that next time they don’t have to say “I don’t know,” but they can then speak with authority on the issue.

I recently had an hour-long phone call with a business “consultant” who refused to employ the any form of “I don’t know.” The first 10 minutes were the normal niceties and small talk, then we got into my questions. Questions that I have spent a lot of time researching and thinking about – but I wanted a “professional’s” opinion. What I got instead, was someone who knew all the catch-phrases, keywords, and hot topics that they effectively recycled multiple times in the conversation, without actually saying anything. It was very frustrating.

If she had said some form of “I don’t know”, we could have gotten out of the circular talking, and focused on the things she DID know. Instead, I wasted 30 minutes trying to change the topic and questions, but she was stuck. She kept trying to give answers to the previous questions, but she didn’t know what she was talking about. And even when I did try to focus on her experience, she would loop it back to answer the questions I was no longer asking.

I’m sure it’s a subconscious thing that we all do to reassure the person we’re trying to help, as well as ourselves, that we can figure out whatever it is that needs figuring out – but we can’t. If we don’t already have the answer to straight-forward questions (i.e. questions that have a clear answer), no amount of talking through it will give fully satisfactory solution.

Ultimately, if you can’t help the person at all, go find someone who can. Or go find the answers. Everyone will be better off, and you might actually create some trust in the process.

 
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Posted in Business, Customer Service

 

LinkedIn Invites…

25 Aug 2017

We all know that Facebook is the ‘social’ networking site, and LinkedIn is the ‘business’ networking site. Facebook is pretty easy – when you get an invite from someone you don’t know, you ignore the invite. They’re probably scammers/spammers trying to get access to your friends list.

But for business networking, it’s more difficult. I’ve met a lot of people over the years in business, and I don’t always remember them. Or, they’ve been referred to me by someone I do know. However, there are also a lot of time wasters on LinkedIn. People who send invites just to bump up their ‘reach’ for sending junk. And that’s where the LinkedIn invite system is broken.

LinkedIn Invites... | DaveTavres.com

Right now, if you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn, the default message is "Hi Dave, I’d like to join your LinkedIn network." I RARELY accept those invites when I don’t personally know the person. Instead, those people should be WRITING SOMETHING in that box that tells me WHY they want to connect. They may have a very good reason for wanting to reach me. But if they don’t take the… 7 seconds… to write something in the text box before hitting ‘send’, I will assume they are time wasters.

If LinkedIn would just clear that text box and require that the sender write something in there, it would make for MUCH better business connections, because people would have to say something. Sure, it might slow down the number of "connections" that people have, but that’s a good thing. Why? Because business networking is POINTLESS if you don’t actually know the people in your network!

Multiple times I’ve tried to get introductions to people via LinkedIn for legitimate business reasons, by reaching out to someone I know (and am connected to on LI) – just to be told by my connection "Oh, I don’t actually know that person. They just sent me an invite and I accepted it." That’s where LinkedIn breaks down as a business tool.

If I’m looking for a local auto mechanic and I ask my neighbor who worked on his car, he can give me the name and location of the shop and tell me if they did a good job. But if that same neighbor just says "Oh, here’s a random shop that I’ve seen on the drive home.", that’s a useless, unqualified recommendation. Just like when people accept any invite that comes their way on LinkedIn.

My LinkedIn profile is pretty clean. I’d bet that 98% of all my connections are people I personally know or have done business with. And even with that, I don’t usually connect with social friends on LinkedIn – only people I’ve worked with, done business with, or who I know what they do. So if you need an introduction from MY LI network, there’s a pretty good chance I can connect you in a meaningful way.

I might even go so far as to suggest that people start pruning their LinkedIn network. Clean out the random connections and stick to business. If you can’t explain what someone does or how you know them, they probably are not a real business connection.

 
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Posted in Technology, Websites

 

Review: Capital One | Spark Business Banking

08 Aug 2017

Bad Customer Service: Capital One's Spark Business Banking | DaveTavres.com

I recently started a small side-business, filed the incorporation paperwork and looked at business banking options. One of the options that came up was Capital One’s Spark Business Banking.

I filled out all the questions, uploaded the documents they asked for… and never heard back from them again. No email. No phone call. And when I sign into the website, just a message that they have reviewed the documents and will be in touch. But apparently that does not include calling potential customers, or putting a notice on the website after you sign in.

It’s been over a month now, and I need to deposit a check, so I called the number on the website (844-88-SPARK) and talked to someone who was very bubbly, but did not actually listen to what I explained. I told her twice that it had been over a month since I uploaded the required documents, but had not heard from them – to which she responded "How long has it been since you submitted the documents?"

Ultimately, she explained that since they had not heard from me in over a month, that they "closed the account" (an account that wasn’t even opened,) and that I would have to re-apply.

Bad customer service, as usual. If Capital One’s Spark Business Banking can’t be trusted to call me when there’s an issue OPENING an account, how can they be trusted with my money?

Review: Capital One's Spark Business Banking | DaveTavres.comReview: Capital One's Spark Business Banking | DaveTavres.com

 
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Posted in Business, Customer Service, Reviews

 

Employee empowerment

31 Jul 2017

One of my hobby websites recently got hacked, which caused a bigger problem on my web hosting account. It happens. It’s fixed now, but the incredible frustration that came from it wasn’t caused by the hack itself, but by the bad "technical support" people.

Employee empowerment | DaveTavres.comI’m very aware of businesses trying to keep costs down so they can increase profits and put money back into the business for further growth. BUT, at what cost? It’s *VERY* unlikely that I’ll continue to recommend my current web host because of the run-around I had to work through recently.

I worked tech support MANY years ago, when call queues and ticket counts weren’t as important as they are today. Thankfully in the early 1990s, I had great teachers, trainers, and co-workers who worked pretty well as a team. Sure, even I got cocky after hearing the exact same calls over and over again, and I didn’t always listen to the customer. But, the early 90s was a different time. I had tons of training, helping people using Windows 3.1, who were trying to use the internet. I’m confident in saying that I had more knowledge and training about Windows and internet technology than 99% of the customers who called in. Today though, there are a lot of people smarter than first-tier tech support.

I think the biggest lesson any business / leadership / management can learn is to empower their employees. That means, let them take the time (reasonable time) to work through a problem. Or, if they aren’t completely confident in their solution, let them escalate it BEFORE the customer becomes irate, or just ditches the product / service. Yes, ticket analytics are important, but NOT more important than customer service. Period.

A2Hosting | DaveTavres.comA2Hosting caused me, literally, hours of frustration and anxiety, as I tried to figure out the solution to the problem, simply because the first several "techs" wouldn’t let go of a wrong premise – even when I told them they were wrong, and most likely BECAUSE I told them they were wrong, as well as a probable push by management to get tickets closed quickly.

Luckily, after several tickets and phone calls, and hours and hours of waiting, I finally asked that the ticket be escalated. And guess what… THAT person figured out the issue within MINUTES. Problem solved. I’m fairly sure that Ross took the time to READ what I had written before replying. And thankfully, he also had the knowledge and experience to figure out what was wrong.

I’ll concede that it does take more than just employee empowerment to give good customer service – it takes good management (which is more often the problem in the first place.) It also takes committed employees. If someone doesn’t care about their job, it doesn’t matter how much training and power they have, they’ll still give bad customer service. Which is why it’s just as important to hire AND FIRE well. Listen to this story from NPR about Zappos.

 
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Posted in Business, Customer Service, Technology