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Entries in Service (2)


Back to Basics

The battery in my backpack sprayer doesn’t seem to hold a charge any longer. Trying to spray for weeds with a battery operated device with a non-functioning battery is a problem! Ordering the replacement exposed one IT organization’s weak customer focus.

Recognizing the battery was on charge over night and just wasn’t working any longer, I sat down for lunch on the deck at a favorite restaurant Saturday noon and did a quick Google search for a SHURFlo battery pack using my trusty BlackBerry 9700. Sure enough, one of my suppliers where I have free shipping has the battery in stock!

As much as I love the BlackBerry, I’ve used the browser enough to know it’s never a great experience trying to order over the browser. It’s not about security, it’s about the BlackBerry browser tending to be rather limited…and inevitably not working quite right (Apple has it right on the iWhatever, RIM isn’t in the same league.)

In any event, I decided to call Gempler’s and place an order by phone. After all, lunch hadn’t arrived, and I was heavy into multi-tasking.

After an extended hold (odd – it’s a Saturday), the representative from Gempler’s gets on the phone.

“I’m sorry sir, our systems are down for an upgrade. We can’t tell you pricing or availability.”

Hold on, the website shows the price as $42. Why can’t you see that?

“I’m sorry sir, I can’t see pricing or availability.”

At this point, getting an order through becomes sport. “Can you take an order?”

“Yes, I can’t tell you pricing or availability.”

“So, hold on. I can see pricing and availability (at least for quantity one) on the web. You can take an order and can’t tell me pricing or availability. We can work as a team to get through this, right?”

Pause. “Ahhhh, yes, I can take an order, I can’t tell you pricing or availability.”

We now know the back end processing for Gempler’s is separate from the web interface. We also know the IT staff at Gempler’s hasn’t planning for concurrent maintenance, instead preferring to take the production environment down for an upgrade.

I’m not in the business of selling “work stuff” like Gempler’s, and somehow a weekend in May sounds like a reasonable time to have an upgrade. What is unclear is how the IT staff could leave customer service so incapacitated.

There are many ways to avoid a situation like this. Upgrade the Disaster Recovery environment first, then use it as production. Let the Customer Service people use the web interface. Freeze one environment, and apply changes after the fact. Do the upgrade “after hours” or during a holiday when customer service is otherwise unavailable (Gemplers understandably doesn’t offer 24 hour live customer service.)

Full disclosure: Gempler’s is a good company I’ve otherwise regularly used happily. GEMPLER’S® is a division of GHC Specialty Brands, LLC (whomever they are.)

The Gemplers’ IT staff forgot Gempler’s is in business to service customers. The reason Gemplers’ IT exists is NOT to do upgrades during the day.

And imagine the irony when calling on Monday morning to check the status of my order (it is not showing up on-line) when the person at the other end of the call was…the same customer service rep! Yes, your order is placed! Great team effort.


Plug and Run 2

Why don’t software and services just work?

My friend Matt has decided to use Microsoft SharePoint as a collaborative tool in his business. The companies’ email provider offers SharePoint, but at a price far in excess of a large, well known company (did I say Network Solutions?)

Matt likes working weekends. It is his down time….and a perfect time to implement SharePoint.

Here we are Monday afternoon and it is still not working.


Matt is a sophisticated user. He can write code (sometimes the bane of my existence), and is very, very patient (a trait I want to learn!)

Matt has been on the phone with Network Solutions through the weekend. Their support clearly has scripts to follow, and sadly doesn’t seem to understand when the request is silly.

For example:

  • “What browser are you using?” IE 8.
  • “Please try a different browser.” Huh? Why? Does this make any sense?

Matt patiently searches the Microsoft site, applying knowledge base patches seeming to match. Network Solutions is on the hook to call back…and hasn’t so far.

Why is this so hard?

Personally, I wouldn’t have the patience…it should just work out of the box. Matt is paying for this service; it is not “free.” Obviously there is some subtle set up issue somewhere…

Is it possible Matt is the first to use SharePoint on Vista or Windows 7? Not likely.

Between Microsoft, who ultimately owns SharePoint, and Network Solutions, who is offering this a service, the code should just work.

Skype works this way… Oh yeah, it’s free. Maybe that’s Matt’s mistake.