Month: March 2006

Customer Neglect, I Mean Service

This week there has been a lot of talking back and forth (again on the ASAE Listserv) about AMS solutions. One thing that I have noticed in the discussions about overall investment is how long you'll have to live with your investment. Some people say 3-5 years while others have said 5-10. Either way, it is a long time. Over that time you will thoroughly test a company's software and their customer service – the ability to quickly respond to your problems. A big factor in product purchases these days is customer support. In
fact we were just talking about customer support for our DSL. Whether it be a serious issue or quick support question: How quickly is your vendor able to respond to issues you have with your software? This is such a big deal to us that we are willing to pay more per month just so we can talk to an engineer in about a minute with our ISP vs. paying much less with AT&T to get terrible uptime and terrible support.

It's pretty simple. Your support should be good enough where you can send an e-mail or make a phone call and immediately get a response from someone that will immediately take action and begin resolving your problem. That is where Apple's focus is these days.

When Apple competitors are focused on cost reduction to increase
profitability, Apple is investing resources to enhance its relationship
with its customers. To me, that's impressive. Unfortunately, there are
too many companies in the market that could care less about their
customers, but Apple is determined and committed in delivering the
experience and not just the product.
It's regrettably amusing that Apple competitors are working hastily to
develop iPod clones to reap in success, but what many of them fail to
comprehend is that it's not necessarily the iPod that makes Apple
successful, but rather its customer service.

So for sanity's sake, please make sure you are getting the highest level of customer service from your vendor. It makes the product so much more enjoyable for however long its life is.

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When procrastination is a good thing

Been putting something off? Many of us are procrastinators. MIT media Lab Prof. John Maeda argues that this can be a good thing:

The more you overcommit, the more that procrastination becomes
intolerably expensive to engage … yet it is when procrastination
becomes exceedingly costly to do, it is then that extreme
creativity emerges. In the impossible moment, miracles tend to happen.
“Necessary procrastination” is a prime factor in the creative process.
When the cost of procrastination increases, the probability for radical
new thoughts to emerge increases as well. The thought you never thought
you would ever need, is often the one that can count the most in the
big scope of things.

So waiting until the last minute can inspire “extreme” creativity? Wish I would have had that excuse in high school.

There is something to said for not overplanning, especially when it comes to the web. It’s easy to fall into a trap of waiting until you have the perfect design, the perfect interface, or perfect 10-page RFP. But how do you know it’s perfect until people start using it?

Overcommit but be nimble. Release and release often…and in small pieces. Then, tweak as necessary. You’ll get more accomplished.

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Tools I find useful

Sometime it's interesting to see what technologies other people use to get stuff done. With that idea in mind, here are some of the tools I use on a daily basis:

  • Firefox – The best PC browser on the planet. Tabbed browsing and extensions (see below) make building and browsing websites a lot easier.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird – Easy email. Great filtering functionality (Though, "not as good as The Bat" says Zach). And it's fast. Now if they can just get it to sync with more cell phones.
  • Gmail – for personal email. Also using Hotmail, though I'm trying to bag it.
  • Trillian – Chat client that runs AIM, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, and IRC all from one program. GAIM does most of the same things – just less elegantly.
  • and Digg – I mostly use these sites as a place to find links (rather than store them).
  • Bloglines – Web-based RSS reader. It's ok – definitely a cool way to discover new content. Still looking for a decent independent feed reader. Got a recommendation?
  • Technorati – Blog search.
  • ColorZilla – Its a photoshop-like colorpicker extension for Firefox that lets you find the color of anything within your browser. This is particularly useful when working with CSS.
  • Web Developer – Another very useful Firefox extension. Let's you outline Divs, disable styling, edit stylesheets, disable images, and much more. I use DevToolBar when I'm working in IE.
  • Scintilla SciTE – Simple code editor. Dreamweaver is a crutch in the new world of standards – bag it. I hear TextMate is the editor for Mac people.
  • Keyboard shortcuts – Really basic tools many people never use. Ctrl-Z (undo), Ctrl-C (copy) and Ctrl-P (paste) and of course, Alt-Tab. Right-clicking is lame.
  • TiddlyWiki – Been trying this out for note-taking. Not terribly impressed. I have a Writely account too, maybe I'll switch. Main goal here is less paper, more organization.

Got a a piece of software or a website you find useful? Let's hear about it.