The Blame Game

You love her
But she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can’t win J. Geils Band – Love Stinks

I absolutely hate the blame game.

Even more than my disdain for the word hate is my absolute hatred of those who partake in this ridiculous exercise of disservice through finger-pointing.

“The blame game” (in this context) occurs when business A points to business B as the owner of your problem — and vice versa — leaving you stuck with no resolution.

Here’s an example:

My mother-in-law flew from Cleveland to Gainesville on United Airlines. She arrived; her bag did not. United Airlines used Silver Airways for the last leg of her flight.

  • United says Silver Airways was given the bag and there’s nothing that United can do.
  • Silver Airways says United never provided a bag and there’s nothing that Silver Airways can do.

Tag. You’re it.

This is a classic example how the blame game fails for both companies. After United Breaks Guitars, I honestly expected a little more from the United Airlines.

So, when your luggage is lost, you’re powerless. You have no recourse; no method to recover your lost goods. You have limited avenues of assistance.

When you become the pong between two companies’ finger pointing — you end up with a negative impression of both companies.

One of these companies will be proven right; the other wrong. Customer disservice can cause even the “right company” to lose business.

In my consulting life, I often get calls for critical phone outages. Sometimes it’s something I can fix — more often it’s something I cannot.

With phone termination/origination, you’re often dealing with large carriers (like at&t) who (perhaps by design) make it extremely difficult to get a resolution to a problem; often blaming client systems for issues within the carrier network.

If I pointed my finger at a carrier and let my client handle their issue I’d be left without a client. Instead, I work with the client and contact the carrier together. This way, the blame game is never played.

At least, this is how I believe problems should be handled. It’s worked well for me. I’ve retained clients as they switch carriers. My refusal to play the game results in long-term clients.

Oh, remember the baggage? Ends up Silver Airways sent the bag to Palm Beach. Sadly, the way United handled it, I’m going to be very reluctant to use either airline when given a choice.

When you play the blame game, everyone loses.

Every Little Thing

This morning, as I was reading Collin Austin’s post on sweating the small stuff, I couldn’t help but think of how David Lee Roth changed the way I make contracts.

David Lee Roth changed the way you make contracts?

Yes. Mr. David Lee Roth.

First, I don’t want to get into a discussion of why contracts are important. We use contracts both at the bakery and in consulting. Bottom line: either you believe in contracts, or you’re wrong.

Anyway, back to David Lee Roth.

As a child of the 70′s and 80′s, I loved Van Halen (and to paraphrase the great Joe Dirt, “Van Halen, not Van Hagar”). Any Van Halen fan knows of the legendary room thrashings the band would give if they found a brown M&M in their room (or backstage).

Well, growing up… we just thought it was the group being bad ass rock stars. As David Lee Roth tells it, the room thrashings were for someone not paying attention to the details.

When touring, Van Halen had a tremendous stage — one with crazy set-up challenges. Their contracts had detailed instructions for the set-up as well as a clause stating that no brown M&Ms be served.

If the group arrived and there were brown M&M’s… someone didn’t read the contract.

Putting a small, easy to spot item in your contracts can save you time and money.

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

Who wins a price war?

So, while I was discussing pricing regarding a Kamailio support request, the potential client responded with:

we got an Indian company they just asked $10/hr and they have good experience in this field

So, I’m definitely not billing at $10/hour. A good Kamailio tech with experience will be almost 20x that price.

So who really wins on this type of pricing competition? Granted this potential client threw down the gauntlet with an extremely low price — there’s no real way to respond on my end (other than the good, fast, cheap diagram).

Price wars may benefit the customer at first, but there’s no way for a company to provide good, quality service and stay alive while fighting a price war. In the end, the clients, the companies, and even the product reputation suffers.

Thanks for nothing

So, working the phones over at the bakery today while coding some dialplans… when a call comes in from a South Florida area code…

I’m calling to get a custom cake for a 70th birthday party.

Normally, these types of events are planned with some good lead time. It’s a significant birthday, one that generally has family coordination, etc. I generally love these calls. Unlike most of the tech work I do, bakery clients are always celebrating.

I work into the conversation how honored we are to be considered and ask for the date of the celebration… which ends up being Saturday. This Saturday. :(

Sometimes we can work on a shortened, fast schedule. Most times, Yeni needs at least two weeks notice to start planning, etc. The biggest issue, especially come Spring, is availability. For example, we’re booked this week. Solid. No space for more cakes.

I say “I’m very sorry, unfortunately we are unable to take on an additional cake this week—”

Thanks for nothing. [click]

Ouch. I hadn’t even finished the sentence… I didn’t get a chance to recommend another bakery. Thanks for nothing. Click.

The hard part is knowing that this person, who never has purchased from us… somehow feels we dis-serviced her in some way. It’s tough to get those calls and remain chipper. Hell, it sucks to say no.

I definitely would love if the bakery could sell more cakes. (So would my accountant)

How would you handle it when you’re told… Thanks for nothing.

Customer Service is Key

I’m a lucky guy. Besides having a smoking hot wife, I’ve also been able to meet some incredible people — some incredibly smart people.

One of these people, John Spence, is a great author, speaker, consultant, and advisor who makes the very complex awesomely simple. He also happens to post some amazing advice on his blog, such as:

Let me make this as Awesomely Simple as I can: for the vast majority of businesses today the ONLY competitive differentiator you have is the level of service you deliver to your customers. People can copy your product, your price, your location, your hours, your decor, your uniforms, your marketing and advertising… they can copy just about everything you offer… except the quality of the service your front-line employees deliver and the relationships they build with your customers. For many of you reading this blog, Amazing Customer Serviceor lack thereof – will be the sole determinant as to whether you are successful in your business or not. Please take a moment to read that last sentence again and think about it very carefully!John Spence re Customer Service

Great man with great advice.

Have you tried DuckDuckGo yet?

With a tag-line of friends don’t let friends get tracked, new search engine Duck Duck Go certainly new how to grab my attention.

Ok, I said new but in reality it’s a few years old… I’m just slow and it’s new to me.

DuckDuckGo.com is a search engine that doesn’t track your results… which means you can search for something online and not see advertisements related to your search on other sites you visit. As well as privacy protections (no searching history period), there are many benefits to this model.

It certainly has my attention.

Learn more:

No Warrant? Who cares!

I’ve been discussing for a few years here the dangers of our collected data. More recently, since the NSA revelations, I’ve been discussing the need for encrypted communication to ensure our privacy.

Of course, I do this openly, which is a great freedom that I am guaranteed by the bill of rights.

You must never forget, the bill of rights limits government. When government ignores the constitution… when our government ignores the guaranteed freedoms we have… when they abuse the power we give them, it is our duty to ensure it does not happen again.

It’s happening now. The government continues attempts to whitewash (and flat out lie) about their warrant-less searches of our communications:

Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans’ emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant,” Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall said in a joint statement. “However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans’ communications.USAToday.com (U.S. confirms warrantless searches of Americans)

Concerned yet?

Senator Marco Rubio Responds re NSA (again)

Recently, I again wrote my Senators and Congressman about the NSA collection of data. This was done as part of an organized campaign — The Day We Fight Back — on February 11th, 2014. Partnered with EFF.org, there were pre-written letters to send your representatives:

As your constituent, I am deeply concerned about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance programs. We need real reform to stop the NSA’s mass collection of our information.

I urge you to support the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361/S. 1599), an important first step in stopping mass spying, reforming the FISA court, and increasing transparency. But reform shouldn’t stop there: please push for stronger privacy protections that stop dragnet surveillance of innocent users across the globe, and stop the NSA from sabotaging international encryption standards. Continue…