January 31, 2008

Losing Business with Business Automation

Automated customer service emails have their place. But when they are not in line with customer expectation you can end up doing more harm than good.
On Friday Jan, 17 I took a flight on US Airways from San Antonio to Phoenix. I experienced the worst service in my history of flying, which is saying something since I spent the equivalent of one full work month on a plane in 2007 (about 160 hours for those told there would be no math) . Never before had I written an airline as the bar is set pretty low with regard to guest experience and I am generally understanding of the airline plight. Airline employees deal with unhappy and rude customers all the time, and 98% of the time the problem is out of their control like flight delays or being out of Coke cans mid flight.

But attitude and how a job is performed is completely in the control of any employee. The kicker for me was getting off the plane to wait for my carry on bag to be delivered (small plane) and watch our bags get "launched" by an employee three feet up over a railing and fall about three feet to a landing. Thankfully I didn't have anything fragile in mine, but I saw one laptop bag go airborne (as it's owner cringed) and one garment bag get a hammer style throw.

Since my iPhone does not have video capability (one of its major limitations) I tried to get my camera out to take video but was too slow (I think it would have made an interesting YouTube upload). I sent a note to US Airways, but not an "angry customer" note. I told them the story of my experience and ended it saying I did not want anything in return but hoped customer service would be a higher priority.

The following day I got an automated response from US Airways apologizing for my "travel difficulties" and a $75 non-transferable travel voucher. I suppose I could have just accepted this as the reality of things, but I felt a bit insulted. US Airways could have quickly validated if I had a frequent flier number (which I do) and found my Star Alliance status. My guess is they could have also discovered I spent over $2200 in airfare since January 1, 2008 (30 times the voucher amount).

I sent a response email to customer service saying I did not want the voucher I just wanted better service the next time I flew. They sent another email apologizing for offending me with the voucher and that my concerns had been delivered to the appropriate management. I ended feeling again like my experience stunk.

US Airways could have righted my experience one of two ways. Picking up the phone after the second email would have been ideal. It would have made me feel appreciated and ensured they understood I was not angry but disappointed. Obviously they cannot do this with everyone, but the reason for loyalty programs is so you know who a customer is and what losing them may mean. Second, though I did not want anything, a full fare voucher would have told me they really wanted me to fly with them.

The point of business automation should be to improve the guest experience, not the other way around.

New k.sturm blog

I got tired of a blog that looked like 90% of blogs in the blogosphere, so I thought it was time to waste time and customize this one. After spending days figuring out html for hospitality technology made simple customizing this layout only took me one evening. Let me know what you think!

January 28, 2008

Set Goals Instead of Resolutions

I've been meaning to do this post for a while, but have been lazy on the post front. It's now almost February, but my post for the 2008 new year is don't set resolutions. In stead set goals. Not widely outrageous goals, but goals that are achievable and broken down into increments. They should be challenging, but also attainable.

On September 26, 2007 on a flight from DFW to Charlotte I made a list of my two year goals. I was reviewing it this week. I've done well in some areas and not so well in others.

Q4 2007

  • Establish my niche in consulting where ever it may be, hotel ideally
  • Bill 20 hours per week
  • Start posting meaningful content on hospitality technology made simple every two weeks
  • Read my bible every morning for at least 15 minutes - have not done
  • Get out of the rat race and keeping up with what we think is the requirements of success
  • Run every 3 days at least - sometimes yes, right now no
  • Read one book per month on something and keep doing it
  • Finish house - not even close
  • Post to k.sturm blog at least every 3 days - not quite there
Q1 2008
  • Bill 20 hours per week
  • Post meaningful content on hospitality technology made simple every two weeks
  • Speak in some capacity at an industry conference
  • Have business plan for new company idea complete with market analysis, 1 year, 3 year, 5 year revenue forecast, and mocked up design
  • Have a plan to live “below” our means allowing us the financial freedom to take trips and live free
  • Begin taking a one week trip per quarter with Chrystal and Brody somewhere fun where we don’t work at all
Q2 2008
  • Bill 16 hours per week and increase hourly rate
  • Hire first employee/subcontractor for kevin sturm Consulting billing 20 hrs/week
  • Speak in some capacity at major industry conference
  • Have a second draft of business plan in place and start moving forward
  • Find a developer that will “drink the cool-aid” or get venture capital funding…drink the cool-aid is way better
  • Go on Potter’s Clay construction team (not sure if this will be possible with baby due)
  • Be training for Marathon or Triathlon
Q3 2008
  • Give Keynote Session presentation at industry conference
  • Be at least one quarter into v1.0 of new business
  • Visit Opportunity International bank in Mexico or Africa
  • Run a Marathon or do a Triathlon
Q4 2008
  • Hire second employee/subcontractor for kevin sturm Consulting billing 20 hrs/week
  • Speak at hospitality technology industry conference
  • Sign up early adopter customers for v1.0 release
Q1 2009
  • Speak at hospitality technology industry conference
  • Release v1.0 of new business venture
  • Attend industry conference on new business venture
Q2 2009
  • Speak at hospitality technology industry conference
  • Release v2.0 of software
  • Speak at industry conference on new company venture

January 18, 2008

Invention that Makes the World a Better Place

Okay, so I'm not the first to see the Aquaduct as there are about a million blog posts about it, but apparently I'm the first one out there to see if this great invention is actually getting sent to people who could use it. I've searched the web and cannot find a single website that says anything other than it won the Innovate or Die contest. I've also tried to find a blog or website that lists an email about any of the inventors.

I think this thing is awesome, and I know there needs to be at least 50 of them in use in areas that need them. Obviously there will be improvements that need to be made, as there always are. But what is being done?

If anyone out there knows if there is a fund out there to help get production of the Aquaduct going please post a reply. Or, if as one of the inventors you find this blog send me an email. This thing is already hot with viral marketing, so how come there isn't a www.aquaduct.com?

January 16, 2008

I Love My Job

I flew down to San Antonio today for a consulting gig at the Westin La Cantera. I have a really bad cold so flying was brutal. My ears are still plugged up. This place is uber nice and I got a sweet room with a view of the property and surrounding hills (photos below). It was really nice to relax for a bit in a nice room with a spectacular view. How great is it that get to come stay at a nice hotel for work! I love my job!Now I'm off to have dinner with my father-in-law.