Customer Service

When I started in IT, I took helpdesk calls for a small software company. I was convinced it would help me to write better software.
I still think I understand users better because of that.
I learned that when a customer takes the time to call you, he is not only telling you his problem but he might also give you a solution.

I once had a Dutch speaking customer that toughed I was French speaking and he had a hard time speaking French to me.
I was originally Dutch speaking and I had worked very hard to become better in French, so my ego liked it that he could not hear it was my second language. I kept talking French to him, and I proudly told it during lunch with my colleague’s.
I don’t remember what my boss said, but he made it clear that I should not do this again, I should help the customer instead of making fun of them/ using them for my own ego. Although he did bring it very subtle, it‘s a message I never forgot.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I was invited to do my talk about self-organizing teams at Agilis 2009 in Iceland. Tickets, hotel booked.

My flight was leaving in Brussels at 16:00 (4 PM) going to Heathrow, where another flight leaving at 21:00 would bring me to Reykjavik.

By coincidence (does that exist?), I have accepted a position of agile coach, helping a large corporation in the UK. During the week I am in Staines, which is about 10 miles from Heathrow.

So today I need to go from Staines to Brussels, take a plane to Heathrow and fly to Reykjavik from there. I would need to leave Staines at about 8:30, to take a plane at 21:00 from 10 miles where I am.

Mmm, I know some things about removing impediments and waste.
What if I skip my first flight. And go on the second one.

So a few weeks ago I contacted my airline by their website. No answer for 1 week. I guess something went wrong as I never got a message they received my message. (Ok that could be my mistake, so I won’t hold it against them. Still if a website makes it hard to ask a question, that is a sign/smell to me)
After about 1 week I tried again, now I got a receive message. And an answer that I needed to contact my booking agent.

Mmm, they told me I had to contact the airline. I replied that. (And checked back with my travel agent)

To cut a long story short, after about 6 or 7 e-mails (and a lot of time) they finally gave me a number where I could contact them directly. (I could not find it on the website.)
When I called the number it was even better, it was one of those electronic helpdesk systems that supposed to help you find the correct persons quickly.
Only I never seem to know what to press. Is this just me?

Now it had options to:

- information before buying a ticket
- buy a ticket
- check-in

Of course my situation is special. So no options is made for that. Aren’t most call’s special? If it would have been a “normal” case, the information would be in the FAQ.  Ok not many people read these. Also in software, people call quicker then reading the manual.
Having an option, to talk to an operator press x would already be a good step (now this option was hidden behind at least three or four other selections)

First time I tried when I selected an option ==> Busy statement and my call was interrupted.
Second time, I got disconnected when I had explained my situation to a male person. (Not sure if it was my phone, the system or the operator)

The third time I finally got a person that took my situation seriously.
She let me wait a little and then explained that my flight was actually not serviced by their airline, but by another one, so she would not be be able to help me.

(If all these people answering mails had looked my flight up, I would not have wasted time with their airline (wasting both their and my time).

So calling to the new airline. This one only had a Belgium number (I was in Staines when I made the calls) (Which was funny for an international airline.)

For Dutch or English press 1, for French press 2.


I explain my situation in Dutch. Sorry sir could you speak English? Euh I pressed 1. Yes I only speak English. OK no problem I speak English, but another sign off bad communication. (It’s fine not to have that option, but when you have the option, be sure you support it.)

After about 5 minutes:
It is not possible to refund your ticket.

I’m not asking for a refund. I’m asking to skip a flight.
No there will be a problem with your luggage, you can’t check that in in London. mmm strange. Ok I don’t need much luggage. I’ll take everything on the plane.

No it is not possible.
Your only option is to cancel the whole flight (including return flight). And buy two separate one way tickets. (One leaving in London)

- London-Reykjavik
- Reykjavik-Brussels

Not sure about the cost price, probably about 2 to 3 times the original ticket. (which I would loose on top of that.) Mmm I don’t think the conference will pay that.

So much for customer service. Airlines are dictated by their software which says if you miss one part of the flight everything else is cancelled.

What are my other options:

- I could stay home on Monday and not help my client, but then they would suffer even more from this situation
- I could cancel my trip to the conference. Now that clients suffers from the lack of customer service from one of my suppliers.

Mmm, I could explain it, it would make a good excuse, but I prefer to take the responsibility myself.

Let’s go to London and go back on Tuesday, I might even be at a morning meeting on Tuesday.

So now I have to book another ticket to go from London-Brussels.
And this is where things become interesting.

I book a train with the Eurostar to go back to Brussels. Unfortunately I make a mistake and I buy a non-refundable ticket to return Monday instead of Tuesday. I notice this while I want to check in to go to Brussels last Friday.  (About 30 minutes after I bought the ticket.)

Now I’m sure I made the mistake (I still hear myself saying Monday at xxx hour.)
So I go back to the desk. I explain my situation, the lady is very friendly she advises me to talk to the same persons that has sold me the ticket.

When I got to that person I explain that I bought it for the wrong day. I’m expect to be told I need to buy a new ticket. (I was a non-refundable ticket after all)

Nope: Oh sure sir, he tears my ticket apart, so when did you wanted to leave?

Tuesday? At the same time? Do you want to sit again at a table near the window?
5 minutes later I’m out of there with my new ticket. And my old return ticket (Brussel-Londen) is still valid.

Thank you Eurostar. That is what I call customer service.
And they do this all the way. I’m typing this on that train from London to Brussels. My computer is hooked up to the electricity net. No I don’t have to be in First class to have this. Eurostar recognizes that electricity is a basic need on a long trip. Just as they offer that in London in the waiting room. (In most airports I almost have to fight to use an electricity plug.) [Edited in Heathrow, lot’s of electricity here also]

Could they improve? yes. And I’m sure they will over the next years (I have some idea’s)

But they are far ahead of the airline in the first part of my story.

I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at blog at my training company .net or follow me on Twitter

Guest blogging @ 5 why’s

Roy Osherove has asked me if I wanted to blog some guest posts on his 5 why’s blog on the Core protocols.

This link should give you all the post’s I’m blogging there.

I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at blog at my training company .net or follow me on Twitter

The Fun Factor

This video shows how you can change people’s behavior when you make them have fun.


I’m just back from Toronto where I did two workshops next to AgileTourToronto.
Last day was AgileGameDay. A whole day of playing games to learn serious stuff.

The reasons for me behind these games is similar to what these people want.
Use the brain the way a kid does to learn new behavior.
If you want to learn about agile while having fun, feel free to contact me.

I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at blog at my training company .net or follow me on Twitter

10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr"

I have moved this post to my new blog:


The power of the junior on the team

I have moved this post to my new blog:


Facilitating: the skill of multiple partiality

I have moved this post to my new blog:


Announcing courses in Toronto

After my successful sessions @ Agile2009 & AgileEE, I’m also doing a talk at some of the Agile Tour events:

Agile Tour Geneve (12 october)
Agile Tour Toronto (20 october)
Agile Tour Bordeaux (29 October)

XP Days Benelux (23-24November – Benelux)  
XP Days London (7-8 December- London)


Going to Toronto for just one day, is pretty

  • silly
  • dedicated
  • expensive

So I decided to deliver two Agile Courses in Toronto. In Michael Sahota of agilitrix I found the perfect partner to help me with this.
Both will be given in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto (the same hotel as where the Agile Tour event is taking place)

Agile Kick Start (19/10/2009)
This course is for:

  • People who are new to agile
  • People who want to prepare for the Agile Tour Toronto
  • Certified Scrum Masters that want to learn about that other pillar of the agile called XP
  • XP practitioners that want replace some XP practices with other things, without loosing the values behind the practices they replace.
  • Agile practitioners that never read the first edition of the famous white Extreme Programming Explained book
  • Agile Coaches that have never played the XP Game

Read more

Order here

Agile Games Day (21/10/2009)

Define the Business Value
Fact: Determining the Business Value is an important aspect of an agile project
Fact: Learning that from a book is impossible
Fact: The Business Value Game is the fastest way to learn this

Understand Self-Organizing Teams
Fact: Self-organizational teams are important for agile
Fact: Most people have NO experience with a self-organizing team
Fact: The Leadership Game lets you experience the difference between a command and control, self-organizing and a process led team.

Theory of Constraints

Fact: Every project has a bottleneck that limits productivity
Fact: Most people don’t know how to eliminate a bottleneck to go faster
Fact: The game “I’m not a bottleneck, I’m a free man” will teach you how to apply the Theory of Constraints

Learn Quickly

Fact: Humans learn fastest when they are playing.
Fact: The Agile game day combines 3 famous agile games
Have Fun
Fact: You’ll have fun
Fact: You will learn a lot

This course is for:

– People new to agile.
- Agilists struggling with one of these concepts
- Agile Coaches that look for new ways to explain these concepts to there customers/developers.

The three games have been played all around the world on multiple agile events.
They are now grouped as a one day event for the first time.
Read more

Order here

If you are a participant of Agile Tour Toronto or are on their waiting list, we offer you a discount of 10% when you use this code: 014756401953
Both courses are for a maximum of 20 people. Meals are included.

I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at blog at my training company .net or follow me on Twitter

How to work with a whiteboard with a distributed team?

I moved this post to my new blog

I propose we replace Best Practise by great practise

I moved this post to my new blog


The slides of my talk at AgileEE: Tips for creating a self-organizing team

I have moved this post to my new blog:


Apple’s view of the future as seen in the 8o’ties

At the Agile 2009 conference, Jared M. Spool used this video during his keynote.
It was how Apple envisioned the future in the 1980’s.

Jared said Apple used that video internally to take decisions.

Remember this was invisioned before the internet existed, even before cellphone’s.

I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at blog at my training company .net or follow me on Twitter

Rally Chalk Talk: The daily meeting

My three questions:

1 What have I finished yesterday.

2 What do I commit to finish today

3 Where do I need help?

==>So these are a little bit different as the ones from Jean.

I don’t make the link between what I promised yesterday and what I have done yesterday. Because it might be that I have done something totally different. If it is there is a smell. I could answer her question and not talk about other stuff I have done. (Difficult to know Jean’s idea in a 4 minute video).
My question also does not tackle the smell directly. It does offer the team to react if what is said yesterday and today is not in sync.

With 2, I completely agree with Jean. It’s about commitment, not just about what will I try to do. I’ m only interested in what you want to finish today.

My 3 is bigger then Jean’s. I don’t need to be stuck to need help. Actually I want team members to ask quicker for help. Before they actually get stuck.

Also it avoids the difficult definition of ‘stuck’. (Some people only see them selfs stuck when they don’t find a solution for a week…)

Next to that I agree completely with Jean. If you want more advice like that, read her great book about facilitating an agile team:

Collaboration Explained

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can mail me: blog at my training company  .net

Agile conferences

To my big surprise I have not been blogging about the upcoming Agile conferences.

Agile2009_WebBadges_Self I’ll be going to Agile 2009 in Chicago. This is the agile conference to be.
Neatly organized by different stages like festivals.

Unfortunately this year non of my sessions got accepted; Oh well leave’s me more time to follow other sessions and network.

If you are going to this one, orif you have been to any of the earlier ones and you are on linkedin, feel free to join the Linkedin Agile 200X group.


agileee_banner_speaker_205x130 Next to that I’ll be speaking at the first Agile East European Conference in Kiev.
I love helping out new agile conferences. I spoke at the very first XPday France (in 2006) and I haven’t missed one since.




I have also proposed a few session on XPDay Benelux. I will do also for Xp Day London and I’m considering a lot of the Agile Tours cities.

Am actually also thinking about the Agile Testing days that are taking place in Germany and Belgium, Agile Open Holland, Agiles 2009. If you know of other agile conferences feel free to contact me.

Oh and this year I have created an agile conferences calendar on google. E-mail me if you want to add it to your calendars, so that you won’t miss any agile conference.


I  am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can mail me: blog at my training company  .net

Visual Management Blog

In the middle of a team restructure (downsizing), a few ill kids, a large personal todo list for upcoming agile conferences, a heavy Gestalt training year, I get an e-mail from my former collegue Xavier, that he stared a new blog about Visual Management.
I was not surprised, as Xavier lives and breaths Visual Management.

If you care about agile, lean, scrum, XP and want to see how you can sell these whiteboards to upper management. Check out this blog.

Yves Hanoulle

Rocks into Gold

If you don’t want to read the stry in PPT, you can order the book online: I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project Coach and you can reach me @ Yves at my agile training company .net

Hey Scrum master let your team decide

Patrick & Peter have published their video’s of their great xpday benelux session

Since Geike was born and we made teh birthday card with playmobile I have been thinking about creating agile video’s with playmobile. Patrick and Peter beat me to it.

But when I see the quality of their work, I can only say chapeau!



Don’t gossip…

One of the things I have tried to do in all the companies I work for, is don’t talk about people not present. When I teached .NET I gave a lot of examples, sometimes examples of how things were done in a bad way at a previous client. When I gave these examples I made sure I never mentioned the company that wrote the spaghetti code.(or whatever problems I was talking about.)

I can give you as many examples about bad bosses as the next guy. I try to make sure I never mention their names nor their company names.
In fact I try to do the opposite, praise in public and give critic in private. The people I think screwed up one way or another, I tell them in private. When I like what they are doing I tell everybody about it, sometimes even blog about it. (If they like that)

One of the rules in gestalt groups is not to talk about people but directly to people. This not only means when the people are not presents (which is a rule everyone finds normal behavior, although is pretty hard to do) but also when we talk about a situation, we don’t talk to group leader but directly to the person we are talking about. If possible we also talk about a situation as it is happening now, instead of something that happens in the past. I’m not sure about all the reasons behind. One of the reasons is that it brings up the emotions much quicker and more intense. Thus helping to resolve quicker.

When I am doing consultancy with multiple clients it’s pretty hard not to talk about what is going wrong at the other client. (As they always know the other names.)And people always ask how things are going at the other client. I try to bring back the talk to their own problems. Not easy, but I notice that clients in the long run appreciate this.

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project Coach and you can reach me @ Yves at my agile training company .net

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Article about Bootcamp published in Business ICT…

After the article in Bizz magazine, Business ICT now published an article about BootCamp.

Dutch Version

French Version

Although BootCamp is something people should experience and not just talk about, I’m happy with how Davy explains in this article how to use the Core Protocols.

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project Coach and you can reach me @ Yves at my agile training company .net

Project management, lessons learned from failed Project "Form government for Belgium"

I moved this post to my new blog


I’m putting my children’s names in my biography, CV etc…

I’m the father of Joppe (2002, Bent (2004), Geike(2007)

Whenever I send my CV or put my biography somewhere, I get the remark why do you put the fact that you have 3 kids in there?

Well I’m proud of being a father, I know that being a father influences how I think about leadership. I use what I learn from home in my leadership course and vice versa. So for me it is an important information to give in my CV. Is that so abnormal?

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project Coach and you can reach me @ Yves at my agile training company


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