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


Université du Système d’Information: Video 4

This is not a BUG it’s an evolution of the program…

Yep been there, heard that, I hope I never see it again….


Actors principal: Pierre, Ludovic, Christophe

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

KBC online en gebruiks vriendelijkheid…

KBC online schakelt over naar een kaart ipv een sleutel. (Dat terwijl ik net een jaarje van Isabel naar KBC online ben overgeschakelt om van de kaart af te zijn.)
Ik ga de kaart gaan halen zodat ik later verder kan werken zonder problemen.

Aangezien ik nog wacht op een nieuwe pc maak ik daar nog geen gebruik van. Er staat op dat ik tijd heb.

Deze morgen KBC online werkt normaal (==> volgens de helpdesk gisteren)
KBC Online werkt plots niet meer.
==> 3 maal verkeerde code in gegeven. Vreemd ik dacht dat ik de juiste code ingaf.
Na ja kan iedereen overkomen.

Bellen naar KBC kantoor,we bellen u terug binnen de 15 minuten.
1 uur later zelf terug bellen.
U bent verplicht om gebruik te maken van de kaart, dat moest binnen de maand. Aha het feit dat ik voorzienig was speelt nu in mijn nadeel. Spijtig dat men dat nooit gemeld heeft.
Bij mijn kantoor kan men mij niet verder helpen.
Gelieve de helpdesk te bellen.

Bij de helpdesk zegt men me dat het kantoor me wel degelijk kan helpen door een nieuw paswoord te genereren.
Terug bellen naar het kantoor.
Men genereert een nieuw initeel paswoord en faxt het door.
Op het document staat ga naar en volg de instructies.
Geen instructies op deze pagina, wel de mogelijkheid om in te loggen.

Ik log in met het verkregen paswoord.
Lukt niet. Ik probeer nog een paar keer.
Dan klikt ik op gebruikersbeheer, waar er een mogelijkheid staat om een nieuwe sleutel te genereren.
Ah dat moet ik dus doen.
==> Ik maak de sleutel aan met de gegevens die ik gekregen heb.
Werkt perfect.
Ik wil die gebruiken. Sleutel werkt niet==> Fout boodschap weer de zelfde, u heeft 3 maal de verkeerde
code gebruikt. Vreemd dit is de eerste poging die ik onderneem sederd ik de code gebruik.

IK bel terugnaar de helpdesk. Ah ja  had de initiele code nooit mogen in geven in het andere scherm; Dat heeft de nieuwe code die ik nadien aanmaakte geblokkeerd. Vreemd.
OK wat moet ik nu doen?
terug bellen naar uw bank en ze zullen u een nieuwe code genereren.

Persoon overloopt met mij nog eens de procedure. Ja dat heb ik gedaan. “Hoe, dat hebt u gedaan? En dat heeft het geblokkeerd?” Nee dat heb ik gedaan nadat ik merkt dat de code op de hoofdpagina niet werkte. VOlgesn uw uitleg was dat al geblokkeerd vooraf. Ik zal u doorverbinden en bel u binnen 10 minuten terug.

Hij verbind me door met het kantoor en die bezorgt me een nieuwe code.
Ik moet wachten met de nieuwe code, we zullen samen de procedure doorlopen.

Dan doen we en het werkt. Ik kan één week verder. Dan is de code ook weer verlopen. Ik zal maar hopen dat het leveren van mijn pc in een versnelling geraakt.

Ter verduidelijking, de mensen bij de KBC die me geholpen hebben waren uiterst vriendelijk.
Dit is de allereerste keer dat een helpdesk zegt dat hij me gaat terug bellen en dat ook nog doet.

Het is andermaal de software die steken laat vallen.
A de foutboodschappen kloppen nooit. (Telkens u heeft 3 maal geprobeerd)
B De automatische blokkering is redelijk annoying. Zo had de software me ook vooraf kunnen waarschuwen dat dit ging geblokeerd geraken vanaf datum X
C Dat het inloggen niet gaat met de sleutel die ik van de bank krijg tot daar aan toe, doch men had dit wel kunnen detecteren en me automatisch naar de juiste pagina sturen. (Zonder opnieuw te blokkeren)

We hebben nog veel werk in software land. Vertaal: Hoe software andermaal probeert om mensen zich dom te laten voelen. Ik ben blij dat ik een informaticus ben, want ik zou er horendol van worden. Nu is het voor mij andermaal een uidaging om te zorgen dat mijn volgende team niet zulke kemels maakt.

Update: Mijn nieuwe pc is toegekomen. Dus installeer ik de KBC card software. Nu merk ik dat het document dat ik had gekregen effectief vermeld te installeren voor 2008/04/27. Maw mijn heeft mijn vorige manier maar eventjes ander halve maand te vroeg afgesloten. Kwa gebruiks vriendelijkheid kan dat tellen. Ik heb dan ook net gelezen in DataNews dat 80% van de informatici hun gebruikers liever kwijt zijn. Dit is een mooi voorbeeld.
Het wordt nog beter, de KBC software wordt niet ondersteund om Windows Vista. Pardon? Vista is reeds een jaar uit en nog niet ondersteund? Ik heb aan minstens 3 KBC medewerkers verteld dat ik aan het wachten was op een nieuwe PC. Niet één heeft er vermeld dat deze manier van werken niet werkt op VISTA.

Nou ja niet werken is een groot woord: de installatie zegt: je mag het gebruiken maar we gaan je niet helpen. Ik vertaal dat door “We zijn zelf te lui om het te testen. ”

Update: Ivm Vista zie het vervolg verhaal.

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

I want a Toshiba M-700, they don’t want to sell it to me…

I have been postponing to buy a new PC for a long time.

Last week my hard drive crashed, only a week after reinstalling my machine. I luckily I was able to clone my harddisk, the same night. Everything woks fine now, but it was the sign to start looking for a new machine.

After working with a super notebook, similar to this one, I’m ready for a ultra portable one.

I considered a MacBookPro, but I am still to much addicted to the Microsoft way of working

I still use my old laptop a lot at home. So I looked again at Toshiba. And yes they released a new Tablet. The M700.

It’s a great machine.

Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7700 (2.40GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB)

Windows Vista® Ultimate 32-Bit

4096MB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (2048MBx2)

1GB Onboard Intel® Turbo Memory 

Intel® Turbo Memory* improves the general system performance with faster read/write access times and reduced boot-up times, and increases the laptop power efficiency by moving frequently accessed data over to the flash memory from the hard drive.

12.1″ WXGA Backlit Display supporting digital pen with indoor/outdoor viewing (1280×800)

Active Digitizer with Pen and Touch Screen Input

Mobile Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 8MB-251MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory

120GB HDD (7200rpm, Serial-ATA)

DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive

Bluetooth® Version 2.0 +EDR

Lithium Ion Battery (6-Cell, 4700mAh)

3 Year Standard Limited Warranty 
(1-Year on Battery and AC Adapter)

Great machine, great configuration, great price.

==>Great problem
not available in this configuration in Belgium.

I tried asking Toshiba Belgium for more info, but they don’t want to help.

Basically they said they were not interested in me as a customer.

That would be fine if would also sell to people outside the US, but they don’t. ToshibaDirect is not interested in people outside the States.

They said it’s ok to buy it and send it to an American Friend. He can bring it to Belgium. But they don’t want to sell it to someone outside the USA.

So I have tow options:

Buy the Belgium one, and replace the harddrive with a faster one, replace the standard memory with enough memory so its workable, or ask American friends to bring the machine with them (and not being able to deduct the taxes)

Both expensive choices, maybe I should buy a Mac after all…

Update: I bought it anyway, and I wrote a perfection game about it