Happiness is Amazing Customer Service: Thanks Apple!

This is how I felt this past Friday night! The reason I chose the pic? Apple and it’s amazing customer service team. Happy Apple.

It all started last Wednesday when I contacted by my Financial Advisor, for the second time in a few days, wondering why he hadn’t returned my emails. He indicated that he didn’t realize I emailed me. In fact, when he looked back in his email box, he noticed mine was flagged as potential SPAM. Considering I’ve emailed him before with no issues, he strongly urged me to change my password just in case my account was compromised. So I did just: I changed my gmail password and made accompanying changes on all my email clients as well as my iPhone.

I never realized this was a nightmare just beginning!

Once I made the changes, I received an error indicating the “gmail IMAP server was unresponsive”, and asked me to verify my settings. This was happening on my Mac Mail and my iPhone. Gmail itself was fine. For most people, not being able to receive or send email is a huge impediment especially to the day-to-day business grind. Various personal and company domains were redirecting to my gmail account. I had to get this fixed.

So for three days straight I referenced forums because Google itself has NO customer service I could call. Google’s help pages and forums clearly indicated IMAP server was a known issue but the solutions they offered did not help. I tried implementing various recommendations from the forums but nothing seemed to take. I was getting seriously frustrated.

Ironically, I read Danny Brown’s blog last Friday: On Fostering the Long Tail Effect of True Brand Loyalty where he spoke about Livefyre and their ability to help him despite the fact he was using a competing comments product:

The really impressive thing? I’m not even a paying customer – Livefyre Comments is free, although it does offer premium features for businesses and media properties.

It got me thinking: perhaps Apple could help me. I had recently purchased a MacBook so perhaps my support warranty would work. When I spoke to the Support Rep, Jason we spent about 20 minutes going through the same exercise I had implemented in the previous few days. He came back and indicated that the issue was clearly the Gmail IMAP server but said he could probably help. He reviewed my settings, and we made adjustments to the ports, stopped my two-way verification, and he made recommendations on some settings that may have been responsible for hindering the emails from transmitting.

And Hallelujah! It worked!

When I started seeing the emails coming on my MacMail, I smiled. I immediately asked him to help me with my iPhone and within a few minutes emails started coming into my iPhone mail client as well!

Funny thing: Jason (I wish I knew his name) could have washed his hands from my issue once he realized it had not originated from Apple’s products, but he didn’t. He joked that Google should actually hire him considering he’s run into this issue with many Apple clients.

For the first time in 3 days I finally felt like my problems had been washed away. Apple did that for me. I felt incredibly relieved that I didn’t have to spend another second dealing with this issue.

Google, I have this message for you: You need to invest in making sure people are happy with your products

Troubleshooting forums may be ok for people who are technically oriented. Unfortunately, the rest of us feel like we’re spinning our wheels. I resent the fact that I was not able to successfully reference your support forums, or help pages to get resolution. From the forums I’ve read, I’m not the only one who is frustrated by your “form” of support.

Google, you need to change your ways quickly. Apple takes the lead in providing the best customer service ever: from their Genius bar to their email and  telephone support. They provide immediate accessibility, effective follow-up and efficient resolution.

Take notes, Google!! You may be big but you are still vulnerable.

The Internet Economy will only Survive with Proper Privacy Disclosure

I recently wrote a post in What’s Your Tech entitled: Google vs. Facebook: It’s all about Privacy.

My background is in database marketing and I am a firm believer in full disclosure to the consumer. This has been the practice for any one-to-one communication regardless of channel. It’s the reason why loyalty programs, direct mail even telemarketing have been strong purveyors of communication and insight.  Transitioning this principle to the internet should not change the principles. In fact, given the amount of information that people are creating and sharing on these social platforms should leave all of us to question how some of this information will be used.

Two additional news items came to light in the last few days:

Given the amount of media scrutiny on this issue, Twitter is actually taking a proactive step in identifying apps that may have access to user information, specifically DM, and taking steps to properly inform users within the OAuth session. At the same time they are mitigating any future access from apps by eliminating the DM data. Smart move and good for Twitter for staying under the radar on this one!

The bill (SB 242) would prohibit Facebook and other social networking sites from publicizing users’ addresses or phone numbers without their explicit consent.” Not surprisingly , Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype, and Yahoo, among others have banded together and denounced the bill calling it unconstitutional and hurting tech companies and negatively impacting the internet economy .

I don’t buy it. In fact I think the more these platforms keep from the consumer, the harder it will be to garner performance from advertising.  I also disagree with the argument that the common user does NOT understand how they’re data is being used, nor do they care.  The amount of media attention to this topic has certainly been enough to convince the people around me that they have to really manage what they share and don’t share. Why not give the users the benefit of the doubt? Are companies afraid that “consumer knowledge” will render their platforms less attractive to marketers?

Coming from the banking industry and from a country that is relentless in protecting user information, while there are limitations there’s an even larger negative impact on the business: reputation and eventually…. churn. From a customer viewpoint, “If you protect my information and you are up front with me about how you use it, I will trust you more”. I’ll take it one step further….”I will tell you about the things I like, don’t like, when I want to hear from you and in what channels”.  “If you go behind my back and you use my information that I haven’t given you permission to use, then our trust is broken and I will have one foot out that door”.

I worked for Yahoo! and I know the billions of ad dollars to be made is in tracking user behaviour: what they search for, where they spend their time, how recently … all this in order to offer targeted ad messages that provide real relevance for the user. To do this, cookies were absolutely essential. But Yahoo! was also adamant that external networks didn’t infringe their own cookies on the Y! user base so from that perspective they were “protecting” their users. Yahoo! openly disclosed this in their Terms of Service.

But Yahoo! and many of the Internet giants need to be more transparent in their disclosure and more user friendly.  Do-not-call List or Permission Marketing has NOT killed Telemarketing, Direct Mail or Email marketing. In fact the opposite is true: The final opt-in base may be smaller but the performance will be better. This will also hold true for the web.

What’s your opinion on this?

Power to the People: New Media has come to the Aid of Revolution

Yesterday I wrote a post on the Digital Journal, entitled, “Revolution and the Power of New Media” My view is that social media will change the way people will act/react against a suppressed regime. It has proven to already change the way these governments react when forced transparency comes into view and the world is watching. It’s already happening in this domino effect we’re seeing in the Middle East. I’ve also posted my article below:

The recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Bahrain and Libya are evidence of how new media is giving rise to a new confidence in suppressed nations.

The ability to collaborate at will, and send messages to the  world at large has provided a strong outlet to an otherwise disenfranchised  population. The world is watching and the power of new tools makes it  increasingly difficult for dictatorships to contain local events and sustain  any kind of propaganda it has created.
I’ve kept an eye on the events in  each of these nations.  Most recently, Libya linking to the most recent news via Google has been the my source for the breaking news from the man-on-the-street.   The constant stream from those caught in the situation is staggering:   Some noted tweets:

Sadly, the situation in Libya has  seriously deteriorated. Gaddafi has turned off the Internet and massacres  across the country have begun.

The massacre in #Libya  is disgusting & shocking. Can only hope it’s the last days of this  regim… (cont) http://deck.ly/~8eyod

u r growing & yr voice is being heard #gadafi    is out of his comfort zone keep the pressure.Millions of the arab  american r behind u

youtube is accessible in Tripoli, please  upload videos now #Libya

Muammar Gaddafi’s son: “We will  fight until the last bullet”  #libya

This past Sunday,  Feb 20th, the US Department of State (Bureaucracy of Democracy, Human Rights  and labor) created a page on Facebook denouncing the situation.

It’s  clear in Egypt, Tunisia and even Libya, that despite the government’s ability  to disable major communication channels, demonstrators are finding ways to  congregate and collaborate with resounding voice, defiant conviction and a  fervor that will not be denied.

Curation allows individuals to  aggregate relevant information wherever it occurs into one application in an  organized framework. I set up an account on Storify and tested this on Friday,  re some rumours about Steve Jobs’ ailing health. I pulled RSS feed using specific key words and applied the same for Twitter  and Facebook. By allowing me to properly sequence the events, this app allowed  me to (within a short amount of time) be an investigative journalist and  validate whether the stated rumour about the 6 weeks left that Jobs  purportedly to had left to live was indeed true. It also allowed me to share  my findings with my networks and provide everyone I knew access to the same  information. This information was critical in the Middle East events and it  has allowed individuals to pull in feeds from Youtube, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter to create a chronologic narrative of all these events and syndicate them.

Another important innovation is Tor.  This  app can be used online and is downloadable on Android phones and claims,  ‘Anonymity Online:  Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic  analysis.” Used by journalists to protect sources of information,  and  “activists to report abuses from danger zones”, this application has proven  critical for Android users to access email, messenger without being tracked or  even blocked.

Tom Hayes of the Huffington Post remarks about a number  of other applications in his post a few days ago. His article gave a practical view of technology and means the common  people were using to make their voice be heard. Even the government’s insane  attempt to go to lengths to mute the voice of the people by disabling the  internet has not weakened individuals. Their voices and the images they’ve  created are loud and clear and it’s there for the world to see.

As I  write this article, Gadaffi is on his way out of Libya. I shed a tear as I  read, “There’s something  extraordinarily helpless about sitting here on Twitter while people are likely  being killed right now in Tripoli. #libya”

And  yet I am encouraged by the fact that I need not rely on tomorrow’s paper to  tell me what is happening now… That we have evolved with journalists and  commoners in a single voice…  A voice made that much more powerful  because of the technology that has enabled, and continues to enable its  amplification. It is so clear that new media is increasingly putting the power  in the hands of the individual, perhaps the much needed innovation that will  radically transforms the way people are governed.

The point here is  this and it’s quoted from a must-read article so well-stated from Macleans.ca: “The revolution is being blogged, tweeted, shot and  streamed by those in the act of making  it.”

The Future of Advertising and how the Splinternet Impacts it

As online evolves, I’ve been comforted by the fact that the niche-play of social media will inhibit dominance by large players like the MSNs, Yahoo! and AOL of yesteryear.

But I’ve spoken too soon and in this day and age, and unless you’re hearing about Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple…. or even Wikileaks–at least once per day, the rest of the stories seem to pale in comparison.

The Splinternet is a topic that I’ve continued to delve into, especially as a marketer whose crossed the divide from online to social. As we get more social, it’s apparent that the internet divide grows increasingly larger.

Here’s my take on what that means to marketers and to the future of advertising. You can read the full story on whatsyourtech.ca

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