THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Web Innovators Group – Boston

Posted in People, Reviews by Harsha on March 11, 2009

Web Innovators Group – Boston┬áis a great resource to check out what Boston startups are up to on demo day.

Dave Beisel of Venrock is the brain and muscle behind this event and has successfully held 21 events (including yesterday) so far. Venrock’s portfolio reads like a Who’s Who of businesses. Pretty cool!

Thanks to Dave, us Bostonians have a great startup resource in our own backyard!

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Integration Experiment

Posted in Reviews by Harsha on March 2, 2009

I have been trying to integrate my online life by marrying a stubborn wordpress.com together with twitter. The idea is that I’d rather have you read this blog thru twitter than an RSS feed.

That makes more sense, right? Tweet your feedback.

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Bank of America Customer Service Issue – Update

Posted in Big Thought, Business, New, People, Reviews by Harsha on September 4, 2008

Someone has been listening at the Bank of America corporation.

Last night, I got a call from Tara ***** (last name blanked out to protect identity), from the Executive Relations and Office of the Chairman. She read my blog after receiving the email from the PR/Communications team and called me to profusely apologize for the issue. She said that the 0% APR reinstatement and the $39 fee are unrelated, i.e., just because the 0% was reinstated, it doesn’t mean that the $39 fee cannot be refunded. She also said that the representatives (the one that threw me off the line and the other who would only give me 1/2 fee off because he was not “authorized” to refund the whole fee) AND the manager who never called me back, will be coached. Apparently, representatives are permitted to refund this fee.

Not only did Bank of America refund the other half of the fee, but it also has extended a $50 Amazon gift card as an apology for the inconvenience. Of course, Tara also made sure that I understood that I will need to make payments after the 22nd, which believe me, I will not forget! And if I do forget and end up committing the same mistake, then shame on me.

Here are some take-aways from this situation and I think it applies to both small and large businesses:

1. People generally at the top (either as pure managers or as owner/managers) care about what others say.

2. Everything is radically transparent: Information on LinkedIn helped me contact Bank’s Communications team

3. Don’t be a brat when trying to solve a problem – remember the person at the other end is just like you.

4. The web is POWERFUL!

I say the take-aways are similar for large and small companies because I faced a similar situation a month ago. A client of my employer’s wanted us to make good on a consulting engagement that was not completed as promised. While they had approved the work after it was done, they soon realized that it was actually incomplete. Now, I could have hemmed and hawed like a colleague of mine did when she heard this news, but my focus was crystal clear – we have to do what it takes to satisfy this client because it is about the overall relationship. It is never about this one transaction so while in the short run we lost some money, in the mid to long term, we have generated extremely positive brand recognition.

So, thank you Tara for the pleasant call last night and acknowledging that there was no logic behind what transpired. You are the right person to call in such situations because you could have been nonchalant about it, but you were not. You said the right things and hopefully learned a little from this situation as well. Please feel free to send in a comment on the issue.

A hearty thank you for everyone who commented on the previous posts – I believe in the power of us.

Bank of America Customer Service Tragedy

Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Reviews by Harsha on August 27, 2008

I thought about writing this post for quite a while. The incident is still fresh in memory – it happened just last week. But I think the Bank has had an acceptable window of opportunity to respond and they still have not.

First up, as a generally creative but grounded-in-processes kinda fellow, I really appreciate how complicated it is for a large organizations to work well. I’ve never been in one, but as a pioneer in most of the stuff I’ve done at my current small business gig, I can imagine how much planning and management goes into developing a customer service process at a bank. Think about the meetings that managers would have had in the past and in the present as well, about what happens when a customer calls into the 800 line. Now that process must adhere to their internal Service Level Standards (SLA) where they might say that 98% of issues must be resolved in one call, or something to that effect.

They must also deal with a myriad of types of calls, all being funneled through the same system and routed accordingly. The complexity amazes me. So whenever I call into any such organization with an issue or complaint, I generally approach it with as much respect as I can. I am never that irate caller who will jump down the throat of a poor little representative. I adopt a much more consultative approach.

But all that got thrown out the window when I called into Bank of America last week.

Here is some history on the problem, without going into too much detail: I opened a 0% APR American Express card with Bank of America less than a year ago and transferred a large loan balance to it and have been paying it off $1000 a month. The statement closes every 22nd and the minimum is due by the following 11th. I’ve always made this payment well in advance of the 11th deadline. This time, I ended up making it even before the 22nd statement close so basically my payment got tagged to the previous month.

When I called to clarify this, I was rudely informed by the representative that it is my fault for ‘paying late’ and that I will lose the promotional 0% APR. Then I asked her to check with her supervisor and she came back a little while later saying that they have decided to reinstate the 0% APR as a courtesy. I was delighted and thanked her and realized after I hung up that I had not asked about the $39 late fee. To me, it makes sense to roll it back because they ‘forgave’ the ‘late payment’ by reinstating my 0% APR, so why should I pay the late fee? Mind you, I absolutely agree and understand a late fee for late payments – no argument there.

When I called back, I said that if the Bank has rolled back the 0% APR because I am forgiven for the ‘late’ payment, then why would I pay a late fee? The representative talking to me couldn’t for the life of her understand my logic. So we started arguing back and forth and she said the same thing repeatedly and so did I – classic stalemate situation. So I asked her to connect me to her supervisor. What she did next was appalling – she actually threw me off the line and I ended up at the beginning of the call where you give the machine your card details to find the best route for the call. You’d think I would have given up, but I did not.

When the next representative came on the line (now I’m angry and my voice is louder) I told him about the way in which I got bumped off the previous call and said that I realize none of this is his fault but, come on! getting kicked out is just unacceptable! Since I was angry, after hearing why I called, he offered to cut my fee down to half but no more because representatives are not authorized to do so. In fact, he said that he was not even supposed to offer me half off on the fee, but was doing it because I was upset. I was unable to wrap my head around the fact that half of the fee was being refunded as a ‘courtesy’ but the other half wouldn’t be. So I asked him if he was being half courteous and half rude. Of course, such rhetorical questions only incite the flames of anger, and it did. We started arguing and I said that if he could roll back half my fee while not technically supposed to, then why not roll back the entire fee? Why partially commit the crime? And so on and on we went… Finally I said to him that half off was not acceptable and asked him to connect me to his supervisor. Thankfully he did. I left a message, in a super angry mode, hoping to evoke a response, but I have none so far.

My issue is NOT with the $39 fee. My issue is with the LOGIC of this whole situation. First of all, I did not make a ‘late’ payment. I ended up making two payments in the same month, a day early. In this tough economic environment, I am making multi-thousand dollar payments on-time (except this once), have a checking and savings account with Bank of America and am poised to buy a home next year. Despite all this and the threat of me switching to Discover (which is flooding my mailbox with offers), I am unable to fathom why the fee and worse still, why half the fee? If there was ANY logic to this, and I was indeed a payment too late, then for sure, I will not argue if the Bank starts charging me a high APR and fine me $39.

But when they have reinstated the 0% as a courtesy, why should they charge me $39 or even half of that? A pissed off customer with options is the worst kind of customer. Or am I too small for a large Bank like Bank of America to give a rats ass about? To add insult to injury, they are yet to respond to me.

Check out Bank of America Sucks. I am not that mad at the Bank – all I want is my fee refunded because it is illogical to charge it in the first place. Will someone from the Bank PLEASE respond?

The Big Switch – I am not a fan

Posted in Big Thought, People, Reviews by Harsha on March 14, 2008

The underlying point of this book (which was a very quick read) is that the Internet is just like electricity. I agree and disagree with the author on various points he makes in the book because while he is right, he is also dead wrong. That is all I have to offer at this point.

The average reader like me will love connecting the dots between the Internet and electricity but that is pretty much it – I was pretty surprised that Wired chose to glorify the book.

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The Big Switch

Posted in Big Thought, New, People, Reviews by Harsha on January 9, 2008

I’m currently reading this book written by Nicholas Carr and will post a review and comments here. I’ve got to tell you that the author lost me somewhere after page 80 because right now as I’m reading pages 140 and above, he is just pandering. Great book nevertheless. Makes you think of computing power like you’d think about electricity – exactly, you don’t think about that kind of stuff and he feels that computing is going that way.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon. It is fifteen bucks or so.

Another Hilton Review

Posted in People, Reviews by Harsha on December 12, 2007

This is a great post by the incomparable Richard Quest. He has a Hilton review that seems to agree with my crash course in hospitality this past week on the road trip. That would be the subjectiveness of the service offerings across their hotels. If you visit McDonald’s around the world, then you will understand what ubiquity means. In Hilton’s case, when I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Virgina Beach, VA, they had coffee-to-go in the lobby. So you see, they don’t seem to have standards when it comes to amenities in their hotels.

It is mind-boggling for me to think about the various moving parts in a hotel and it’s hotel room. To even think about the planning it takes from thinking about things that can be kept in a room for the user’s convenience to keeping the room clean, is head spinning! Maybe they need to hire a franchising expert to figure what is the best way to solve this problem, that is obviously global for Hilton.

The Hilton DeSoto Review

Posted in Reviews, Roadtrip by Harsha on December 10, 2007

Not all Hilton’s are born the same. This is a clear nature vs nurture situation, with nurture being the reason behind it’s appearance and feel. But I should thank them for providing fodder for the Name Experiment – 2 post.

When we drove up here in SAVANNAH, GA, we were not greeted by anyone at the door. They did upgrade our room to the 10th floor because we called earlier telling them we may be late thanks to the horrible Atlanta traffic. They put us on the 10th floor with fantastic views of the Historic District.

The room itself was nice with an amazing Tempur-Pedic bed. The bathroom was huge with two sinks and well kept. The view was amazing. The air-conditioner did make weird noises on startup but then worked out just fine. The room was decked out well with good clean linen, curtains and sofas.

The staff were generally good and prompt and helpful. The servers at their restaurant were just average and not particular keen on making sure we were having a good breakfast – I guess that is symptomatic of a restaurant in a hotel; they are after all in the hospitality business and not catering. Or is that just an excuse?

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

Obviously, there were better hotels in Savannah at the same rate. We just did not know about it till we got there. But I have no regrets and will stay there again if we get that 10th room floor or something above the 7th story. If you’re in town, I think The Hiton DeSoto is a good option.

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The Hamilton Crowne Plaza Review

Posted in Reviews, Roadtrip by Harsha on December 1, 2007

Welcome to a hotel in downtown DC that charges $30 for parking (no option to self park), and un-smiling staff. The hotel sign is easy to miss at the street level. But the lobby is grand and the hallways are well lit.

Our room was cheerful with good linen and carpet. The bathroom was great as well with good lights and clean tiles. The food being served from their 14K Restaurant, is just unbelievably good (read the food review here). The bed was awesome as well.

We had booked a king bed, got checked into a queen bed and then got moved to the right room. When this happens, I’m left shaking my head because the reservation will clearly tell the front desk staff our preference. There are no two ways about it – either you ordered queen bed or a king bed, a smoking or a non-smoking room. There are only so many options. It is like having your tires rotated when you asked for an oil change. It is that stupid.

But, I’ve been in instances where my reservation has been disputed by the front desk folks, but that did not happen here. The room change was made sheepishly by CJ, the front desk person. But not before asking some really brilliant questions like “Would you like to come down to pick up the new key?” and “Do you need help with your bags?”. Take a wild guess, I just drove in from Boston.

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

Well, if this were the last hotel available in DC, with every other choice either booked or not affordable, then maybe. Otherwise, never. I will still eat at the restaurant because it is just out of the world fantastic.