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.

The Google Browser

Posted in New by Harsha on September 2, 2008

Chrome, is the new project that Google is working on, set to deliver a new browser that will take advantage of the media rich internet.

I am a little intimidated because as of today, Google is able to track my search patterns and tries to deliver advertisements that it thinks I might click on. You have my word that I have NEVER clicked on even one, intentionally anyways. But now with a dedicated Google browser, how deep is their view into my browsing habits? While many books and theories out there suggest that people are irrational and can be directed to move in a certain way (and marketers thrive on this notion), I find it hard to imagine that Google and it’s data driven analysis of my searches makes my browsing and Internet experience any better. While it is undeniable that Google opened up the Internet through search, I am not so sure it improves or customizes my search experience.

In any case, as a one-trick pony, what is next for Google? How long can they continue feeding off of their ad revenue and funding these pursuits? Or is there nothing to be worried about?


Posted in Big Thought, Business, New by Harsha on August 19, 2008

Here is an article about the coffee giant’s latest investor-related woes. I had written about some ideas for ‘bucks here.

Turning Your Life Around to Win in Business

Posted in Big Thought, People, Pulpit by Harsha on May 13, 2008

This is truly an inspirational story not because of the ultimate success in business but because the protagonist Bob Williamson was a former druggie and homeless man. He was like one of those guys you see on busy intersections today, juggling tennis balls or selling the local newspaper.

Bob is a man after my own heart because he is in the business of providing software to school cafeterias, among other such large institutions. I’m deeply interested in this space because if you’ve been to a school lunch room or University cafeteria, you’ll be amazed at the sheer amount of food. While I don’t have any hard facts on hand, I am sure that almost 75-80% of the food goes wasted. When looked at nationally, there are over 5000 universities in the US and far more number of schools. The waste is endless.

I’ve always believed that solutions to these socio-economic problems must be capitalistic in nature. Of course, a non-profit model also works, but we all know the clear difference between the two. People sit up and listen when there is money to be made in solving a problem. Also, it would be in a food service company’s best interest to better estimate food demand and reduce waste in order to boost profits. While I am sure the Sodexho’s of the world are already doing that, I will also tell you that they’re not doing a good job. And therein lies the opportunity.

A recent show about freeganism got me thinking about developing a for-profit business plan that will move wasted food out of the hands of grocery chains, bakeries and cafeterias and into the hands of the homeless and needy and quite simply, people who want to buy food at cheaper prices. I am also happy to discuss if you want to sound off on your own ideas about how a money-making idea can make it easier to take good wasted food and move it into the hands of hungry people.


Inc. Magazine

Profile on corporate website


Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Questions by Harsha on April 22, 2008

Jeff Bezos was interviewed by BusinessWeek for their story on Innovation. I can’t be more of a fan of Jeff Bezos. I loved reading his story a few years ago, as having gone from a quirky hedge fund manager to being the founder of Amazon. He is truly one of the sharpest minds out there having lived through the dotcom bust riding a pure -to use outdated dotcom verbiage- “clicks and mortar” play.

BW asked a very poignant question and I quote “Q: Every company claims to be customer-focused. Why do you think so few are able to pull it off?”. Jeff’s answer just blew me away. He says “Companies get skills-focused, instead of customer-needs focused. When [companies] think about extending their business into some new area, the first question is “why should we do that—we don’t have any skills in that area.”

I thought about how it goes down at my place of work and how it probably is at your jobs as well. Or maybe at your own businesses. Almost everyone’s instinctive reaction to an innovative, out-of-the-box-idea is “But we can’t do that” or “It is not part of our model” or “You’re crazy!”. Recently, I had the honor of earning the indignation of my colleagues and a boss when I suggested tagging leads to a salesperson for life – i.e., if salesperson A uses salesperson B’s lead, then A should be given a (small) referral fee for the life of the deal that B put together with that lead. You should have seen the huffs and guffaws that went around the room and I was quickly pounced on by everyone. Needless to say, the internal confusion about compensation for sharing leads remains unresolved and is going to result in a lot of disastrous meetings and confusion with a last minute solution cobbled together and put in place. The idea was to move away from an ownership model, let salespersons relax about cross-sells and focus on increasing their business.

Jeff is not suggesting that if you run a painting company to start selling flowers. No way. The point of focus in his words are “A much more stable strategy is to start with “what do my customers need?”. He says Amazon’s Kindle is a great example. He doesn’t say what prompted him to develop this new gadget but one can imagine that it might have stemmed from delivery delays that buyers might have experienced on Amazon. If you were savvy enough to buy all your books from Amazon, then you probably want to get to the book faster. And so Kindle was born.

This was the most insightful questions for me from the interview… it clearly validated my way of thinking, thank God! One of the ideas I picked up from the jokers at is to offer a service if there is a critical mass of folks asking for it. By that I mean, if you’re in the painting business and a certain number of your clients (say 2 out of 10) ask for spackling services then that is something you might want to review. 1 out of 10 might be a random request but 2 out of 10 signals the start of a pattern. 3 out of 10 and you should start hiring the right folks and buying the equipment and by 4 out of 10, you should be ready to do your first spackle job.

This is great for me personally as well because I clearly recognize that I do not possess all types of skills. I am good in some and suck at others. But instead of being skill based (can you make presentations? Can you train your team? Can you manage people? etc.) Jeff now makes it easy for the million of us by suggesting retaining focus on needs. If you are not able to manage people, then you can find someone. Ditto for all other skills. Seems like the winner is the person who keeps his/her ears open to client needs and orchestrates the execution to provide solutions to them. Simple? 🙂

Futility of polls

Posted in Big Thought, Business by Harsha on March 18, 2008

If you have been living in a bubble or on Mars, you will find the CNN article as a very interesting read. I chanced on it because I was surprised to read the headline “Inflation is top economic worry”. I thought we were in a recession, but apparently it is some form of stagflation (inflation with prices going up while having jobs and economic growth in recession).

This survey of 1000+ American adults reveals some really invaluable quotes:

“86% said they are worried about jobs”

“65% said they are “very concerned” about inflation”

“unemployment concerns loom large, with 59% saying they are “very concerned””

“76% of Americans are concerned about the recent drop in the stock market”

“77% are worried about the drop in the amount off money homeowners get when they sell their houses”

BW’s Christopher Farrell has this article about how we might be talking ourselves into a recession. Really?

Big Luxurious Green Lies

Posted in Pulpit, Roadtrip, TOOBs by Harsha on November 28, 2007

Andrea Barnett of Travel And Leisure writes on CNN about the hospitality industry’s Eco lies.

I saw some of what she writes (like being “asked to recycle towels and use a key card that controls your room’s lights and climate” on my recent road trip).

But here is something I wrote about what Auden Schendler now says, in a recent BusinessWeek article.

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Little Green Lies That Were Actually White

Posted in New by Harsha on November 9, 2007

I’m not going to write much about this because the article is pretty large enough by itself.

But I will say this … :

I don’t know much about carbon credits, except it sounds like you buy a bunch of credits to offset your carbon footprint and those credits are some sort of investment vehicle that allows others to plant more trees. Can someone educate me and if you use jargon then I’ll throw your email out before I get to the second sentence; enough of the BS anyways.

You can’t have someone else right your wrongs. You can’t kill a person and have someone else do jail time for you. If you have a large “carbon footprint” you can’t offset it by paying someone else to plant trees. Polluters are always going to be more than “tree-planters” and that is just a fact of life. So I don’t think that just buying a bunch of carbon credits is directly proportional to the real reduction of your footprint.

For instance, I shudder when I drive past MIT in Cambridge, MA (not picking on MIT) because I see a million lights left on all day and all night. What, they can’t install the clapper? And I definitely don’t buy the security angle. There are countries far less lawless than the United States that leave their buildings dark every night. Maybe we should buy more theft insurance and shut those damn lights instead of keeping them on and buying phony credits.

Here is the article on BusinessWeek (my favorite magazine).