Patriotic and Proud

September 25, 2008

You can say whatever you want about me, but NEVER question my patriotism. Yes, I am pretty sure if you cut me open, red white and blue would bleed from my veins. I have a couple of cool stories to share with you.

I had a nice direct flight on Southwest from New Orleans to Vegas. About half way through the flight the flight attendant asked all veterans and active duty personnel to click on their call light. Then a little bit later, she asked everyone to close their shades and light up their call buttons like birthday candles. We then proceeded to sing “God Bless America.” Though nobody should ever have to listen to me sing, I sang along and tried not to get too choked up. Wouldn;t it be nice if every flight crew did this?

Soldiers’ Angels gave me cards that say “Thank you for your service (you can print your own up – ask me how)! If you ever need us contact us.” My kids are usually with me passing these out to veterans wearing baseball caps or to those in uniform. This trip I got to hand them out myself. Makes me proud to know I am part of something that can make a difference.

At the grocery store, at festivals…everywhere, you can hear me saying, “Thank you for your service.” When I see a Veteran (baseball hats with units are big identifiers) or someone in uniform, I don’t hesitate to say thank you. You would be surprised at some of the reactions you get. Some people have never been thanked before and just those simple words can bring tears to their eyes.

On the way home from Vegas I saw a group of about 10 soldiers going through the airport. I yelled out, “Thank you all for your service.” I got lots of smiles.

We all can make a difference, and it doesn’t have to cost money. Come be part of Soldiers’ Angels today – we need you! You can also contact me directly and I would be happy to help you or a group get involved.

*this post can be found at Hooah Wife, Louisiana Conservative, & Soldiers’ Angels Louisiana & Kiss My Gumbo

Help Yourself ; Done right, self-service can save on overhead costs and provide a superior user experience. Done wrong, it can burn through cash and send customers packing.

CioInsight June 1, 2004 | Rich, Laura The promise of automated self-service – whether through an employee-benefits intranet, a Web-based customer-support site or an airline kiosk – has become so well-established that some analysts know success-story numbers by heart: $3.9 million saved by Polaroid Corp. after implementing a Web-based customer-service center; $3 million saved each year at American Airlines after it automated two HR functions; $936,000 saved annually by Big Planet, a provider of network services to small and individual businesses, since it added a self-service application to customer service; $500,000 saved by the U.S. Army through online new-recruit applications; $300,000 saved by Whirlpool Corp. simply by automating its password-reset function. Analysts continue to tally actual global savings, though all agree on one thing: the savings are huge. Forrester Research Inc., for example, notes that a self-service approach can slash the cost of a customer interaction from as much as $35 on the phone to $0.75 online – a potential savings of 98 percent on just one transaction. go to web site adp self service

Savings like these remain the heavenly shimmer of self-service applications, but the last few years have seen a pileup of disaster stories, too. In fact, getting self-service wrong can dissolve those promised savings so fast that it’ll make your head spin. Plus, if you’re not careful, you can put off customers for good. In a recent study of self-service applications, Jupiter Research noted that 91 percent of high-value customers surveyed (those who had spent more than $500 online in the previous six months) could be turned off by a bad experience, never to return.

Consider the case of the major financial-services provider that spent more than $100 million rolling out self-service for its consumers. The intent: Save man-hours by redirecting customers from the phone to the Web. Unfortunately, the Web pages proved confusing, so customers resorted to calling the company just the same as before – only now, they called to complain about the Web pages. This self- service push resulted in $100 million worth of digital rot.

Certain sectors have been quicker to embrace self-service than others. The travel industry, for example, among the hardest hit by the economic downturn, has relied heavily on self-service to offset both lost revenues, and the rising overhead costs associated with providing better security. For other industries, however, self- service isn’t so much a necessity brought on by high overhead; rather, self-service is what most of their customers are coming to expect. According to the February 2003 UCLA Internet Report, the average user spent 11.1 hours a week online and used the Internet as a primary tool for customer information and product research. Of those customers, almost half made a purchase online.

So how do you cultivate more self-service opportunities without squandering time, money and hard-won customer relationships? Most industry experts agree that the biggest misstep comes from neglecting the user’s point of view. “A lot of folks think that if they put everything up there, it will work,” says Michele Hudnall, senior research analyst at META Group Inc. “But not everything is suited for self-service.” Another common mistake is to imagine that once your self-service application is up and running, your work is done. “Self-service takes service” is Robert Wenig’s motto. Wenig is the cofounder and CTO of TeaLeaf Technology Inc., a San Francisco-based firm that specializes in managing Web applications. Most companies, Wenig says, do a poor job of quality assurance on their Web programs, and, in fact, a 2003 survey commissioned by Network World Magazine found that 72.6 percent of performance problems are alerted via end-user calls, and not by the (often pricey) network-monitoring tools put in place to detect such errors. website adp self service

Other self-service gurus stress simplicity and with good reason: An April 2004 study of online customers, conducted by the Bellevue, Wash.-based Customer Respect Group Inc., reported that 54 percent of those who had abandoned a Web site during the study’s three-month period cited “lack of simplicity” as the motive; 70 percent said that they’d go to a rival site if it were easier to use.

“The key to self-service is to get people in, and get momentum,” says Phil Terry, CEO of Creative Good Inc., a New York-based Web- services company that helps clients understand why their Web sites aren’t effective. On the Web, Terry says, it’s important to “use language that’s easy and appropriate. And always start [questionnaires] with things that are easy to answer.” Beyond those first principles – appropriate tasks, user satisfaction and simplicity – if you’re serious about advancing your self-service agenda, then we have one further bit of advice: Read the profiles of breakthrough initiatives that follow.

Laura Rich writes an interview column for The New York Times’ SundayBusiness section. She is the author of The Accidental Zillionaire, a biography of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. She lives in New York City.

Rich, Laura


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