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How to be Rude to Your Customer – a Citibank / Diners Club Special

We all have our war stories about poor customer service at banks (see Vinnie’s Process Angioplasty case) but the letter Citibank sent to my Mom sets a new record:

“In a recent review of your account, we noticed that it has been a long period of time since you last used your Diners Club Charge Card credit card. To help better manage your credit accounts, we have closed your account. ”

Wow. This came about a month after replacement cards were mailed to her and myself, both of our cards having expired several month before, which she noticed while trying to use the card in Europe.   But that’s beyond the point, the truth of the matter is that she has not been a “good customer” for Diners, and neither have I, not using the card for a while.  (I am using other cards from Citi quite heavily though.)

If Citi / Diners make it a policy to get rid of inactive accounts, so be it – but could they not afford a warning first?  Simply telling a customer their account is now closed is outrageously rude.  

But it gets worse: what is this BS about “help better manage your credit accounts“?   Too many people in this country need help managing their credit, thankfully my Mom is not one of them.   Want to be rude, kick her out?  Have the b*lls to actually say that, no need to dress it up as “helping” her.  Doing this officially qualifies Citi / Diners as arrogant pr*cks.  So arrogant, I can’t believe anyone in Customer Service would have this attitude – unless Citi developed a special training program on how to be rude with customers.

 

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TiEcon 2007: “The New Face of Entrepreneurship” is a 13-year old CEO

I’m at TiEcon 2007, this may very well be the only conference that started on time: at 8:45 sharply. This took most participants by surprise, still busy getting breakfast outside.  But before we know, Kaval Kaur, co-Founder of Virsa, a company acquired by enterprise software giant SAP is up on stage.  She is a dynamic speaker, and a perfect inspiration for entrepreneurs or entrepreneur-wannabes in the crowd. 

But … what’s happening?  She is interrupted by a kid with a microphone in hand.

“Hi – are you looking for your parents?

No. I’m looking for funding.”  

The “kid” turns out to be Anshul Samar, 13-year old CEO of Elementeo, a battle-game of .. chemical elements.  (Gee, I barely knew what chemistry was at his age).  Anshul looks like a 13-year old, but speaks like an adult. He knows what he wants: the goal is to achieve $1M in revenue by the time he finishes high middle school, which is next year.  Watch out Ben Casnocha, you’re record is about to be broken!smile_wink.  Elementeo is an exhibitor at TiEcon, they have a booth, and will attend the Entrepreneurs Bazaar.  Something tells me they will soon be funded….

TiEcon 2007 barely started, but in the first 20 minutes it made an impact.  A great start… now on to Tim O’Reilly and a list of distinguished speakers.

Update (5/18): I’m not the only one who found Anshul the highlight of TiEcon: read VentureBeat:  Elementeo’s 13-year-old CEO, highlight of TiECON.

TiEcon has uploaded a video interview with Anshul.

 

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TiECon Participant Can Predict Future – *NOT*

TiEcon 2007 will only start tomorrow, but PanAsiaBiz already reports:

“I am listening to the opening speech….of TiECon 2007. In the opening banter one of the two moderators mentioned there are 940 some billionaires in the world.”

The number of billionaires aside, I really wonder who he could listen to the opening speech that will only be delivered tomorrow.. ’cause if he can really see the future, he holds the key to become the 941st billionaire. smile_wink

Update (5/18):  I was wrong …and right.  The official TiEcon program indeed starts today, but there was a pre-event reception and panel yesterday, which I am told I was invited to…the invitation never arrived though, and there is no trace of the event on the TiEcon site. But that’s sad news for Bill: he does NOT see the future after all … so he might need an alternative path to becoming the 941st billionaire.

On a more serious note, TiEcon labels itself the “World’s Largest Convention for Entrepreneurs” – about 3 times the crowd we’ve seen at Software 2007 will spend the next two days attending  keynotes, panel discussions, and the Entrepreneurs Bazaar at the Santa Clara Convention Center.  Although online registration has closed, it’s still possible to sign up on site, tomorrow morning – unlike most “posh” conferences, this one is affordable in the $200 range (No, I have not missed a zero…and they will still feed ussmile_tongue)

 See you there! (?)

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Box.net Releases "Office On Demand"

No, the online storage company does not enter the race to compete with Google, Zoho, ThinkFree and the like… what they did was a further step to providing seamless offline/online access to MS Office documents.   Office On Demand is a plug-in that will place an icon on your MS Office toolbars, which will allow to directly save your Microsoft documents to your box.net account.  This makes it even more convenient to later access your documents from any other PC that has the MS Office Suite installed.

In fact for .doc and .xls files you don’t even need MS Office – thanks to the recently announced Zoho integration, just right-click, select “Edit Document” and work on it online, using Zoho Writer or Sheet.  Your document can still be saved in proper MS format.

The new beta plug-in is compatible with Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Access both in 2007 and 2003 (and XP/Vista).

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Google @ Work Breakfast Seminar in San Francisco

Two days ago I attended a Google @ Work Breakfast event in San Francisco. Below are my raw notes and some conclusions in the end.


Google is not @ work at the Westin, where we are now, for lack of a wireless connection. But that’s OK, this is more of a briefing, they want us to watch, not play :-) Oh, and breakfast is good.

Speaker: Michael Lock, Sales Director, North America, Google Enterprise

Consumer Technology seeing a lot of Innovation, while Enterprise IT falling behind on the innovation curve. 75% IT budgets going to maintenance. Gartner , 2006: $8 out of $10 $ IT spend is dead money. (Hm… I feel like I’m hearing a generic speech, it could have been delivered at Software 2007 last week).

Google wants business users to have apps that they will not be forced to use, they will love to use.

More than 7000 Enterprise customers (Wow! I wonder how “Enterprise Customer” is defined. Using Google Apps with my own domain, am I one? smile_wink)

Google Enterprise team about 300 people. Not making new products, leveraging what already exists in consumer space.

3 Key Areas: Search, Geo-spatial Products, Google Apps.

3 lessons Enterprise IT can learn from Google

  1. Fast is better than slow – talks about traditional software deployment cycle. (20 minutes into the show, where’s the beef?)
  2. Simple better than complex (storytelling, this is the generic “SaaS is better” pitch) Complexities of the on-site model. “Every Tuesday somebody issues a patch” – subtle hint to Microsoft Patch Tuesdays…good slides, btw.
  3. Assume Chaos and Deal with it. “This is what Google does best” ( yeah, right… OK, the link was a cheap shot, I admitsmile_tongue). Data has changed and it does not come in rows and columns. 80+% unstructured data. Typical way we deal with it: Inbox > categorization, hierarchies. Manual categorization, hierarchies are dead. (I *almost* agree: still doing some categorization, using labels) Refers to Yahoo’s original name: “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”. Too much data today to manage hierarchically. Search to replace hierarchies. Uses slide that compares Outlook folders to Gmail – (hm, his Gmail screenshot does not have any labels!) Embrace search as a way to navigate.

 

Google Apps

Now: Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Startpage. 

Soon: Docs & Spreadsheets, Blogger, Groups, wiki

Reduced complexity. Cost: Old: $200-1000/user/year, 1G? New: $50/user/year 10G.

Security fears, adoption curve: uses analogy of money in mattress vs in Bank, online banking > trust issues, we got used to it. Where’s the best place for money? for email?

Demo – pulls up his email account. (Has a bunch of Interview Feedbacks with actual names – one can never be too careful). Pitch against categorization, for search. (still missed the label concept – when the actual common word may not be in the mail. Has 33k unread mail in his inbox. Needs some GTD training? smile_speedy)

Calendar – shows integrating several calendars. Spreadsheet demo, with another user shared, including IM. Complementary to MS Office environment.

Enterprise Search

Easier to find things on the Net than in your company. Cute slide: top search engine on the Net: Google. top search engine in the Enterprise: …. the phone- aka asking around.

Shows MOMA, Google’s internal internal page. Pulls up a manager’s record (search), gets all reports/management chain – link to map, down to cube level. “key match”: unlike public Net, here admin can control what goes to top of search results.

Shows examples of how search pulls info from Oracle expense system. Pulls Cisco orders from order entry system. (Somewhat reminds me of how SAP’s Plattner talked about accessing data via search)

Search appliance works with existing permission systems, too.

Geo-Spatial

Maps, Earth, SketchUp

Earth Pro – data import, telephone support ..etc. Earth Enterprise – create custom earth. e.g Caltrain adding their own imagery. Utility companies ..etc.

Live demo from NT Department of Transportation, traffic cameras included. Traffic snapshot (every 5 mins) pops up. Asset tracking from Toronto company. (Runs out of time, I learned more from Mono, the Citi College guy sitting next to me, who talked about using all this stuff for facility management)  


Summary: This was a standard road-show pitch, I did not hear anything new – for a while this irritated me (hence the early comments), but towards the end, looking around the audience I realized I was wrong. I need to re-calibrate my expectations. Perhaps I came to the wrong meeting, but if Google is to achieve mass adoption outside geek circles, then doing these basic road-shows is probably the right thing.

Michael’s story-telling was good, the jokes, the Powerpoint tricks were all in the right place… somehow I still felt this was the “classic salesy” style I could have heard 15 years ago from Oracle, IBM and the like. Naive me, I was hoping Google’s innovation does not stop at technology, they also bring some freshness to sales… like actually knowing one’s product well enough not to have to dodge most questions.smile_omg  (To be fair, after the presentation there was an hour left for product demos in the breakfast area).

Finally, considering the amount of “new information”, I wonder what the big deal was uninviting some Microsoft participants. Unless of course Google Marketing subscribes to the “bad PR is good PR theory”, since the rejection earned more blog feedback than the seminar itself.

Related posts:

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uTube: Senator Stevens Was Right, After All

Senator Ted Stevens’ claim to fame (and Wikipedia entry) is not his legislative work, but his famous metaphor, comparing the Internet to series of tubes.  The world ridiculed him .. but is he turning out to be right?

uTube, as in Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment,  the Ohio pipe equipment company who saw their website wiped out by traffic looking for Youtube first filed a lawsuit againts Youtube – but does anyone really want to figth Google?  So the next best thing is figure out how to monetize the unexpected traffic.  Solution: uTube now sells ringtones.  Their tube business became a Web business overnight…

Related posts: CNET News.com and Mashable!

 

 

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Mothers’ Day: How Can We Celebrate the Same Thing on Different Dates?

In Hungary, where I am from Mothers’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May, not the second, like in most countries.  At times when my parents are visiting and happen to be here in May, this presents an interesting dilemma: which date should I pick?  (The first one comes with a practical benefit: easier access to flowers, restaurant reservations ..etc)

I’ve always thought it was a European vs. American “thing”.  But today I looked it up – where else, but in Wikipedia?

 

 

(I’ve just discovered the iframe that pulls the data in from the Zoho Sheet I used may not be visible in the feed – of that’s the case, please click to read the original post)

How could we end up celebrating the same thing on 23 different dates is really amazing.

Happy Mothers’s Day – All the Year Round. rose

 

 

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Powerpoint Just Got Obsolete

I stole the title line from a commenter on Frank Gruber’s blog.  He must be right, it’s a trend:  I’ve just seen similarly handwritten slides by SAP’s Hasso Plattner… so now it’s just a change in the … hm .. background media. smile_embaressed

 

 

 

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Justin.tv is a Robot

Here’s proof that Justin.tv is a robot: he needs to get recharged.  No, not the beer, silly, the power cord behind him smile_teeth

Photo from the GigaOM Party, via Wired.

 

 

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Software 2007 – First Impressions, Opening

First impressions:

Registration is smooth, there’s hardly any wait.  Hm.. am I too early… where is the crowd?

 This is growth: the badge is triple the size from last year: it’s actually a little bag, with a zippable compartment to store goodies.  Are we close to dressing up in a badge? :-)

WiFi: Finally, free WiFi! (Oops, it does not work in the main Conference Hall, where the Opening Keynote is about to start. 

MR Rangaswami, Opening Speech

Started this event in 2003,in the middle of the tech depression, still had 1100 participants – today it’s 1900.   Now we’re thriving.  Theme for this conference is Innovation.  Name a few innovative companies: Apple, FedEx, Southwest..etc.  But where’s software? 

Innovation in software was thought of as product innovation.  Get it out the door, see what customers say.  Industry changed, innovation is more than Product Release.

McKinsey Innovation Tech Vendor Survey.

PE funding is now larger than VC funding.   Surveyd 475 customers: 55% believe innovation is on the upswing.  CIO’s expect innovation from “little guys”.  (contrast to recent other survey)

Share of software expanding withing IT budgets.

Download two surveys jointly issued with McKinsey:

Enterprise Software Customer Survey

State of the Software Industry

New Sand Hill Index (stock index, obviously public companies)

 

Hasso Plattner, SAP

Innovation, Speed, Success.  Uses blackboard-style slides, with chalked handwriting. Dressed in matching black:-)

This is good, breaking it out in separate post…