Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pay for Performance at the Bottom of the Workforce

My daughter works at McDonald's. Her store seems to have a terrible absenteeism problem. Workers apparently think nothing of "calling in". It happens routinely, not unusual for 5 workers per shift to do this.

I can't believe they put up with it. But if they seemingly can't solve it with sticks, then I think they should consider some carrots. How about a contingent $0.25 raise for 1 month without calling in, another $0.25 the next 2 months, up to 3 months. Reward those who don't call in.

Calendar Remind Type of "Alarm"

Google Calendar (Android and web) has two reminder types: Notification and Email. So far so good, but they need a third: Alarm. Alarms on Android typically work the way you would expect an alarm clock to--they go off, no matter what state the phone is in, including muted for the night.

I would like to be able to create an event, set a reminder type of alarm, and have that result in my Alarm app ringing for the set time. My main use case is for unusually early meetings; the current work-around is to set the alarm manually.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Like Not Drafting Michael Jordan...

Actually, PRI might not exist at all had it not been for a monumental NPR gaffe: in 1983, the network turned down the opportunity to syndicate Garrison Keillor's ''Prairie Home Companion.'' ''NPR declined to pick up Keillor because there was an attitude that they had plenty of producers and plenty of talent back in Washington,'' says Stephen Salyer, PRI's president and C.E.O.They didn't want to be spending resources in the hinterlands.''

GMaps Usability: Secondary Streets, and Label Type Size

I'm a big fan of Google Maps, on all devices. But I have two long-standing complaints. One--the secondary streets are white against a light tan background. It makes them almost invisible. This is true on the PC and even worse on tablets in daylight or printouts.

Two--the labels on street names are too small. This even after invoking the Labs option to make them bigger. This is just another example of the larger, long-standing theme that smartphones need to be more farsighted-friendly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why Do Some People Claim Vinyl LPs Are Superior?

Almost since the dawn of CDs, there has been a minority contingent that claims vinyl is superior. They tend to throw around adjectives like "warmer". Although I don't claim to be an audiophile, I don't think it is true. I do have a theory to explain the attitude.

Back in the days of vinyl LPs, you could easily discern who was serious about good sound. A vinyl LP, if not handled very carefully and played on good equipment, degraded steadily. So most people's LPs, if played often, were somewhere between moderately degraded to horribly scratched.

Only if you carefully handled your LPs, cleaned them every time before playing  with an expensive brush like this, and maintained a high-quality turntable--only then would you have good sound. Then CDs hit, and every slob who didn't even put the media back in its container could enjoy the same fine sound that you, the audiophile, felt is your birthright.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cheesecake Factory Pretty Good

This article, though it is not primarily about the Cheesecake Factory, makes the same point that I have been struck by. The Cheesecake Factory food tastes surprisingly good and fresh, given the collossal extent of its menu.

Google's Second Best Bet in Social Networking

It's been a year or so since Google rolled out Google+. I never use it, I don't really know anyone who does. No buzz. But they should probably still keep it alive. I think their second best bet for succeeding in social networking Google's second best bet in social networking is to wait for Facebook to stumble. I believe the pressure to deliver short-term profits, given the poor stock performance, ironically increases the chance they may do something really dumb. Google should be prepared for that day.

(So what is the best bet? They should buy LinkedIn.)

Finding Your Car in Parking Garage

I like how some parking garages are starting to have fliers that you pick up at the door, to remind you at least what level you parked on. I think NFC tags would be a nice way to take this a step further.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Twitter Customer Service

I have read some articles on how companies use Twitter for customer service. The crux of the article is that they try to respond to each Tweet. I sort of get this, and I sort of don't.

The don't get part is--what is unique about Twitter? And, assuming that the vast majority of the issues are negative, why encourage a medium that is public? My point is that Twitter doesn't really allow companies to do anything that they couldn't have been doing all along via email, if they had wanted to make the same kind of investment. I.e., rather than responding to emails with robot-generated messages, if they had actually taken the same time to field emails as they do Twitter, the result would be the same.

So how to explain the difference? I think it is the sum of a few things. One, the fact that Twitter is public cuts two ways. First, it increases a company's motivation to respond. The second way the public nature of Twitter differentiates it from email is that it may, just may, temper the extent to which people complain irrationally and unreasonably, as compared to email. This is probably a sustainable difference, even though people could, if they catch on, create a different Twitter account for their corporate complaints.

Two, the way Twitter has grown is relatively fast but somewhat linear. So the volume of Tweets has probably been much more manageable than email might be. I am curious to see how long that lasts, because as more people catch on to the fact that the way to get a company's attention it to call them out on Twitter, the volume may become overwhelming, just like email would be.

Three, the Twitter audience may be a self-selecting audience worth paying special  attention to. Higher-income, which is important for obvious reasons. More sophisticated, which is important because: one, the feedback may be more discerning and useful; two, because they may be influencers.

Okay, so as I assess what I have written so far, I think that I have answered my own question. Clearly the question that follows is--how long will Twitter remain a privileged avenue for customer service? My prediction is 2-5 years. Either it will become clogged, or it will decline in popularity.

NYT: Secret E-Scores Chart Consumers' Buying Power

These digital scores, known broadly as consumer valuation or buying-power scores, measure our potential value as customers. What's your e-score? You'll probably never know. That's because they are largely invisible to the public. But they are highly valuable to companies that want - or in some cases, don't want - to have you as their customer.
Very interesting stuff. I have long been intrigued by the thought that companies should be better at knowing who the profitable customers are, and aren't. Banks in particular I think have been going in this direction for over a decade.

Lately, Tires Plus has quit trying to upsell me on unnecessary maintenance...I wonder if their system has figured out is a waste of time?

Likewise, the last time I bought a cheap laptop at Best Buy, they didn't try to upsell me on anything--no extended warranty, no performance optimiazation, nothing.