Monthly Archives: August 2009

Keeping busy

The past couple of weeks I’ve been keeping busy with catching up on side projects and working hard at work.  MindTouch has been showing constant growth across the board which is great to see.  From the customer support end, I’m seeing more advanced cases where the customers are getting into the guts of MindTouch and extending it to tie together systems and to use it as the foundation for their Intranet or as a cornerstone to their Support documentation.  It is a lot of fun to work with people on their goals and objectives and see them come to fruition through ingenuity and hard work.

As for my side projects I’m coming up on the last week for nominations for Support Awards.  The response has been good and I look forward to a strong surge of nominations in this last week.  If you haven’t nominated yet, or even if you have, you can go here to add your nominations for outstanding support/service:  http://www.supportawards.org/Nominate

I’ve been doing some other little side projects to get back into some coding a bit.  I’m working on a documentation rating extension for MindTouch that will allow users to rate documentation and give feedback if the documentation wasn’t helpful.  This is helping to improve my Javascript/Ajax skills, and by improve I mean actually acquire the skills 🙂   I’ve also been working on my Brother’s sites to make it easier to update and access.  He will be launching an update to one of his sites running off of MindTouch.

At the end of Augusts I’ll be heading back to MN to see family.  It will be good, I haven’t seen family since the beginning of summer and I like to make it back to MN about 3 times a year(including Christmas).

Other than that I’ve been keeping busy around the house and enjoying downtime with Pam.  It feels good to get caught up and get things under control.

One last note, I’m thinking about getting a smartphone again.  I had one a couple of years ago(early windows smartphone) and now I really want an Android phone.  There are a couple of new ones coming out in Oct/Nov for Sprint so we’ll see how they are.  Not 100% solid on it yet, but still fun to think about.

LVTC at the bar

I have a favorite bar that I like to go to on Friday nights.  The bar is Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Ocean Beach.  Every Friday between 6-9 there is an Acoustic All request show put on by Jason Ott.  It is mainly classic rock and is really a good time.  Well Jason records some of his shows to promote on YouTube and such and guess who made it into some of his clips, that’s right, Me.  Here is one of the videos where you’ll see me at the bottom of the screen wearing a white shirt.

Enjoy:

Customer Support and Service

With the launch of SupportAwards, it has been great to see the increase in awareness for customer support and service.  I’ve been searching twitter every night looking for mentions of great customer support or service and recommending that they nominate the company for a support award.  If you get a message from @supportawards, it isn’t automated, I’m manually going through and replying to everyone.  While going through the tweets it has also gotten me thinking about the strategy behind customer support/service along with how a department can improve their customer support.  There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to optimizing your support department, but ultimately I believe if your support agents truly have the desire and the tools to help people, then that is the foundation to a great support team.  This is one of the biggest mistakes large companies make when evaluating their customer support resources.  They attack it as a numbers game as opposed to an impact game.

Think of it this way:  A company is expanding and runs the equation, a standard support rep can handle x amount of cases an hour with the mean time for a case being x minutes.  If we look at the upcoming launch we figure that we will need x amount of agents to handle the expected number of calls/emails coming in.  Now while these numbers are beneficial to have, as it is good to have a handle on the sheer volume and time to resolution(ttr), it is also good to survey the issues that are common with the cases, how to be proactive about the issues to reduce the number of calls to customer support, and then following up with the customers after the fact to ensure that they were in fact pleased with the resolution of their case.  I believe in 100% customer satisfaction.  This doesn’t mean that you will not encounter an unhappy customer, but after working with the customer, they should be happy with the resolution.  The customer shouldn’t be unhappy after a case has been deemed resolved by the agent.  This is a tough policy to enforce because there can be some real tough cookies out there as far as cases, and customer support agents have to deal with more than just the customers: i.e. internal procedures/processes, the product team, and the pure limitations on control that the agent has over the issue.  But if the agent/company strives to ensure 100% satisfaction with their customers then that will help improve retention, it will make the customer more willing to accept issues/wait for a resolution(which helps keep the product team on a normal cycle), and it will make it easier for your support agents to work with the customers as the customer will know that the agent has the best intentions in mind.

If you run a large customer support department  (i.e. call center) then this may seem idealistic. You may be right, but I also believe that corporations view that they can solve a lot of issues by throwing volume and processes at it, instead of through compassion and care for the customer.

This is one of the main reasons I started support awards, I wanted to bring to light the hard working departments and agents out there that really do care about helping people and making a difference.  I encourage you to nominate a company at Support Awards for outstanding customer support.  If you have already nominated one, nominate another one.  Any company that works hard to help customers should be recognized.  Nominate Today!

Status of SupportAwards

Support Awards has been open for nominations for about a week now.  We’ve received some good nominations, but still need more.  Please help spread the word and have anyone you know nominate a company for a customer support/service award.  You can nominate by going here: http://www.supportawards.org/Nominate One thing to note is that Support Awards spans across all industries from Technology, to Retail, to Hospitality, and we even have an Other category in case there is an industry you want to nominate that isn’t listed.  Please take the time to nominate a company and agent to show that you appreciate their dedication to customer satisfaction.

Improving energy efficiency around your house

I’ve been working hard over the past couple of Months to improve the energy efficiency of our condo.  A part of this is unplugging stuff at night (in my case I turn off the power strip to cut power to the device).  Here is one way you can save energy and money.

If you are like me you have your cable modem in your house that is then connected to the wireless router so that you have wireless internet.  I’m just going to focus on my modem for this example and how shutting it off at night can save energy and money.

On the bottom of my modem it shows that it uses 12 volts and .75 amps.   To figure out the watts we would then multiply the two together using the conversion equation:

Volt X Amp = Watt

In this case the modem takes up 9 Watts:     9Watts = 12 Volts * .75 Amp

If we break this down, assuming that it is running nonstop through the day and night, it uses 216 watts during a 24 hour cycle.  This equates to 1512 Watts/week  and ultimately 78624 Watts/year.  I shut off my modem during the night and day when I’m not using it/at work.  This breaks down to 7 hours of it being on during the week and 15 on the weekends, with an average of  83 Watts used a day which breaks down to 585 Watts of usage a week.

Here is a table where I compare the usage:

Plugged in 24 hours a day Unplugging when not in use
Daily Watt usage 216 roughly 83
Weekly Watt usage 1512 585
Annual Watt usage 78,624 30,420
Killowatt usage per year(kwy) 78.624 kwy 30.42 kwy
Cost per Killowatt with SDGE .1287 .1287
Cost per year to run the Modem $10.12 $3.92

This may not seem like a lot but you saved about 48 KW of energy per year, just by shutting off your modem at night.  Note that if you shut off your wireless router this will also increase the savings and decrease the energy usage.  There are a lot of “vampire electronics” in the home that just draw on power with standby lights and displays.  Run an inventory on your house and see if there are things you can shut off to save on the electricity bill.  I’ve been able to get my bill down to $17 doing this.  My goal is $15.   Note that I don’t have air conditioning.    If you have any good tips about saving energy please post them here.

Receiving error with Windows server: No authority could be contacted for authentication

I was receiving the following error on a windows server when trying to configure SSO:   “No authority could be contacted for authentication.”   After some deep digging, I found out that this was a common error with windows 2000 server, but I was running on windows 2003.  I soon found out that the issue is that the computer wasn’t registered on the computers in the Domain Controller, so it ultimately couldn’t talk to the AD server on a SSO level.  To resolve this all I had to do was remove it from the domain on the server end, then re-add it (a restart was required after the removal and re-add).  If the computer is listed on the Domain Controller, remove it in between removal of the domain on the server and adding it.  The reason I ran into this issue is because I cloned a computer (on VMware ESX) that was tied to the Domain controller and didn’t rename the computer.  There was an IP conflict and an underlying computer name conflict.

Hope this helps someone else if they encounter the issue.

Productive Weekend

This weekend was fairly productive.  I opened SupportAwards.org for nominations on Midnight Saturday and have already received nominations.  The nomination period will run until the end of August.  You can nominate by going to http://www.supportawards.org/Nominate   I also received my new microwave on Saturday.  The microwave is an over the stove microwave and so started the project of replacing the stove hood with the microwave.  The first obstacle I encountered was removing the hood.  It was painted in on all edges so it took a little convincing before it came down.  Then I had to cut out a section in the cupboards in order for the exhaust to vent.  There was already a huge hole, but I had to modify the hole to lineup with the Microwave.  Note that I went to Home Depot 3 times in order to get some tools and supplies.  I am now the happy owner of a jig saw…good times.  After I sawed out the area for the exhaust then I started to drill in order to mount the lower bracket where the microwave rests its weight.  After drilling the first hole I went to grab pam to have her help me out and noticed that I had drilled all the way through the wall.  Apparently the wall was pure drywall and didn’t have any studs in it, which is what I was relying on.  This proved to be a tad annoying as 3/4 of the space was pure drywall.  This caused me to return to Home depot (1 out of the 3 trips) and get some solid wall anchors.  The microwave itself weighs about 49 Lbs and the anchors I got are certified up to 50 Lbs each, so using 4 of them across the bracket along with one of the spring screws, I figured I was in good shape.  After everything is said in done I now have a microwave mounted over my stove and it looks amazing.  I’m really excited about it.  The project isn’t done yet though.  I need to wire an electrical outlet above the microwave in order to plug it in.  Currently I’m using an extension cord to power it.

On the side I was messing around with Dreamhost’s Private Servers, VPS for the lay person.  They just started allowing root access to the server, which got me excited.  I got MindTouch running on one and am in the process of optimizing it for performance.  It is pretty cool thus far and they have a great management interface for the PS like they do with all of their other services.

We also managed to make it over to the Cow in OB to grab some new records.  We got the Best of Herman’s Hermits, Tommy the Soundtrack, Best of George Harrison, and CCR Best hits.   We also have some Led Zeppelin coming in the mail.

All in all, this was a pretty awesome weekend.

SupportAwards.org is open for Nominations!

salogo2 SupportAwards.org is now open for nominations. SupportAwards.org is a site where you can nominate your favorite customer support/service department and representative to receive the R.E.C.S.S. (Recognition for Excellence in Customer Support and Service). There are multiple industries that you can select from and companies of all sizes are eligible. To nominate, all you have to do is fill out the Nomination form located on the website. Top 10 nominated companies/agents move on to the voting round where visitors will be able to vote to determine the best for their industry. The winners of the industries will then move on to be voted for the best overall.

You can help promote your company to be nominated by placing a badge on your site to encourage your users to vote for you. Nominate as many times as you want, you just can’t nominate the same company for the same industry more than once. Also please help promote SupportAwards by twittering, blogging, and spreading the word through any channels. Customer Support/Service departments deserve recognition for all of the hard work they do.