customer service

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Aug 282003

This thought is about good customer service vs. bad customer service, IMHO. After some time to cool down from getting worked up the past few days about my dissatisfaction with my local phone service provider Starpower, I’ll share with you this contrast, and not go all out with an internet campaign to bring down Starpower, and their unreasonable policy to make me pay for my mistake so dearly.

Here I sit [after an hour's wait on the outer loop b/c 3 lanes were shut down due to an overturned vehicle before the Tollway, during my morning commute from Bethesda to Chantilly; so I needed a driving break, and coffee] at Panera Bread, at my first opportunity to login on the ‘net via their new + wonderful free WiFi (wireless) internet service at selected locations. I was warmly greeted by this message as I powered up my browser:

High Speed Internet Access Site

Pike 7 Plaza

Welcome to our Panera Bread bakery-cafe, where we bring the tradition of freshly baked bread to neighborhoods in cities throughout the country. As you may know, our bakery offers more than a dozen delicious varieties of bread, as well as bagels, croissants, muffins, and pastries.

Our talent, expertise, and efforts are directed toward providing our customers a friendly gathering place in which to relax and share the tradition of fresh-baked bread every day. We are now pleased to offer our valued customers the chance to enjoy unrestricted complimentary high-speed Internet access using their own wireless-equipped laptops.

…happy surfing!

In contrast, my interactions with Starpower have been haphazard and disappointing over the past year, whenever I’ve had to talk with them about my local phone service or my high-speed internet cable service. Initially making the switch because of their bundled package, at first it looked like a good packaging to get it all.

Most recent disappointment (listed in reverse chronological order):
I get a $200+ bill for my local calls, b/c I had used extra minutes on my 2nd line (fax) to use dial-up internet service for the 3 weeks while my cable modem was fried due to thunderstorms. The service plan on this 2nd line was a value plan for something like $4.50/mo, and 2 cents per minute, per call. (I do have unlimited local calling on my 1st line for like $16.80/mo) So I mistakenly connect up my computer modem to the 2nd line, rack up maybe 10,000 minutes over the course of 3 weeks (yes, I’m an internet addict, if you can’t tell by my web site presence, I’ll spell it out for ya) and they’re making me pay for my mistake in entirely dearly. Talking with a Starpower customer service rep, he wouldn’t budge an inch, said I’m accountable for the cost, no way around it, and offered to switch me to the unlimited local calling plan for the future. I don’t need it for the future! I need a mutually acceptable price for my 3-week glitch in how I used their phone lines. It doesn’t cost them $200 for me to have used extra minutes on the 2nd line; I would have paid like $16.80 or even up to say $50 for this month’s spike in use, but all the way up to the outrageous cost of $200?! Can you say price gouging for a customer’s innocent mistake? They would prefer to lose a customer over a short-term financial gain. Too bad. Yes, they’ve lost a customer. I’m switching over to ComCast. I’ll consider my options on being more vocal about this, definitely filing a letter with the company and the local commission.. wish they’d come to their senses for the sake of customer service and customer relations to put a maximum on their “value plan” so they can still do the 2 cents per minute per call on top of the lower monthly fee, but not exceed a fair and reasonable amount. I thought the principle of business is to serve the customer. [AND, I'm talking with wife about just foregoing having landlines at home all together, and just using wireless cell phones.]

Second disappointment:
Thunderstorm season hit after rain season this year, and one of them sent a power surge of sorts that zapped out several ethernet ports on my little home LAN network. Fried the port on my new Dell PC, fried 2 ports on my switch hub thingy, and fried the 1 port on the cable modem. I called Starpower customer service to run through their diagnostic process, and they blamed the problem of my not having internet access on my computer – when in fact I had bought a brand new ethernet card, and tested the port to confirm that it was working. Their resolution was to make me wait at home for a 16-hour window 2 weeks out from the time of my call, where they would send a technician to diagnose the problem. I don’t have that kind of time to be waiting at home without high-speed internet and unproductivity in the meantime. So I kindly countered that maybe I should cancel my cable modem service. Without batting an eye or hesitation, the rep said okay. That’s it? They don’t want to keep customers? They want to keep their rigid policies + stick it by the book? [3 weeks later, I proceed to call Starpower back up, requested high-speed cable internet service, they were running a promotional for $19.95/mo for 3 months, and the cable installation guy came in 2 days, within a 3-hour window, AND he shows up early; at least somebody in the chain knows how to exceed expectations!]

First disappointment:
Going with their bundled offering of local phone service + high-speed cable internet, I looked forward to simplified billing and working with them on my communication needs simply and easily. Well, not so simply, my friend. I got 2 separate bills for over 6 months, one for local phone service, one for cable internet; had to cut checks to different places, and no convenience nor service for online billing or automatic debit. While I made one call to initiate installation for both services, I had to pay separately twice a month. Hassle city. (Since that time, months later, somebody finally figured out how to consolidate my bills)

As the Dustin Hoffman character said in the movie “Hook” (with Robin Williams playing Peter Pan): BAD FORM!

life change on myself

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Aug 222003

Okay, I’m drained.. will lay low tonight, stay here in Raleigh, then drive back to my DC home tomorrow afternoonish. A warm welcome to the CCL LDP‘ers [you know who you are :) ]

For those of you just tuning in (I’ll write it more towards them and everyone else may listen in), I have it easy with the vulnerability opening up and even trusting kind of thing, but towards the 2nd half of the week, the big insight that impacted me [to use SBI lingo :) ] was this big issue that most people wrestle with on the work and life balance. Being pegged on the end of all the spectrum when we lined up according to personality type and personal needs and preferences and tendencies, I’d lived all my adult life with little to no attention to career development, b/c I was always turned off (among other emotions) by people who lost themselves in work, or were hard charging aggressive types (b/c I didn’t like being run over). To see their human-ness over the course of the week sparked an inspiration for me to “show up at work.” [and I say it here for the 'public accountability']

Some lights began to come on after getting to process a lot of the “work” and “organizational” and “corporate” lingo as these high-energy driven ambitious people talked about life at work, and a few about personal life (my bias and preference for latter noted, and even received by a few)… but overall, people were accessible and cordial, and thus didn’t push me off, roadblock me, or run over me.. the course was actually designed for managers with 5-10 years of experience, and there I sat in with 0 years of real life experience. Talk about feeling marginalized! But I did sense that in their humanity, their struggle to work thru their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses, their honesty, their teachable spirit (tho’ some will fight it more visibly than others!), and sensed that competencies and skills can be learned, behaviors can be learned, personal adjustments can be made. So the distance lag of my inexperience gave me the room to observe and learn and quickly process what was happening, and that I also had capacity and competency to do that kind of thing — IF I wanted to. It’s more of a question of passion, desire, making choices; and while I may never “enjoy” the decision-making action-oriented goal-setting planning-concrete pragmatic categories of stuff as they seem to (just as other may never “enjoy” the adapting to a diversity of people), work life is about the both/and of task AND people. And I had only gone into the work environment (all my life) doing the task part like a cog in the machinery.

No wonder I had great work and life balance. I kept them disconnected, disengaged at the one, loved and craved the other. (Cutoff, to use my 1-on-1 coach’s terminology) While I can do great work, I don’t “enjoy” work. What I enjoy doing is talking about and explore new IDEAS. And guess what? It may even be possible to be at a workplace where I get to make those ideas into action! What a novel concept! I can apply myself there in the work environment.. I can learn more skills to be persuasive about my ideas in teamwork and presentations and written communication.. I can learn to more skills to manage projects that have innovative ideas (as I did during our nuclear reaction exercise, where I managed 5 middle managers and 5 frontline workers [corporate terminology] to get us to the winning solution with time to spare.) While I didn’t have a polished package of laying out the specifics of how-tos or celebrating the “win”, partly b/c I didn’t know how and it didn’t cross my mind, there was excitement for me in introducing THE idea that worked. I’ll never become the hard-charging take-charge domineering manager/leader, but I can do much more than I’m doing (hiding behind a computer screen pecking away).

And it dawned on me during the closing integration exercise that the “real DJ” doesn’t go to work. A “DJ” that has greatly honed and limited and highly performing skills of programming shows up, and then tunnel-vision tunes out the rest of the organization. The opportunity presented was to have “more of me” (or even have “all of me” show up at work) and do more work based on my passion and ideas (the strengthed that surfaced in this work-oriented & self-awareness context) is that I love ideas and can even generate them. And if I can build a support team around me so they can make it happen with me, and participate in making it happen, I’ll get to use my strengths in the context of a bigger organizational/organic machinery.

the group was like a magnifying mirror (not like the one-way mirror through which we had been observed all week), and helped me to see more of myself, and that there was a lot more in me (which I had always held back especially in the work context). And today, I shared that in all my life, the real DJ never showed up at work, but now with their inspiration, _I’m_ going to show up at work. Doing the work thing with more of a DJ flavor, and a DJ voice, and exploring beyond my own job description, et al. And to put myself out there to grow personally in the work context, as well as all the rest. I’ll be throwing out wild ideas and test the boundaries, we’ll see what happens.. if they reject me, as least I gave it my all.

And for the home front, I’ll get our family swim night going again, and at least 50% of bedtime storytelling. The quiet insight I got last night, to use spiritual language, from God’s small still voice, and that I had an “insatiable” appetite for hearing their personal stories and sharing mine, pegging the charts on wanting & expressed affection needs; that intense connection stuff, was idolatrous. I wanted it from work, I wanted it from you, from strangers, from everywhere and anywhere. That is not fair really. Not in the work environment (tho’ if they do connect personally with me, it’ll add more energy and better work relationship with me), but in right measure, appropriate and necessary in marriage and friends & family life. Christ is the one who can satsified my insatiability, and He does satisfy- that’s the Gospel.. Christ has fully accepted me and fully loves me and fully gives me everything already.

.. as much I love seeing life change up close, and love talking about it, now I’m entering into it for myself with all of me. Scary thought!!

Aug 182003

PANERA BREAD? | wi-fi internet access
they’re offering free WiFi internet, I can’t believe it! It’s finally here, and in the DC metro area too at 3 Northern Virginia locations (at the moment of this writing).. I can’t wait to use it next week.. (can I bring my Starbucks coffee there, and buy one of their danishes?)


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Aug 182003

in Greensboro this week, taking a week-long course about Leadership Development.. it’s not quite what I expected, as it is largely about personal assessment, getting feedback from peers that are also attending the class, and from asessments and instruments of my peers and supervisors from my workplace.. and by week’s end, I’ll start working on my personal development plan.. I had instead wanted a more systematic nuts-and-bolts on how to do the organizational and management stuff, strategic planning, decision making, and that kind of jazz, but to get that knowledge set without doing it via the overdone MBA route.. and a bit part of me, and confirmed again via the Myers-Briggs test (this time with subscales), I don’t naturally have the traits of T and J that a majority of managers (upper, top tier, and that kind of thing) have, and my score is more and more gravitating towards ENFP as I have taken the test during the past few years. This would suggest that for me to do the managerial stuff of thinking concretely and planning stuff is something I can do, but it’s not naturally fun, yet I probably do have the competency to do it. But it’ll never be fun.

glitch in the matrix

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Aug 172003

insomnia revisited.. awoken by a combo of need for a pit stop (drank too much water at bedtime) and guilt; had called a few people to cancel last night’s pool party after talking with the organizer, and then 20 minutes later, got a voice mail back saying the threatening thunderstorm wasn’t all that, so the party was still on.. I called back the same few people to recall the cancellation, that the party is still on, please retract the cancellation message, and they said they would.. but then T-minus-60 before start time, we hear that word has gotten out that it was cancelled and people weren’t coming.. and some didn’t.. really bummed about that, and losing sleep over it. APOLOGIES to those who didn’t get the recall or got lost in the confusion.

how can I be trusted

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Aug 152003

Do you know me? How can you really know me? Does my sharing of my thoughts and connections for all these years here online, openly and vulnerably, give you enough to believe I’m credible (believable, trustworthy, acceptable)?? [I didn't say you have to agree with me]

I’ve encountered an interesting call recently, from an ethnic Asian [1st generation] pastor, who was inquiring about who I was. He didn’t know me, and the people he knew (and thus, trust) didn’t know me. He was checking me out to make sure that a program that I help coordinate was legit, and not some malformed cult that would lead people astray.

Okay, fair enough, he don’t know me from Adam, and apparently he doesn’t know the throngs of people that do know me. I couldn’t very well just point him to my web site (though after the conversation, I did my share of Googling and found that he does have email). Should I show him my Th.M. degree from DTS (it’s accredited), or that I know certain seminary professors? Do I need to namedrop some big name pastors? Do I recite the Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, and Lord’s Prayer word-perfect? Will a personal visit be enough? Do I need to pass a theological examination?

In an emerging culture, how does someone know and trust? And can you know someone online? (I’m of the opinion that I know some people online better than some other people that I’ve met in person)

From God’s perspective, He’d look over from His throne to Jesus, and see if He knew me and if I know Him. If He doesn’t, then I’m cooked (“I’m toast!”, to quote a friend.) [cf. Matthew 7:23] How much do I have to do? How much do I have to know? How many people do I have to know?

Xanga attack

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Aug 122003

here’s why you’ve not been able to

Due to continued and ongoing DDOS attacks, Xanga has now been down for over 24 hours.

This is the most concerted and determined of all the attacks we have experienced. Every time we bring the site back up, our attacker will find another avenue to renew their attack. I’m sure whoever is attacking us sees this all as a game, and is having a grand old time. I don’t really get that mindset. Also, each and every one of these attacks is a felony charge.

These attacks have placed us in a classic Catch-22.

We want to share as many details as possible with our fellow Xangans
We don’t want to give information that our attacker can use against us
We have chosen to break that conflict by upgrading both our hardware and our ISP. As many of you have pointed out, it is difficult to defend a Distributed Denial of Service attack. However, there are things that you can do to greatly increase your defenses – and rest assured, we are doing every one of them.

Many of you have asked for an ETA on bringing the site back up. Here’s the deal – there’s a chance we can get the site back up tonight, at our current ISP. If that doesn’t work, then we will move the site first thing tomorrow morning and have it up by the afternoon.

We will find a way to make it up to all of you. In the meantime, our entire team is working around the clock to bring the site back up – better and stronger than ever.

Thanks for your patience,
The Xanga Team

Aug 112003

being a big fan of innovation and change (b/c no change = no growth), for the 90% of church leaders who are actually followers (but still serving in leadership positions), this new book is a nice case-study kind of a book from 2 of the leading church consultant types, Bill Easum [of] and Dave Travis [of] — Beyond the Box: Innovative Churches that Work – read its introduction, which can’t be found on

Aug 092003

Query>> Questions I have to ask myself and other people – what do we bring to
the table? is it the work of the Holy Spirit in personal study – thus we bring ourselves + a little Holy Spirit action? or do we just come as we are and then meet the Holy Spirit with nothing? Where does “works/effort” get us?

i.e. someone had said – the results you get are the direct result of how effectively your systems designed them to be.. Then is our system the issue? Where do we incorporate faith into our systems – where in a very structured society we go for a 6 sigma, a flawless, ISO “big number” quality standard?

Interested to hear your thoughts on leadership, where you find good sources of refreshing thoughts, popular agreed/disagreed thoughts

djchuang>> This is a big question, that of faith and works. Having been discipled in largely conservative evangelical contexts since college, and educated in that similar system in seminary, and trying for years to get with the program, the bias I picked up (and infused myself) was all faith and no works, prayer is all that matters, “let go and let God” was the mantra. You had to be careful that you’re doing something in the “spirit” and not the “flesh.” (whatever that means). Don’t let the worldly business practices contaminate the sacred ministry of the church. You know the drill. It bordered on guessing one another’s motives and devotional life, comparing piety, or something I don’t know what to call it.

At this point in time, how I put it all together is that God created this integrated world. Business practices are part and parcel of how the physical and organizational world works, it’s part of general revelation. Follow good principles and systems, you get corresponding results that confirm the quality of your strategic planning and assumptions.

In the work of Christian ministry as an organization, one of the working assumptions is to factor in the role of God and faith and spiritual disciplines. That would be the difference of a faith-based systems thinking organization, vs. an organization without faith.

In applying faith to a system, there is not as easy an one-to-one correspondence of how much we do in faith and what results we can expect. For example, we can’t systemically develop a ministry plan to evangelize all of [insert locality here], recruit 1000 prayer warriors for 24/7 prayer coverage for a month, and expect 1,000 conversions to “just happen” because God is supposed to respond to our diligence in prayer.

It bothers me that some people put up a dichotomy of church being an organism vs. organization; it’s BOTH. It’s both organism and organization, it’s both faith and works. And this both/and is one of my attractions to the postmodern ethos.

My sources for inspiration: reading blogs, and trading readings lists with Gid.