Home Away From Home – Day 2

Ah, day two and it should have started off better.  Knew I had to leave a bit early from home to drop my son off at his Dad’s new house.  Still trying to figure out best routes to and from his house.  This morning with the hazy fog it didn’t help and I was a few minutes late getting to work.

EntranceFirst one in the office this morning.  Dropped my stuff at my work space and scurried to get to the morning duties (I had switched days with a co-worker).  Unforwarded the helpdesk phone and then proceeded to swap the tapes on both the Horizon and Authority Works servers.

This was to be my IT @ Admin day so I needed to focus on the morning duties and get them out of the way.  Once logged into my Ubuntu and Windows machines I did a quick cursory check of email (no dire messages).  I then proceeded to do the morning duties (just like yesterday).

Once they were out of the way I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned them accordingly to my co-workers (seems some days I get a lot and others I don’t – it all evens out in the end).  Opened Twirl so I can peruse Twitter (both my personal account – @mlibrarianus and the library’s official account @HoCo_Library).  Then I queued up a Tweet for the library’s account using TweetFunnel.

Our Network Administrator came into the office and had mentioned that we had a power outage (clock in the workroom before ours was behind).   PACs were showing red on PACMON (our own montioring system that our web programmer wrote) but luckily the Day End computer finished running Day End before the power outage (having to run day end in the morning before people start logging into Horizon is not a fun thing to coordinate).

I proceeded to work on the email bouncebacks.  I’m still amazed at how many we get.  Are that many people really changing their email addresses and not updating them with us or what?  Still trying to figure out the best way to ensure our customers get notified without this having to deal with bouncebacks.  It is a labor intensive process that should not be handled by IT.  Haven’t come up with the answer as I know that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tweet that made me chuckle.  I don’t normally follow the trends on Twitter but this one caught my eye #verydullbands.  Some were pretty good.  tumour seemed to be on a roll.  Time to head to our Administrative office in the East Columbia Branch and be the IT guru of the day (each of us takes turns spending a day at Admin helping with computer/software related issues that arise).

Home away from homeAfter getting my lunch in the fridge and things settled into the IT cubicle, I logged into the Ubuntu machine we have set aside for us.  Last time I was there I used Good OS – as if Google and Mac had a love child this would be it.  I really liked the operating system and having the Google gadgets.  Alas I was back to our staff desktop version of Ubuntu which is nice too.

Queued up another tweet for the library’s official account (which is approved by our Public Relations dept. and released to the Twitterverse).   Talked to a colleague who had heard I’d been recently to Spain recently and was thinking of going.  So I sent her a link to my photos from Espana on Flickr.

Consulted with fellow IT co-worker about iTouch and our collaborative software, DeskNow.  He had a Blackberry and wasn’t familiar with the iTouch.  Went around the Admin office asking staff if they had an iPhone or iTouch.  Found someone in Public Relations that had an iTouch who was able to help with the question another staff member had asked me.  I won’t mention my extreme jealousy of those with the iPhone or Blackberry (I soooo miss my Blackberry).

Helped another colleague with a PrintNow problem.  Think the delay was due to her Java update message wanting attention.  Once I clicked on that PrintNow printed the screen shot she needed.  Stopped by the cubicle of our Training Coordinator to discuss a request that had come up in my visits to the branches regarding our Staff Intranet.  She was open to the suggestion that the less formal “Lunch and Learns” be part of the training calendar as well as a notice on the Staff Intranet.

ITBack to my cubicle.  Checked on the Merlin site since I was playing admin while Nini Beegan was on vacation.  Cleaned up a bunch of registered users that were clearly spammers.

Consulted with web programmer and network administrator about the best way to get a new image onto our PAC screensavers.  The library’s unofficial (yet very professional and wonderfully talented) photography, Fritzi Newton, had taken shots of each of our 6 branches along with iconic views of our county and mixed them with photos she was able to obtain from Enoch Pratt.  She put these altogether as a screensaver for our public computers.  There was wording on each saying where the photo was taken.  After 2 years of these being out there for the public someone had realized that one of the slides had Maryland misspelled.  Fritzi corrected this and gave us the new image (with correctly spelled state) to use.

Realized I hadn’t really talked to our staff at Admin about the revamping the Staff Intranet.  I had been to all the branches to get feedback so I wondered around the office and talked to different staff.  Along the way I helped with a couple browser settings.  The one feature that I love on our Intranet was one that I pointed out to several folks.  Our web programmer had created a staff directory – the staff search box searches that directory.  So if you don’t know what branch, the phone number, the exact spelling of their email, what title they have, etc you can search for a person (last name or first name or full name) and see all of that plus a picture.  I convinced several people that using the staff directory search was 100 times easier than scrolling through the phone list.  This made me realize that this well used by many but missed by some box needed a more prominent spot on our Intranet.  So I moved that up further on the left hand side along with moving the Quick Links further to the top as well.  These are just temporary stop gaps until we revamp the whole Intranet.

LUNCH!

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding receiving spam from old email address.  *sigh* The only 100% sure fire way to not receive spam is to not use email.

Played telephone tag with the editor of our reader’s advisory blog, Highly Recommended, regarding a few tweaks and a new idea that had come up in a meeting.  Then I went about interviewing more of the Admin staff about our Intranet and what ideas they might have.

Dealt with calendar settings for two people in Public Relations.  They didn’t have a box checked so the calendar invites were not showing up on their calendars the way they should.

Debunked an Urban Legend that was sent via email to IT.  I love Snopes.com.  I used to hang out on their bulletin board and I do miss the folks from there.

Discussed ideas with the Events & Seminars Manager about the use of voice recorders regarding local authors.  Getting them to read excerpts from their books or interviews with them as part of a podcast.

Answered an email from staff about the spam filtering option setting in our email.  Explained that we use Barracuda, spam filter, on the main email server so there is no need to use the one provided by DeskNow (if you do it actually creates more work).

Decided to make another change to the current Staff Intranet (that was brought up by staff at the branch) and managed to not screw it up.  Deleted code and things still worked properly.  Then I got a little too confident and removed some more – this time I did screw it up.  THANKFULLY, our web programmer who has the patience of a saint with me was able to figure out what I did wrong and fix it.

Way past time for me to go, so I turned off my machine and headed home.  I had to pack and drive to PA that night since I going with my parents the next morning to the hospital.  My Mother was having a biopsy of her lung done.  Here’s hoping it all goes well and the results are good.

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Seriously? In This Economy You Can Afford To Offer Bad Customer Service?

I think  most people who know me would say I’m pretty fair.  I don’t immediately fly off the handle at a drop of a hat.  I am someone who will give you 3 strikes before calling you out.  So it is fair to say I gave VPI Pet Insurance more than their fair share of strikes.  I’m just utterly blown away by the experience I had today with VPI.  All because I wanted to cancel my policy.  I will say that at the beginning I wanted only to cancel my policies for now and had all hopes of reinstating them at a later point.  That point is now NEVER going to come.  VPI blew it big time.

Below is the email I sent to their customercare@petinsurance.com.  First part about canceling the policies and the numbers have been left off.  I’m still realing after this interaction.  I would never in good consceience recommend this place to ANYONE because of the bad customer experience I had today.  Sad to say one really bad experience can negate previous good ones.  Worst part is if the supervisor had taken a different route with me a lot of my frustration could have dissapated – she just added to it.

I’ve attached 2 screen shots to explain the problems I was having with your web site.  The first one shows you that I have all the information filled in and all the boxes dealt with correctly.  The 2nd screen shot is the message I got after clicking on submit.  I called to make sure there was no changes pending (as I have not submitted any claims or made any changes for 6 months) – there were no changes to my account that anyone could find.

As someone who has not only worked in customer service but also in Information Technology for over 25 years this was the worst experience I’ve had dealing with both a web site and people via the phone.  If you want your customers to be able to manage their accounts (make claims, cancel, etc.) you need to make your web site is web standards complaint (any browser, any operating system and interoperability/accessibility for all no matter what their situation might be).  At first I tried your web site in latest version of Firefox on Ubuntu (Linux) and was unable to do so.  At first I thought perhaps you were down or having problems with the site so I decided to try later.  2 weeks later (today) I try again – after filling out all the info and checking boxes (see 1st screenshot) I see a small box flash quickly (something about searching a database) and then I get the same page I was on.  I felt as if things didn’t go through correctly.  So I called the first time to verify.  I explain to that person (sorry he didn’t give me his name) and I explained in a calm voice that I was frustrated but trying to cancel my policies.  I told him about my experience.  He was (out of the 3 people I talked to) the best.  He explained that I should see another screen, he was patient with me and I with him.  I asked him if the site didn’t work with Firefox and he put me on hold to check.  Someone (don’t know who) told him the only problem they were aware of was Safari (which means you are limiting your whole MacIntosh user base).  I told him I’d try again on my WindowsXP machine.

Tried Firefox again but on WindowsXP and experienced the same problem.  I then decided to try Internet Explorer – I was able to get further than I had but was presented with a box saying that changes were still pending on one of my accounts and you couldn’t cancel my policies.  (see screen shot 2)  At this point I again called your company.  Amy helped me this time.  Although she was nice I don’t think she understood the problems I was having and after more than 30 mins of trying to cancel my policies I needed this escalated to someone who understood web browsers as well as your policies.  I asked to speak to a supervisor or possibly someone on the web team.  After several mins have gone by I finally get to speak to Jeanette.  No offense but if you have a customer who up until that point had been kind, calm and understanding but extremely frustrated and asking for a supervisor – that is not the time to try and sell me on your policies or lowering my coverage.  At that point you need to see to my frustration and needs by doing that you may have retained me as a customer.  She asked to hear my story (and I wanted to give her the details of what happened) before I had finished she cut me off and didn’t want to hear anymore.  That was just plain rude.  I lost it.  I could understand if I was being rude or if I had been yelling at her but I was not.  There was no excuse for cutting me off.  She didn’t even hear all of the problem before she just jumped in.  She was curt and rude with me for the rest of the call.  At one point I wanted to let her know that I was not happy with my customer experience and I was letting others know this.  I told her I was Twittering this.  She assumed I was trying to cancel via Twitter (NO I’m not stupid but I do have a fair following on my social networks and many of them are pet lovers like me).  She curtly asked me if I had sent the email only moments after I wrote down the information.  HUH?  Come now you need information from me, I need to log into my account – how on earth did she expect me to send an email within seconds.  She informed me that the calls are monitored.  If that is so I certainly hope as a supervisor she is given better training on dealing with customers.  Interrupting, being insulting and rude are not values we instill in my work place with our customer service staff.

I expect my policies to be canceled effective today. I don’t expect anything more than to make sure your web portal is web standards compliant and will actually ALLOW your customers to use it and to educate your customer service staff in how to best give GOOD customer service.

This is really a shame because up until today I had been a loyal customer.  In the past my phone calls have only resulted in the best customer service interaction (especially one kind lady who even called me back and walked me through a procedure to ensure I got all that was due).  But after frustration with the web site, dealing with a supervisor who doesn’t know how to deal with customer service I don’t have the same high opinion of your company as I once did.

My Tweets:

  1. @AAHAHelpingPets I’d have to say #unfollowfriday to VPI after the experience I had today. Bad customer service and poor web portal.

  2. I sense another blog post coming on – must be record bad customer service week.

  3. @rachelrapp Funny thing is one woman I spoke to (3 people total) was named Amy – my Amy knows customer service

  4. Even told the woman Jeanette I believe she said that I was Twittering about this. So VPI Pet Insurance I recommend you clean up your act.

  5. Condescending supervisor asked for my story then doesn’t want to hear it all. BAD customer service rep. VPI Pet Insur. major fail.

  6. FAIL – your site doesn’t work in Firefox or Safari and only on Windows?!! VPI pet insurance no wonder I’m canceling my policies.

25 Things About Lil Ol Me

There has been a Facebook/Friendfeed and probably elsewhere Meme going around (although folks aren’t really tagging people they [like me] are just jumping on the bandwagon).  Well to not be left out (actual I thought it might be interesting to see what I could come up with) here are 25 Things you may or may not know about me:

  1. I’ve had a total of 3 years of voice training from 2 very talented voice teachers (one of them recently found me on Facebook).
  2. I sang for many years in a church choir as a first soprano.
  3. My favorite choral piece to sing is Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata (with brass quintet).
  4. Music has always been a big part of my life (flute, organ and voice lessons).  I’m always with music (XM radio in car, Grooveshark-Finetune-Pandora-LastFm on computer, iPod when mowing the lawn, etc.)
  5. I’ve worked basically for the same place of employment since I was 16 years old.  Started on Feb. 1, 1980 and only left for 1 year before coming back.
  6. Other library positions I’ve held outside of my current POW – periodicals and acquisitions depts. at Catsonville Community College.
  7. I’ve done my fair share in the retail arena as well – Roy Rogers (fast food), Musicland (record store), Gantos (clothes store) and Target.
  8. I had never been on a plane until 1998 and then I flew to Hawaii for my first airplane ride.
  9. I’ve been to Paris, Spain (Andulacia region), England and Australia (New Zealand too if you count layover in the airport).
  10. I’m an only child and the mother of an only child but my Mother is 1 of 12.
  11. I’m very particular about color.  One of my favorite books from childhood is “The Color Kittens” by Margaret Wise Brown.  Colors if not right really bother me (be it paint, web sites, etc.)
  12. Humor is very important to me.  Guess that explains why I use it as a defense mechanism.  Favorite comedians include Eddie Izzard, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Robert Klein, and all time fav George Carlin.
  13. I have had an Oscar night party for 8 out of the last 10 years.  Complete with evening dress, champagne, voting (sometimes prizes), and decorations.  It is being requested that I do it again this year so I will host once more for the 81st Academy Awards.
  14. I can often be a Johnny-come-lately when something becomes TOO popular.  E.G. Harry Potter and LOST – both I finally gave into after most everyone were on board.  Now HUGE fan of both.
  15. If I had to pick a sport that is my favorite it would be baseball.  I think my love of it comes from my Dad who used to play softball (he played shortstop) and took me to many a Baltimore Orioles game (even got my picture taken with Mark Balengar who played shortstop for the O’s).
  16. I’m highly allergic to cats, somewhat to horses and guinea pigs but not dogs.  Thankfully since I have had 4 dogs in my lifetime so far – currently own a Lab Mix [Dani] and an English Springer Spaniel [Maddie].
  17. I’ve had the honor of seeing Raul Julia & Kevin Kline (Arms and the Man), Yul Brynner (The King and I), Ben Vereen (Pippin), and Carol Channing (Hello Dolly) perform live.
  18. I was half of the lead couple that did the Virginia Reel as part of Ellicott City’s bicentennial celebration at my elementary school which has now been turned into condos.
  19. I’m married to a Englishman who came here in 2001 (right after 9/11).
  20. If I hadn’t wound up working at the library I could have been a caterer who designs interiors while being a secretary for lawyers.
  21. My first computer was an Atari – I’ve used Windows, Mac and now Linux – I’ll take the Linux thank you very much (it’s on my desktop and laptop at home and main work machine).
  22. One game I’ve not played that everyone else seems to is World of Warcraft.  Now if they only made a Linux version.
  23. I like mowing the grass.  We have 2 acres and it’s my time to zone out, crank my tunes and have some alone time.  Besides I take pride in doing a nice job getting around the trees my husband hates to deal with.
  24. I wrote poetry for a brief time (probably influenced by the poet I was dating at the time).  Once we broke up I have not written poetry since but it helped at the time.
  25. I believe everyone enters your life for a reason.  Some are there for a short time while others stay longer – everyone is there to teach you a lesson.

Late night musings of a techie procrastinator…umm trainer

Explore, discover (or rediscover in this case) and play. That is what I’ve been doing all day. Some might be jealous that I had such a luxury but truth be told it was due to a bad case of procrastination. Months ago (last year even) I was spurred on by a Web 2.0 committee meeting. Being part of the staff development committee I had been privy to all the great training we were offering staff when a light bulb came on – why shouldn’t we offer more of this for our customers? Since my base is in the technology world my thoughts immediately turned to computers and the web. So while sitting in a meeting trying to figure out what Web 2.0 features we wanted to explore to give our customers more, it dawned on me – why not start with a class on just what Web 2.0 is.

Forward to this year in May when I submitted to our marketing department, a series of classes (5 in all) touching on Web 2.0. I was fortunate enough to have several committed colleagues that wanted to help me explore Web 2.0 with our customers. Classes included wikis, photo sharing, audio streaming, and social networking. All of which followed my overview class. Classes didn’t start until the second week of October and in May that seemed a long way off. I had thoughts in my head, bookmarks on at least 3 different computers, and a few Impress presentations slides started but nothing really solid.

Monday October 13th. Thank goodness for Christopher Columbus and the government for wanting to celebrate him by giving me a day off from work. However, the Internet service providers weren’t letting me off the hook that easily. I settled in at my desk – laptop, comfy chair, plenty of Diet Coke and my English Springer Spaniel at my feet. Now if only my wifi connection had enough strength to load a page of Google image results I might have gotten something done. Alas it was not in the cards or the stars. Off I trudged to work where I could be assured (I hoped) of a blazing fast connection to the Internet. Bingo!

Felt I got a lot done but time flew before I knew it it was time to pickup my son from school. Stopped to get dog food on the way home, minor bird emergency (son’s cockatiel) to attend to, dinner to fix and eat, being IT had to figure out why hubby’s Windows laptop was suddenly not connecting to the wifi while my Linux laptop had no problem (solved) and at 8:30 pm I was finally able to look at what I had done that day. UGH! What I thought sounded good this afternoon suddenly didn’t flow like I had first thought.

So here I am as if I was back in college pulling an all-nighter. Laptop, FineTune.com playing, and a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke by my side. Sadly the Springer is asleep in her cage. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put the “paintbrush” down. I tend to tweak and tweak and tweak like a painter who is never quite happy with how things look or sound.

So when I go to demo blogs, tags, comments, RSS feeds on Wednesday night, I think I might just keep my class away from my blog. I don’t want them to think I didn’t care enough to do this earlier. Honestly, things have been mulling over in my brain since I first thought about doing this class in 2007. And work has been plentiful this year and in the last couple of months very intense and consuming so much so that when I got home I was usually asleep right after dinner (not a whole lot of time left to work on things).

Lesson learned – even though I know the material inside and out, upside and down it takes time to sort, organize, play a little so you rediscover features and okay, get a little too lost on YouTube (darn those Mac/PC/Linux, Eddie Izzard, and Springer Spaniel videos!).

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To CtrlC

Oh those busy little bees have been at it again.  Gotta give ’em points this time for being cleaver.   I’ve often wondered what drives these folks.   I can understand the challenge of trying to hack into something that seems secure to prove that it isn’t.  But why take it to the next step and attache something malicious to it?  Are they trying to prove a point?  If so, what?!  Oh well, as with anything on the web – think twice before you click!

I think I’m in Love

To borrow a line from Eddie Money…I think I’m in love!

Thanks to Librarian in Black posting about PC World’s 100 Best Products for 2008 I’ve discovered a new love. Flock – a social web browser. Now I can log into a Flock-supported social network such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, or Twitter and see all my peeps in a side bar. It allows me to keep track of many social networking sites all in one browser (which is powered by Mozilla – and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows). Flock supports the following sites:

You can also get your RSS feeds available all in one spot but having that along with my social network, favorite media and sites makes this new browser near and dear to this social networking gal’s heart. Now to that I have Flock setup I can go back and read the rest of the 99 top products.

Marriage made in heaven?

Google gets serious about Mac and open source…

Wow, now if only I could afford a Mac! I could have the coolness of a Mac and the beauty of open source behind it. Wonder how that will change the Mac vs. PC commercials that I love so much.