Sorry Mr. Dewey, I Am For Real

Savage Non-Fiction section
Image by mlibrarianus via Flickr

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in the last 15 years or more – I shelved a cart of non-fiction books.  A call went out for help in getting the large amount of non-fiction carts out to the shelves.  Since I’m usually chained to my desk and computer screens I thought it might be nice to have a change of pace.  It’s good to step out of your normal routine and try on someone else’s shoes for a bit.  I started as a page shelving materials so it was fun to get back to my roots.  Also it turned out to be a Mother and Son two for one deal – my son who is also a shelver at my library was in the non-fiction section yesterday.

There is something soothing about shelving non-fiction and getting the shelf in perfect order.  But after about 1 section of the cart done I started looking at things from a different perspective.  It started after doing one section of the cart and not having one single shelf was in order.  Things really changed perspective for me when I was in the computer section.  I was puzzled to see that Linux, Mac and Windows books were interfiled.  Hmm, why wouldn’t all the books in this particular section on Linux be filed together, and then the Mac ones or the Windows books?

As I continued to shelve I got to thinking about the Dewey Decimal system and whether or not our customers really use it.  How many people outside of the library profession can tell you what the call number is for cookbooks, computer books, or even financial books?  Has Dewey seen his day?  What about Library of Congress classification?  Yes, I understand we need some sort of system to file things so everyone can find them but is 005.4469T really the way to go?  I mean does it really mean anything other than a cataloger?  Would perhaps 005 T do just as well?  I can tell you most customers when returning something to shelf don’t seem to see the cutter numbers.  Why do I spend all this time trying to get a shelf perfect if the customers aren’t doing the same?

Book stores don’t use Dewey or LOC and people seem to find the books they want just fine.  So why are we still in this day and age insisting that our customers follow our rules instead of finding out what works for them and providing an easier way to find our collections.  My apologies to all the catalogers.  I’m not trying to make you redundant but I do think it is time we rethink call numbers and how we shelve our materials.

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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.

Day in the Life – Better Late Than Never

Day in the Life

Day 5 of week of keeping track of what librarians or library workers do so we can see the diversity of the jobs we do.

Friday January 30, 2009

7:25 – arrived at work – unlocked elevator and office

7:29 – swapped out tapes on Horizon and Authority works servers and unforwarded the helpline phone

7:35 – logged on both Windows and Linux machines – logged into email and did a cursory scan since I was out yesterday

7:41 – logged into Horizon and returned my DVDs (hubby is watching Wire in the Blood) and checked to see what reserves had come in for me

7:43 – went downstairs to put returned DVDs in correct delivery boxes, get mega cup of ice for Diet Coke habit and to retrieve my 13 holds

7:48 – checked out my 13 holds including David Lee King’s “Designing the Digital Experience”

7:53 – logged into Staff Intranet, iGoogle, Friendfeed, Facebook and Meebo

8:10 – updated co-worker on husband’s condition after yesterday’s test

8:15 – reading/responding to emails from yesterday

8:31 – posted day 3 of DitL blog post because I was out yesterday

8:32 – caught up with co-worker about Wednesday’s Lost episode

8:37 – tested Sailor link to our Marina page – is working now that they have the correct one

8:47 – updated boss on hubby’s test results from yesterday

8:50 – back to emails

9:00 – bounceback emails are calling me

9:05 – to help with a helpdesk ticket installing Filezilla client on Mac laptop – while waiting I “Dugg” some article from my RSS feed

9:14 – installed and correctly setup FileZilla on Mac laptop and was able to connect – easy install

9:15 – back to bouncebacks more have come in

9:30 – called Public Relations office about their helpdesk ticket

9:44 – uploading PDF’s to ChooseCivility site

9:55 – called Public Relations back and discussed uploading to Joomla’s media manager instead – turns out will probably just wait until the new Choose Civility site is up and running for this

10:03 – more bouncebacks….guess ILL finally generated all the notices

10:10 – discussed with Sys Admin about some errors and concerns over day end process a couple of days ago. Sadly neither of us is 100% sure who messed up what or did the system fail to finish a process.

10:30 – closed helpdesk ticket from Public Relations – will wait for new site to add pdfs

10:40 – emailed class about Picasa3 training and some issues that have arisen around timing and schedule

10:50 – called staff member to follow up on helpdesk ticket follow up that they didn’t follow up on 😉

11:00 – worked on CIL09 slides

11:40 – created collection/set in library’s Flickr account for our new This Is Your Life program so they can start uploading images

11:45 – wrote up instructions so This is Your Life folks can upload to Flickr

12:10 – Lunch

12:45 – spoke with Network Admin about why my synaptic package manager was giving me error message – taught me how to run the command in terminal because an update didn’t get finish – running full updates now – installed FileZilla on Ubuntu machine

12:54 – back to CIL09 slides

2:00 – Called into podcast T is for Training

3:00 – back to CIL09 slides

3:30 – end of day, end of week

Amendment to the Bill of Rights

I hereby suggest that my country’s Bill of Rights be amended. If the Bill of Rights is about freedom then there is one amendment seriously lacking (no offense to our forefathers they could not have seen this coming). Freedom of browser, web browser that is. I am not one of those open source fanatics that insists you only use Firefox or Opera but I do insist you allow me the right to choose my browser and have your site work correctly in it.

Gone are the days of only one name in the game. It is time for the web-so-called-masters to wake up. Code to web standards and not only will your site work in the browser of my choice but it can be accessible by all. It isn’t that hard to do. Why on earth would you limit the audience you are trying to reach? Are you that ignorant to think that only Internet Explorer is the only choice out there? Come to the Howard County Library and you’ll find it isn’t even an option. We prefer a much more secure (but not completely invulnerable) Firefox, Flock or Opera. Try convincing all the Mac users out there that use Safari or Firefox on their Macs. If you still think that IE is the only game in town you haven’t been looking lately.

I am completely frustrated by sites that “work best in ….” or “must use Internet Explorer only” (like the Baltimore County web site).   If properly coded your site will work best in ANY BROWSER!  I find it insulting that in this day and age of enlightenment and choice there are still those who think that limiting a site to a browser (or god forbid an operating system) is making the right choice.  Keep on making sites that only work in one browser and I’ll (among others) will keep not using your site.

No Woman is an Island

Forgive me John Donne (1572-1631) for taking poetic license.

I’ve been training staff members over the last 3-4 years (maybe more my memory ain’t what it used to be). It was something I stumbled into and found that I not only enjoyed but actually good at (or at least according to comments and evaluations). With each class that I taught, I’ve gained some insight. I love the give and take of training, the flow of not only energy but information. I believe that training should be a two-way street. It isn’t all about ME passing on information. I can learn a lot as well. I can learn what does or doesn’t work for a particular curriculum or for a particular learning style. I can sometimes learn a new way or shortcut of doing something even thought I thought I knew them all. To me it’s important to keep on learning as I help others to learn.

Recently I gave my first training for the public. What a great unknown that was for me. How computer savvy would they be? How do you create a training not knowing the skill level of your auidence? It was a good thing because I had gotten comfortable with training the staff and sometimes comfort can equate to being stale. The last thing I want to be is stale.

Most importantly this series of Web 2.0 classes wasn’t all about me. I wasn’t alone. No woman is an island or at least this woman wasn’t. So far the series has been pretty much a big success. I’ve been encouraged to offer this to staff and again to the public since we had such good turn out. But I could not have done this alone. So taking a nod from the Oscars….

I’d like to thank the academy:

  • Luis Salazar for diligently working to get me a viewsonic that gave a clear picture and worked with our Ubuntu laptop (at one point we had tried Ubuntu, Windows and Mac before we realized it was the viewsonic not the laptop)
  • Donna Metcalf for her support (attending a class) and helping Luis w/viewsonic issue.
  • Dennis Wood for being my AV man. He not only got me setup correctly on the sound portion but also tried to get the viewsonic working for another instructor in the Web 2.0 series.
  • Amy de Groff for allowing and encouraging me to do this. Also for her flexibility with my schedule (being boss and all).
  • Ruth Vargas and Danny Bouman for also being flexible and allowing me to switch my morning duties so I could present these classes at night.
  • Kim Ha for willing taking on a class on wikis (her passion) by herself.
  • Katie George for an outstanding job during our social networking class. I honestly couldn’t have done a better job and she was a hard act to follow.
  • Brian Auger for being willing to share our mutual passion of music and help me with tonight’s class on music social networking.
  • Fritzi Newton, photographer extraordinaire, for sharing her passion of photography and allowing me to sneak in a few moments about YouTube and Veho during Tuesday’s class.
  • my hubby for dealing with the dogs and dinner without me there – yes, dear we are a team
  • and most importantly the public for embracing this series so far

If I left anyone out it is not intentional.  I thank you all for helping me with this endeavor and I’ve learned a lot from each one of you.