Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yahoo Breach Alert.

For the last eight years, I've been in contact with my students throught email. Many have used Yahoo email for years, and continue to do so. Nothing wrong with being a Yahooer. But recently I've been getting email messages appearing to be from old students whose names I recognize, with "no subject" and the message is some moocher website attempting to interest me in Viagra and such like. I'll get a couple dozen messages all alike, with slightly different URLs, all apparently from the same ex-student. I even got them from my daughter's Yahoo account and I'm real sure my daughter isn't trying to sell me Viagra. And I'm getting these phony emails from a lot of different students, at least a dozen and maybe two dozen different names, and multiple contacts from each name.

Hey people. Somebody has figured out a way to get into your Yahoo address books. For we who are getting all these messages, this is really annoying. But for you whose email addresses are being used, you have to wonder what else of your personal information is being compromised.

I wonder if Yahoo knows about this? And I don't know what you should do about it. I can tell you that blocking things at my end as spam or junk is not stopping the traffic.

And I can also say that whatever unspeakable douchbag has decided this is a good way to sell stuff deserves several pointed toe kicks in the cojones.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Surveys and Things that Suck Rant . . .

Went to a restaurant -- it's a local chain. At the end of the meal we were handed a check and a little piece of paper asking us to telephone/log-in to take a brief survey. If we did, we'd get something the next time we came in. I won't be taking the survey, just like I haven't taken the survey on all the other times I went to eat there.

What's the chances that you give everybody this survey scam every time, and the little something given as a thank-you for taking the survey really is an incentive to return to mooch out on the little something you get when you return the next time. In otherwords, it isn't information the company seeks. It's return customers.

Oh, and how was it? The food was what we expected. That's why we went there. The new menu sucks, in that any information one might be seeking is cleverly hidden in and amongst the pretty pictures the marketers think must be necessary for the illits they serve, all of whom can presumably be trusted to salivate for the right psychological cues provided a smart marketer, such as the ones who designed the new menu, manipulates the emotional symbolism correctly. Our server never returned to our table with an inquiry about anything further we might require, and we had to ask for a check to leave, for fear of being left sitting there, forever. Our server was engaged in a tedious conversation with a different customer, explaining how our server could not possibly have been 50% responsible for the accident, as his own insurance company had concluded, because he is a safe driver and the other driver was driving a Ford Explorer. I listened to his story -- it couldn't be avoided -- and both he and his insurance company are wrong. He's 100% responsible, and his insurance company is attempting to screw the other driver out of half his claim by asserting our server was only 50% responsible.

But I don't judge. Certainly not. I just don't give my usual 20-25% tip.

Hey, restaurant. Want some real information about how you are doing? You don't need a survey. Just look at your monthly receipts, your head count, and your tips. And I know you know what the tip level is because it's information required for IRS.

If management of a company, any company, wants to improve its business, the strategy is easy. Give excellent service with excellent products at an excellent price, and continuously look for ways you can improve service, products, and price. Don't ask your customers what you could be doing to get better. You should know that already. It's your job. And if you can't tell what constitutes excellent service, product or price, then you are in the wrong job. You should know that. It's your job to know that.

And if you want to find out if your employees are delivering, get somebody to step into a pair of jeans and drive into your own establishment and act like a customer. Or do it yourself. It's your job to know these things. And if your employees are not delivering, don't bother to chew on them or on their supervisor. There's a 95% chance that your company has instituted some policy or procedure, or maybe whole bunches of them, that disincentivize your employees. (I don't think that's a word, but if not, it should be.)

You want a survey? Here's a good one. Only two questions offered to your employees who have direct customer contact.

a. Has the company done anything to piss you off lately?
b. If your answer to the above is "yes", what was it? List as many as apply.

Betcha you'll learn something. Betcha if you try to fix the stuff that bothers your employees, your business improves. Also, keep in mind that sometimes a business is successful in spite of itself. And sometimes a business is successful because of politics. Money coming in isn't necessarily a sign that you are doing something right. Contrarily, money not coming in is definitely a sign that you are doing or have done something wrong. Oh, let's see. Your disincentivised employees have contact with your remaining customers, and you don't.

That's a hint.

Oh, I know. This isn't what they taught you when your were earning your Masters of Business Administration. They were all into statistics and measurement, weren't they? They want you to survey your customers, and they want you to count up the number and type of responses so you can compare survey results over time, and draw charts and graphs. They want you to see what measurements you have that aren't so very good, so you can call those little failure events opportunities for improvement. Gah!

Let me tell you about your M.B.A. degree. I'm sure you worked hard and did all the case studies, and maybe came to be indoctrinated into the M.B.A priesthood and you wholeheartedly believe in everything you learned. Well, you should figure out what was sensible, and what was not. Consider this. The university that gave you an M.B.A. likely offered an undergraduate degree for academic credit -- in women's studies. Or womyn's studies. And paid their football coach more than you'll ever make with your M.B.A. That same university is the one standing for the proposition that you can be taught in few short years, with summers off, how to manage a business where you don't have to be directly in contact with the customers who pay you. That same university is the one that expects you to believe that measurements are superior to leadership, and that employees can be managed by directive and deception, and budgeteering. (Another word I made up. It's kinda like racketeering isn't it, 'cause it shares the same objectives and many of the same methods.)

If you can't figure out the likely cause and a useful solution to the problem of a declining revenue, or one that isn't rising at the rate some imbecile in a necktie budgeted for, then you shouldn't have the job. It's not your customer's job. Their job is to pay for the product and services you offer, if you offer them a better deal then they can get elsewhere.

Figure it out for yourself, sparky. Surveying the customers sucks.

But the worst surveying is the phony survey. There are two kinds. The first phony survey is the one where the surveyor is looking for specific responses it can use for future marketing. For example:

Would you rather shop at Walternatives or insert a rabid wolverine up your own fundamental aperture? a. shop, b. wolverine, c. how big is the wolverine d. what's a fundamental aperture

Marketing message: Sixty four percent of shoppers prefer shopping at Walternatives!

But the worst is the mooch survey. I get these from the Republican party all the time, both by mail and by phone. (I get mooch letters and calls from the Democrats, too. Both parties enjoy the fiction that I somehow must agree with them.) Mooch surveys ask questions that I presumably have responses to and that I'm all-a-tizzy at the thought that somebody cares to hear my response. The questions are all variations of the below:

How bad does Obama suck?
Would you like him to stop sucking?
How bad do Democrats suck?
Would you like them to stop sucking?
Aren't you glad Obama and the Democrats aren't Republicans like us?

But the last question is always something like;

How much money would you like to send us, the non-Obama non-Democrats?

They appear to expect me to put a check in an envelope and put a stamp on the envelope and mail it in. Good thing they don't us a postage prepaid envelope. A person could write "bite me" on the survey, stick it in the envolope, glue the envelope to a brick, and drop the brick into a mailbox. Not that I would do such a thing. I'm basically nice. But I would understand, if somebody did.

In conclusion, it is probably not a surprise that the company I work for likes to survey. The company periodically has a mandatory voluntary survey of employees. It's not a phony survey. The company even honorably publishes the results of the employee survey, to the employees. The survey always has a little place where one can comment by means of writing sentences to supplement marking the little computerized choice boxes. I always offer a few comments, kind of like I might as well as I'm already in the neighborhood, and I feel it is expected of me.

Survey comments are never published.

Basically, surveys suck.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Commercials in our times. . . .

It struck me tonight. My wife and I were watching television, a thing we don't do often. When we do, it's usually one of just a few cable channels, as there are only a few that are bearable. We have been seeing the same commercial several weeks now, maybe a month. Several times an evening. Actually, too many times in an evening. My wife thought it was advertising a new movie we wouldn't be interested in watching.

I knew better. The commercial features some voluptuous yet firm female in a series of quick-cut female super-action-figure poses, ending with her flashing an insinuating smile. That's evidently what a female super-action-figure does right after overcoming the forces of sleaze and insobriety. Or something.

It was a commercial for lemon flavored vodka. I'm pretty sure.

The commercial had obviously cost considerable bucks to produce, so the ad people were going to get all the good out of it by showing it over and over and over again, all to maximize its influence. And cash registers were ka-chinging in advertising land and television city. I'm sure all the professionals involved in creating this little few seconds of commercial drama worked to the highest standards of their profession to produce a little commercial skit. So the company whose product was supposed to be showcased obvious spent and continues to spend a lot of money for this little commercial jewel.

And the commercial doesn't do a damn thing to make anybody interested in buying the product. It's possible, my wife illustrates the proposition, that intelligent people being exposed repeatedly to the commercial, would remain unclear exactly what product is being sold, here. There was so much art and artifice in putting the message out there, that the message itself was lost somewhere. Probably wasn't all that important to the commercial-making talent.

I would call that a failure. An expensive failure. I think the guys with the checkbook who want the buy a commercial product frequently find themselves unwittingly facilitating a bunch, dare I say it, of self-involved commercial artistes. In other words, the "talent" has the business guys charmed to the point where they've lost sight of the purpose of a commercial, which is to generate increased sales of the product.

You tell me. Does the sight of a hot, self-satisfied, hot woman in a hot, tight yellow hot skin suit engaged in the illusion of stylishly kicking the ass of an obnoxious sleaze with a toupee cause you to want vodka? Me neither. But she looks good, right?

And while she is pleasing to look at, that's not enough to sell a product, whether it's green beans, cell-phones, or liquid fertilizer. And it isn't just lemon vodka, it's all sorts of commercials. Hell, maybe even most of them.

Commercials should say, "Hey, look at this product which you should try because it is either enjoyable or provides some benefit to you." The commercial should not say, "Hey, look at me; I'm creative. I can make stuff you will see on television, paid for by some guys in suits. Hey, seriously, look at me."

Oh, I know. They want to make a commercial that will catch our attention without getting lost in all the many stimuli facing us. I"m just thinking that maybe they are going all out for the getting our attention part, but the selling a product part -- not so much.

In conclusion, first, I think the buyers of commercials should go for more than simply the assurance from the advertising company that it's responsible for increasing the number of eyes at the fairgrounds.. Hold out for a product that works.

And second, I'm getting really bored with the same useless commercials over and over. If there's gonna be bad commercials, can we at least get some new ads? They obviously have the money to spend on the current ad, and commercials pay the bills, right? I promise I'll watch 'em of you guys make new ones. I mean, I'm pretty sure I'll watch new ads. Really, I might watch your new commercials.