Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grading Customer Service

I just wrote up a really bad customer service experience at Yelp. (It was at the Seattle Apple Store, and you can read it here.) While I was doing this, I discovered that Yelp's grading system is lopsided. One star is "Eek!" two stars is "Meh" and it goes up from there. So--how do I distinguish between "bad customer service experience" and egregious deception or price-gouging?

This is how I rank stores. Using a 1-5 scale, if a store does a basic good job, I give it a three. Extra-ordinary service or pricing rates a four, and both together rate five. Two means a serious deficiency in service or over-pricing. One means egregious price-gouging or deception: illegal or near-illegal activity.

Croak! [2011.12.06 An omitted pronoun added and a bit of grammatical cleanup done.]

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Housing Price and Home Ownership Croak

[Written in comments on Balloon Juice where, as usual,  it sank without a trace. I am rescuing it here.]

Prices are plummeting because the bubble is still bursting. Take a look at the charts on this page. I think we’ve got about two years to go. See also this Calculated Risk article. Note this:

The aggregate data suggest that in 2010 the homeownership for most age groups was probably below 1990 rates! Last week’s report, then, was clearly the BIGGEST STORY ON US HOMEOWNERSHIP in many, many years. So … why the lack of media coverage?

So I suppose prices will drop below pre-depression levels, unless the large number of houses with clouded titles—thank you banksters—reduces availability sufficiently to create a shortage.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Google Voice and Sprint Wireless: the Quiet Telecomm Deal

(Reposted from FDL about a month ago, where it go no attention. The service is rolling out Tuesday, and this seems a good time for a repost.)

The media is all agog with the planned purchase of T-Mobile’s US operation by last-wave carrier AT&T. The combined carrier would be a force to be reckoned with, and be in a much better position to pressure Apple and Google and consumers and terrify Sprint management. Meantime, Google and Sprint have quietly announced integration between Google Voice and Sprint Wireless.

Over time, we’ve worked to bring an integrated Google Voice experience to your mobile device by building mobile apps, introducing Google Voice Lite, and most recently Number Porting. But we felt that ultimately, the most simple solution would be to partner with carriers to seamlessly integrate Google Voice with your mobile phone. Today, we’d like to share that we’ve teamed up with Sprint to do just that. (link)
OVERLAND PARK, Kan., March 21, 2011 – Sprint (NYSE: S) and Google announced today a new integrated Google Voice™ experience that will allow Sprint customers to set their existing Sprint wireless phone number as their Google Voice number. Sprint customers will be able to take advantage of all the features and benefits of Google Voice without the hassle and fees associated with porting their number. Sprint is the first and only carrier to offer this capability, which will be available soon on all Sprint CDMA phones. (link)

I’m still thinking over the implications. Google has long wanted access to the wireless tele­com­mun­i­ca­tions market, but the history, business practices, and regulatory clout of the major carriers have limited their ambition. With this deal with the relatively smaller carrier Sprint may have given Google their in, much as AT&T gave Apple their in. Sprint has an excellent wireless data network, second, so far as this bird can tell, only to Verizon, and Google gets to distribute its services–and advertising–through that network. Sprint, of course, gets the support of one of the largest and most successful internet firms. If Google acquired Sprint the deal would be subject to careful anti-trust scrutiny but, so far as I can tell, there is no anti-trust issue here: neither Google Voice nor Sprint is a large enough service to create a combined monopoly, or even much of a market force: this deal is made in the hope of growth, rather than to purchase market share. On the other hand, there is a clash of corporate cultures. Google takes as its motto, “Don’t be evil.” Sprint, on the other hand, provides notoriously poor customer service, apparently by policy. How this will play out in the marketplace is hard to imagine: Google does not take kindly to brand dilution and Sprint is not likely to deal well with requests from Google to provide better service to Google Voice users.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Planetary Gossips

Google is like a friendly talkative aunt who knows lots of things about lots of people and will tell you all about them if asked. She's good to know, but she has lots of advice about things you can buy, and don't tell her anything you don't want everyone on the planet to be able to find out.

Facebook is like the fluffy bunny who wants everyone to just be friends and keeps trying to connect your political activist friends to your business associates. She may mean well, but she can sure make your life difficult. She also keeps her own business secret and makes quite a business of selling gossip, so she may be mercenary and malicious rather than fluff-headed.

As for us corvids…