Friday, October 30, 2009

How does your customer service measure up? Probably better than Columbia Gas

Columbia Gas should be very happy they are a basically a monopoly. If they weren't, they'd surely be out of business by now due to the complete and utter disaster that is their customer service and how poorly organized they are overall.

I'm not surprised, however, that my experience today was bad. A number of years ago Columbia Gas of Ohio had to come back out to work on my place and their policy is if you miss an appointment, they won't come out again for another week. Pretty harsh, especially when it's averaging 35 degrees at night, but that's the kind of heartless pricks they are. Anyway, I ended up "missing" my appointment. It's in quotes because all I missed was a phone call that was notifying me that they were on their way. I wasn't near the phone at the time and since I didn't answer, they said I missed the entire appointment. Had they arrived at my door, they would have been greeted by me, since I was home. It was a fun week, having a life without Gas, which meant no hot water, no cooking (though I eventually bought a single electric burner), and the loss of at least some of my sanity. For what? For missing a phone call. I hope the people who came up with that policy suffer from IBS till the end of their days.

For the most part they were fine for years, as fine as a company who continually ups the price of a service everyone in Ohio needs can be. But a couple weeks ago they turned off the gas of everyone's place in my development to install some new hardware. I was supposed to call to get it turned back on, but since this is just the place I'm trying to sell and I don't live in, it wasn't a high priority to get it turned back on.

After a week of my not calling them about it, they finally called me. They left a voicemail saying to call a 1-800 number, so I did. After trudging through menu after menu, verifying my address, phone number, and last 4 SSN, I was greeted to a non-robot. First thing she asked me was my account #. Didn't you just verify me? I guess not. I had to give my phone number, address, and SSN all over again. Told her the situation and she said she had to transfer me to someone else. Great.

I arrive at the new Customer "Service" Rep's line and yet again I had to give my address, phone, and SSN. Why? It's 2009. We are taking pictures of pluto, having remote control dune buggy races on MARS, and these idiots can't have the system that automatically found me based on my phone # remember that I'm the same person from 3 seconds ago? This person was a bit nicer, but unfortunately it wouldn't be the last person I talked to. Apparently the first person didn't forward me far enough, so I had to be sent to a DIFFERENT person that was more relevant, I guess.

This old curmudgeon made me give all my info again. I didn't even pause, rattling off my phone #, address, and SSN all in one sentence. She then told me I had to call a different number and that they would have given it to me. I told the lady that I DID call the number they gave me. She rattled off her # and of course, after being transferred so many times, it wasn't the same one I called but something else. She again said I need to call the number they gave me. I again repeated that they were the ones who called me, they were the ones that left a phone number, and that I was the one who called that exact number. If that's the wrong number, that's not my fault, it's yours for being a horrible company. If you wanted me to call a different number, you should have given a different number.

So what do I have to do? I'm going to just call back later in the day when hopefully a different batch of people are working, hopefully ones with GEDs or possibly even a degree.

For now, it doesn't take anyone who is an expert in analytics to measure up this company. Big fat F. Failure, F'd up, Frustrating, and Fumbling. Get your crap together, Columbia Gas.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Web Analytics vs. SEO - Who will reign supreme?

Ok, this comes up often enough at work and I was wondering how people handle it.

When you have links coming back to your site, you can track things or you can improve your SEO with extra linkbacks.

The argument is do you:
A) Track everything so you know what's going on and can segment your traffic
B) Enjoy an SEO bump with a link to a non-duplicated page

Now, here we've already established that Paid Search and Banners are ok - spiders aren't really going to hit those. Until today I figured email was fine too, since obviously a google spider will not be browsing my inbox. There's a little internal debate about the fact that if people post the link in their email somewhere, that's going to dilute SEO efforts, but that leaves me with 3 thoughts:

1) No one's going to post that link. Maybe they'll forward the email with the link, but posting?
2) if they do post it, even the few that do, does it really have an seo impact? Does it lower our overall rank or does it just dilute any gains this effort would have?
3) And even if it does have a very minor impact, is it worth completely being in the dark on a major email campaign?

I'm trying to scope it into a benefit vs damage ratio. Like if SEO only benefits a 1 (out of 10) and Measurement efforts are damaged 10/10, then it's a .1, which stinks. If Measurement benefits a 10 but SEO is damaged a 10, then it's a 1, which isn't very good either. If Measurement benefits a 10 and SEO is only damaged a 1, then we've got a 10:1 ratio, which is nice.

Just wondering how people handle this little tug of war in their lines of work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Attack of the Shuffle

I'm not quite sure what happened. I'll blame college. No, I'm not talking about a tattoo, piercings, marriages I've had to annul, restraining orders for or against me. I'm talking about something much worse and much more regrettable - Bad ipod Songs.

I have no idea where they came from, who gave them to me, who put them on my PC, or what someone slipped me before going on Napster binges in my youth, but it's utterly disgusting what's on there.

Some things I've had to delete because if I heard them again I'd probably hurt some piece of technology or myself (some are songs, artists, or both)

Dionne Warwick
Tired of Toein' the Line
Dennis Deyoung
The Motels
George Benson
Eddie Rabbit (on there twice, I must really hate him)
Cliff Richard
Little River Band
How Bout Us - Champaign

And finally, Christopher Cross (not sailing, that rocks, but Think of Laura).

So yeah, I seriously have no idea why I have those. I hope whoever gave me those songs isn't a friend anymore, in fact, I hope they're balding or something appropriate for their bad taste.

And to make this post not just ramblings with no point (into ramblings with a slight point), I get the opportunity to dig up metrics for a client for the last 6 months. When I went there about 6 months ago I got to sit down and dig up as much as I could in about 5 hours. Naturally you probably miss a thing or two since you don't know what to expect, but I hope this time around I'm a bit more prepared. They're using a software version of WebTrends, 7.5 I think, so I have to try to remember what their particular non-enterprise version is capable of.

That's generally one of the biggest pains with some of these tools. Know WebTrends? Sure I do. Know all the reports that are missing in the Marketing Package vs the Commerce Package off the top of my head? Not really. And if you don't own both of those you can't really figure it out until you look at one and say "Oh, X report isn't there." or "Looks like I can't use Z dimension."

Understand all there is to know about a site in 6 hours.. It really is a good challenge. "But I've run a marathon! That's a challenge!" and I say a bigger challenge is to really want to run one but sit and eat donuts instead. Without guilt. I don't do silly things like marathons and even I have guilt, but I'd sooner be comfortable about that than know everything there is to know with one sit-down. I'll see what I can do though.

If it has any positives, their little kitchen area, if you don't get lost trying to find it (their building was designed to look cool from the air, which means it's a pain in the butt to navigate from within) has some sweet amenities. Since I will only be there for one day I can steal someone's lunch without much recourse. I'm sure there's someone with a history of yogurt theft that will be a much more likely target of suspicion, so I'll skirt by. I'm just kidding, I would never do that. Yogurt? Ok I'm kidding, I would never steal anything, just in case you all are doing your own investigative work in the background. But what's sweet is they have free fountain soda. And coffee, but who cares. Everyone has coffee at work, but does everyone have free coke straight from the pipes? Hell no. As good as the drink options are, though, the food is just the opposite. I can't remember all of what they have, but I do know that I resorted to eating Saltines. This is a food service company too, which makes it more tragic.

So, have any of you had any challenging tasks such as dropping into a client's locked-down system for only a day and having to rip out as much as you could to analyze later? I fully expect my audience of 2 to chime in.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Hey everyone!

I've been on this silly internet for 18 years now and I really don't have a blog.. so I'm fixing it. Well, I've had postings here and there, but that's mostly rambling, venting, or telling slightly embarrassing funny stories that make friends proud and parents cry. You know the type.

Eventually I'll use this to post musings and other thoughts about what I do for a living - Web Analytics. It's a fun, crazy, turn a jumble of information into gold, make sense of nothing, many hat wearing kind of job. Today I did a tagging document, kicked off a small usability study (using web analytics), and even found bugs on a site (as I was seeing what tags were missing/wrong). Things are rarely boring in this line of work, and if they do happen to slow a little, there's always some point of curiosity that makes you go "hmm.." and you can dive head first into the pool of razor blades that is web data and come out with something to show for it (besides the cuts and bruises).

If you have any questions about web analytics, metrics, google analytics, webtrends, or anything like that, please feel free to ask. If I did something smart like link this account to my gmail, I may even know that you wrote me. Otherwise, expect an answer sometime in Q2 '08 when I likely log back in and realize I have a message waiting.