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Archive for March 2010

Episode 2 – The Motorola BackFlip Saga

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In Episode 1 I promised I would say why I have decided to keep my Motorola BackFlip from AT&T.  The reason – I figured out how to get my mail, contacts and calendar on the phone.  Is it perfect yet? No.  Is it getting there? Yes.  Here’s what I did.

We’ll start with the email part first. Let me establish the environment.  I use Lotus Notes. Don’t laugh, there are millions of people using it, you just don’t know it.  IBM does an absolutely lousy job of advertising that fact.  The literature on the phone said it would support XpressMail from AT&T which supports Lotus Notes.  The AT&T literature lies. It doesn’t support it.

I logged onto the Xpressmail site to change my profile to my new phone and it doesn’t appear as an option.  Called AT&T and they suggested I point at a different phone profile to download.  Hm.  The phone they suggested is a totally different phone operating system.  Gosh, do you think it would work? No. Didn’t even try it.

One of my other email accounts is Google Mail (Gmail).  I logged on and poked around and sure enough there was a way to pull in mail from other mail sources.  I added in my Notes mail account (POP details) and presto, my mail started showing up on Google pretty much instantly.  Oh, and there was a nice side affect.  The Google SPAM controls did a better job of flagging stuff as SPAM than the program I currently use.  Bad side affect – it also flags good mail as SPAM too.  But I am able to logon and train it so that those emails are not SPAM.  The phone does an automatic sync to Gmail which meant my mail started showing up on my phone.  I set the phone to do a manual sync – i.e. sync when I want, not when the phone wants.   Perfect.  One down.

Now on to my contacts and calendar.  I use ACT by Sage for my contact and calendar management.  In addition, my company supports and resells Companionlink software.  I read that their software could also do Google sync.  I went to the program I already had loaded on my machine and clicked on the little down arrow (where I never clicked before) and lo and behold, Google was an option.  I chose this option and it then sync’d my calendar and contacts up to Google which then sync’d them down to my phone. Wah Lah.  I’m done.

Well, almost.  Computer programs and phone programs operate on different levels and worldly planes.  So, if you need to sync twice – i.e. do a replace, all is well on the computer side – but you now have dups on the phone side.  Sigh.  And of course there is no “delete multiple contacts” on the phone side.  My new mission is to find a tool to delete multiple contacts at once on the phone.  But I’m closer.

I spent two weeks playing with the phone moving icons I didn’t want off the screen and putting apps(icons) I did want on the screen.  I think I have the hang of it.  I’ve managed to find a couple of games to replace my beloved ones from the Treo.  At this point, I’m now actually ahead of where I was with my Treo. Now all I need to do is find a 3.5 headset for the phone and I’m cool.

That’s it for Episode 2.  As we progress I’ll fill in more details.  For now, though, the message is I’ll keep the phone.

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Written by pregen

March 26, 2010 at 12:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My New Phone Saga – Episode One.

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Wow, two blog articles within a week of each other. One of my 2010 resolutions was to write at least one article per week. All good intentions were there but the phones have been ringing. We still see an issue with the economy though. The calls take longer as people ask deeper questions. People are not going to spend their hard earned (and less amounts of) money unless they are very sure they get what they want. Oh, and for the cheapest price. Every day I feel like I’m at a straw market down in the islands, haggling over goods. In our case it’s software and consulting – but the same rules apply. But that’s another blog. Today’s blog is all about my new phone.

A week ago, I went to AT&T where I’ve been a loyal customer for over 14 years. My trusted Treo 680 (which actually was less trusted than my much-missed Treo 650) is dying a slow, painful death. My fears were that it would die when I was on one of my many trips. For the past year, I could read emails but not reply. Point 1. The phone battery would collapse without warning, even though it was brand new. Point 2. And the list goes on. I had been waiting for AT&T to get the Palm Pre. Watching the reviews I decided this was the way for me to go even though it, while being a Palm device, was outside of the Palm platform. That meant all my favorite Palm apps went away. But, for the sake of new technology, I was willing to make the transition if only to research it for my clients.

Because of my clients, and knowing my phone was dying, I kept up a contant vigil watching the phone market trends. My clients either ask me what phone should they get, or in some sad cases, will the phone they did get (because it looked cool) connect to their business applications. In the case of the ones who went ahead and bought the cool phone, they can’t get all their apps connected. Since we are Sage consultants, the main question we get is will the phone work with ACT. That was also a key driver for me in my phone decision. ACT drives my business – it’s my contacts, my tasks, my notes, my calendar. And all that needs to be on my phone – or at least most of it. And, I need to get and send emails. Pretty simple. Right? Wrong.

Let’s talk about the phone demographics of my clients. Many of them are using Crackberries. Yes, that’s what I call them and I’m sticking to it. I get the biggest charge out of watching guys on planes hide their devices under their arms as the flight attendants walk by. Once the “airline phone guards” have passed, they whip out the things and continue reading their emails. Ok, I just don’t get it. To me, an airplane ride is welcome relief from phones and email. It’s right up there with a quiet, personal visit to a restroom. I don’t want to get emails. I dont want to get phone calls. You get the point. The thing that’s important to this blog though is the fact the market share for Blackberry devices is slowing down. Yes, really. Here’s a link to an interesting article talking about the shift towards smart phone devices from cell phones (http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/02/23/apple-android-rim-gain-market-share/).

While the article shows RIM (Blackberry) increased in 2009, it did so a lower rate than years before. There is a reason for this. Business people want more than just a cell phone, but even though they like iPhones, they can’t use the iPhones because of key missing components. Or, and this is true for many companies I talk to, the iPhone are not allowed as a business phone. You can’t programmatically write to the iPhone calendar. Apple doesn’t allow it. While email is important to business owners, in some cases, it’s the calendar that is the important element. Specifically, it’s their alarms. Only a few of my clients use iPhones for business. I have several clients who have two phones – one a smart phone and one an iPhone with the iPhone being their personal, play phone. I don’t care about the iPhone numbers in my research because they are really for the consumer. In February last year, I was at Apple and met some of the iPhone engineers (btw, oldest age was 24). They pretty much stated that the iPhone was developed for the consumer not the business person. However, don’t get me wrong. If Apple gets a clue and realizes that business people want sexy as well as efficient, and if Apple makes the iPhone more “corporate friendly” look out. iPhones will own the world. But for now, that’s not the case.

In 2009 some of the cell phone users wanting smart devices switched to Blackberry, but as opposed to earlier years, not as many. There are now more options and that area of the market is the one that is growing. What I found intriguing in the numbers was the increase in Androids. Google is a smart company. I figured phones created under their umbrella operating system ought to be pretty smart as well. The Android operating system made its first appearance in late 2007 and phones started showing up in 2008. When you look at the market numbers, the increase in 2009 is significant when you realize how new they are. Google announced on February 16th this year that 60,000 Android phones are shipping a day. Their market share grew at a higher rate even though they still don’t own all the market. The message is this – it’s predicted that unless RIM makes some major internal changes, the Blackberry as we know it today will go away within the next few years. Knowing this, and knowing how much I really do dislike the Blackberry, I chose to look at the Androids.

AT&T announced the Motorola Backflip Android phone and said it would be available in March 2010. So, I went to the local store and bought one. It wasn’t really a hard decision. With a rebate plus another $100 discount, the phone cost me $9.00. Oh, and they noticed I was on an older phone plan, and reduced my monthly charges. Ok, right away this was looking like a very good decision. Until….I got home and started using the phone.

It’s different. Oh my gosh, it’s different. At one point, I looked at my contract and figured I had 30 days to when (not if, but when) I could return it. And I know technology and don’t mind change. But it’s change for the better that I don’t mind. Until one day ago, I couldn’t get my contacts and calendar switched to the device. I couldn’t get email because the Xpressmail that AT&T advertised as working on the phone, didn’t. Not supported. AT&T lied. Oh, and the pages on the internet that said it did support it are now gone. Duh. I went out and started reading review of the Backflip and realized in a hurry that AT&T had crippled the device. I did something I normally don’t do – I went bleeding edge. The bad reviews hadn’t shown up yet. Well, they are there now. So, what you may ask, is going to be the end of this story? I’m keeping the phone. And the reason is the topic of my next blog. Stay tuned. Things are looking up, Virginia.

Written by pregen

March 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Business Apathy or the “Call back later – we’re not interested” Syndrome.

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It’s been a while since I created a blog article. Part of the reason is I’ve been traveling a lot and business is very good this year. The other reason is I’ve been under the weather with this awful upper respiratory thing that is spreading across the country. I was so distraught this week over the issues I had simply trying to find a doctor to see me that I said, in a Twitter update, that I wish I could write about the apathy seen in the medical profession in my business blog.

Julie Bestry, an amazing lady and Twitter goddess (@ProfOrganizer), saw my post and responded with this: “Sure you can…how apathy in business owners sends clients to their competition…and they DO have competition. Docs still make a good starter anecdote. And good bedside manner = good customer care. You’ve got a whole metaphor!”

By George, she was right. And that’s the theme of this blog – “How do you ensure you don’t suffer from business apathy.”

Here’s what started me down this path. I don’t visit the doctor often because I usually don’t need to. That’s not a bad thing except when you really need one. Over the last five years, four doctors I have seen have either left the medical profession or moved away. Ok, that’s cool, but the offices should still have my records, right? Wrong. I spent over 5 hours calling around to various doctor offices, including, first off, the office named as my primary care physician. They couldn’t find my records. We’re sorry, they say, but since your original doctor has left, you are a new patient and we’re not scheduling new patients until May. This is March – I could be dead by May. No amount of cajoling on my part convinced the less-than-pleasant receptionists to help me out. After four phone calls with equal results, I was near tears, which is not something I normally do, and decided to visit the Urgent Care facility.

I really didn’t want to go this route. The price of medical insurance is high for a lot of reasons, but one is because they have to cover the people who have to spend more money going to emergency rooms or urgent care facilities for exactly the same reason I ended up in one.

Continuing on with this saga, I enter the Urgent Care offices and the receptionist there treated me with even more disdain than the people I chatted with earlier via phone. Is there a school for “how to be completely apathetic and non-caring in 5 easy lessons.” Is this happening because doctors feel they are indispensable and we have no choice but to take this kind of apathetic abuse.

This led me to the idea of what would happen to businesses today if they responded in kind. Take this hypothetical example. “Hello, I am a new client in the area and I’ve interested in your services. May I come in today”…. “No, we’re sorry, we are not seeing new clients for at least a month. Please call back then.” How long do you think that business would be alive and viable if that was the way they operated.

If the receptionist in your office reacts the same as the ones I dealt with today, what will the rest of the experience be with your company? Probably the same. If the bedside manner of the company – whether it’s the person greeting the clients or answering the phone or your sales team – does not reflect the true image of your company, then you are lost before you even start.

Companies spend a lot of money on sales and marketing, drip campaigns, email blitzes, etc. But, if the result of all that external work ends up at the desk of the I-don’t-care-about-you receptionist or on the phone with a sales person suffering from a similar disorder, you have just wasted a lot of money. Before investing in all that effort, you need to make sure your home front is in good working order. Are your employees motivated? Are they empowered to give quality service? Are they rewarded if they do? Do you, as the business owner, project the kind of attitude you want represented throughout your organization? Is your bedside manner equal to what you would expect from a doctor you visit? Think about it. Step outside of your space and imagine what it would be like to be sitting in front of you. Would you like what you see and hear. Try to imagine walking up to your office for the first time. Does it invite people to return? If the only way people reach you is via phone, the same thing applies. Do they get a real person or an auto caller with 15 steps before you realize you can hit zero and by-pass the “helpful” choices which in reality cause many people to hang up before even talking to a human.

Julie was right. This did turn out to be a good topic for a business blog. The message is this – make sure your company bedside manner keeps the clients returning. Then, give them a lollipop and send them on their way, happy and satisfied with the results.

Written by pregen

March 12, 2010 at 1:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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