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AARP.org: The Path to Senior Frustration

Today, April 2, 2015, I got up early and was snooping around the Internet and landed upon AARP.org for some reason after a Google search. Interestingly, an event was happening in my home town Seattle.  A banner alert at the top of every page said: “Help Decide the Future of Aging. Join the White House’s Live Stream Today From Seattle.”

This event is co-sponsored by AARP.

I clicked on the link and went to a page that purported to be about the event. The page did not say:

— what time the stream would start

— how long the stream or conference would last

— who the speakers are

— the location of the event.

I was curious, so I called AARP to get time and location. Five phone calls and one hour later, I still did not have the information. The event folks at AARP did not have it in their system.

However, a supervisor said the number to customer service was 877-731-xxxx. No answer. Another supervisor told me this number was in fact not for customer service, but a phone number for participants to call during an event.

On the fifth phone call a representative told me the event was really April 9, 2015. A supervisor confirmed the date. During the conversation with the supervisor, I started the stream. I saw my own county executive speaking. I called his office to learn the location.

What are the lessons from this:

— Staff should know about it’s organization’s events

— Fundamental information should be included on an event page, such as time and location

— It is a sad state of affairs when a co-sponsor of an event can’t give you time and location, and ultimately gives you the wrong date.

AARP needs to bring some maturity to the way it delivers information to seniors.

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Enterprise Size Problems

Nope, I’m not talking about enterprise computer systems. I’m talking about Enterprise the car rental company.

A while back I took a business trip half way across the country. I had reserved an Enterprise car a couple weeks in advance. When I arrived at the Enterprise shop from the airport I saw zero cars in the lot. Zero. I went inside as usual and said I’m here to pick up my reserved car. The young man said they didn’t have any — not even the one I had reserved — and they didn’t know when they would be getting any.

Lucky for me I had relatives in this destination city. I got a ride back to a relative’s house and hung out there, waiting for a call from Enterprise. Hour 1. Hour 2. Somewhere in Hour 2 I figured I could amuse myself by finding names of Enterprise personnel on their web site. I did and started sending emails and faxes (via computer and Internet) about my situation. Somewhere in Hour 3 the manager of the store called me to tell me they were working on getting a car for me. Just what they were doing was left vague, so I really had no idea if the talk was real or just hot air. I asked why they hadn’t alerted me to the lack of cars. His response: “I called, but I got your voice mail, so I decided not to leave a message.”

Somewhere in Hour 6 the Enterprise folks showed up at my relative’s house with a car. By this time word of the fiasco had reached the regional manager. In Hour 7 he called me.

I ended up having a good conversation with him. I explained to him that travelers really need up-to-date information, even if it is bad news, so they can make decisions or make alternative plans. I told him that I was fortunate in my situation that a) I had relatives in town and b) wasn’t getting off the plane to drive straight away to a funeral or business meeting. The regional manager seemed to get this concept. I also told him what the manager had said about not leaving a message. Even the regional manager thought that was odd thinking on the part of the manager. I said it is way better to leave a message than not, especially in this day and age with alerts on smart phones and even email delivery of the audio message.

In the end, for the hassle and lack of reserved car, the regional manager gave me the one-week rental for free. I would have preferred to pay without the stress, but the gesture certainly helped me think that Enterprise was going to figure out a way to improve.

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Does HP Care? Indications are Yes!

I recently purchased an HP Officejet 7612. This was to replace the similar Brother machine I had been using to scan a multitude of tabloid-size articles I had written over the years.  All was good until the Brother software wouldn’t open up on my Windows 7 machine. The short version: A Brother tech logged into my computer and said something on my computer is blocking the program. He had no clues. He said it could take days for me to track down. Being that no other program on the machine has a problem, I decided to bail on Brother.

I took the machine back to OfficeDepot and got the HP Officejet 7612.  I figured I would be productive right away. Wrong.  In the first 19 hours of possessing the machine I spent about 5 hours with HP’s customer service trying to figure somethings out.

Not all the customer service calls went well. I couldn’t find how to change the default directory in the software for scanning results. I called and the representative told me that I could not change the directory. A supervisor came on the line at my request and told me I could change the default save directory. This turned out to be true.

My new HP device has a feature of printing by email. Within the HP network, as long as the printer is connected to the Internet, I can have an email address for the printer. Send an email with a pdf attachment and it will print. Great. I set up the email address, but one of my email addresses on the white list of allowed email sources and . . . waited, and waited . . . for something to print. Nothing. I called HP customer service again. I was told that the white list of allowed email sources did not work. Grr. I spend all that time reading docs, testing, reading docs, testing, to learn that there is a system malfunction on HP’s part. Why not message alerting users on the HP website? “Too involved” was the answer.

I ended up writing five pages of details about my new experience with the HP device. I sent the information to the Senior VP for customer service. Withing three days of mailing the letters I got a call back from a manager. We had an hour-long conversation about some printer issues and about customer service in general. Some of the points I made to him:

* If self-service support — a trend in big business — is going to be a focus from a company, then the company needs to gear up in a number of ways: excellent documentation, easy navigation, accurate information, alerts, and good grammar. Regarding grammar: I printed out a support document for the printer and the first first sentence had the wrong verb. This is a complete turn off to read any further and to think that I want to rely on documentation for help.

* Representatives on the phone need to know the hardware. They need hands-on experience.

* Representatives need an effective way to quickly report problems to engineers and webmasters about problems.

To HP’s credit, they responded to my letters, unlike Yahoo, which has never responded to any of my letters. The difference is striking. I can get a sense that one big company actually cares about quality and the customer experience.

You may be wondering — why send a letter? Simple. Social media has it’s place, but for a long, involved, detailed story, social media just does not have the capacity for what I want to say. Additionally, not all companies monitor social media for customer complaints.