67+ Years Pondering and Pontificating

What do you get after all these years have passed by, and you start looking back ? For me, lots of great memories, an amazing wife, a quad of great kids, a baker's dozen of grandkids, and several tons of experience. Of course, it also brings some entrenched opinions, thoughtful ideas, and perhaps some insight that will help others on their journey through life. Hopefully the posts on these pages will be useful and interesting.

The Sales Person Is Always Right

Customer: “I’m looking for a light blue sundress for my trip to the Caribbean”
Salesperson:  “We have this awesome cardigan sweater.”
Customer: “It’s too hot for that and I need a dress.  How about that one?  It looks nice”
Salesperson: “You don’t want that.  It’s a mess.  You want this sweater!”

When you go shopping for a “solution” to a pending problem, do you find yourself enduring this type of conversation with the person who is supposed to assist you ?  Sadly, so many stores now focus on pushing what they have, completely ignoring what you need.

I’ve seen this practice particularly prevalent in technology sales.  For example, you go to the store for your wireless carrier, seeking a new phone.  You know what features you want, and those you would never use.  The clerk never takes the time to ask what you want because they have the device in mind which brings a bonus to their paycheck.  In fact, if you’ve done your homework, read the reviews, evaluated the features, and have a specific phone in mind, be prepared for them to tell you why you don’t want that one, but you should buy their “better” model.

Before you go out to buy, here are some guidelines that will help you come home with the right device, and without the angst of making a pushed purchase.  Remember, you will likely have this device for the next two, or more, years, so use caution.

Know your needs

If you are looking for a phone, computer, or tablet, be sure to first make a written list of how you will use the device.  What is important?  What will you not use?  Think this out carefully.  If you are replacing a device, be sure to list the features you wish you had now.  This investment is actually a tool to help you, not some glitzy toy with features you will never use.

Research what is available

There are ample articles available on what devices do, how they work, and who has quality products.  Do you research and read the reviews of various available products.  For example, if you want a phone, look at the models the carrier provides.  Read the feature list, and note the model numbers of those that appeal.  Then do a web search on those model numbers and read the various articles.  Use independent resources, and check both the author, and reader, viewpoints.

Visit the store, but do not buy

Visit your vendor and look at the models of interest.  Get a feel for them.  Consider size, weight, display resolution, and how they feel in your hands.  Take time to try the keyboards.  However, on your first visit, DO NOT BUY !  Go home and sleep on the info and impressions you have obtained.

Go to the store when you know exactly what you want

After you completed all of the research, checked out the devices in person, you can decide to either wait, or move ahead with a purchase.  If you decide to buy an item, do not let a salesperson talk you into something else.  If they start badmouthing a product, you might decide to wait, and do further research.  Most often, however, they are simply steering you to the product the boss sees overstocked in inventory, and wants to get out the door, or the manufacturer is offering a “spiff”.  Stick to your guns.  In fact, if the salesperson is pushy, it’s time to depart the store and take your business elsewhere.

You may be wondering why I wrote this.  I’ve been talking with people recently who have been encountering high pressure sales techniques to push them toward devices other than what they wanted.  Some has been very aggressive, and not once has the sales person cared at all about what the client needed.  This old geezer doesn’t take kindly to such pushy behavior, and I don’t think you should either.  I hope you will take a stand and make every technology investment that you make a satisfying experience.

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Microsoft: Adrift in Rough Seas

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There’s a party going on here, but it’s not real.  It’s a celebration by a major corporation of it’s new direction, embracing the future, but we might say it’s time for “all hands on deck” because the ship has lots of problems, and the skipper may have no compass.

I’m talking about Microsoft, a company that I have supported vehemently for over 30 years.  I first started working with MS-DOS in it’s infancy in the early 80’s, and have supported every operating system since.  I’ve used their products for my business, and for software development, since the early days.  I’m even a fan of the often maligned Windows 8, and the barely noticeable Windows Phone.  I’ve defended the company against attacks from other developers, and sought to understand, and communicate, the complexities of today’s technology. 

Sadly, we may be traveling different roads in the future.  It’s not that I have found a better alternative solution to my needs, but rather that my advancing years have lost the tolerance for the confusion and frustration caused by what has become a highly fragmented enterprise.  In it’s panic to reinvent, rather than evolve, this company has lost it’s way.  Instead of quality and performance, we see rhetoric, marketing blitzes, and random ideas in search of cohesion.

CEO Satya Nadella recently communicated the company goals to it’s employees, and the world in general.  He stated “First, we will obsess over our customers. “  Actually, those customers were not addressed in the proposed actions.  Service and communication were no where to be seen.  Instead, that obsession was over engineering and marketing.  The goal is to create many new products, and then focus on selling them.  This may please investors, but it means nothing to clients.  They still seek a quality product that will meet their professional or personal technology needs, and receive support from the company when problems arise.

Times may be changing, but maintaining customers ultimately comes down to a consumer feeling a positive relationship exists with a company.  When that bond is broken, and a client can no longer trust the provider, the disconnect results in a loss for both.  Mr. Nadella is focused on pleasing investors.  It is important to remember that only consumers contribute to a company, and investors simply withdraw resources to their own benefit. 

Apple has grown because it focuses on the consumer first.  Google has become a resource for the disaffected who want an alternative to Microsoft.  The once invincible Washington based software giant is stumbling, wandering in the dark, and not real sure where it is headed.  Instead of actually obsessing on the consumer, the company has erected barriers to communication, dropped quality support, and disregarded the loyal customers who have been the core of their success.

I would love to see some “rethinking” of this vision, an epiphany where customers actually matter, and where the focus is more on providing quality products and services.  Sadly, I’m thinking the future is far more likely to be another huge corporation seeking to increase profits for the satisfaction of investors, and the alienation of a massive client base.

I do hope I’m wrong, but we might say “the handwriting is on the wall” and the wall is a page on the Microsoft website containing the CEO’s vision for the coming year.  Time will tell !

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