[Pondering] Found Ideas

Monday, July 31, 2006

The one about customer service theory.

There comes a point in everyone's life when they feel like they're getting less-than-great customer service. My question is: When does it make WONDERFUL business sense to offer substandard customer service?

It may sound appalling that some companies would even consider offering bad customer service, but it's a totally viable option. Perfect examples would include theme parks, a monopoly, or a university. If there is a chance that your customer has no other choice but to do business with you, then by all means, feel free to "service" them accordingly. I use "service" in the strictest of ways in that last sentence--the George Carlin definition.

Here's my recent realization: Six Flags Over Georgia. I love Six Flags. Who doesn't? They have the best rides and attractions, awesome sights, special events throughout the year, water parks, and the most horrible customer service I've willingly paid for. I'm not going to tell you how to avoid this kind of service, because it's universally accepted.

Here are some ways that Six Flags Over Georgia provides horrible service:

  • The ticket and parking prices continually go up, year after year. Usually new rides are added each year to offset the cost. In some cases, rides are replaced, which some may consider doesn't warrant an admission hike. Another downside to rising parking costs is that Six Flags has a very horrible (sometimes nonexistent) shuttle service from the parking lot to the entrance.
  • During the summer months, they feed off of their guests uncomfortable positions (being in the heat, with refreshment prices being outrageous, and offering sparse public water options). Several attractions' lines don't even have shade from the sun. Some of these lines can be up to an hour long or longer.
  • Certain attractions charge an additional admission after you enter the park. Sometimes, these attractions just have to require the extra admission. The bungee-jumping hybrid comes to mind. It takes way too long to set up to be free. However some of the smaller admission-based attractions don't have an explanation behind the extra cost.
A simple response to these criticisms would be: "Well, gee, Kevin...You know you don't have to go to Six Flags." Of course I don't. I go because I choose to. This is more of an observation than a condemnation. Six Flags has created a genius business structure. Everybody loves amusement parks. If you don't, there's something wrong with you. By making slight or heavy discomforts that the customer mostly blames on nature or themselves, then you've got yourself more money and happy customers.

Six Flags doesn't allow outside food or drink (except water) inside their parks. This creates a cash cow in the way of concessions. Not a big deal, movie theaters, concerts, ballparks, and race venues do this all the time. It's reasonable. Six Flags even offers picnic tables at the farthest reaches of their parking lots for visitors who love to walk.

Six Flags has many attractions that are closed on any given day. A 65 dollar admission just got crushed by the closure of your favorite ride? Too bad. No refunds. I've never seen a posting outside of the gates telling customers which attractions are closed. Sometimes these are attractions that are advertised heavily on TV, billboards, at fast food restaurants, and on the radio that many people really want to see/ride.

Many of their employees act like robots because they aren't paid very well. This can be said about many companies, though. People are the most valuable asset to a company most of the time. In Six Flags case, their regular teenage worker doesn't get paid enough to care. These workers are easily replaceable. Who doesn't want to work at an amusement park?

I wrote this only because I recently went to Six Flags Over Georgia, but I'm sure you can replace Six Flags Over Georgia with pretty much any amusement park. But, what do I know? I'm just a man on the internet with an opinion. I'll probably go back sometime this season.

Oh, please tell your friends about this blog. I'm sure I'll fill it up with stimulating content in no time at all.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A modest start...

Welcome everyone. Readers of my personal blog, welcome. New readers...welcome!

To start, I made this in order to organize all of my ideas that aren't really personal in nature. They're actually more along the lines of human-relations, finance, and entrepreneurship. Sometimes, I'll throw in a little about my hobbies--such as gaming and technology.

To post proper, I'd like to propose ideas for how to do well in an interview. I'm writing about this because I've recently had several interviews for different jobs. I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you know that you should always dress at least in business-casual for an interview. I guess if you're interviewing for a dairy farmhand position, that really wouldn't be the case, but whatever.

In every interview I've ever been in, I kept getting similar questions. Now, I'm no stranger to the interview process, but I'm writing more as an information source/collaboration source than from a questioning standpoint.

First off, the questions. Obviously the most commonly asked question from McDonald's up to Microsoft is going to be:

"Why do you want to work for [insert company name]?"

Never answer with: "I don't know." or "I guess...[uncertain reason]."

These are destined to fail. Perhaps, if the job isn't too important, your future employer may not mind your indecisiveness. On the chance that it's a very important position, you may find it a hard sell. I'd suggest something more along the lines of:

"I realized I wanted to work for [company] when...[short, detailed story]."

In this scenario, you'll be telling the interviewer about a turning point in your life/attitude/career that made you want to seek out their company for employment. Even if you don't actually want to work for that particular company, but you just really need a job, think of something that will catch their attention. It doesn't have to be mind blowing, but give it some thought. This isn't the only way to impress your interviewer. Try using specific things you've heard about the company--positive things--that would make your argument convincing.

Applying at a roofing company in the sales department? Mention how you've heard that their shingles pass regulations with flying colors whereas their competitor's shingles scrape by with the bare minimum, and that the company you want to work for has to show that sort of integrity and value in all of their products. Spice it up. You can make the most drab job description seem glamorous and high-tech if you want to.

Another good idea during the interview is to ask the interviewer questions. For every one of his/her questions, you should have a question ready for when the ask you "Do you have any questions?" It can be simple such as: what color inks are okay to use in the office, when breaks are scheduled and for how long, dress code questions, even how the interviewer likes their job. Just come up with something. It's not hard.

Lastly for this post: if, by the end of the interview, you realize that you absolutely do not want to work for the company, let the interviewer know. You don't have to be rude about it. If the interviewer says "I'd like you to come back on Monday for a follow-up," politely decline. You're interviewing the company just as much as they're interviewing you. If they just say "We'll keep in touch," you don't really have to say anything to the contrary. Just say "Thank you," and leave. If you're a thinking adult, you can probably figure out when this technique needs to be used.

And don't forget: never stop searching until you find something that's right for you.

P.S.: I'm absolutely not an expert in any of this. To reach me via email: kevin.franklin.atl@gmail.com