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Friday, November 13, 2009

Service Encounters #1

This is something I shared with my Database and Internet Marketing class, but I'd like to share it with you guys too.

Customer Relationship Management has become critical to the success of firms that provide either product or service offerings. Many firms have large numbers of customers and several touch points at multiple geographic locations and it is highly unlikely that a customer will be served by the same front-line staff on two consecutive visits, yet the consistency of the service has to be ensured for healthy CRM.

Traditionally, banking services have taken care of high-net worth clients. In private banking, for example, Bessemer Trust Company targets families with a minimum of $5 million in investable assets who want capital preservation combined with wealth accumulation. However, most retail bankers might find it difficult to differentiate themselves, and this is where a sound CRM can help. Financial services may end up having incorrect cross-sell opportunities and potential regulatory compliance issues if they are not well aware of their customer needs and preferences.

When my elder brother got his admit for his Masters in Carnegie Mellon, I was surprised by the efficiency of say, Bank A, in calling him up to discuss a suitable offering of a student loan. He did not need it at that time.

My experience with another Bank B was however, completely different. My friend needed to transfer online some money she owed me, and could not figure out how to do it, even though the account details and other essential information were provided. I called up the customer service to help her out, and since it was a considerable sum, paying back in cash would have been impractical for both of us. The first executive I talked to was extremely rude and couldn’t provide any solution. I considered changing my bank account for a moment, even though I considered she might just be having a bad day.

I decided to call again, hoping another executive would be more helpful. This time, she tried her best to help me and though I got the solution from another friend while I was on call, the attitude of the second executive changed my perception about the banking organization.

Another experience with Bank C was almost equally confounding. When I took leave without pay from my job to prepare for an exam, Bank C refused to let me use my account to transact money. My boss wouldn’t let me resign but I couldn’t use my corporate bank account either, though there was a considerable sum in the savings account. At that time, I had only one credit card with that bank and to say the least, I was in a fix. I talked to a service executive but she said she could not help owing to the nature of my account and I had to visit another state to resolve the issue. I got bailed out of the situation soon and decided to cancel my account with Bank C. A couple of months later, they emailed me offering me great savings for opening a NRI account, claiming they knew exactly what I needed!

While I have been not very conscious of my consumer rights (maybe it is a cultural thing), and I have learned to ask for my rights only after I landed in US, I have always taken my banking services seriously- obviously because that is where my money is.

Both the experiences showed inconsistent service encounters and bad CRM implementation- one I’d attribute to bad training, the other pure difference in interest. It is ironical because banks are the institutions that customers ought to feel most loyal to, and most secure about.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

FarmVille: for beginners (& late adopters)

I have started waking up early again, to harvest my crops before they wither.. well.. in my little farm in FarmVille (beta version) on Facebook. I tried to stay away as long as I could. I have been hooked on to enough games and applications (from Lara Croft to Bonsai Blast) to know it is bad for you, unless taken control of. But like I mentioned it to one of my friends who finally got rid of FarmVille updates from his news feed, 'it is like crack, you know shouldn't and that is what tempts you.' (Though I never have and never will do drugs)

So, after what was supposed to be the last mid-term week of my life, I decided to see why everyone is so hooked on to it.(There are currently 63,543,438 monthly active users worldwide.)

It all started with my real-life neighbor, giving away a lost, black kitten on Facebook. It reminded me of the kitten I had adopted as a kid. (Aww, isn't she cute?) But now, it wasn't enough, if you took it, you have to give it a home right? Jump in. And suddenly, you are in the league of the jobless people you thought have no better/more productive work to do.

You can raise trees, plow and plant seeds of fruits & vegetable, watch them grow (don't stare too long) and harvest them when they are ready. Ask your FarmVille friends to help you, while you help your neighbors and earn experience points (xp) and coins in the process. You can also gift your neighbors and hope they will be kind enough to return the favor. (My cousin gave me my first horse which I really treasure)

There is a market you can buy stuff from - right from seeds, trees, animals to decorations. Some have limited editions- I own two green BOV1NE-09 cows, which look like they are from outer space. The app also had crop circles for a while. Some farm elements can only be gifted.

You can develop your own strategies to expand your farm; different crops have different profit margins per harvest. You can make your own portfolio of crops, animals, & trees. Investing in decoration in the initial levels is not wise, but I so wanted a small pond, I ended up spending 5000 coins for it.

The trick is to know your real-time log-in times and plan accordingly, 'cause the crops wither if you do not harvest them after full bloom. Fertilized crops yield more xp and look fuller when reap. But you can't fertilize your own crops, so use the goodwill currency. Do unto others what you want to be done to you.

I have visited a couple of farms which have withered crops, but that probably means you are busy somewhere else, which is good. Someone mentioned that it is a stress-buster. I agree, as long as it is not eating away into your work hours.

I wish Zynga would make FarmVille Android-friendly so that I could play it from my G1. Do they have an iPhone version yet?

Feel free to share your own tricks. Happy farming !

FarmVille Fact: Sweet Seeds for Haiti (Sweet Potatoes) was a success and over $583,000 was donated to impoverished children and their families in Haiti.