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Post-hospitalization phone survey

March 17, 2007 7 comments

A few weeks ago I was in the hospital for a kidney stone.  They warned me that I might receive a telephone survey from an independent company about my stay.  “Sure” I replied, under the influence of dilaudid, “that would be fine.”  And they called me this morning, reading very slowly, clearly, and professionally from a script:

“Good morning Mr. Wiman, we’re calling to ask you about your outpatient visit to BroMenn Regional Medical Center on or about blah-blah something-something-something.  Would you rate the registration process at the hospital as excellent, good, fair, or poor?”

Uh, I really wasn’t part of the registration process.

“All right Mr. Wiman.  Would you rate the staff professionalism at the hospital as excellent, good, fair, or poor?”

Um, just say ‘excellent’ – in my experience if I say anything else it only leads to a lot more annoying questions.

“Not really, Mr. Wiman.  Now would you rate the care you received there as excellent, good, fair or poor?”

Look, I’m not going to stand here saying “Excellent” over and over again.  I just hate that word “excellent” for various reasons. Everyone did a fine job, I have no complaints

“All right Mr. Wiman, we won’t bother you again.  Thank you and have a nice day.”

“Excellence” is 21st-century Taylorism for the service industry.  Once the word “Excellent” infected corporate speech, nothing was ever not-annoying again.  Everything has to be “Excellent”.  If you say anything else, they come in with “What can we do to make sure your experience with our company is Excellent?  Please explain?”  So what if you thought the service was as good as could reasonably be expected from obviously tired people who were doing the best they could?  How can we push them harder?

The purpose of such multiple-choice adjective surveys is to boil a large pot full of data down to a nice mash of statistics for a PowerPoint presentation to be given at board meetings: ”…and 84.567 percent of our patients said staff professionalism was Excellent…”  Folks, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.  When a survey-taker has you on the phone, your one goal in life is to get off the phone. 

Surveys could be used to extract confessions from suspected terrorists; “Mr. Muhommed, would you say America is unjust, evil, terrible, or the Great Satan?”

“Aaaaugh!  I confess!  I did it, whatever it is!  Just let me hang up the phone!!!”

There is a large minority of the population from whom no usable data can be collected by surveys.  Some of us will play along, just giving the one answer that we know will result in the fewest number of clarifications and follow-up questions: “Excellent”.  A few will just say; “I don’t want to take a survey”. There are a lot of reasons for this; mine is that I simply hate giving simplistic answers to complicated questions. The result is that the final mash you pour into your PowerPoint presentation is basically meaningless because it omits a lot of reality.

It is an inconvenient truth of commercial life that really good satisfaction data on complicated services isn’t a linear quantity.  If you want to know how my hospital stay was, just ask me, and try to get the sense of my reply.  This means you’ll need very experienced people making the calls or reading the letters, and yes, Virginia, experienced people cost money.  But the multiple-choice survey is dehumanizing to me, and even more so, to your long-suffering employees. 

And for what it’s worth, BroMenn Regional Medical Center, everyone did a fine job; I have no complaints.  The next time I’m in agonizing pain, I will definitely consider going to BroMenn Regional Medical Center for my mortal-agony abatement needs.

Categories: business

Steve Jobs has an attack of common sense

February 6, 2007 6 comments

You know the problem: you download music, it has “protection” on it.  Move it from one machine to another the wrong way, or lose the wrong hard drive from your backup copies, and BZZT!!! there goes your encryption key.  Sorry, chump.  You had a thousand bucks worth of music, that took you forever to collect.  Now it’s gone.

And it’s all so unnecessary.  The encryption won’t stop piracy; it will only alienate legitimate customers.  Besides, copying and trading has always boosted sales in the long run.  And now Steve Jobs agrees with me.

Huh.  ‘Bout time he came around.  Why don’t these mega-rich super-geniuses ask me in the first place?  I coulda’ told ‘em.  :P

Update:  Here’s Jobs’ actual essay – he does a good ‘job’ of exploring the whole topic from several angles.  An excerpt:

…Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy….

 

Categories: business

Super Bowl Commercials ‘07

February 5, 2007 2 comments

For those who couldn’t suffer through the Super Bowl to see the Super Bowl Commercials, Here they are.  My favorites were:

  • Coke: “Videogame” – matches my natural optimism

  • Coke: “Happiness Factory” – just fun
  • Bud Light: “Reception” – the way I feel about weddings generally, even though I don’t drink beer
  • The Snickers ad with the two guys working on the car – funny take on two homophobic rednecks
  • Bud Light: “But he has Bud Light!” – horror movie spoof
  • Bud Light: “Dalmation Spot Wink” – Awwwww!
  • GM: “Obsessed with quality” – funny, but GM wouldn’t know quality if it bit them on the ass
  • Emerald Nuts “BoogeyMan” – I have always suspected this is true
  • Snapple: “Green tea big game day” – Doh!
  • …and of course, GoDaddy: “Marketing” – no wonder they’re the best domain registrar.  I have all my domains with them and their service is fantastic.

What were your favorites?

Categories: Advertising, business

“I give the directions around here.”

November 29, 2006 3 comments

Thinking about a Global Positioning System for your car?  Do you get a chuckle out of references to the movie, Deliverance?  NexTel has a commercial for you.

Maybe you had to have lived in the South to appreciate it…

Categories: Advertising, business

Perfect vacation spot

October 18, 2006 2 comments

S. Korean tourists are actually vacationing in North Korea

Not much development means unspoiled beaches.  The locals are delighted to see you, and the streets are quiet (no fuel!)  Sounds very relaxing if you don’t mind power outages, bugged hotel rooms, and the general creepyness of visiting a country led by a madman…

Categories: business

Terrorists: friend of Hollywood writers, and now small jet manufacturers

September 1, 2006 3 comments

In the movie, Die Hard with a vengeance, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have to find a “binary bomb” set by Jeremy Irons before it can dramatically mix the two liquids and blow up with catastrophic force. Why, just a drop of each chemical on the end of a toothpick is enough to blow a hole in the floor and bring a whole police precinct to its feet with guns drawn.  Moviegoers credulously believed there really are transportable liquids you could just mix together and ten seconds later… Ka-WHOOOOOOM! a giant hole in the ground. 

Or in the sky, with pieces of aluminum raining down on the ground.  Only thing is, the binary bomb is pretty much Hollywood nonsense.  This hasn’t stopped the tough-guy Blair/Bush/FoxNews administration from crowing about how we just narrowly dodged another 9/11, thanks to them having the courage to shred Democrats and their annoying “Constitution”.

As if.  But the “averted terror plot” does have an upside, if you make expensive executive jets.  See, as security measures become more onorous (though not necessarily any more secure), it just takes too long for executives to get in the air.  Thus is hatched a business opportunity:

Analysts say a suspected plot to blow up transatlantic airliners flying from Britain to the United States which sparked travel chaos on Thursday underscored the appeal of such jets, which typically seat fewer than 20 passengers.

Executive jets offer an alternative for busy executives or wealthy travelers who want to bypass crowded airport terminals by using quiet, smaller airports.
- CNN: Exec jet appeal grows in wake of plot

In the last 40 years, lightning has killed about as many people in the US as terrorism, but executives are still out there swinging their golf clubs.  And schmoozing about their new executive jets!  Can we get it in silver?  With the company logo on the side.

Next up: action movies about executives piling into their jet and being flown off to who-knows-where by their kidnapper/terrorist pilot.  The real pilot is stashed in a closet back in the hangar, but he wriggles out of his ropes in time to be accused of plotting the whole thing.  He escapes, knowing the only way to clear his name is to rescue his passengers single-handedly…

Categories: business

AIDS conference in Toronto

August 20, 2006 3 comments

BBC News reports on the 16th international AIDS conference in Toronto – Gates: Women key to AIDS policy

“Obviously the Aids epidemic is going to require all actors, particularly governments, to dig deep and make this a high budgetary priority,” he said, in remarks before the opening. And he said progress in the development of microbicides offered real hope to millions of people: “A woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life. There’s progress on these, but the pace has been too slow.”

His call was echoed by Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy on Aids in Africa: “To change the sexual behaviour of men is a question of generations. Women are dying now.”

It might not be a question of generations if the right kind of advertising is used.  Get Madison Avenue on the job.  Make men who refuse to use condoms look like the selfish little babies that they are.  Portray men who use condoms as the real grown-ups, the ones women really want to be with.  Make the ads clever and funny and use viral marketing techniques. 

In fact, that might be a pretty good alternate use of the $20m that they spent on the conference in Toronto.  (Of course, go ahead and develop the microbicides in the meantime anyway)

Categories: Advertising, business

I’ll be darned; that really IS Dr. Z in those Chrysler commercials

July 19, 2006 4 comments

When I saw Chrysler’s new commercials with “Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Mercedes” making humorous explanations of Mercedes engineering in new Chrysler cars, I just assumed he was some actor.  After all, he’s pretty darn smooth on camera.  His humor is very fine-tuned.  His mustasche is just a little too… He could be a stand-up comic or something. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, it’s really him.  He’s a really impressive guy: he’s an engineer, he speaks seven languages, he sailed the Atlantic in a sailboat, and yes, the mustache is real.  Who knew?

The commercials poke fun at Dr. Z.  A school child asks; “Is that mustache real?”  An exasperated film director reminds him of his lines and exclaims; “Actors!”  He ‘accidentally’ finds a J.D. Powers award in a Chrysler minivan.  The website, Ask Dr. Z is hilarious.

Sorry, Dr. Z, I like your commercials, but I still don’t think much of Chrysler cars or even of Mercedes.  The former have a long way to go, and the latter, while quite impressively engineered, are overrated for reliability and practicality of ownership.  And the local Mercedes dealer here is a jerk, too.  This is all from owners I know.

In fact, a friend of mine went online looking for a used minivan.  He wanted something less than three years old.  He found 1,400 Plymouth Voyagers… and one Honda Odyssey.  That’s not advertising hype, it’s a bunch of owners who paid big bucks for a new Voyager, and traded them in within three years.

My friend bought a new Honda Odyssey.  Don’t get him started, Dieter; he loves it.

Categories: Advertising, business

Coca-cola trade secrets!

July 6, 2006 3 comments

I was amused to learn that Coca-Cola’s trade secrets were stolen by three departing executives.  It seems they tried to sell what they had obtained, “papers and a liquid sample of a new product”, to PepsiCo, who assisted police in a sting operation.

Luckily for Western civilization, the famous “secret formula” of Coke’s flagship product, a dibetes-inducing syrupy sludge nearly indistinguishable from Pepsi’s sticky brown liquid, was not compromised.

I do like Diet Coke – it has a cleaner taste and doesn’t cause a sugar headache.  Or Diet Pepsi, whichever is five cents cheaper or served by the restaurant where I happen to be, and I drink a lot more tap water than either of them.  Do you suppose that advertising executives lay awake nights worrying about consumers like me?

Naah, they’re too busy ‘innovating’ all those exciting new products.  :-/

Categories: business

Elemental beauty

June 26, 2006 1 comment

Hu – the human element

This commercial was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw it.  As the 90 seconds ticked by, and the company’s name would clearly not be revealed at the very last moment, I thought to myself; “Please, don’t be a car commercial.  And please, don’t be Microsoft.”

Then the corporate logo came onscreen.  It was Dow chemical: the wonderful company that brought us Napalm and Agent Orange

There is a deep, emotional response to beauty.  Advertising companies know this.  I have seen Nike, Toyota, and Hyundai use the same technique.  Maybe in advertising, beauty is the new sex.

Categories: business