Monthly Archives: September 2006

Making the Switch…

Every day people contact us to change their software from one device type to another, Palm to Pocket PC, Pocket PC to Smartphone, Smartphone to Palm, etc.  I’m curious to know what drives this switch.  What single thing, or combination of things, makes people drop a perfectly usable, high-dollar device and buy a different one?

I started out PDA-dom with a Palm Kyocera 6035, but when I spent more time banging it on the desk in frustration than actually using it, I started looking at other devices.   I looked very hard at the Pocket PC phones, but the ones with the functionality I wanted were outside my price range (I will only pay so much for something I can lose or trash so easily!).  The interface for the Windows-Powered Smartphones gives me hives, so they weren’t even in the running, and that brought me right back to Palm.  Surprisingly, to me at least, the Treo suits my needs pretty well.

So what makes people switch to a completely different operating system?  Is it the promise of “better, cooler, faster”?     Is it “I hate this device, so that one has to be better”?   How much of your device choice is based on actual functionality of the device (“gotta have a phone and a thumb keyboard”), and how much is purely personal preference (“the Pocket PC is so easy to use, but the Palm is so alien!”)?

eWallet 5.0 Beta About to Commence!

ewi2a.jpgThat’s right! We’re about to start a full beta on eWallet 5.0. We’re very excited about the new features and look forward to getting reaction from our customers! One truth of software development is that sometimes things look amazing from our perspective, but once it hits the masses we discover that the “great idea” is far less impressive from a user point of view. Hence the need for a good beta run!

The beta group will include a very select bunch of people but we do have open slots so if you’re interested drop a line to beta@iliumsoft.com . Not only do we need our usual group of Palm, Pocket PC, and Windows Mobile Smartphone folks, but we’re also looking for people who don’t use a PDA at all anymore.

Arrrr! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

captainmarctassin.JPG Ahoy there! Unless ye’ve been stranded on a desert island, ye know that today is Talk Like a Pirate Day . The crew here at Ilium Software want to wish all of ye good sailing. And to celebrate, we’ve created this special InScribe 2007 keyboard layout just for pirates! (Ye can spy InScribe 2007 here if ye haven’t already!)

Also, be sure to check out the booty offered by our mates over at Astraware. They’ve got some special offers on Pirate Software ye might like! May the wind be at yer back and yer powder stay dry.

InScribe is Now Available!

InScribe IconIt’s done! InScribe 2007 is finished and it’s now available for download. And the best part (besides being a really great piece of software) is that it’s FREE! That’s right. Call us crazy but we’ve decided to offer InScribe 2007 for free. Just pop over to our website and you can download it from there!

I also want to take a second to thank everyone who helped to make this possible including everyone here at Ilium Software (it’s always a group effort at Ilium Software!), our fantastic beta team, JkOnTheRun, and of course Lora, Ken, and Elliot over at Microsoft. It was a lot of work and at times a bit of a whirlwind but we’re really proud of the result.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy!

Getting Picked Up in L.A.

Not, as you might think, that some guy in the street tried to strike up a conversation, but that Randy Eisenmen, Handango’s CEO, for some reason decided to lift me up about 2 feet when he gave me the Handango Champion Award we won for eWallet. To say I was shocked doesn’t even begin to cover it – no one has tried that in many years. Apparently I looked so freaked out that he had to send someone over to ask if I was OK (I was fine. I was worried about him – I was having visions of him falling over, and seeing headlines like “Ilium Software Exec Kills Handango CEO”. I’m short, but I’m really not all that small). Anyway, it was lots of fun. Someone asked Randy why he’d picked me up (everyone else just got hugs or handshakes) and he was blaming Ken Landau from LandWare, who won the award before ours (congratulations, Ken), but I’m pretty sure that was just an excuse. If companies get their personalities from their CEOs, I can certainly see why Handango is so high-energy.

Of course I was delighted that eWallet was again recognized by the judges as one of the top mobile apps (and by the user community as being worth the nomination). And of course I was overjoyed that InScribe (which we’ll be releasing this month) was picked by the judges of the UMPC contest as one of the 3 best programs submitted for the UMPC. Both Marc and I are really excited by the UMPCs, and very happy that InScribe was recognized. And now that we’ve won another UMPC (courtesy of Microsoft, thank you to them), I might actually get a chance to use it.

The whole Summit was lots of fun – thanks, everyone at Handango. I got to meet some very interesting people, catch up with some old friends, and even listen to a few presentations. As well as eat and drink too much. Everything made it back, including the new hardware, all the swag (what was that thing from Verizon?) and of course the Champion Award, which is now in its place of honor on our awards bookcase. It’s a good thing my suitcase expands, but not so good that I do.

Once again, many thanks to Handango, the sponsors and the judges.

Customer Service Etiquette

In eleven days, I will have been working for Ilium Software for two years exactly. I think. I’m really bad at numbers. In those two years, I have slowly drifted towards being something of a Good Customer Support advocate. Now that we have a blog, I can actually say something about what goes on in my head.

I get to be on both sides of the fence when it comes to customer support. I’m a customer getting support from other companies, and I provide support to our customers. Some people probably don’t reconcile this state very well; I can’t imagine that spammers are delighted to sift through spam email every morning while they have their coffee and wake up, nor can I imagine that telemarketers are very pleased when someone selling vinyl siding interrupts their dinner. 

I can’t stand receiving poor service, though, and I don’t want to give it to anyone else. I also can’t stand it when other people describe poor service, or describe the way they treat customers/service reps.

As a result, I’ve come up with this guide to Customer Support Etiquette, for both sides. It’s not very complete, but it’s a good start.

Customer Etiquette

  • Be polite. You don’t have to be cheerful, but don’t be a jerk. Say, “I’m unhappy, why did this happen?” Don’t say, “What are you trying to do, rob me?”
  • Don’t call the representative names. Unleashing a string of profanity at a service rep won’t do anything except indicate that you are angry, and that you are very likely to be unreasonable. Interestingly, I have never had this happen here at Ilium Software, but I did have to hang up on someone who was screaming into the phone at my previous job. An exception to this rule is if you are trapped in an obnoxious telephone menu system – some people have noticed that if you start swearing at a phone system, it drops you to a human.
  • Know when to walk away. Sometimes, hassle isn’t worth the effort you put into it.  If you are in line at the grocery store and you are hassling the clerk about how your hot dogs came up the wrong price, and the line is fifteen people long behind you, getting your forty cents back is going to cost fifteen people their time and the anguish of listening to you complain while their ice cream melts.
  • Know when to push. It’s like that song by Kenny Rogers – know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and I won’t go on with the rest of the song. If the answer is “No” the first time, asking a second time is probably not going to kill either you or the other person but they may change their tune. Ask a third time and you’re going too far.
  • Show respect. You are probably talking to a human being. What answers they give you may not be your own answers, but mandated by their employer. Understand this, and don’t give them too much of a hard time. I can’t say how many times I’ve read comments on websites where people completely tear up sales associates at retail stores. It might be annoying to be swarmed by sales people when you go to buy a CD, or asked to buy a service plan on something inconsequential like a small carrying case, but it’s not the actual person’s fault. This is actually a touchy issue – you might very well consider that it really is the person’s fault because they chose to work at that job. It should be somewhat evident if they are out of line, or just reciting drivel. Pity the drivel, stand up to behavior that’s out of line, and that is the meaning of respect in this case.
  • Do not treat CSRs as if they are automatically going to be a problem. Customer Service is not your enemy until proven as such. At its best, customer service is your best friend in the whole world. At its worst, it will drive you insane. It will not, however, kill you in the huge majority of cases. You will cause needless stress on both sides if you approach a service interaction as if the other person is going to try to destroy you.

 

Customer Service Representative (and company) Etiquette

  • Don’t insult the customer. No matter how stupid someone is or seems to be, never say anything about it and don’t throw them a line you’re not holding onto. Even if you have to stomp the floor and scream into a pillow when you get off the line, hold your tongue.
  • Break a rule to avoid making a scene. If you are faced with the choice of A) not meeting your retention quota, or B) standing your ground and ending up a figurehead for all that is wrong with customer service [Consumerist.com]  the correct choice is A. I don’t care if your boss says it’s B. It’s A. 
  • Don’t create CSR rules that only exist to help you maximize your profits. This one’s for companies – if you have created a rule that doesn’t just stem losses but tries to raise your profits with no necessary benefit to the customer, you’re opening yourself up for all kinds of ill will. See the link in the above bullet.  
  • Learn to speak. If.You.Sound.Like.You.Are.Giving.A.Book.Report.In.Third.Grade or you sound like You.Are.The.Magazine.Salesman.From.”Office.Space”, You.Might.Be.In.The.Wrong.Job. That said, by the end of the day my standard “Ilium Software, this is Kevin, what can I do for you?” greeting becomes impossible to say without stuttering.
  • Fix mistakes and apologize. If you make a mistake, fix it and say you’re sorry. If someone else makes a mistake, fix it and say you’re sorry. I recently had to talk to five different people at my cable company just to get my service properly moved from one apartment to the next. However, at the end, the rep apologized for the mess and fixed it. They didn’t blame me, they didn’t pass the buck, they said, “I’m real sorry that happened, I don’t know how they could have scheduled an appointment for before you called, everything is set up now, really, honest.”
  • Don’t give out useless compensation. “I’m sorry you had a bad time with us and now want to kill all of our service reps. Please accept this pointless gift card good only for something from the company you now despise, or this coupon that looks great but can’t be used for anything.” Bzzzt. Wrong answer.
  • Remember what a customer is. They’re paying your for something. You wouldn’t have a job without them.

Good News From the Handango Summit

We’ve just gotten two pieces of good news from the Handango Summit:

eWallet (Professional Edition) won the Handango Champion 2006 award for Best Application for Life on the Pocket PC platform. The Champion awards are Handango’s annual awards recognizing the top software in various categories. Users choose their favorite programs to be nominated, then the final awards are chosen by an independent panel of judges made up of industry experts in the mobile software field.

InScribe, which we’ll be releasing later this month for the new Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC) platform, was one of the 3 winning programs in Handango’s best new UMPC software contest. The 3 winning programs were selected by independent experts and Microsoft personnel as showing best utilization of the features and functionality of the new platform.

We’ll have more information soon – we’re still waiting for Ellen and Marc to get back from the conference, and for the official press releases from Handango, but we wanted to get the news out right away.

CTIA, Handango Summit, and a Long Weekend

Hi everyone! The blog has been a bit slow lately because we’ve been working feverishly on that UMPC product we talked about before (along with the updates to eWallet and ListPro that we’ve got in the works!) But the UMPC work is done, the beta is complete, and the final version should be out soon! We’ll be sure to let everyone know when it goes out.

A week from now I’m heading to California for the Handango Summit and the CTIA Wireless show. If you’re a blog watcher here and plan to attend either of those, let me know. I’d love to meet you and say “hi!”

And for all of our non-US readers, this coming Monday is Labor Day here so Ilium Software will be closed as we all take a nice 3-day weekend to kick back and recover from the big UMPC push! (And for all of our US readers, have a great Labor Day!)