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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Blackberry crap… The saga continues…

Posted by tggokul on August 24, 2009

My problem with blackberry still continues though it is more than a week that I first reported a problem. Not a single person has responded to my problem. I have called into their contact center three times already and everytime I have escalated it to a supervisor who has escalated it internally (or that is what they claim), but I still don’t have an engineer visit me.

The supervisor I talked to today has promised that his notes say that the engineer will visit me for sure tomorrow and if I don’t hear from them I am cancelling my data plan and throwing my blackberry into the sea. This is crazy shit which I did not expect from Airtel or Blackberry. I have been truly driven to the brink of desperation and I truly feel helpless. I only wish someday I can return this favour to both these incompetent entities.

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Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Blackberry Service Sucks

Posted by tggokul on August 20, 2009

It is not even a year since I bought my Blackberry curve and let me be honest, I loved it. But not anymore. Thanks to the crappy service Blackberry offers here in India.

So 4 days before (Monday), I have a problem with the scroll button on my blackberry, the problem is I can go down, right, left but can’t scroll up. And any blackberry user would know that is as good as not having a phone. For others, think of it this way. You are reading through a message and you want to go up, but can’t!!!!

So I call up their customer (dis) service 7070 and I get a representative who raises a ticket and promises me that a person will handle this in the next 24 hrs. So I wait for a day and a dude from a local service center calls me (This is Tuesday) and says he has got my ticket and he will send me a local guy the next day!! (Wednesday) Brilliant, I think. He has fulfilled his SLA of the 24 hrs but at the same time has not fixed my problem. And this is here it gets better. He asks me about the problem and I tell him the scross is not working and he is like, yeah thats is a common problem and to be honest Blackberry is not a good product in a polluted country like India!!! Wow, so much for the confidence. Anyway he promises me to send an engineer the next day morning.

I wait, wait and wait.. nobody turns up Wednesday morning and so I call them up Thursday morning (same 7070) and the apologetic representative says, our records show that he must have been there Wednesday morning and I was like that makes two of us!! Anyway she promises to send me a person asap.

So Thursday afternoon, I am in meetings and a technical guy turns up at my office without even giving me a heads-up. Had he called to find out whether I was available I would given him a suitable time. But after all customers are the idiots and the vendors are kings, right!! So he turns up and calls me a hundred times. I didn’t pick up and then he SMSes me that he is there and I need to meet him. I told him that I am in a meeting and its going to take me time.So fifteen minutes later, he calls me again and then smses that he has other things to do and can’t wait and f**** leaves!!!!

I can’t believe that here I am paying so much first of all for a piece of crap which “is not suited for Indian conditions” and then month on month paying a hell lot as data charges and then being told by a technician that I have to wait more. I only wish I can do such things to my customers. I would have lost my job the next day.

So I call up “7070” and I tell them this and they are like we will escalate it. I said I want to escalate it and they say, well our systems don’t allow that. We can have a guy come and meet you tomorrow. Only thing, I am travelling tomorrow, so I have asked for a technician on Saturday!!

I am extremely disappointed and I swear to god I am going to throw away this piece of crap at the first instance and have a Nokia 1100. Never had problems with that ever. This is getting extremely frustrating. If any of you guys are in India and are planning to buy Blackberry, you might want to think twice. Their service sucks and from what I hear there are not a whole lot of service centers in India.

Posted in General | 3 Comments »

A Next Gen Contact Center

Posted by tggokul on April 22, 2009

I am back after travelling for two weeks within the US and most of my time was spent at iQor, a BPO customer (outbound collections) of my current employer. My guys have been involved in some of the  work there within iQor, and they were raving about the vision and goals of iQor. Well, as the saying goes you can take Gokul away from technology, but never take the technologist away from Gokul 🙂 And so, I planned a visit to see what these guys were upto.

Even before I  got to know the different technology initiatives iQor was working on, what intrigued me the most was the fact that a BPO was actually investing so much time and money in innovation. The typical BPOs I have been dealing with for the last few years have always looked at vendors ( could be the product vendors like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel, or at SIs like ourselves) to guide them on technology and in fact they have gone to the extent of saying that they are not interested in technology at all and all they care about is being insulated from the obsolescence of the technology. But not iQor.Their technology team pushes whatever platform they are working on to the hilt and then develop applications on top of that would make more sense to their business and eventually be cost effective. So if they faced a problem in the solution provided by the product vendor, what do they do? Develop customized applications!!

I can’t write too much about their applications since that is proprietary information. But for example, since they are an outbound collections BPO, predictive dialing is most crucial to their business and they have developed an algorithm internally that will enhance productivity of the agents. They have simplified the agent desktops ( IP Blue phone with screen pop) and what the agent sees is most optimal to increase his/her productivity.

On the contact center platform front, they have written applications that will help dramatically in MAC (move/add changes). When you are talking the size of iQor agents (close to 7000), it is a support nightmare if the removal/addition/reskilling etc has to be done manually. iQor has developed an interface that ensures that human errors are minimal. Automation of processes are key in all of iQor’s initiatives and that mantra holds good in the platform as well.

There is a push to use open source in all of their technologies (including enterprise applications like HR/finance) to make operations much more cost effective. Virtualization of applications is critical since not only does it reduce cost but also ensures “free seating” in the real sense of the word. An agent is the same agent irrespective he is in India/US/Philippines and isn’t that one of the very premise of Unified Communication? A real Unified Contact center in some sense. Oh btw, no surprises, agents login via biometrics 🙂

I for one believe once iQor fully implements these solutions, it should try packaging these solutions to other BPOs as well. Reference sites are always a big challenge for product companies. But when you have solutions that are tried and tested in a 7000 seat contact center, you don’t have worry about your solution’s performance!!!

I won’t be surprised if product vendors start looking at these solutions and start adding them to their product suite. Sooner or later all BPOs are going to have a need for those features that iQor needed in the past, and the product vendors need to be cognizant of that. Technology is a big chunk of BPOs cost and every attempt to improve performance of these technologies at the same cost would only help these BPOs. iQor just did that on their own and it is only fair to say they run the next gen contact center in more ways than one!!!

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

IP world v/s Green?

Posted by tggokul on February 4, 2009

With the whole world talking about greener devices/Applications, I am kind of wondering whether people who evangalized “IP” as a platform for communication kept this in mind. Let me tell you why this thought.

I don’t see one single Message Packet either in SIP/H323/MGCP that will enable the server to switch off the endpoints when they are not active. Isn’t that weird? Now lets say that as a monitoring application, I find out that an IP Phone ( could be using any of the above signalling protocols) has not been used (maybe in a conference room) for “x” days, shouldn’t I have the option to switch it off remotely? Shouldn’t there be a protocol that supports this action?

At a much larger level, is there a “Green” protocol at all? Maybe a protocol that will exchange power consumption data between the server/endpoint that will enable an administrator to make informed decisions.

I am seeing something equivalent to a GMS ( Green Monitoring System) similar to an NMS (Network Monitoring System) that would exchange power related data and the adminstrator could take decisions based on that. The devices under control could be anything from a tubelight to a washing machine. It is just not communication devices that are becoming smarter. Consumer electonics are equally there as well.

The need of the hour is to create one such protocol. Not sure whether anybody is working on that.

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS | 5 Comments »

QoS Gone Mainstream?

Posted by tggokul on November 19, 2008

I was very surprised when my teenage niece was talking about how great QoS was. I had no idea that she even knew what it was. Imagine my embarassement when she explained that QoS was Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond flick 🙂

Needless to say, technology is still in the hands of capable nerds and geeks 🙂

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Custommerce India Chapter 5

Posted by tggokul on October 23, 2008

I had a chance to be part of the Custommerce India Chapter 5 which was held at Leela,Kovalam last weekend. Essentially Custommerce is a movement that would address the challenges faced by all parties involved in the Customer Interaction space. Good vision, you would say.

I am not going into the actual event ( you can catch all the action here). Geet Sethi’s presentation was in tune with his achievement and his mantra that excellence cannot be obtained by passion but only through pure undeterred obsession was delivered with so much conviction that you couldn’t agree otherwise.

So here are my thoughts. I have no second thoughts on enriching CIM ( Customer Interaction Management) but where I defer from most ( including most of the participants in this forum) is that CIM is looked at from the perspective of the previous and the current generations. When we talk about CIM, words like personalization are thrown rather freely today. My contention is that it is the “legacy” in our minds that is talking all these and we are caught in the web of our own thoughts.

Does the next generation actually care about all these? My dad would put up with the idiosyncrasies of his bank because there was a personal touch. Our generation gets carried away by the “Birthday/Wedding cards” we receive from vendors. We are already tired with all this and the only thing that matters is performance. How good are you in solving my problem when I reach out to you? What can you do for me? These are the only things we care about.

Again, my dad’s interaction with his bank was through the branch office. Our medium is through the web ( email/chat). What would be the next medium? Has thoughts been given to that? My pet theory has been that the contact centers as we know it are dead, the world is your contact center. Are the CIM experts talking the same language and I don’t think so.

So, here I was in the meet talking to one person and I asked him the following question. “Given two equal products, there is no doubt, you will go with the product with a better customer service. Thats a no brainer. But lets talk about one brilliant product with an excuse of a customer service and a good product with exceptional customer service. Which one would you select and which one do you think the next gen would select?”. His answer was “Both the next gen and I would select the one with the exceptional customer service”. Now he can speak for himself. But talking about what the next gen would pick, isn’t that a little presumtuous?

The last session was a brainstorming session on what needs to be done to generate the moss for Custommerce and I suggested that we have a youth chapter as well that would thankfully bring in new ideas. They know the pulse of their generation more than anybody. They would tell us that if customer service goes awry, they would blog/facebook about it and damage the reputation of a company at a faster pace. They would tell us what they want from CIM and not what they would have to settle with.

If custommerce has to gain momentum, the average “Joes” and “dudes” have to be included. It needs to be the forum where their voices are heard. A custommerce blog where people from various walks of life could contribute might be a good start. As the page hits increase, the corporate world would start taking notice.

A request to the organizers. There was no representation from the digital media this time around and would be great if some bloggers are invited as well. Live blogging would have been an awesome mechanism to get the Custommerce word out and spread the awareness.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Going above and beyond

Posted by tggokul on September 18, 2008

Disclaimer : What I have expressed in this post are not views but rather questions that I don’t have answers for. This post was triggered by something that I happened to witness recently.

Two guys X and Y are working on something and they come to a point where there is an external dependency which “Z” has to be fulfil. Due to unavoidable circumstances, Z is not available and if they have to continue X and Y would have to do something that they are not familiar with or something they don’t want to do. Without this activity getting completed, they cannot go about doing their work. They have an option. Either of them or both of them combined could do this work (assuming they know how to do this) or they could raise it to the person who is supposedly responsible for making Z available. X says that they need to do the first option, Y says that it is not his job and walks off.

Question No. 1 : Who did the right thing?

The first impression would be that Y was not being a team player and walked off when he could have assisted X. X went above and beyond the call of duty. Now a small twist, what if Y is extermely competent if not the best person to do the job he is doing? What if he is extremely diligent in the work he has been assigned to and would never rest till his job gets done? Would you call him a person who walked away? He goes above and beyond in what he does, is it really wrong to walk away when he is asked to do things which do not fall under the realm of his responsibility?

What is team work? Is it doing your job well and assisting people when they are having problems or is it filling in for another person when the situation demands? Isn’t Y in some sense being extremely professional? I am not sure how many people reading this post actually follow football (Americal football,NFL). It is supposed to be the best example of team work. And you know where is the emphasis? Making sure the specific player does his assigment ( or his job) the right way? A linebacker’s single goal is to mark a receiever/Running Back and stick with him. History shows that people who botch their assignments the least are the all time greats.

So doing your job well and making sure the team does not stutter on your behalf, isn’t that not teamwork? Does a person have to go above and beyond to prove what a valuable asset he is? Have we all started expecting “above and beyond”? Is “above and beyond” the new average? The biggest problem with over achievers has been that they expect the same from others.

Let’s say that the same X and Y were working for company A and they are delivering a project to customer B. The services that A offered were for 10 days but both X and Y went above and beyond and completed the task in 5 days. Company A is very happy since its employees went above and beyond. Now lets say customer B asks X and Y whether they could do something extra since their business requires it. X goes above and beyond and does it without charging the customer. Customer B is happy and maybe even company A since it has got a satisfied customer. Now lets say that Customer B comes up with these requests 5 more times and X has fulfilled all of them without charging anything extra. As far as customer B is concerned, X has gone above and beyond, but I can see company A fuming since they are not getting paid for the services. I am sure company A would ask X to tone it down. Y on the other hand would have refused to do anything extra because it did not fall under his scope of work. He might not have a good rapport with customer B, but isn’t he actually helping company A?

As a company it is equally dangerous to over-deliver as much as it is to under-deliver. Who is the more professional here? X or Y?  Some time ago, I was involved in the project where there was this large System Integrator, a huge MNC product company and a small Indian services company ( I will not disclose which team I was in 🙂 ). The System integrator was putting together the product of the MNC company and was using the services of the smaller Indian company. There was a meeting on a Sunday where the progress of the project was supposed to be discussed and the system integrator asked the engineers from the MNC as well as the small company to come for that. The senior engineer from the MNC said that it was not his job and the Single Point of Contact from his company ( A program manager) would be there. The large System Integrator could do nothing about this. The entire team was filled with Indians other than that Senior Engineer who was a Caucasian. When he refused, the entire team including senior management in the System Integrator team accepted that the guy was being professional and everybody seemed to accept that.

Fast forward couple of weeks from then. A similar meeting was arranged and a senior engineer from the smaller Indian services company refused to attend the meeting citing personal reasons. This was escalated to very senior levels and this person was branded as a non Team-player.

So is this differentiation based on culture? Is it ok if a caucasian does this but not an Indian? Was this differentiation made because of the size of the companies? We will never know.

It has been a long rant and I know I have raised a lot of questions. My gut feel is that there are no right answers. What do you think?

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

God has the world’s best business plan!!!

Posted by tggokul on September 18, 2008

I want to be God.

Let’s take an example of a company which has a whole lot of customers and loyalists. The company provides 50% of the time expected results and rest 50% treats them like crap and these customers wish they were dead. Now would a company like that be in business in today’s world?

There is and it is run by “God”. How many times have I pleaded with him for better results? How many times I have waited in line to reach an agent? His customer service sucks. Yet I don’t even think of leaving him. But then what are my choices? The competitor ain’t too great. While God demands an arm and a leg ( and in the special case of Adam a “rib”), the damn Devil wants my soul.

So now you know why I want to be God. He has got the world’s best business plan and retention strategy 🙂

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IP Termination is just a myth

Posted by tggokul on August 28, 2008

There seems be a lot of hype going around of late about how IP Termination is about to get legal in India. I had to wake up from my slumber and respond to this in my blog. Let me make myself clear. I am not brushing this announcement because I am not convinced about this, but to temper expectations. I heard people saying things like there are no more restrictions to terminate calls originated on IP to PSTN lines and I want to say how far from the truth we are.

My first reaction to this announcement was cynicism since TRAI had recommended this 3 years ago as well and the telecom operators convinced DoT to reject TRAI’s suggestion.This is a similar recommendation that has again been placed before DoT.

What the news clippings suggest is the rosy picture. What they don’t say is that all the Telecom operators have already filed a lawsuit that will prevent this from becoming a law. The reason is simple. These Telecom providers have paid 1650 crores each to get these licenses and the new Internet Service providers are paying 0. What the telecom operators are asking for is for a leveling field. Which means the following, if the new ISPs want to play this game they have to pay the same amount for the licenses or if DoT wants to go ahead and implement this TRAI recommendation, they would need to give these licenses to the existing operators. I know for sure Airtel is atleast ready to do this.

Sadly to say, there will not be any impact whatsoever in the way we communicate in the near future. And even in the distant future what I see is, IP calls landing on the PSTN would be permitted, only if the current telecom providers (namely Airtel, Reliance) are also the ISPs. That is how I see it.

So if somebody says that all is well in this world of “Walled garden” ask them to wake up and smell the coffee. But I have hope that this might happen and I have stated the reason in one of my earlier post as well. This can become a reality only when the players feel that they are playing the same field and ADC has to go for that.

Posted in General, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | 8 Comments »

When plain old whacking works!!!

Posted by tggokul on June 27, 2008

I am a firm believer that machines are becoming more like people because of the amount of interactions that take place between Humans and machines has become multi-fold. OK, I accept I sound like a nut. But check this out.

MY four month old DSC-T70 Sony Digital Camera, started giving me some problems. Whenever I switched on the camera, I got the error E:61:00 and I couldn’t take pictures at all. There was no mention of that in the Manual other than the fact that it was an “out of focus” error and has to be given for servicing. I decided to see what others though about this problem and I reached this site.

The fix for this problem was a simple giving a whack to the camera. I honestly thought this was a prank being played but their seemed to alteast 50-60 people who seemed to have done it. I decided to try it out ( since it was anyway under warranty) and couple of smacks later (whacked it on the back of a book), the error went away and it as good as new!! In fact it could be my imagination. I think the clarity is better as well!!

Now you tell me, aren’t machines becoming more like humans?

Posted in General | 19 Comments »