When Googling isn’t Good Enough

Google and other search engines have indisputably made our lives richer and easier, which is why Googling has become a verb (Microsoft could have chosen a better name for its search service, because Binging just doesn’t sound right.) Type in a phrase, find the information you need. Simple. Fast.

But what if the answer to your question doesn’t show up on the first page of search engine results?

That’s where the power of social networks can help. Real people helping you in real time.

I had such an experience earlier this week, when I noticed that the Calendar app on my iPhone was no longer there. I must have inadvertently deleted it. I went to iTunes and looked for it to reinstall, and couldn’t find it. I went to the iTunes store and searched for Calendar and got the opportunity to buy some other apps, but couldn’t get the one that came with my phone.

So then I searched on Google to no avail, or at least not quick enough avail to provide the instant gratification to which I (and I’ll bet most of you) have become accustomed. I clicked through a few of the search results and got nothing that told me what I needed to do.

So I went to Yammer.

Yammer is an internal social network limited to people who share your email domain. In my case, at Mayo Clinic, it’s a network of everyone with email addresses ending in mayo.edu.

So I went to the iPhone User Group in our Yammer network and posed the question. Here’s the whole conversation:

Start to finish, I got the answer in two minutes! And yes, it worked perfectly.

OK…so Jamie used Google to find the answer. Maybe he’s just better at phrasing his queries, and there is nothing wrong with Google.

But my point still holds: a social network can connect you with people who can help you find your answers.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Yammer curriculum section on SMUG.

Under-promise. Over-deliver.

Listening again last night to Guy Kawasaki’s book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, one of his tips on “How to Enchant Your Boss” was (and I’m paraphrasing because it was an audio book, so I’m not sure I got the quote exactly right):

Under-promise and Over-deliver. Only make promises you are 120-percent sure you can deliver in 80 percent of the time.

This applies in not only in the workplace, but in customer relationships as well. In fact, it’s probably just a good general rule to live by. I experienced the benefits yesterday when my iPhone 4S saga, previously detailed here, came to an end.

After my AT&T hassle and finally getting to the point where I could place my order through the Apple on-line store, I was told my new iPhone 4S would arrive sometime between November 4-14. I was a little disappointed in that because I will be leaving for a trip to Australia (with a couple of stops before I get there) on November 2.

But I at least had a target date.

Imagine my happiness when I got an email a couple of days ago telling me that my iPhone had shipped from Hong Kong, and that I could expect delivery October 31 by 10:30 a.m. I was able to click through to the tracking on FedEx, and saw that it had been picked up and was on its way.

And how much better it was when Lisa called me yesterday to tell me that she had just signed for a package from Apple!

Here it is:

This is the last photo taken with my iPhone 3G, and was featured in my ceremonial last tweet. All of my photos will be at much higher resolution from now on.

But this was a great example of Guy’s guidance.

  • I ordered my phone originally from AT&T and was told it would arrive in 14-21 days. When I checked in 14 days later, I found that my order had been cancelled and no one had notified me.
  • I ordered from the Apple store and was told it would ship in 7-14 days, and that I should allow 5 days for delivery. My phone arrived 5 days after I had placed the order.

How’s that for under-promising and over-delivering?

Customer service follies

It’s important not to write a blog post or Tweet in anger or frustration. Lots of people say you should count to 10 before you hit “publish” or send. I agree with this advice, and I took it in the case I’m about to share with you.

In fact, in this case I counted to 10 DAYS!

Here’s what I originally wrote on October 12, but didn’t publish. I’ll come back at the end with the update:


So I’ve ordered the new iPhone 4S. Really looking forward to it. I ordered the 32 GB model because I want to be able to shoot video, and I know 1080p HD takes lots of space. Here was the confirmation email I got from AT&T for my Oct. 7 upgrade order (click to enlarge):

In talking with some colleagues yesterday, I experienced buyer’s remorse: not that I don’t want the iPhone, but that I think I would rather have the 64 GB so I can shoot more video.

So I called AT&T customer service. After being told several times how important my call was over 15 minutes or so, I decided to try the online chat service option while I stayed on the line. Here is how it went:

Please wait for a site operator to respond.

You are now chatting with ‘Tyrell XXXXX’

Me: Can I switch from 32 GB to 64 GB on my iPhone order?
Me: I haven’t obviously gotten the phone yet and it isn’t shipped. I’m thinking it would be good to have the extra 32 GB
Tyrell XXXXX: Thank you for chatting in today Mr. Aase. I will be happy to assist you today with changing your order. May I have the last 4 of the account holder’s Social Security number?
Tyrell XXXXX: I will be right with you.
Me: Great…thanks.

With that hopeful sign, and being at the 25 minute mark of my call, I decided to hang up. After all, Tyrell was going to help me change my order.

Unfortunately, after I did that, the chat continued:

Tyrell XXXXX: You will have to call our Ecom customer care department that is our order department, We can help you make the change there. 866-391-0749 M-F:8:00 AM to 11:59 PM ET
Tyrell XXXXX: Sat:8:00 AM to 11:59 PM ET
Tyrell XXXXX: Sun:8:00 AM to 11:59 PM ET
Tyrell XXXXX: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Me: I was just on hold with them for 25 minutes. I hung up because you were on chat. I thought this would help me get it done. Now it seems I have to call and wait on hold again.
Tyrell XXXXX: I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll be right with you.
Tyrell XXXXX: I apologize Mr. Aase. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Tyrell XXXXX: Are you still with me Mr. Aase?
Me: Well, now I’m back on hold where I had called previously. Nothing else needed. Thanks.
Tyrell XXXXX: Remember you can always view and make changes to your account at att.com/mywireless.
Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.

Why did he need to know the last four digits of my social security number to tell me that I had to call customer service to make the change? If I’m chatting after having logged in with my account, why would Tyrell need to further identify me to be able to tell me that he couldn’t help me?

So I called the same number I had previously tried and held for another 20 minutes before someone who sounded suspiciously like “Peggy” answered.

I explained my request to change an order that hadn’t shipped, and “Peggy” said that because my order was still “In Process” he couldn’t make any changes. I would need to wait until my phone arrived. That call took another 25 minutes, and still with no resolution.


I was about to hit publish on this post on Oct. 12, but then I thought better of it. What if “In Process” means it is somewhere in the shipping pipeline? Maybe I would be getting my phone on the 15th or 17th, and things were just too far along for them to be able to stop it. So I just saved it as a draft.

My colleague at work who ordered his iPhone upgrade from the Apple store received his on Oct. 14.

I got an email Oct. 17 saying my order was still in process and would be delivered 14-21 days from the original order, which AT&T said was Oct. 10. I wasn’t going to quibble, even though I had an email dated Oct. 7 thanking me for my order.

I checked in again Oct. 18 to see if the status had been updated. It still said “In Process.”

So today, 15 days after ordering, I thought that by logging in I would at least get a ship date. Instead, I saw this status, with no explanation:

The note at the bottom said I should call an 800 number if I believe this happened in error, so I did. After a 37-minute call during which I briefly spoke with a young woman for whom English was clearly not her first language, but mostly was on hold listening to classical music, I was given an escalation number and told to expect a call back in 24 to 48 hours. She couldn’t tell me why my order would have been cancelled.

So I went back to my account and reviewed my contact details and noticed that instead of my address reading 800 4th ST NW it just said 800 4th ST. It was missing the NW. I updated that and gave AT&T another call, thinking the incomplete address was the problem.

This time I was told that since I already had an escalation number, I should wait for the call in 24 to 72 hours.

“Really? I was told before it would be 24 to 48 hours.”

The representative told me that since my order had been cancelled, I could order again. I responded that the AT&T site now said I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade, and asked if she could restore my eligibility. She did, and a couple of minutes later I checked my status and found that I now was eligible for an upgrade.

So this time I ordered the 64GB version, which is what I had wanted 10 days ago. And instead of black, I ordered it in white.

From Apple.

A few questions and observations:

Would it really have been impossible to change my order 10 days ago to enable me to get the product I had decided I really wanted? AT&T could cancel it for some reason (I’m still not sure it was the incomplete address) in the last few days. But yet it couldn’t cancel my order at my request and let me spend another $100.

I spent well over 90 minutes on hold with AT&T in four separate calls. I never spoke to someone who was fluent in English. This really hindered our interactions. I surely don’t blame the customer service representatives. They’re heavily scripted, and the systems they have don’t give them the information they need.

Online chat for customer service is great if you can really solve problems. But if you’re not going to be able to do account transactions, don’t ask for personal identifying information that gives the impression that you can help.

Couldn’t AT&T have sent me a text message when my order was cancelled? I get texts from the company for other reasons. Wouldn’t that have speeded the process in this case? I could have called back right away and gotten the issue resolved.

I’m not under any illusion that I have punished AT&T by ordering directly from Apple. That isn’t my intent in this post, either. I know that what AT&T really wants is the two-year contract extension. That’s where the company makes its money, not in the phone sales.

So this isn’t a call to Occupy AT&T. It’s meant as constructive feedback. I like being able to talk and surf simultaneously on my iPhone. I would rather not switch in two years when my contract is up. I hope AT&T improves.

One of the reasons for not switching to Verizon or Sprint was to avoid the hassle of making the change and porting my phone number. After 90+ minutes on hold with customer service, sticking with AT&T was not the hassle-free choice.

So now the Apple store tells me I should expect my new iPhone 4S sometime between Nov. 4-14, or up to a month later than what I would have gotten it if I had ordered directly from Apple in the first place, as my colleague did.

Resistance is Futile: Smartphone Apps Coming to Health Care

How Smartphones are Changing Health Care for Consumers and Providers is the topic of an excellent report just out from Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@HealthyThinker) and the California Healthcare Foundation. It begins…

The topic of smartphones in health is an intersection of two fast-evolving ecosystems: health and technology. The junction is a dynamic one in which a particular communications platform is advancing both consumers’ and providers’ engagement with health information technology.

The speed of the uptake has been remarkable for a nation that has been traditionally slow to adopt HIT…. Two-thirds of physicians used smartphones in 2009. About 6 percent of these were using a fully functional electronic medical record or electronic health record system — while only 1.5 percent of hospitals had a comprehensive electronic health record system as of 2008.

On the consumer side, 42 percent of Americans owned smartphones as of December 2009, despite the recession that began a year earlier. In fact, according to cnet, the smartphone market was “unfazed by the recession.”

I’m glad to have put Jane in touch with my colleague Scott Eising (@ScottEising), who is coordinating our Mayo Clinic mobile ventures, and that Scott’s comments are featured in her thought-provoking report.

Here are a few of the thoughts it provoked in me:

  • With such broad adoption of smartphones, corporate blocking of social networking sites in the workplace will be meaningless within a year. If two of three physicians – and more than two of five consumers – already have smartphones and can access the Internet, there is no way social network blocking can be effective unless employee phones are confiscated during work hours. Therefore it would be more profitable for IT departments to facilitate the right kind of social networking usage instead of trying to hold it back.
  • Rapid Growth. The low cost of developing smarthphone apps, combined with the amount of funding being devoted to health IT and the speed with which apps can be deployed, means we will continue to see rapid growth in innovation in apps for both providers and patients.
  • The iPad will make a significant difference in mobile health IT adoption. OK, it wasn’t really Jane’s report that provoked me to think this. I stopped at Best Buy and played with one. Beautiful device. Super fast. Great interface. I probably won’t buy one until the next generation (just as I waited until the second generation of the iPod and the iPhone 3g), but I see it really changing the way people interact with computers.
  • Is it Health Care or Healthcare? The report’s title is How Smartphones are Changing Health Care for Consumers and Providers but the sponsoring organization is the California HealthCare Foundation.

What other thoughts does the report provoke in you?

AED4EU and the Power of Twitter

Yesterday I posted a video in which Lucien Engelen (@zorg20) interviewed me about social media in healthcare, which he shot while I was his guest in the Netherlands earlier this month.

I interviewed Lucien that same day, asking him to tell the story about the mobile phone application for iPhone and Android that he had gotten developed and launched. It’s an augmented reality app that shows where the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) is located, using the phone’s location awareness. In the case of someone experiencing cardiac arrest, the ideal would be for one person to administer CPR while another bystander uses a smart phone to locate an AED that could shock the heart back into normal rhythm.


I could talk more about the application, but Lucien demonstrates it briefly in this video. More importantly, he tells the story of how Twitter enabled him to find a programmer to get the project done, and how much time that saved in development.

Twitter is an amazing tool for finding information, but more importantly making connections with people. Three weeks from first Tweet to completed iPhone application is pretty amazing. In the way of the Web 1.0 world, Lucien’s analysts would have had to identify a list of companies with programming capability, build a list and then send candidate companies a request for proposals. In the Twitterverse, he could just tweet the question, directed to no one in particular, and the answer found him in less than 30 minutes.

That’s serious productivity ROI!

How about you? What’s your best story of how Twitter helped you find information quickly?

Update: Here is the AED4.EU site.