Google E-Mail Outage – A Great Example Of Good Customer Service

Around 12:30PM PST yesterday Google had a pretty significant e-mail outage that lasted a little over an hour and a half.

For a heavily utilized service like Google, this is HUGE. There’s many businesses small and large that rely on Google e-mail to be functioning in order to get business done.

So now you may be wondering…How is this a great example of good customer service?

Stay with me for a sec on this…

Later in the day Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar for Google added  a post to the Gmail blog. In the post they not only accepted full responsibility for what happenned, but outlined what happenned (in the least techie way possible) and let people know what they were going to do to help keep it from happenning in the future.

It seems like so often tech companies and even non-tech companies skirt around issues and fail to accept responsibility for what they did or didn’t do. Then they fail to learn from their mistakes and repeat incidents, again not accepting responsibility or truly addressing what the core issues are.

Technology is hard to manage and hard to keep up. In my 16+ years in the tech field I experienced some of the same things as Google did yesterday – just on a smaller scale. Routine maintenance or procedures would lead to a major outage, even with lots of careful planning and back-up plans.

So the lesson for all businesses (both tech and non-tech) to learn from Google’s issue and Google’s response…

1. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more – Try to avoid over analyzing things, but always remember that anything can and often will happen, especially when you’re least prepared for it.

2. Work the problem…not the people – Focus on getting things working and back to normal, don’t start pointing fingers. If it’s up to one group or person to resolve then work with them. Offer them your help, support and encouragement. When I was in I.T. my immediate supervisor Tim Johnson and our OPs group VP Rick Shumacher were great about just letting me work the problem. They stood back and let me do what I needed to do, the whole time letting me know they were there if I needed them.

3. Keep people up-to-date – You don’t need to overwhelm people with status updates, but don’t keep silent. Nothing induces more fear or uncertainty and  lack of confidence than not knowing what’s going on.

4. Let the dust settle – Once the issue has been taken care of, let things settle, let people get some sleep and then debrief on what happenned. Sometimes the situation may not even be totally over and some additional things need to be addressed before a really good debrief can happen.

5. Work the problem…not the people – No, this isn’t a mistype, or a cut and paste mistake. When you debrief focus on what happened and what can be done to prevent future issues – not who did what and how idiotic it may be.

  • Mistake Makers – If you made a mistake then admit your fault and let people know what you learned from it to avoid doing it again. Admitting to mistakes will carry far more weight than trying to hide a mistake you made. Trust me, eventually people will find out.
  • Mistake Maker Managers/Supervisors – Work with your staff to help them avoid making the same mistake. Remember what it feels like to make a mistake and the courage it takes to admit you made one. This is a learning experience for everyone.

6. Final update – Update everyone and assume group responsibility for what happened as well as what steps are being taken in the future to avoid the same issue. DO NOT LAY BLAME ON AN INDIVIDUAL – this is the biggest way to kill someone’s drive and determination to do better.

7. Put it into practice – Take everything you’ve learned and actually put it into place. Nothing looks worse than having the same issue happen again because no one bothered to implement what was learned.

For my REALTOR® readers –
All of this can apply to all of your transactions as well. In fact the one thing that’s most important is keeping your client apprised as to what’s going on. The one thing we keep hearing that is important to buyers and sellers is that they’re kept up to date, even if there is no new news.

When you have issues learn from what happened and apply them to your future transactions. Maybe you’ll need to switch vendors, maybe you’ll need to change how your staff interact with customers, maybe you’ll need to change how you do things.  Don’t let bad transactions fall by the wayside…there’s a lesson to be learned in all of them.

As far as Google goes I have even more confidence in them, their services and their products. I love how they handeled everything and while it was in inconvenience, this stuff happens. What matters is how they handled the situation and what they’re doing to avoid future problems.  GO GOOGLE!!!!

A Post Only A Geek Could Love…Harry Potter & Real Estate

As my blog address implies I am a geek.

So this post on ActiveRain really caught my attention as one of the featured posts for the day.

Anna “Banana” Krutchen in Phoenix, Arizona gives some great examples as to how the curriculum at Hogwarts can be turned aroud and applied to REALTORS®.

A nice, short and entertaining post and one I recommend taking a couple of minutes out of your day to read. So while you’re drinking your 2nd or perhaps 3rd cup of coffee for the day, click HERE to give the post a read.

Twitter Security Breach…A Reminder About Keeping Passwords Secure

Yesterday it was announced that a Twitter employees e-mail account was hacked into.

The person who hacked into it was able to get a lot of information about the company, including its long range plans and estimated revenue growth.

This brings up a few things that I always like to remind those I teach…

1. Install  anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer. Make sure that it’s being updated on a daily basis and is running a full system scan at least once a week. Yes, even if you have a MAC…they’re not 100% secure. Spend that $19-$30 a year for the update subscriptions, it’s chump change compared to the time and money you’ll spend getting your  computer made virus free.

2. Your data is not 100% secure on the internet, or even on your computer. If there’s something you would never want the whole world to see, then don’t keep it on your computer.

3. Use unique passwords that include numbers and varying characters.

4. Don’t use the same password for online shopping, as you would for financial accounts such as e-trade, online banking, online credit card account. While I know that the online merchants have a good deal of security they’re not required to be as secure as the online sites for financial institutions. The financial institutions have to implement more security thanks to the many regulations imposed by the federal government. Although that hasn’t kept them from being hit either.

5. If you’re not sure about something that was sent to you, don’t click or open it. Check with the person its supposed to be from to make sure they sent it. Most of the viruses and re-directs to websites that will infect your computer with a virus have language that is often misspelled or just sounds odd. This goes for text messages you get on your phone as well. Remember…your phone is a mini-computer.

You can read articles on the incident:

Here – http://technologizer.com/2009/07/15/with-online-passwords-dishonesty-can-be-the-best-policy/

and here – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/technology/internet/16twitter.html

Let’s be safe out there folks!

Travelling With Technology

I really enjoy David Pogue’s articles and if you don’t subscribe to them I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you do.

He presents tech in a way that’s easy to understand and often does so with a great sense of humor.

His latest…okay this was last Friday…I was busy finishing my classes so I didn’t have time to post this earlier…. Anyways….

His latest covers what he carries around with him in his travel bag, and this guy travels A LOT!

Some really basic stuff, but definitely worth a read and potential adds to your travel bag.

You can read his article by clicking right HERE.

Twitter Growth Continues & Facebook Still #1

Nielsen Online reports that Twitter continues to see incredible growth up 1,444% over last year and people are spending more time on the site.

You can check out the article by clicking HERE and also see how Facebook has retained its #1 social networking spot for the 7th month in a row.

So…REALTORS® finally ready to learn about how to use these tools and go where the clients are?

Can’t Stop The Tweets!

Read this article on Yahoo on how Twitter and other social networking sites like Facebook are helping those in Iran get the message out about their election problems, despite the government cutting off telephone, e-mail, texting and keeping the foreign press out.

Twitter and their server hosts even went so far as to schedule needed maintenance during what were the wee hours in Iran.

This article to me shows…

1. How incredibly powerful Twitter can be for everyone.

2. How cool Twitter’s staff and management are.

3. How lucky we are to live in the United States.

Incredibly huge kudos to Twitter and their server hosts!

Google Squared…A New Way To Compare

Introducing one of Google’s latest enhancements…

Google Squared Search BoxNot sure how long Google Squared has been around for, but this could be very promising, especially for the real estate industry.
I typed in homes for sale and got the following:

Homes For Sale Search Results

While the search results weren’t the best, it’s a start. Even with its rudimentary form I’m still far more impressed with this than I was with Microsoft’s Bing.

The ability to search the web and compare items like this means it’ll be even more critical for REALTORS® to have a significant presence on the internet and to have their listings on as many platforms as possible. Those that do will benefit greatly.

What can’t Google come up with nowadays?

Why REALTORS® Should Be Using Facebook

I found this great blog post on ActiveRain this morning written by R. Greg Osmond who’s up in Canada.

I think it’s got a lot of great information on why REALTORS® should be getting into and using Facebook, unfortunately it was an ActiveRain members only post. I contacted him through Facebook and let him know I wanted to share it on my blog. He was kind enough to give me permission to post it here since I couldn’t link out to it.

So please do give it a read and while you’re at it drop by his web site by clicking on his name above, or by clicking HERE and if you’re so inclined add him as a friend.

Use Facebook For Business or Watch Your Friends Do Real Estate With Someone Else

Honestly, about 6 months ago, I was among the sceptics about Facebook. I thought I was too busy to be engaged in people’s lives over the internet, that it was only for people who had little to do and I thought there were real privacy issues on Facebook that I didn’t have time to sort out.  Then one day it dawned on me just how powerful Facebook was.  I had an “a huh!” experience!

Facebook allows me to connect with so many more people than I would ever have time for in person. It enables me to engage in the lives of my friends who I have been feeling guilty about never calling.  If there are things I want to keep private about my life, then I just don’t put them on Facebook or I take a few minutes to set up my privacy settings.  It’s really easy.

For me, Facebook is just an extension of who I am in real life.  I am normally “greg”arious (and a pun lover) so anything that helps me reach out and interact with more people is right up my ally.  In my view, Facebook is almost a “Godsend” for Realtors who use it properly.

So what do I do on Facebook?Add Me As A Friend

I spend a few minutes throughout the day making comments, adding links, reading what others are saying and generally interacting in people’s lives.  In other contexts we call it networking.  If I am too busy today, I will give it a few minutes tomorrow.  But I try to say something on Facebook every day.

Here are seven “top of mind” things that I do that have a significant impact on generating business for me now.

1. I look for ways to say something positive, encouraging or engaging to my friends who post a status update. Let’s face it.  People post to their status to be connect with others.  When I notice them, they like it and that makes them connect with me.

One of the challenges for Realtors today is to be noticed by people who are looking for real estate services.  Have you looked at the Real estate ads lately?  There are far too many Realtors trying to get noticed in all the same places.  Facebook is a real online space where few are competing with me so it’s easy to be noticed and easy to connect with them.

2. I post comments to my status too.  These are about real estate, market statistics and my thoughts about what is happening in the market or anything I am doing in my business. This gives real estate information to my friends who without asking have learned a little bit about me and my profession.  It also shows them I am active in the business.

Here is an example of my status update. R. Greg Osmond “Just appraised a home in St. John’s.  The market is changing a little.” Someone may then comment, “How so?”  I smile and answer for all to read.  How easy it is to establish yourself as a Real Estate professional among friends!

3. I post a link to my blog whenever I write something new. Of course I exclude “members only” posts but these are very few; this one is an exception.  My primary service is to my local market place so that is where I focus when writing new content.  Posting my blog to Facebook draws outside readers into my blog and website and therefore improves my Google juice.  It also shows my friends that they can count on me as one who is an active real estate professional in their lives; someone who they are getting to know and trust a little more every day.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

4. I try to add a few new people every week that I have something or someone in common with. The greater the number of people who I can communicate with in a meaningful way, the better it is for my business.  I look for things that we have in common to add them as friends.  These are friends of friends, people like me who are interested in golf, music, university, squash, hiking, fishing or anything else I am interested in. Some people won’t accept my request for friendship but many will.  I don’t take that rejection personal.  It’s the internet for crying out loud.  They don’t know that I am not a pervert so they have a right to refuse.  It never bothers me.

5. I give away things on Facebook. If I am trying to get rid of something that has some value to someone but not much value to me I post it to the Marketplace Application.  It costs me nothing but it does bring attention to my profile.  People can then see that I am a Realtor in the community and I begin to be that person in their sphere of acquaintances who is available to consult whenever they need real estate service.

6. I post links to real estate articles, other blog posts with interesting information and helpful hints that I find on the internet. They don’t all have to do with real estate but they are always of some value.  Some might just be for a laugh.  A small amount of comic relief for friends is not a bad thing.  Most of my links are helpful information though.  I try to help others be better educated about things.  I rather being known as a serious Realtor who likes a good laugh than a joker who is hardly ever serious.

7. I post photos and links to my listings as soon as they are on the market. Who knows, one of my friends may be looking for a home and I may have the one they like.  Even if they don’t want that one, we may begin the process of looking for the right one for them.  If you are there on Facebook you can offer your assistance to anyone with a private message.  When someone picks up on this, you will be growing your business.

I have met and conversed with many people about real estate in the last six months just by being active on Facebook. I see the impact of my presence there growing more every day.  If you haven’t started yet, I recommend you begin today.  If you are on Facebook but you are not using it then you are missing out on a great opportunity to connect with many people professionally and dynamically.  I recommend that you be there and be engaged.

If anyone would like to join me and see how I interact with my friends I would invite you to add me as a friend and we can learn from each other. Facebook is one of the greatest tools for building relationships that modern day technology has brought us because it is dynamic, interactive and live.

If you have issues with Facebook, you should get over them now and act before your competition does. Social media is growing at a phenomenal rate and it will become one of the most powerful ways to connect with your clients in the years to come.  Facebook will definitely build your business if you give it a little time and effort.  Start and let’s be friends today!

R. Greg Osmond is a Platinum Award winning Realtor serving St. John’s and surrounding areas, Newfoundland and Labrador for over 20 years and can be reached at 709-895-2500. Visit http://www.rgregosmond.com/ for further information or add him as a friend on Facebook.

R. Greg Osmond's Facebook profile

“My C.A.R” App Featured On Inman

Those good folks at Inman were kind enough to mention our wonderful new iPhone/iTouch app on their site here. and link back to my original blog post.

We’re getting a lot of great response to this and a lot of great questions. To answer a few…

1. Is this available to real estate professionals outside of California?

The application was developed keeping re-use in mind. It will be available for re-licensing by other real estate companies and REALTOR® organizations so they can easily put in the data that they want to share with their staff or members.

2. I’m a member of the California Association of REALTORS®, how do I get a copy?

The app was initially rolled out in pre-release format, and made available to the members who attended the business meetings last week in Sacramento. We’re going through the final approval process with Apple and once it’s approved our plan is to make it available through Apple’s App Store. Keep an eye on www.car.org and the C.A.R. Newsline for an announcement  once it’s made public.

3. How much will it cost me?

The app will be FREE for all members of the California Association of REALTORS®.

Twitter Makes The Cover Of Time Magazine

As if Twitter wasn’t big enough already, now they’ve made the cover of Time Magazine.

In an article titled “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live”, Steven Johnson of Time Magazine talks about how Twitter is impacting all the facets of life for us.

It’s a great read and excellent for those REALTORS® who are still on the fence about Twitter.

While you’re there be sure to read the article about how a church is allowing and encouraging its parishoners to Tweet while in service.