A Sweet Auto Appointment Feature In iOS4?

Right now the iPhone 4 is getting a ton of attention because of the supposed antenna issue. What I don’t see enough of is people focusing on the cool new features of the updated iOS.

Sure you’ve got folders which rock organizing apps. You’ve also got the multitasking which I’m so used to I feel cheated when I can’t do it on my iPad.

But I believe I’ve found a sweet new feature in iOS4 that is going to make our lives even easier.

The other day I got an e-mail that had some dates and times in it. When I looked at it the dates and times, they looked like hyperlinks.

So like any good geek I touched the hyperlinks, it then prompted me to create an event.
When I selected to create the event, it created a new appointment with the date and time listed in the e-mail.

SWEET!!!!

Of course the geek in me had to test it again to make sure I wasn’t in some magical tech fantasy land, so I created a test e-mail:

Then I touched one of the hyperlinks and got the following:

When I tapped on Create Event, voila!

Check that out! It even included the subject line of the e-mail as the appointment name.

So you say, C’mon Chris. No one really writes e-mails that have the dates and times perfectly spelled out.

You’re right.

Cool thing is it still works. See!

Granted it can’t create the appointment as accurately, but it does.

I remember over ten years ago Microsoft showing off a potential new future feature for e-mails where it would intelligently take the information out of the e-mail and create appointments. It never appeared, but it looks like Apple has done it. Go Apple!

So that’s it! Sweet new feature on iOS4 for you to play around with over the holiday weekend.

Enjoy and HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Communication…It’s Not Overrated

3 weeks ago my Dad went into the hospital for a simple out-patient procedure to put a stent in one of his arteries.

As the doctors went in they found out that things were a little more intense than they had thought. It turns out there were 2 other arteries that were blocked. One at 89% and one at 98%.

This simple outpatient procedure turned into a triple bypass.

While overall I think the doctors and nurses were incredibly talented and wonderful the one thing that was incredibly frustrating for me and my family was the communication or lack thereof.

There either wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t correct, or the message radically changed multiple times over the course of a day.

I know many people say that you have to push for information in a hospital, but in that scenario we were all kind of in a mini state of shock, not knowing what to expect or what to do.

So what if…

  • We didn’t have to push for information from those that we deal with?
  • Communication flowed freely so people were kept in the loop on a reasonable basis?
  • We made a little more effort to just keep others up-to-date?

I think we’d have a lot less stressed folks during already tense situations. They’d feel more in control of their world, and their life. It’s amazing how even if someone has absolutely no control over a situation, knowing what’s going on can make them feel in control. Not knowing what is really going on can scare the crap out of people. The fear of the unknown or the uncertain can even be downright horrible and painful.

Flickr: stuartpilbrow

My mind now wanders to my REALTOR® friends and what they need to communicate.

When people are buying or selling a home it’s perhaps THE LARGEST financial transaction that someone will go through.
Even though it’s a financial transaction it’s fraught with emotions that can go from high to low in the course of minutes.

Home buyers and sellers want to know what’s going on. They need to be kept informed on everything that is happening to maintain some sense of sanity. They want their agent to get back to them in a timely manner.

Their satisfaction with the agent in a transaction can often be largely based on the amount of communication they did or did not get.

Place yourself in the shoes of the buyers and sellers who really don’t understand how the transaction really works. Take off your REALTOR® cap and be the buyer….na na na na na na….be the seller…na na na na na na.

Communication doesn’t have to start with the listing agreement either. Start your communication by having a blog and teaching your readers about the transaction, and what they need to know. Teach them about the communities you sell homes in so they know why they should buy a home there. Teach them some common things to look out for in a home inspection.

Keep the communication channels open and prepare them for their lifestyle transplant by e-mail, phone and even social networking.

If it’s between the hours of 8am-7pm respond within an hour or less to e-mails and phone calls. Even if you don’t have any new information, give them a call to let them know you’re working on it and give them a time that you’ll get back to them. If there is no new news, contact them to say there’s no update and set a new time to get back to them.

Flickr: rbrwr

Be realistic about the time you give them. Don’t underestimate how long it may take.

In my many years in I.T. I would often tell people things would be back up or completed later than I really thought it would. When I finished earlier it made them feel really good about me, my tech skills and my services. In those scenarios where I had unexpected issues, it gave me some extra wiggle room and still allowed me to deliver on time.

Communication in the end isn’t that hard to do and you never know, the simple update you give someone could do a world of good.

It certainly would have made a very scary situation, a lot less scary, not just for us but for my Dad. Having all the right info on a timely basis could have helped my Dad get out sooner, because instead of worrying he could focus on healing.

My Dad’s heart is doing wonderful while his lungs are taking some time to come back after a lifetime of smoking. Overall though he’s good, and he finally got to go home on Friday afternoon. He can now rest and relax as he watches the Golf Channel. Before we know it he’ll be back at full strength and back out on the fairway.

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!!!!

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!