thoughts on business, community and customer service

Tools For Teams On The Go

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Over at jkOnTheRun,  James Kendrick talks about “Your Mobile Team Needs the Right Tools” and the improvement of tools available to mobile/remote workers. This is a subject that I’m familiar with and figured it might be a good time to talk about what physical tools my team uses to stay connected on the go.

Macbook Pro

Every member of my team gets a Macbook Pro as their main computer. I like to have everyone using laptops because assigning someone a desktop when they are a remote worker is just like handing them a chain that they have to attach between their leg and their desk. I don’t care where you work from and a laptop gives you that freedom.


Sprint 3g/4g card

What good is giving someone a laptop with the purpose of them being able to work from anywhere if they don’t have a connection? I’ve found that Sprint has the most reliable internet cards and make sure that everyone gets one. We’ve used the usb versions in the past but we are moving to the Sprint Overdrive now. The Overdrive allows you to connect up to five devices and doesn’t require you to plug anything into your machine. This is nice if you have a family and take a trip because now everyone has internet in the car 🙂



While we haven’t begun rolling these out yet, I’ve been testing an iPad as a work device that may soon join the tools issued to my team. The iPad allows me to take work along in a lot less obtrusive way and is a lot lighter than carrying my mbp all the time. It’s also nicer to have in the front room or kitchen when I’m with the family. It doesn’t replace a laptop but it’s a nice extension and easier to carry around or keep available for easy browsing.



Written by hornbeck

May 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Managing Remote Workers

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WebWorkerDaily posted a Tips for Managing Remote Workers this morning and I thought it would be a great time to chime in on what I’ve found works the best for managing a remote team.

While Dawn Foster, the writer of the article, offered some great suggestions such as regular staff meetings, check in regularly and email updates, she leaves off a few major things that I’ve found are a must.

Self Motivated People

If you are hiring people to work remote or if someone who already works for you wants to work remote, they have to be self motivated and able to move on to their next task without you looking over their shoulder. If you have an employee that is very needy or gets lost surfing the web for hours, they will not make a good remote worker, no matter what you try.

Real Time Chat

Make everyone on the team stay in a real time chat such as jabber, campfire or irc. This allows communication between everyone on the team and helps you follow when someone leaves the keyboard. It also makes it easier for people to get help if they are getting stuck on something.

Shared Task List

I have my team use a shared task list that allows everyone to see what each other are working on. This helps each team member hold each other accountable for what they are working on. If someones task list isn’t changing or things are not being marked off, the other members of the team will see this and bring it up.

Morning Stand-up

I know a lot of people who feel this isn’t needed but I’ve found that a short meeting every morning really helps. It allows everyone on the team to say what they did the day before, what they’re doing today and if they see anything blocking them from completing their work for the day. Once again this helps the team hold each other accountable for their work and makes my life easier.


Written by hornbeck

May 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

The Stresses of Moving

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I’ve lived within 10 blocks of the house that I grew up in my entire life. On April 15th we closed on a new house that is located on the other side of the city. This causes mixed feelings for everyone since we currently live only about 6 houses away from my parents and my kids can just walk down to see them. Outside of the feelings of finally moving away from this area are the stresses of packing and deciding what needs to come with us and what needs to be gotten rid of.

Our current house is five bedrooms, 2 living areas, two baths and a kitchen. Our new house is 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 1 living area and a kitchen. The overall living space is bigger but it’s less rooms overall. Because of this we have to condense a few of the rooms together, meaning that it’s really time to get rid of some stuff. Personally, I could get rid of the majority of my personal belongings and be perfectly fine. My wife on the other hand is very big on keeping things around due to memories that she attaches to them. Many people do this and I don’t judge her on it but it makes deciding what is not going with us a little bit more difficult.

We are supposed to move in on May 15th and will begin renting our current house to a family members but we don’t even have half of the house packed yet and many rooms are yet to be sorted. I know that we will eventually make it out of hear with less stuff but in the meantime we stress over it daily because we know that we need to get rid of many things and yet we can’t seem to figure out what needs to go.

Written by hornbeck

May 2, 2010 at 7:21 am

Posted in life

Answering the Phone

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In my previous post I mentioned the 50 things your customers wish you knew and number 5 from that list jumped right out at me, “A friendly voice on the other side of the phone means more than you can imagine.”

Your customers normally don’t call you just to chat and catch up on how you are doing. They normally call when something is wrong or if they need specific information that they can’t find elsewhere. This means that there is a pretty good chance that they are going to be in a bad mood or at least on the verge and it won’t take much to push them over the edge. So how do you prepare for this and make sure that your staff will be prepared to turn the situation around and leave the customer feeling satisfied?

The first thing is to make sure that the people you have answering the phone are prepared for answering
the customers questions and empowered to do what they need in order to make that customer happy. There is nothing that will turn an already upset customer into your worst enemy than your staff not knowing the answers to questions. I’m not saying that your staff will always have the answers or that it’s even possible for them too but they should at least have the knowledge of knowing where to look or where to ask in order to find the answer for the customer. The other part of that is your staff actually being able to give the customer an answer or make the situation right without having to ask their manager if something is ok. Empowering an employee to make decisions on their own is a win for everyone.

The second thing is to only allow employees to answer the phones if they are in a good mood and thinking clearly. You may ask how you would know if someone was in a good mood and thinking clearly? Most of the time you can tell if someone is not in a good mood or distracted. Another way is to ask your staff to let you know when they are feeling this way or have everyone share their mood during a morning stand-up. If you have people answering the phone and not able to make your customer feel at ease and show that they are willing to listen to the customers problem, you are setting yourself up to provide a bad customer experience.

If you ask your employees to do this and to share their moods then you need to also make sure that it’s something that doesn’t become a way for your employees to get out of dealing with customers. If an employee consistently tells you that they are unable to answer the phone, you will need to address the situation. A bad mood every now and then is fine or if they are going through a life issue that causes them to not think clearly, but what you don’t want is an employee thinking that they can use this as a crutch in order to get out of talking to customers.

The last big thing that you can do to make sure that it’s a friendly voice on the other end of the line for your customers is to make sure that the culture in your company breeds happiness and that your employees are having a good time doing what they do. The easiest way to make your customer happy with your product is to show that you are happy with your product and love working with it. I will have more posts in the future that deal with how to maintain a happy culture at work and ways to keep your employees wanting to provide the best customer service that they can.

At the end of the day your main goal is to make sure that you have happy and friendly people answering the phone when a customer calls in. If you cannot provide this for the customer then all you are really doing is setting yourself and the customer up for failure.

Written by hornbeck

April 26, 2010 at 4:56 am

Posted in customer service

50 things your customers wish you knew

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I’ve recently started following the search term “customer service” on twitter and found a nice article on “50 things your customers wish you knew” from the Remarkable Communication blog. This list of 50 things is a great start but I think in some cases it’s worth diving into what I think a few of the 50 things mean and how to accomplish them in your company. My first post will be over number 5, “A friendly voice on the other side of the phone means more than you can imagine.”

Written by hornbeck

April 26, 2010 at 3:04 am

Posted in customer service

How do you find time for social media?

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Michael Hyatt posed a question on his blog today asking

How do you find time for social media? What does your typical social media day look like?

I figured that instead of leaving a comment on his post, I would explain how I use different social sites throughout the day in order to do my job and keep up with the industry.

I make time for social media sites everyday because it’s how I communicate with the outside world. I telecommute for work and work with a community that is spread throughout the world. If I did not use social media sites I would not be able to keep up on current trends and business news. These sites also allow me to better connect with clients and community members that are using the open source version of our software.

The main site that I use is Twitter, it’s normally the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up. I check twitter first because it can give me the heart beat of what’s going on and I can see if any big news or announcements have happened while I was sleeping. After checking the status of the people that I follow, I check my saved searches from Twitter search. I use Twitter search to track topics that I’m interested in such as the product that I work on and I track the other players in the nosql community. This lets me see what trends and articles people are looking at. I will comment on tweets or retweet things that I would like my followers to read as well.

All of the tweets that I post also go into Facebook. While this is looked down upon by some, I find it useful because I have different people following me on each service and I normally want to share the same information with them. I do check into Facebook from my phone throughout the day and will comment on posts there as well or respond to people who comment on my posts.

For blogs and saved searches from sites like Stack Overflow I used Google Reader. I keep a tab with reader open all day and read items as I have free time. I will “like”, “share” and “comment” on articles within reader and click through to the actual article if I want to leave a comment for the writer of the blog to read.

Overall I spend 1-2 hours a day using social media sites and feel that it’s time well spent because it allows me to communicate with the community involved with what I’m doing.

Written by hornbeck

April 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm

It’s the little things

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About a week ago I purchased a copy of MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software and was very pleased when I received an extra email from Daniel Jalkut, the founder of the company. The email was short and simple but showed that he cared enough about his customers to extend a personal thank you.

This simple thank you is something that any company can do but most don’t even think about it. The next time you get an order or someone says something nice about your company, extend that extra little bit and it will pay off in the end.

Appreciate the purchase, John. And thanks for taking the time to say thanks as well 😉


Written by hornbeck

April 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized