"D-Wave, the company that built the thing, calls it the world's first quantum computer." Google’s Quantum Computer Proven To Be Real Thing (Almost) It appears that quantum computing is making great strides. Will these devices be common in the next 20 ...

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D-Wave - Has the future of quantum computing arrived? and more...

D-Wave - Has the future of quantum computing arrived?

"D-Wave, the company that built the thing, calls it the world's first quantum computer."

Google’s Quantum Computer Proven To Be Real Thing (Almost)

It appears that quantum computing is making great strides. Will these devices be common in the next 20 years?  Imagine the computing power offered for commercial, financial, and military applications by these systems.


The importance of retention - Verizon Wireless


Today I was contacted by a very polite and helpful lady from the Verizon Wireless executive office. She apologized for the issues I experienced and provided a $100 credit to our account.  This quick response is excellent in view that the new iPhone is expected to arrive tomorrow.  I would like to thank Verizon Wireless for coming through - I guess my value as a customer is not a mere 5 bucks but 100%.  I will have to eat my words (or spend the $5 on a happy meal).

Let me say that I always have had a good experience with Verizon Wireless voice and data service. When visiting Verizon stores - the service has always been great. Our family has had a few billing and broken phone bumps along the way - but things always were worked out with Verizon.  In this particular situation we were racing against the clock because the phone was shortly going to be delivered and potentially declined. Let me mention that I am not a customer that calls up and complains very often.  Many times Verizon probably goes for a couple of years without hearing from us.

Several people submitted blog comments that I am not going to publish. Most were very negative. Please let me say that I do not view large phone and cable companies as "evil". They are large entities that sometimes make mistakes (I make mistakes also). However they have many people who work in these large firms - just like you and me - who are doing their best with a large workload. Many times they endure issues common inside large entities while striving to help us.

Someone asked if I regret going public. Well, a little bit - I would prefer my public commentary to be focused on finance and technology summaries rather than my customer service issues.  However in this case, I think the blog post was helpful in solving the problem.

Another asked if I was a little harsh - yeah maybe a bit. Would it have been better possibly to focus on retention formula math, market segmentation/cross-over, and next best action - turning this into business process management essay? It would be an educational post but I am not quite sure how effective it would be in directly resolving my particular issue.

Once again - Thank you to the folks at Verizon for addressing my problem.

--------------------------------- Original Post --------------------------------------------------

Many times I wonder if large companies value the retention of high value customers. My recent experience with Verizon Wireless demonstrates that they don't.  I have been a Verizon Wireless customer since the early 90s through all the mergers (Alltel, 360 Comm, etc.). As a family account spending over $6K per year with international travel, etc. - we have got to be in the top 1% of non-business accounts for revenue. From any "Customer Lifetime Value" perspective, our account should be ranked near the top.

What does this mean to Verizon in terms of customer retention?  Nothing 

Sadly, I am in the technology side of business that is focused on helping large corporations retain and service their customers.  I know all cell phone companies have the tools I have implemented. Regrettably and obviously they are not using the functionality in making decisions.

I have endured a lot of issues with cell phone service over the years and previously politely & privately worked things out -- and never gone public with phone service complaints, but this is the straw that is breaking the camel's back for our family. Let me explain the situation and get people's feedback:

Our family plans to upgrade my wife's old non-smart phone to an iPhone 5.  There are many links online to Verizon offering an upgrade of existing customers from a 'dumb phone' to an iPhone 5 for $100 instead of the normal iPhone price of $200. We went online and attempted to fulfill the deal at the Verizon Wireless website but the only the full price is shown. We started a Verizon support chat session that confirmed the deal exists. The rep told us to buy the phone and call customer support to get the discount.  Immediately we called the customer support center, and they confirmed the deal existed and initially stated they would fulfill the deal.  After a long period time they came back and said the computer would not fulfill the deal.  At this point we told Verizon to cancel the phone order since the phone is offered for $150 at other retailers such as Best Buy. The phone rep confirmed the order was cancelled and stated the account would be credited $5 for our trouble. (5 bucks when spending $500 per month is meaningless BTW).

Several hours later we get an email stating the phone has shipped and charged the full price. We call into Verizon and they state that we are being charged for the phone and the only way to remedy the situation was to reject the delivery of the phone when the package service drops it off.

After this I posted to Facebook and Twitter expressing my disappointment.  During the exchange I have sent Verizon chat log confirming the $100 iPhone upgrade - which appears to only have served to get the chat  representative in trouble rather than having Verizon honor their commitments.

I will note that this is only the second time I have gone public with a customer service situation (the previous time was with Lowe's who resolved the situation immediately to my complete satisfaction). The only response from Verizon was a phone call from a social media representative confirming they would not honor the $100 iPhone deal.  Despite multiple calls to the support center - no supervisor has ever called back despite commitments that this would occur.

Let me explain what the social media representative's call should have been all about - "We are very sorry for the trouble. This one time we will give you a $100 credit for your experience. Please tell everyone how Verizon came through and set the situation right". This would have been an example of a company coming through to 'save' a situation and make a vocal high value customer happy - and may have generated a positive social networking response. Instead the call was simply to tell us that Verizon would not honor the commitment and that somehow we were in the wrong.

From a broader perspective if Verizon had immediately stated "sorry we cannot honor the $100 iPhone 5 pricing" instead of confirming the deal in both a chat log and on a phone call - then I could have just walked away and not ordered the phone. However after spending hours on the phone and having the phone shipped out despite cancelling the order - I am completely unhappy. Now Verizon is facing a customer retention issue and the reality that a large number of people will hear this story.... which at this point does not have a positive outcome.

I am not a customer who only spends a small amount on cell phone services each year; nor am I requesting anything ridiculous. I am only asking that Verizon steps up and honors its commitment for the $100 price before the phone arrives - otherwise I will need to be here to reject delivery (costing a day of work).

Any type of retention tool would demonstrate that for $100 I am a long term customer worth keeping and that the cost of widespread exposure on social media merits honoring the commitment.

Please let me say that I greatly respect the work that call center and chat representatives do - they have a very difficult job and I am always very polite (and I urge others always to be polite).  I question however a corporate bureaucracy that does not value the retention of high value customers and does not provide the tools to representatives to identify and retain these customers.

What is the upside to all of this?  At least I know now exactly what a loyal twenty-year high-revenue customer is worth to Verizon. I am worth 5 bucks. Not 10 bucks. Not 100 bucks. I'm worth less to Verizon than a drink at Starbucks or a meal at McDonalds.


A moment of sanity in federal court

In one of the few moments of sanity involving technology patent litigation in the U.S., a federal judge "has thrown the Apple-Motorola Mobility smartphone patent case out the courtroom window and locked the window behind it, making sure it never finds its way back inside his court."

"Judge Richard Posner dismissed the patent case late Friday evening, writing in his opinion that neither side proved any damages caused by the other party. His ruling came with prejudice, meaning neither side can reopen the case to attempt to prove damages for a second time."

Judge Dismisses Apple vs. Google Smartphone Patent Case


Analyze Now - Retirement Planning Tools

The Analyze Now website offers some excellent (and free) tools for planning your retirement. The programs page contains links to downloadable retirement planning spreadsheets.

This site was founded by Henry "Bud" Hebeler after his own retirement from Boeing Co. Hebeler was a top executive and corporate planner at the aerospace giant and was trained an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

One of the best spreadsheets at the site is the Free Social Security Planner.


Does your employer collect your state income tax and keep it for themselves?

More than 2,700 companies collect your state income tax, and then keep it for themselves under deals they have struck with the states. GE, Goldman Sachs, P&G, Chrysler, Ford, GM Nissan, Toyota, and many others all benefit. The practice is more pervasive than thought.

Reuters has a good summary article.

Taxed by the boss

Across the United States more than 2,700 companies are collecting state income taxes from hundreds of thousands of workers – and are keeping the money with the states’ approval, says an eye-opening report published on Thursday.

The report from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog organization funded by Ford, Surdna and other major foundations, identifies 16 states that let companies divert some or all of the state income taxes deducted from workers’ paychecks. None of the states requires notifying the workers, whose withholdings are treated as taxes they paid.

General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and AMC Theatres enjoy deals to keep state taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks, the report shows. Foreign companies also enjoy such arrangements, including Electrolux, Nissan, Toyota and a host of Canadian, Japanese and European banks, Good Jobs First says.

Why do state governments do this? Public records show that large companies often pay little or no state income tax in states where they have large operations, as this column has documented. Some companies get discounts on property, sales and other taxes. So how to provide even more subsidies without writing a check? Simple. Let corporations keep the state income taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks for up to 25 years.

(more at url above)


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