Why more companies should model customer service after Newport Lexus

There are companies who seemingly couldn't care less about their customers, and then there are companies like Newport Lexus. I've serviced my car at Newport Lexus for four years now, but the service has never been better than it is today.

Yesterday it was time to take my car in for service. I called and let my service rep know I'd be arriving in about 20 minutes. When I showed up, the paperwork was already filled out and my preference in loaner vehicles was sitting there waiting for me. All I had to do was sign the paperwork. I literally walked inside, sat down, signed on the dotted line, and walked out to my loaner. I was in and out in less time than it takes to make a latte.

It's refreshing to know that some companies still care about treating their customers right. This is the kind of level I try to give people who use the things I build, and I appreciate receiving the same kind of treatment. It's why we built Less Neglect - an amazing support tool to help us support our users of FolioHD and The Mux.

When businesses go the extra mile to make their customers feel special, the loyalty they'll have is far greater than if you simply provide adequate service. And that's what makes customers for life.

Oh, and if you own a Lexus in Socal, go visit Joey Wilchek at Newport Lexus.

We've got to do better

It's 2012 and setting up online accounts for things like credit cards, bank accounts and paying bills is still far too difficult. I spent last night helping my dad get set up with online accounts, and even for an average internet user like him, the process was horrific.

I was appauled at the number of ways web designers and developers continually make simple online tasks much harder than they should be.

It seems that few designers, developers and project managers of large web applications actually factor in how people actually use the internet.

Here are a few of the gaffes I discovered last night.

    Password Requirements

    Each site had different password requirements. Some sites required a special character like # or !, but other sites refused to accept such characters. Usually it isn't without trial and error that you realize this.

    (I've written ranted about password requirements before. I'm sure we're all in agreement that they should largely be abolished.)

    "Cancel Registration" Button? Seriously?

    Edison's registration form provided a "Cancel Registration" button their signup form, with equal size and weight as the "Submit Registration" button. I thought we all agreed this was a bad idea back in the days of the now-largely erradicated "Reset Form" button.

    Javascript Validation Gone Bad

    Another form didn't work with Chrome's autofill feature. It required the user to enter a 10-digit phone number (across three fields, of course). At the end of typing the last group of numbers, a second set of inputs appeared, requiring the user to re-enter the phone number to confirm accuracy.

    But because my dad used Chrome's auto-fill feature to enter the whole phone number automatically, it failed to trigger the javascript to show the second set of fields. This resulted in an error message telling him, "You forgot to enter a phone number" even though he already had.

    Making Answers to Challenge Questions Case-Sensitive

    This is always a bad idea. You might be surprised at how many people type things into fields in lowercase. But if you're asked to re-enter that info later (especially a proper noun)? You might capitalize it.

    "Enter Your Name as it Appears"

    Asking for bank account info, one form said to "Enter your name as it appears on your check." The name on my dad's check had his middle initial listed, followed by a period. He submitted the form and received an error message telling him periods weren't allowed.

    "If you created an account before August 18, 2005..."

    Do I even need to explain why this shouldn't even be on a REGISTER page?

    •  •  •

    Seriously, do we not even test what we build?

      My point: We've got to stop doing this. Even in 2012, we are still making web applications that still make basic tasks pretty painful. Quite frankly, it's embarassing.

      We've got to stop building for ourselves.

      As designers and developers, we sometimes get stuck in this false assumption that everyone uses the internet the same way we do. But we're in the minority.

      The next time you're building a form or creating a flow for a signup process, think through some of the issues that might come up as a result of your design.

      Watch a few people use your app. You'll be surprised at some of the things you'll see when looking through someone else's eyes.

      And the biggest point: Don't be lazy. That quick and dirty javascript validation you wrote? More people are going to be negatively affected by it than you think. Don't want to take the time to write helpers for each input field? A little clarification might save users a lot of headache.

      If you're interested in the topic of user experience and making things simple and easy for users, you should check out the book Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug. It's a great introduction into avoiding a lot of basic usability problems that people still encounter every day.

        My thoughts on Twitter's acquisition of Posterous

        By now you've no doubt heard that Posterous has been acquired by Twitter. It's been a great run. I've loved every minute of being around Posterous. Here are a few personal highlights:

        • Written over 2,000 posts on Posterous since I joined three years ago. I also run 15 sites on Posterous.
        • Built and released 34 themes to Posterous users, racking up over 100,000,000 visits amongst those sites; also built all of Posterous' self-branded themes and ported over Metalab's themes from Tumblr
        • Started selling premium themes at themes.posterous.com, proving there is actually a market for premium Posterous themes
        • Created themes for Alexis Ohanian, Jenn Van Grove, Dell, The Onion, Arnold Schwarzenegger, + plenty of business users and organizations
        • And of course, created plenty of internal Posterous sites like 2012 Social Media Resolutions, the Switch to Posterous campaign, the old Help site, the former College Ambassadors campaign that eventually led to the hiring of Ryan Brown, + more
        • Met a ton of great people who I talk to on a daily basis. The friendships I've built as a result of using Posterous are irreplaceable.

        I have to say a big thanks to Garry and Sachin for letting me tag along and work with them on so many fun projects!

        While this acquisition is exciting for the team, many users are concerned about the future of the platform. Posterous is being vague about what will happen in the future. Until then, I'm going to continue using Posterous the way I always have.

        However if they do choose to shut down in the future, I have no doubt a suitable replacement will rise. Dustin Curtis has been hard at work at his own minimalistic blogging platform that he currently uses at dcurt.isGooley and I have been working on an idea for a while now, where a blogging platform is a large component. It has the potential to do everything that Posterous does and so much more. (The scope of our idea is much larger.) Sign up to find out what it's all about.

        My point is, if you're thinking about leaving Posterous now, don't rush to do it quite yet. There will be suitable alternatives. There's a reason Posterous users aren't already using Wordpress or Tumblr, and should Twitter shut down Posterous, there will be a void in the marketplace.

        Regardless, I'm looking forward to what the Posterous team builds as a part of Twitter. They're a brilliant team who will do great things to further evolve the way we communicate.

        Why Facebook shouldn't replace the Wall with Timeline

        The other day on Facebook, I was visiting a friend's new Timeline and came across an interesting comment:

        "Timeline makes Facebook SO confusing. It takes me back to Myspace days."

        I mulled over that comment for a few days and now I have some thoughts.

        Timeline is a great retrospective, but not a great way to live in the now.
        Timeline is visually attractive, but far less usable. It doesn't work for people who live out their daily lives on Facebook. Its focus is on summarizing the past, not living out the present. People use Facebook to interact with friends about what's happening right now, not to browse through what they did between 2006-2011. Timeline is too much like a yearbook to be useful for people who live out their active lives on the social networking site.

        The Facebook Wall and Newsfeed differ from Timeline in one very important way: they were one column.
        Timeline is far less scannable and takes a lot more work to parse information because of the two-column format. Facebook is trying to solve an issue that's existed as long as social profiles have been around: how to fit more information (specifically status updates) on a screen. Unfortunately, it's just not natural to move the eyes down the screen in sometimes diagonal, sometimes horizontal patterns. What's worse is that it takes mental processing to figure out what post to look at next. The reason the Wall was so successful (along with Newsfeed) were because you didn't have to move your eyes. You could consume information by effortlessly scrolling down the page.

        People left Myspace for Facebook because it was cleaner and simpler to use.
        Because of the customization Myspace allowed, profiles were messy and out of control. The comment above is worrisome because it sounds like the average internet user is starting to feel the same way about Timeline as we used to feel about Myspace profiles: too cluttered, too busy, and not useful enough to be worth it.

        --

        Overall the look and feel of Timeline is nice, and its definitely the most visually stunning product Facebook has built. But Timeline should be relegated to a retrospective view - something that strictly summarizes your life, not something that tries to play out every minute of life as it happens.

        Putting my life into perspective

        Elon Musk is pushing the human race forward

        I admire Elon Musk because he is not afraid of taking on the challenge of solving big problems. He has an impressive resume, but I want to focus on Tesla Motors and SpaceX, which are two companies he founded using much of his own money. Through these companies, Musk is developing technological advances that are pushing the human race forward.

        The work of Elon Musk’s companies makes the accomplishments of the average tech startup look trivial. Reading about Musk makes a person reconsider whether or not they should be working on improving ad performance on the Internet when he or she could be helping to put a man on Mars.

        murtza.org

        I haven't been able to get this post out of my head since it made it on Hacker News a couple weeks ago. It continually makes me put my life into perspective. Sure, I'm building cool things, but am I doing anything that will make any lasting impression on society?

        Most people will agree that we don't all need to do (nor are capable of doing) something on the scale of Elon Musk. But personally, I'm not satisfied with settling with the scale of work I'm doing now (nothing against it). I just want to do something much, much bigger. I want to make it into history books for doing something great.

        Look out, world. Here I come.