Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fall From Greatness

I came into work a bit early today, and I caught a bit of a radio show I don't hear much anymore -- Walt Bodine's "The Walt Bodine Show". If you're not from around here, you'll not likely recognize his name or his show, but to us, he's been a radio broadcast icon for decades. I've lived my entire life (as have my parents) with his gravely voice always nearby, beckoning from the airwaves. We've loved him.

In recent years, though, listening to his show has been only a hair short of painful. When I last listened regularly, several years ago, Mr. Bodine had started to slip with age -- his voice quavered, he'd become noticeably annoyed with callers, and he had some trouble staying on topic. He rambled, snipped, and sometimes drifted off into old man's land. A blogger at Gone Mild (not a regular read; I found this by a Google search) put it a bit more harshly, but his point in 2005 was valid. Walt Bodine, to the dismay of all of us, is just not the innovator he used to be.

Today, I noticed a significant change in format. In the intervening time, Kelley Weiss (bio available on the KCUR web site) has gone from the girl who told us what's coming up next week to the show's full-time host. While she's listed as co-host on the show's web page, the "host", Mr. Bodine, is reduced to grunts of assent in the background while Ms. Weiss interviews guests and takes listener calls.

It pains me to admit it, but because of this change, the show is bearable again. Walt Bodine was undoubtedly a great man, but his time for radio has passed.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Contact

Once a month, I "run errands," during which time I hand-carry my bills to their appropriate destinations and visit the bank to make a deposit and withdrawal. I'm old-fashioned, I guess, but I really do treasure this small bit of human interaction. Such behavior is right in line with my tendency to frequent the same coffee house several times per week, and to build a rapport with the nice lady behind the counter at Panda Express. During this time, I get my monthly fix of external human contact, and enjoy some fresh air in the process. I look forward to it.

This month, I realized the times really are changing, and I don't like it one bit. My first stop is to the credit card bank to pay what I owe them. I stand in line (actually, there's seldom a line inside), speak face-to-face with a teller, and thank them with a smile when the thirty-second transaction is complete. This month was no different. The lady even made sure I got my new card in the mail, explained the change in the credit card number, and reminded me to call the line to activate it. Bank of America gets an 'A' for customer service.

Next, I drive a bit further down the road to Cap Fed, my trustworthy savings and loan. This month, I was running a bit late. It seems their office closes at 4:30, so even though they had multiple tellers working, we were separated by two panes of glass and a speaker system in the drive-through. I sit, idling my car, while a teller fifty yards away takes my money for safe keeping. I'm not so fond of that, especially since he could just as easily have been in the other building, but I can make do. At least it's a human. After a perfectly sanitary "Thank you" from the teller, I drove on, not even knowing the man's name. Cap Fed gets a 'C' -- human is indeed preferable, but you could remove the glass and electronics and achieve just the same productivity.

My final stop is to the Sprint store to pay my cell phone bill. They've got lots of folks working in that building -- three girls greet customers as they come in, and half a dozen sales representatives (wireless specialists?) help customers buy products. Customers mill around ogling ridiculously expensive devices, rounding out the atmosphere of hubbub. The first time I visited the store to pay my bill, a sales representative happily took me to his station, processed my check, and explained the electronic processing when I met his return of my check with a confused look. Recently, however, they seem to always be too busy for something as mundane as taking a monthly payment from an existing subscriber. Despite the customer service vibe I pick up in that place, the fifty dollars I owe them is not worth a human's time. No, I'm shuffled off to the corner of the room, where a lifeless, money-eating kiosk waits for dinner. I always have trouble with that thing (because I "forgot" to give Sprint permission to deduct money directly from my checking account), and the grumblings of a service representative troubled to take my money make the experience still lovelier. Sprint's customer service, at least at the store in my neighborhood, is about enough to drive me away.

Technology is great for a lot of things, but for human contact, it hurts significantly. I realize it takes some effort to actually speak with a customer face-to-face, but the customer needs that sometimes. He's not just a revenue source, after all. He's a man.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter!

We've finally gotten our first significant (read: sticky) snow of the year. I took a photograph.

Winter is finally here. Let's celebrate :-)