Sklar Technology Partners - October 2020


7462 Old Hickory Drive, Mechanicsville, VA 23111


‘THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO TO HELP YOU’ Addressing the Cardinal Sin of Customer Service

In July, I got another call from Dell, again to inform me that I have a past-due bill. Only this time, it was for $72. I didn’t remember ordering anything from Dell, but I didn’t want to owe anyone money, so I let the rep record me stating that I authorized the payment. Then I asked what the payment was for. This time, the rep quickly looked it up.

“There’s nothing we can do to help you.”

When you hear these words as a customer, you instantly feel abandoned. In terms of customer service, they’re probably the very worst thing you could ever say to clients, short of cussing them out. I recently had to suffer through hearing these words from a company I’ve done business with for years, all over an Amazon Fire TV Stick. BURNED BY LATE FEES This past February, well before COVID-19 struck and the world ended, I noted that I had a $10 credit with Dell that was about to expire. I used that credit to get a new Amazon Fire TV Stick, saving a few bucks in the process. Cut to May, when we’re in quarantine. I’m walking around my neighborhood when I get a call from a Dell representative informing me that I had a bill of $42 that was past due. That had never happened before, so I assumed it was because we weren’t at the office. I couldn’t remember what I had ordered from Dell recently, but when I asked what the payment was for, the rep told me that she couldn’t see that information. I didn’t want to be past due, so I authorized the payment and went back to enjoying the pandemic. Later, I asked Kelsey, who handles our bills, what the payment was for. She hadn’t been to the office either and said she hadn’t seen a bill from Dell recently. Whatever it was, I’d paid for it, so I decided not to worry about it. I should have worried more about it.

“It’s for a Fire Stick,” she told me.

the rep I usually deal with. They gave me a new number, and when I called it, they told me they would waive the past-due bill and give me credits for everything.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING INVOICE The $20 Fire Stick I’d bought five month prior was not $72. Somehow, we never received the invoice for the Fire Stick, so it never got paid for. And it turned out, the phone call I had gotten in May for the $42 past-due bill was also for the Fire Stick. I don’t know why that rep lied about not being able to look up the item. Maybe for the same reason they didn’t process the payment even after I had authorized it over the phone. At that point, I unauthorized the $72 payment and wanted to know why I wasn’t getting the invoice. The rep passed me to her supervisor who was quick to use that dreaded phrase, “There’s nothing we can do to help you, sir.” After years of working with Dell and paying our bills on time, it should have been clear that some kind of mistake had been made. I wanted to know why we weren’t receiving our invoices anymore. Instead of trying to help me, the supervisor was very combative and nearly accused me of lying. In the end, I had to hang up and get in touch with

Turns out, there was something they could do to help me.

THE BEST COUNTER QUESTION This isn’t the first time I’ve ended up in a frustrating situation with a customer service rep. I once spent three years arguing with Iron Mountain over a ridiculous bill. A guy I work with told me to use this line with someone who claims they can’t help you: I understand that you can’t help me. Can you connect me to someone who can help me or to someone who might know someone who can help me? I used this line to navigate a long, frustrating battle with Iron Mountain over a $7,000 bill for a service they had increased the fee on after it was too late for me to cancel. After years of being told they couldn’t help me, I finally got to speak with the vice president of collections, Maria Rodriguez. She

Security. Availability. Support. .................................................................................... 804-730-2628 • 1 A REFERRAL IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF FLATTERY. WHEN A CLIENT REFERS FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES TO US, IT REPRESENTS AN APPRECIATION OF A JOB WELL DONE. IF YOUR FRIENDS OR ASSOCIATES COULD BENEFIT FROM OUR SERVICES, I’D BE HONORED TO HAVE YOUR REFERRAL! Continued on Page 3 ...

Business is competitive by nature. If competitors didn’t push our favorite brands to be better, they may not even exist. Our technology options would be limited without Apple’s ingenuity. Shipping options would be limited without UPS or FedEx. And access to our favorite athletic gear would be more limited if no one was pushing the top brands like Nike to innovate. Competition fuels our greatest inventions, but behind every great leader or business is a core network of like-minded people and innovators supporting them. Professional associations connect business leaders to fellow innovators in their industry without competition from local rivals. These organizations offer many benefits and little risk to business leaders looking to grow. If you haven’t yet joined a professional association, these three benefits just might get you to change your mind. Learn and Grow With a Professional Association You’re Not Alone


Education and Resources

Google is great for a quick answer, but when you need to learn something more nuanced, a simple internet search won’t cut it. Professional associations offer tailored, more in-depth help and resources like industry- specific training and webinars, how-to guides, and coaching. From peer advice and education to scholarly studies and reviews, associations act as a library of information for your industry.

This summer, something strange happened at the Sklar Technology Partners’ office. Something tripped our security alarm. Fortunately, that something was Randy himself and not a dire security breach. He turned the alarm off with ease, but we never got a call from the security company to check in on the situation. We reached out and the alarm company’s records showed that they had not gotten a signal from our office in two years. Our alarm has definitely been tripped more than once over the last two years. The security company looked into the situation and asked, “Has your office upgraded to voice-over IP?” In fact, we had upgraded just over two years ago, right around the same time the alarm company stopped getting our signal. When we upgraded to voice-over IP (VoIP), we cut our regular analog line. We thought that we didn’t need it anymore. What we didn’t know is that our 30-year-old alarm system didn’t have the technical capabilities to connect to the VoIP system. For two years, our alarm system was basically just a loud noise with no actual security measures attached. Thankfully, we never had a real problem during this time. Our alarm company came out to double-check the system, and sure enough, VoIP was the problem. They upgraded our alarm system and connected a cellular signal as a fail-safe, in case the alarm goes off when the internet goes out. We deal in protecting our client’s digital property, but we know how important your physical property is to running a business. Consider this a public service announcement: If you’ve upgraded to VoIP in the last few years, call your alarm company and make sure your security system hasn’t become obsolete.

Networking and Mentorship

Why reinvent the wheel when you can adapt it with a mentor? Associations connect you to leaders who have stood where you are standing and succeeded. You can learn a lot from their failures, wisdom, and guidance. You can also connect with peers in your position and bounce ideas off of them. You won’t have to worry about competitors “stealing” your processes, and you have an honest, go-to support team to help you refine them before presenting them to your team.

Personal Development and Growth

A business is only as good as the leader managing it, and all business leaders have room for improvement. An association can give you the tools to get there. And as you continue to learn, you’ll discover personal and professional areas that can be further refined. This personal development only makes you and your business stronger. Are you still not convinced you should join an association? Think of it this way: Your competitors could be growing through their involvement in an association while you remain stagnant. Push forward and connect with your peers today.

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INTERNET FROM ABOVE Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellite Network Takes Shape

According to Sky & Telescope magazine, each Starlink satellite weighs 500 pounds and is the size of an average four-person dinner table. Musk believes satellites make more sense than traditional means of delivering internet. For one, there is no need to lay down cables, which can be costly, especially when installing in rural or underdeveloped areas. In some rural areas in the U.S., laying cable is outright cost-prohibitive, as the bill may fall to one person or family who wants internet access on their property. The Starlink network is far from being completed, and coverage is currently extremely limited. Musk anticipates the network will be able to deliver “moderate” coverage once it reaches about 800 satellites in orbit. SpaceX has previously stated that they expect to start offering broadband services in the U.S. and Canada in late 2020. As the network grows in 2021, the company will start offering its satellite internet service globally.

Musk’s initial goal was to create a network of 4,000 satellites, but that number later grew to 12,000. In May 2019, Starlink launched its first 60 internet satellites into orbit. The mission was a success, and the satellites made it into orbit at an altitude of 340 miles, which is much closer than satellites from other internet providers. This means the eventual users of the new network can expect relatively high speeds. As of this writing, there are 422 Starlink satellites in orbit. Until this project came online, satellite internet was notorious for being slow. This is due, in part, to the locations of traditional provider’s satellites. One current provider’s satellites are orbiting 22,236 miles from Earth. This distance helps maximize coverage, at the expense of speed, and it was established when there were relatively few internet satellites. Because there will be so many Starlink satellites, they can be closer to Earth to eliminate coverage gaps. The satellites are fairly small and efficient.

Known for his ambitious plans, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is now trying to bring internet to the entire world. In 2018, SpaceX launched its first test rockets into orbit under the project called Starlink. The goal was to assess the continued feasibility of launching thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit, which would deliver internet across the globe and make it accessible — eventually — to just about everyone.

Roasted Rosemary Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

... continued from Cover

actually looked at the situation, agreed that what happened to me was not okay, and credited me for the entire bill.

Ingredients •


1 3/4 lbs fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise 3 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

I know I’m not the only person who’s been told by a customer service rep that they can’t help me. It’s a bad feeling. I never want any of my clients to hear that there’s nothing my team can do to help them. Instead, I want them to be proactive and look for ways to solve a problem, rather than immediately shut clients down. This kind of service starts with empowering your employees to want to take care of customers. Ritz-Carlton, the luxury hotel company, is famous for their $2,000 rule. Basically, employees are allowed to spend up to $2,000 to solve any customer’s problem without needing approval from a manager. This is a pretty big number, but considering the fact that the average Ritz-Carlton customer will spend $250,000 in their lifetime, it’s worth it to help keep customers happy. The easier it is for your employees to help your customers, the happier the customers will be if there’s ever a problem.

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3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

4 tsp olive oil 1 1/2 tsp sugar 1 tsp sea salt 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss until the Brussels sprouts and fingerlings are evenly coated with oil and seasonings. 3. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet, then bake 35–38 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add more salt and pepper as desired, then serve!

–Randy Sklar

Security. Availability. Support .................................................................................... 804-730-2628 • 3 Inspired by “The Oh She Glows Cookbook”

7462 Old Hickory Drive Mechanicsville, VA 23111 804-730-2628


Inside This Issue

1 2

The Cardinal Sin of Customer Service

Join a Professional Association and See Your Business Grow

The Secret Way Your Security System Became Obsolete


A New Era of Satellite Internet Begins!

Roasted Rosemary Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes


How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

AND GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP How to Stop Procrastinating at Bedtime

before you get under the covers. Smartphone screens, computer screens, and even some energy-efficient light

Though there are very real medical conditions, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, that deprive people of sleep, the reason most of us probably don’t get enough sleep is simply because we put off our bedtime. Instead of getting into bed, we opt to check off another item on our to-do list or watch another episode of our favorite show. This is sometimes called “bedtime procrastination.”We all know a good night’s sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, so how can we stop putting it off? A good place to start is by keeping track of your day. The human mind isn’t meant to internalize checklists and task reminders, so use your phone or journal as a scheduling assistant. However you decide to keep track, make sure to give yourself a set amount of time to accomplish your tasks, like letting yourself watch TV for just one hour or blocking out three hours to help your kids with their homework. It might even help to set alarms on your watch or on your phone to let you know when your time is up on any of your activities.

bulbs emit blue light, which reduces the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s time to go to bed. Instead of looking at your phone, try reading a

book before going to sleep. If your screens prove to be too big of a draw for you when bedtime comes, it might be a good idea to move your devices to another room so they’re out of sight and out of mind. Finally, don’t get discouraged if you don’t start getting better sleep right away. Setting up good bedtime routines takes time. But if you stick with it — and maybe have someone else in your house hold you accountable to your commitments — you’ll start to get better sleep and have more energy to take on the day in no time.

Another big part is creating an environment that is conducive to a good night’s sleep, and that starts with turning your electronic devices off well

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