On how to study better

I will try from now on to write short posts about new things I learn or find interesting. This time, the interesting thing I found was that video of a Lecture by Dr. Marty Lobdell about how to study in an effective way.

It’s one hour long but worth watching. I was mainly looking for the tips that can make me retain more of the information I read in books. I read a lot but I usually forget what I read.

I hope you take notes while watching long talks/lectures like this. I took some already, so feel free to read them if you don’t have time to watch the video which I recommend that you watch.

  • Study in short sessions, about 25 minute sessions, then get a 5 min break.
  • Don’t study in bedroom, or living room.
    If you have to, use brain hacks that let your brain know it’s study time. Something like a study lamp that you turn on only while studying, then turn it off during breaks and when you’re not studying.
  • Try to know what you’re studying to know how to study it.
    Is it a fact that you need to just remember, or something you need to understand? A poem name, is a fact. How a plant grows up, that’s something you need to understand.
  • When you read something for the second time, avoid confusing “recognition” with “recollection”.
    You can be sure that you really remember/understand something, if you can later recall it and say it in your own words.
  • Sleep well. No one tells you this enough. It’s very important.
  • Take notes and re-take notes.
    Right after the class or session, try to set down with your notes and expand more on each point. if you wait till the end of day, you will end up with a list of useless notes that don’t make any sense.
  • Ask questions.
    Be active. If you don’t understand something, ask for help.
  • Teach others about what you learned.
    It’s the best way to make sure that you understand what you’re reading. If you fail to explain it to them, or if they fail to understand it, then you don’t understand it well enough.
    Also, generally talking out loud is better than silent thinking. Talk to a chair if you can’t find someone interested in learning about that topic.
  • Use the SQ3R technique.
    Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. (I personally need to read again about that and practice).
  • Use mnemonics
    Ue Acronyms, coined sayings, and interacting images to help you remember the hard to remember facts.
    Example: How many calories in a 1 gm of carbohydrates? The answer is 4. A mnemonic you can use is that the word carbohydrates starts with “car”, and a car have 4 wheels!
    Mnemonics usually are embarrassing to share with others, so be creative, use whatever mnemonic that works for you. You don’t have to share them with others if you want.

Also here’s another short video I found interesting. It was something I was starting to follow already, “taking notes from book and collecting them in some other notebook“.

Collecting all the wisdom from all the books I read and putting them in a new place seamed like a thing I should have started to do long time ago.

 

 

Customer happiness

Originally posted this on Medium in Oct 2014

Customer happiness is one of the most interesting areas I give a lot of attention to, and it goes hand in hand with the area of Managing Company Culture.

I used to lead the customer care efforts at my first startup and I learned a lot from that, and one of the best lessons I learned is that turning a super angry customer into a super happy customer isn’t that complex, it depends a lot on your attitude while dealing with that customer’s complaint. You should make it clear that all you care about is that customer’s happiness before anything else.

if there is a misunderstanding, don’t tell the customer that it’s his fault, it’s the company’s fault as it didn’t put enough effort in making this clear.

If there’s a mistake, apologize, and over apologize. Compensate, and offer to over compensate.

If the last interaction between your company and a customer ends with a real smile on that customer’s face, sure this customer will come back again.

I’m never a fan of too professional communication with customers. Act professional, but sound like a friend giving a hand. (I never use “Dear X” in my emails, friends never do that)

If the customer is complaining about something, feel his/her pain, show true and positive sympathy. Once your voice starts to show that you’re feeling that customer’s pain, you will find that s/he will start to calm down and sympathize with you.

Sure combining all that with the right actions to solve that customer’s problem, will guarantee you that this customer will come back again with more of his friends.

All the tips I said above may sound easy and common sense, but they are not easy to implement in real life. Maybe it was easy for me as I was a founder in my own company, I’m the one who is supposed to care about all the little details, and won’t get tired improving anything that needs to be improved.

Still the challenge would have been bigger if my company had grown enough to start hiring a full-time team of customer care/happiness agents. Would they have treated customers the same way I do? It’s not their company, they are not moved by the same motivations I’ve. How would I’ve dealt with that?!

I don’t think that everyone has the skills and personality that can qualify him/her to be a good customer care agent.

Actually I don’t like to call them “customer care agents”, it doesn’t sound right. I prefer to call them “Customer Happiness Heroes” like they do at Buffer . It sounds more relevant to what that team is supposed to do, and it makes it clear to them that their first goal is to make customers; not just satisfied, but truly happy.

I was happy to find that the founders of the company I just joined (Edfa3ly.com) are giving increasing attention to the customer happiness area in their business. Their recommended book about the topic wasDelivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, The CEO of Zappos. I’m currently reading the book and it’s quite interesting.

Also it happened that I met recently with a senior manager at bigger scale company in Europe (Booking.com), and he told me that they have 3,500 customer care agents out of their 7,000 employees. And told me about how their agents are free to take actions that can make customers happy even if it makes the company lose money. Inside my head I was thinking “Wow, those guys really get it”.

Today, I was having a quite weekend at home. I tried to follow James Altucher‘s advice of writing 10 new ideas everyday, and one of them was about Customer Happiness.

The idea was “Start a company that acts as the customer happiness layer for all companies, using the same Happiness Heroes”.

The explanation: It takes tons of effort to make a great customer care/happiness team/department. From selecting the right people, training them, to making sure they are themselves happy.

This company will provide other companies with the best Happiness Agents to help them avoid the hassle of managing their own agents.

Yeah, nothing new about that as many companies already do that. The new thing would be that each customer will get assigned to about 5 happiness heroes that will take care of everything related to him/her.

While that “middle layer company” is serving many other companies, whenever a customer calls, one of the 5 agents will respond to his/her calls, whatever is the company that customer was trying to reach, s/he will get a response from one of his/her assigned happiness heroes.

What’s the point of making the customer always talk to same happiness agents across companies? I think this will help customers build good relation with their assigned agents. Generally, people start to behave better when they talk to people they already know.

Also, from a customer’s point of view, the agents will be like his own “personal assistants” who solve all his problems whatever is the company he is trying to contact.

I think a service like that would appeal to small/medium companies that want to just deliver the best experience to their customers in a new way while saving themselves the hassle of doing the customer happiness work by themselves.

I don’t know if this is something the worlds needs or not, doable or not, or maybe it already exists, I just wrote that idea down without giving a lot of thinking or research about it, but hopefully maybe someone somewhere will read that and tell me something interesting about how to deliver happiness.

Perfectionism, revisited!

Girl trying to be perfect

I was complaining today about how I get distracted while listening to podcasts. I’m not a person who can just freeze for 30 minutes or more to do nothing but just listen to a podcast. My eyes will automatically try to find something else to read.

I used to feel guilty each time this happens. Still one of the comments today on my original post, reminded me that this is another kind of perfectionism.

I used to think that I’m only a perfectionist about my code. It’s easy for me to notice it when I get into the perfectionist mode while working, but I forget that I sometimes try to be perfect too while doing other things .. reading books, listening to podcasts, and drawing diagrams are some of those things.

It’s quit relieving to remember today that there’s no way that we can remember everything we read in books, or 100% focus while talking with others. We humans are not like machines, achieving 80% or 90% accuracy as humans is a great achievement.

They don’t buy, as they don’t trust you

If you’re running an e-commerce business or selling any kind of product online, I hope that you already know the main reasons stopping people from buying from you.

As a consumer, and someone who enjoys talking to random people about how they use websites and mobile apps. I tend to always hear the same thing from people when it comes to paying for something online. They say “I don’t trust them”.

Yes, the number one reason people are not buying is that they don’t trust you. They may have a credit card ready, like the product, and interested in buying, but they won’t buy it from you. They are worried. They have many reasons to not buy more than the reasons supporting their purchase decision.

  • Is that website/app trustworthy enough to give it my credit card number?
  • Is that product really as good as they describe it?
  • Would I be able to return the product and get my money back if I don’t like it?
  • Is that the best price? or would it be cheaper somewhere else?

I hope your website/app is helping your costumers answer those questions in a clear and easy way. As your A/B tests will be useless if you’re just focusing on the color of your “Buy now” button, while ignoring the road blocks slowing your customer’s purchase decision.

What about developing countries?

If you’re trying to sell to people living in developing countries, you will face one more problem; Your costumers don’t trust their governments.

Without a good legal system, “with real law enforcement”, your mission becomes harder. Your customers know that their government won’t be there if you steal their credit cards, or sell them a shitty product. Not to mention that they are getting one of the worst consumer experiences from most if not all of the businesses in their countries. This makes them develop extra protection rules that make taking purchase decisions even slower.

In MENA (Middle East and Africa), most e-commerce websites offer a cash-on-delivery payment option as most people in that region don’t use credit cards. Maybe that’s the reason that comes first to mind, still a lot of people who already have credit cards, would go with the cash-on-delivery option, especially if that’s their first try to buy from that website. Simply they don’t know if they should trust that website or not.

Also, why would they pay now if they can pay later? especially if paying online won’t come with extra benefits. (discounts?)

You don’t trust them

This point is also about those who sell to consumers/customers living in developing countries.

You know that most of the population in that region have weak purchasing power, so most of the credit cards used to buy your products will be stolen. You know that the legal system, low enforcement, and business services are not there to protect you.

It’s worse if you’re providing a cash-on-delivery payment option in a country known for being not safe. Someone will steal the product from your delivery guy and will run away without paying, and you will have nothing to do about it.

This is a complex situation that I have no idea how you can get over as an online business, but trying to be trustworthy is something that you should strive for as a business, whatever the thing you’re selling, or whoever you’re selling it too.

My experience using Easy Taxi in Egypt

easy_taxi_logoEasy Taxi, a new taxi ordering service available in Egypt (mainly Cairo). I think the service started in Egypt in August 2013. Ogra, the Vodafone and Sawari Ventures backed company was supposed to hit market first, but they didn’t yet.

Easy Taxi is available in 20+ countries and expanding rapidly powered by $32 million in funding. I guess Ogra has only raised about $200k so maybe this is part of why their service is not operating yet.

I first found about Easy Taxi from their Facebook ad. Yesterday, I tried their app for the first time.

How it Works

Ordering a taxi is an easy task:

  1. open the app
  2. press the “Request taxi” button
  3. fill a small form to make it clear to the driver where you are waiting now (as GPS isn’t always perfect)
  4. wait for few seconds till a driver accept your request

When your request is accepted, you will see the name, photo, phone number of the driver, and the current location of the taxi moving on a map, with the taxi’s estimated arrival time.

While it’s easy to order a taxi, you would may need to cancel your order and start another one. I had to do 5 or 6 orders till I finally had a successful order.

My taxi orders always got accepted by drivers but I had to cancel them as one of the following happened

– Taxi driver accepted order, but I see him on map going far away from my location.
– Taxi driver called asking about my destination, but apologised as he didn’t not want to go to that place.
– Taxi driver asks me to meet him at the main road instead of coming to my current location.

I think it took me 30 minutes to finally get a taxi. I was actually going to quit trying but the last taxi driver called and said he is coming to where I’m waiting in few minutes.

The Driver

The driver was a guy in his late thirties. I noticed he was using an Android phone. I asked him about his experience being part of the Easy Taxi drivers program. he said he doesn’t get it yet. he has no idea how those people are making money. they gave him a discounted Android phone, and a monthly internet package. he doesn’t usually accept Taxi orders using their app, but this week he is trying to accept as much Easy Taxi orders as he can.

I asked him about what’s special about this week? he said, Easy Taxi is giving out prizes to drivers depending on the number of orders they serve. serving 21 orders during this week would make him win extra 1,000 EGP. he said it’s a good motivation for him to use the app. he said he thought at first about gaming the system someway or another, but he said it’s better to earn the money ethically.

I asked him about whether if adding a “destination” field to the taxi order form would be better for him? he said, Yes it will help and said that he told the Easy Taxi guys about it before but they didn’t agree with him. he said it’s always good to know the destination in advance to avoid calling the passenger to ask, especially that he once served a passenger who was going to a place about 1 km away, so it wasn’t worth it considering that he has to only start the cost counter once the passenger is inside the taxi.

Generally, he thinks this service may be good source of income someday, but currently he doesn’t expect a lot considering that the count of orders he gets notified about is ~15 orders/day.

Improvements

I hope this service and the likes will improve over time. they will need to do a lot of work considering how the Egyptian market is not comfortable dealing with anything related to technology. some of the suggested improvements is to localize the app for passengers and drivers. I didn’t see the driver’s app but he said it was in English, which doesn’t make sense considering how most of the drivers can’t read English.

Also the destination field is something worth adding to the passenger’s app. At other countries drivers don’t usually care about your destination, but in Egypt, it’s a different game. either add the missing text field or find another solution.

The driver told me he is using Zello to keep track of traffic news. I told him to install Wasalny and By2ollak for better traffic news. so making a deal with one of those apps will add better value to the driver’s app.

The most important improvement is to increase the number of daily orders. spending on facebook ads is fine but I think buying ad space inside Taxis will have better effect. I see a lot of ads on Facebook and I ignore most of them, but an Ad inside the Taxi, right in front of me, this is something I won’t be able to ignore. also, having something like an affiliate program with the drivers would be great too. If a taxi driver tells me to install an app that will allow me to order a taxi and it will cost me nothing, this is something I would think about.

Egypt isn’t a great market yet for providing service digitally. people are not used to buying or getting services online, so it takes a lot of effort to educate people about a new way to do stuff. I hope in few years, this service and the likes will be something that everyone use daily in this country.