Most of us are likely accustomed to the kind of "we wish you'd hang up and go away" level of customer service when calling a call center or support line. It's not too hard to notice the strategies that most companies use to attempt to hide the fact that they spend as little money as possible on their call centers. For starters, we're typically shunted into a long series of automated options that seem designed to stall one as long as possible, and even perhaps to discourage continuation of the call.

If you're patient enough to get through the automated tree to "speak to a customer service representative," we're typically told that "we're experiencing higher than normal call volumes." It doesn't seem what time of day I call, I almost always get this message. I pretty much figure it's a euphemism for "we have all of one or two people on staff, or otherwise outsource our call center but spend a little as possible, so of course you're going to have to wait."

Then, if you're still patient enough to wait through some minutes of reall bad music played through some dreadful audio system, you finally get to a human being. Now, I usually get to talk to someone who is kind and courteous enough, but there isn't much encouragement for small talk or relating to the representative as a human being. The point, obviously, is to get the issue handled as quickly as possible.

Today I needed to call into Disneyland's service center to complete payment for an upcoming trip. (I'm taking my son to Disneyland in October for his birthday.) And I was delighted with the experience.

For starters, the initial automated response gave only three quick options, and I spent about all of 5 seconds here. Choosing the option for making a payment, I was connected immediately to a human being–no waiting whatsoever, even on a Saturday morning. The woman I spoke to was a real pleasure.

She wasn't in any hurry to collect a payment and let me go. No, while we waited for the reservation record to come up, I joked with her a little about making database queries against backend systems, and how that often takes a while because of the load on the server. She was interested, so we talked a bit about the nature of data centers, and why you can have a really fast computer and a fast internet connection, and still end up waiting because the computer on the other end isn't particularly fast.

Well, we did eventually get to the matters at hand, but still, no hurry. We talked about Disneyland, discussed a few questions I had about things going on during our time there, and so on. In the end, I think my "quick call" to make the final payment on our package ended up being about 20 minutes.

After the call, I completed the short phone survey and also went to to express my appreciation. What I enjoyed here was that they asked whether there was any "magic moment" in the conversation I just had, and I was happy to describe my delight at making a real human connection.

In the end, I was left with a deep apprecitation for how much Disney works to make the entire experience enjoyable, including even how their customer service works. It's a model that other companies would do well to follow!

I wanted to let you all know that starting September 2nd, I'll be taking on a new role as Senior Content Developer for Azure and Visual Studio, as part of the Developer Answers team in Microsoft's Cloud & Enterprise Division. This means that content production will be even more of my focus than it has been in the past, when having a Program Manager title often meant getting involved in a variety of other activities!

Blogging will certainly continue, both on Windows and also on Azure and other topics as I expand into those areas. In the meantime, I've been blessed to have a little break between this and my former job, which has provided lots of time for home projects and spending time with family before my son's school starts up again.

For some years our six-year-old son has enjoyed S&W’s Santa Fe Recipe beans, which worked out to be an excellent and inexpensive vegetarian chili. In the last year or two we’ve had trouble finding them, and I finally confirmed with S&W that the product is discontinued.

So I set out to create a reasonable substitute that our son still enjoyed, and struck gold on the first try (I fortunately saved a little of the Santa Fe beans to compare).

The recipe is simple:

  • 1 can of S&W Pinquinto beans (a new product, see here)
  • 4 oz tomato sauce (half a small can)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of your favorite chili powder. We like Chili 3000 from Penzey’s Spices, which is a combination of chili, cumin, onion, garlic, and a couple of other things.

Anyway, I wanted to share this as others might be searching for a good substitute on the web, especially if they have a young child with particular tastes like ours.