Author: Espresso Insight

Tactics to Retain Customers, used by Citibank

Towards the end of a flight from Kansas City to New Orleans, an attendant handed me a flyer with information about a credit card program. signing up for this, I would get 50,000 frequent flyer miles? So, I signed up for the AAdvantage American Airlines Citi Card. I just finished college and had started my first job, and as naive as I was with this being my first credit card, I knew enough to know never to miss a credit card payment.

I glanced at the fine-print terms; In addition to 50,000 frequent flyer miles, they gave 1% cash back, and had no annual fee for the first year, etc. The catch was a $95 yearly fee, after the first year. I figured I would cancel my account before the year was up, and by then would have already used my 50,000 free Frequent Flyer miles.

About a year later,

I figured I would go ahead and cancel my card to avoid the yearly fee, during the second year term. I got online, paid the monthly statement as usual, and ended up on the customer service website to cancel the card. There was a feature to chat with somebody, so I clicked to chat and was immediately connected with service rep named Malcolm. As we started the online chat, I started off by saying “I’d like to close my account” – he then kindly asked me why, and I wrote back “yearly fee”.

I’m sure Malcolm was trained to respond with the various other options that Citi had… he told me about them, but I just wanted to make sure I could cancel at this point. I simply repeated my question, “what is the process like to cancel?”

Malcolm gave me instructions to cancel, and then mentioned again that Citi valued me as a customer and had options that might better suit my needs. He told me a bit about the cards that offer cash back, with no fees. I was appreciative of the instructions, and intrigued with the other options that Citi has available.

Malcolm gave me the number to the Citi Credit Card 24/7 line, and I was quickly able to connect with a service rep, Dee-Ann. I told her my situation. She mentioned that if I closed my account, I might lose some of the Frequent Flyer miles that I still had saved up. I preferred to not. But I didn’t want the yearly fee. “That’s fine”, I said. Dee-Ann went on to explain that, if I decided not to cancel, they would be able to offer me a $95 credit to my account, essentially making up for the $95 yearly fee. She then went on the say that, once my account hit the official 1-year mark since being opened, I’d be able to switch over to a Citi Card that did NOT have a yearly fee. I’d also get to keep my Frequent Flyer miles, and maintain the same credit limit.

Exactly what I was looking for, all in one solid offer.

After the polite exchanges with both Dee-Ann as well as Malcolm, I *figured I would continue to be a Citi Bank credit card customer. I also *figure I could use the extra line of credit anyways, in case of emergency.

Recap: How they kept a customer:

1. Understand Customers

Both Malcolm and Dee-Ann took the time to understand my needs. I needed to maintain a line of credit, with no yearly fee, and wanted save my small amount of FF miles remaining. The solution they presented me solved all of these issues.

2. Invest in Customers

Had they not offered me a $95 credit, I would have cancelled out of principle. I mean there are just so many other credit card providers to choose from – why would I pay someone to be their customer? When offering a small $95 credit to make up for the yearly fee I’d be paying them, they got to keep a longer term customer. The value that I’ll likely bring them over the next months and years will make up that small credit in no time.

3. Quick Response Time

I was connected virtually instantly with Malcolm via chat, and only had to input minimal information on the automated phone system prior to being connected with Dee-Ann when I called in. Had I been forced to wait a long time or be placed on HOLD, I likely would have been too frustrated to even consider another offer with Citi bank.

Great customer service might just help your customers figure they want to keep being your customer. Everyone makes many small decisions everyday. Some of those decisions involve choosing who we work with. When choosing something like who to use as a credit card provider, those decisions are often based out of necessity, convenience, and finally, what feels right. Give your customers a true positive experience that meshes with their apparent needs, as well as unspoken desires and they will love you forever.

Stanford is Helping Humans Age Well

Everyone wants to thrive during old age. What will it take to to increase the number of years of healthy, active life that we all have the opportunity to experience? Stanford University created a center to do just that.

The official mission…

…of the Stanford Center on Longevity is: “accelerate and implement scientific discoveries, technological advances, behavioral practices, and social norms so that century long lives are healthy and rewarding.” The center has three divisions: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Security.

From the mission above, let’s look at what, specifically, Stanford is doing to help us achieve healthy, rewarding, Century-Long Lives.

In an internet-connected world…

…more and more devices are starting to track human data. In addition to devices such as fitbit heart rate and step trackers, our iPhones also have the capability of collecting and recording large amounts of data from our everyday lives. Aggregating this data and analyzing it using Artificial Intelligence algorithms could provide insight into a person’s current state of health, which may allow for earlier prediction of disease, to recognize it in its early stages. For example, according to the New York Times, speech recognition software has been used by Arizona State University to analyze linguistic data of NFL players at press conferences over a multiple year period to determine changes in vocabulary and sentence structure, which provided insight into the onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). What if a similar speech analysis technology could be applied during phone calls of individuals with Parkinson’s disease so that their doctor can adjust the medication, as this article from Slate mentions? What if one could apply the same for Alzheimer’s? Complex algorithms would have to be written, but when considering the scope of technological capacity that we have today, this is certainly possible.

Financial Stability

The center is helping people with achieve and maintain financial stability. Some great first steps to becoming more financially stable include getting out of high-interest debt (such as credit card debt), paying off student loans/mortgage each month, living below your means by creating a budget, saving a regular percentage of your income, maintaining 6-12 months of living expenses in cash, and finally, investing. From a financial standpoint, center focuses on financial capability, new career lifecycles, and common financial pitfalls (such as fraud). In order to maintain your finances as you get older and well into your retirement, the center covers some best practices and other wisdom related to helping manage retirement income, and even ways to supplement that income. If we’re going to be healthier and energetic for longer, humans will have the opportunity to start a side gig, take up a craft, and maybe even build their own business.

Fellowship

Surrounding yourself with a supportive community is supremely important as well. William Chopik mentions that, whether it be friends or family, “having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad” may be so crucial to keeping stress levels low and maintaining positivity, and overall happiness.

It’s great to see universities like Stanford leading our civilization on teaching and spreading the word about how we can implement some of the latest breakthroughs in longevity research. The center’s website will serve as a great resource to help people take small actions to maintain health.

From the Stanford Center on Longevity’s website, it was founded in 2007 by Thomas Rando MD, PhD, and Laura Carstensen PhD.

What is Blockchain? Simplified Explainer

With blockchain’s level of hype, its a good idea to understand how it will affect our lives.

But many people don’t know what blockchain even is.

Most blockchain explanations use complicated terms like decentralization and consensus.

Instead of throwing around confusing words, let’s make it easy.

“its easy man” 1-of-1 NFT

Blockchains behave like referees

Let’s use an analogy to describe blockchain in simple terms: referees at a football game.

Refs serve as unbiased, independent reviewers, making sure that both teams follow the rules and play fairly.

Depending how high the stakes are, such as during tournaments or professional games, refs can make a lot of money for performing this level supervision.

However, before instant-replays were invented, referees couldn’t possibly catch everything happening in real time.

Even if the refs didn’t want to make bad calls, it was inevitable… There was no way to truly review each play and reach conclusive decisions.

referees serve the game as an independent

Equipped with the ability to review instant-replays, high-definition camera footage, and consult with other referees or analysts, call accuracy has increased.

Referees can watch exactly what is happening in every play, and consult with peers to ensure they make the best possible decision.

At the end of each play and after a decision is made, the game goes on – there is no way to go back and change the call.

How do referees relate to blockchains? (combine with above)

Now, instead of having seven or eight referees, imagine if there were 1,000 refs that reviewed and voted on every single play.

Assuming each ref was able to think independently and abide by the official rules, this would improve the accuracy of the entire decision making process for play review.

Blockchain technology takes this same approach with something called a validator network.

Just like referees review every situation that happens on the field during a game, this validator network reviews and verifies every transaction that happens on the blockchain.

Likewise, once a transaction is validated and published to the blockchain, it cannot be changed.

Let’s cut the complicated stuff:

Blockchain simplified explainer, TL/DR:

When two people trade something, a network (validators) verifies transaction data (aka blocks) before they are added to the transaction record (aka the blockchain).

Blockchain Facilitates Trade

When you agree on a deal and shake someone’s hand, can you trust them?

If transactions happen on the blockchain, then the answer is yes.

Blockchain enables people to form agreements and exchange items of value.

Neither party participating in this virtual handshake can cheat the system because every transaction occurs under the observation of a network of validators — computer code behind the scenes establishing trust.

Everyone in the network runs this code which reviews transactions for errors or malicious intent.

Since transactions are transparent, any attempt at fraud is seen by the network, and will either be corrected or rejected. This ensures that everyone follows the rules and no one gets cheated.

After all the validators on the network approve a transaction, a new block is created and published to the blockchain.

blockchain transactions happen in front of a network of trusted validators.
Each transaction is a virtual handshake.

Blockchains are made of blocks

The transaction data, plus signature of approval from the network, makes up a single “block”.

Similar to an accounting or book keeping system, transaction data stored within a block includes who participated in the agreement, what goods were exchanged, and how much they paid (currency).

Once a block is published to the blockchain, it is there indefinitely. Data cannot be altered.

blocks being added to the blockchain
Blocks being added to the blockchain

Did you know? You can see every single transaction that ever happened on the blockchain.

Instead of happening in private or behind closed doors, blockchain transactions are publicly available.

As new blocks are added, identical copies of the blockchain are updated and distributed to everyone on the validator network.

Thousands of computers (aka nodes) make up the network, and anyone can see transaction data.

Transaction validation happens extremely quickly, and distribution of new versions of the blockchain happens almost instantaneously. [1]

We use new search engines in web3: Block Explorers

On the traditional internet, you look stuff up with a search engine like Google.

In web3, users can view blockchain transactions using block explorers like Etherscan or Polygonscan.

These early stage databases will become the go-to search engines for web3.

Etherscan, the Ethereum Blockchain Explorer

Blockchain validator networks replace middlemen

In the traditional internet, your data is maintained and controlled by individual companies.

Think about how much information you submit when joining Facebook, creating a LinkedIn profile, or even purchasing a flight online.

And how about online commerce?

Marketplaces like ebay.com help people conduct business, facilitating transactions via traditional financial institutions.

When buying or selling something in web2, companies like Ebay control our data and maintain the trust. Ebay verifies the buyer and seller’s identities, and typically charges sellers a fee around 20% of the sale price for these services.

When we pay through Paypal or with a credit card, these companies also take a percentage of every payment.

On web3, blockchain eliminates the need for a middle-man like Ebay, or banks, and Visa.

Blockchain enables trustworthy commerce from one person to another without using services and databases controlled by a single entity. No single organization that can own or control the market.

Blockchain hard-coded protocols serve as the autonomous middleman. The code facilitates the rules of engagement – no intermediaries are involved.

The money gathered from blockchain transaction fees goes to the network rather than a single company.

Blockchains provide cryptographic security

Even if it does use an innovative form of cryptography, security software isn’t sexy.

Instead of being forced to listen to someone ramble on about topics like VPNs, authentication, decentralization, password managers, or Captcha, most people would rather stuff their ears with broken glass.

Check out this EASY summary of cryptocurrency in under 200 words – READ NOW

Although important for the internet, these conversations are not going to help at dinner parties — especially if your goal is to win friends and influence hotties.

As the web3 internet progresses, blockchain interfaces will do their job managing the complicated stuff behind the scenes.

Tools like wallets, fees, blockchains, swaps and bridges will be abstracted away from the user entirely. [2]

While blockchain keeps the internet running as an intrinsic background technology, the way that users interact with web3 will feel seamless, and the complicated stuff will be done under-the-hood.

Users won’t even need to know the blockchain is there, much like the cryptography and anti-virus apps that run in the background on our computers today.

One level up from blockchain, cryptocurrency is reaching mainstream adoption.

Tokens like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon, or Doge may feel risky – there is always uncertainty. But, in some ways, there is just as much risk in not understanding these technologies as there is with being involved and owning just a little bit of crypto.

In 2022, blockchain may still feel like an obscure, fringe idea. My goal with this post was to highlight the essential elements of blockchain and make it easy to understand.

If you found this post helpful, please let me know on Twitter, at espressoinsight.

What to read next?

  • Intro to crypto in under 200 wordsread now
  • Why Ethereum matters – read now
  • Allocating funds between NFTs and ETH – read now
  • Best podcasts about crypto and NFTS – read now
  • 16 free tools to analyze NFTs – read now

Sources:

  1. https://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/110079/how-do-nodes-agree-or-disagree-after-new-block-is-create
  2. https://polynya.medium.com/the-web3-stack-how-web3-will-offer-superior-ux-than-web2-6b8c82709163

How To Get an A in Organic Chemistry

This post will describe the tool I used to review ALL of my organic chemistry notes in 1 hour. I will walk you through the steps and show you how I created and used the most fantastic study tools and aced o-chem.

My official college transcript displays Cs in general chemistry (101 and 102).  Below is a description of what I did to get A’s in organic chemistry. Unlike many liberal arts classes, orgo has no Achilles heel to give you an easy way out. No amount of last minute cramming will allow you to succeed.

If you’re like me, studying is more of a game than a task. The hard part about Orgo isn’t the actual material/concepts, but the large amount of information. Taking in all the information in orgo is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. Another challenge is siting down and actually studying when surrounded by friends in easier subjects who don’t need to study as much. If you’re the one carrying around that orgo textbook that’s a foot thick, use it as a reminder that you’re going to need to do something different than the kids taking poli sci.

Practice problems first. Choose to spend the majority of your study time on practice problems. Especially at the beginning of a new section/chapter. Work your professor’s assigned problems first. In my experience the most effective way to begin learning the material is by doing practice problems first rather than by making flash cards and trying to memorize reactions.

Getting Stuck. At times its going to feel like a new set of reactions can’t be distinguished from each other. You’re lost and you “don’t get it”. At this point, its time to switch from practice problems to a reading/memorization tactic. You may think of making flash cards but….

Make Flash Pages instead of flash cards. The point of a flash card is just that, a flash to spark your memory. Lets say you glance at 10 flash cards 1 time each. Each card takes between 5-10 seconds to look over. I believe that it is possible increase your glance surface area from the size of an index card to the size of an 8x11in sheet of paper. This will improve how much information you cover.
-In a glance of 5-10 seconds, your eyes view an entire page of condensed notes instead of a small index card.
-Your brain will be forced to recognize certain reactions and concepts right next to other reactions and concepts that are related.
To make them: copy the essential sections of a chapter section onto a blank page. Say you cover 6 chapters during a semester, with ~10 sections each. This means that if you make a flash page for every section, you will have made about 60 pages of notes. That’s less than a page per day.  When in the span of an entire semester, this is not much.

Look for the similarities. In many cases, the reactions are analogous to each other. For example: nucleophilic attack on a carbonyl carbon by a nucleophile is analogous to nucleophilic attach on a cyanide carbon by a nucleophile (you’ll know what this means later if you don’t now). Many of the mechanisms involve the same exact steps, which is great because it allows you to focus on a big picture. Understanding the general processes are key to then noticing the slight nuances between each specific mechanism, such as the differences between acidic vs. basic conditions.

Read Before Lecture. Just do it. Bite the bullet and spend some time (even 10 minutes) glancing at the material to be covered in the following lecture. If you are ambitious you can make your flash page on the section before class. This is useful for any class, but in reality is not normally actually done. If you want an A, do it for orgo. This will allow you to capitalize on the time you spend in lecture, and actually understand where your teacher is going during class.

You can try any memorization tricks you want, but as I said in another post, the goal with memorization is to maximize your Glances/Time ratio.

Do Not fall behind.

Supplemental material: I used “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” by David Klein. There’s a version for both orgo 1 and 2. Utilize your textbook solutions manual. If your book doesn’t come with one, its definitely worth trying to find one on the internet – even purchasing used on amazon if you need to. Remember, work on practice problems first.

Check your syllabus and understand how the course will be graded. My professor’s policy was to drop each student’s lowest exam grade and not count it. So, I was able to accidentally blow one of the exams. Realize also that its easier to do well on homework assignments than it is on tests. So make sure you ace the homeworks and other general assignments so that you have a bit of a buffer when it comes to the exams.  If you have close to a B+ average on exams, this may average to an A/A- when combined with the high grades you receive on the general homework assignments. Play the game.

Lab Sections: Your class will probably have a required lab period. Lab was run by Teacher’s assistants. Go to T.A. office hours (one hour a week for me) and get help. Just ask a million questions and understand how they graded and you’ll be fine.

Get to know your professor. College professors can be phenomenal people. They’re incredibly specialized in their area, and you’ll learn more about the class speaking to them for an hour than spending two days studying alone.

Study Groups: Helpful for lab sections and writing lab reports, as well has comparing solutions to difficult practice problems and homework. Having a small network (maybe 2 to 5 people) that you can call on for help while studying will prove to be beneficial. I sincerely believe that I would not be graduating college this May with a chem major were it not for the group I studied with during some of my harder classes.

Go Out. Don’t spend every night studying, give your brain a break. Studies show that you can’t really focus on one thing for more than 45 minutes anyway. Spend part of every evening studying, sure. But keep in mind that those four years goes by fast, and there’s a chance you won’t ever use the information in organic chem again.

The next part is to Review, and maximize your Glances/Time ratio. The idea here is that its more effective to look over a page 5 times spending a 1 minute each time than it is to look over a page 1 time spending 5 minutes. Do this with the flash pages you make. Don’t worry if you have trouble reading so quickly. I’m one of the slowest readers you’ll meet. Force yourself to spend as little time as possible on each flash page when reviewing. You will improve your brains ability to interpret a large amount of material during a single glance. You will soon see how the sponge of your brain collects and retains more information by seeing it many times in short flashes.

This will shorten the time you spend studying for the class. Towards the end of the semester, the 60 flash pages that you made will become readable in 60 minutes or less if you use this technique. Isn’t that incredible? You now have a tool to get through an entire semester of organic chemistry in 1 hour.