Archive for July, 2010


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Every year, somewhere in the country, a city is selected to host a conference – the Pentecostal Conference of North American Keralites, to be exact. Since it includes most of the various sub-denominations, I’d say PCNAK is one of the bigger conferences in the Indian Pentecostal church circle (Kerala is the state in India where we originate, by the way). This year the conference was set to be hosted here in Houston, TX. Land of the free.

Over the years, people’s take on the conference have become more diverse. I can’t say what necessarily caused the slide but what used to be (I felt) genuine excitement to hear thoughtful speakers and meet new faces from around the country has drifted to include many who are disenchanted by the whole event.

I’ll confess that I wasn’t terribly excited about the conference this year. But I decided to force myself to have a good attitude or at least quiet the negativity I felt since Houston was hosting and I didn’t want people who came out to have an awful time.

My good and longtime friend Sajan was part of the local leadership team and was in charge of marketing and I had the fun task of joining in him in getting out some marketing materials. We made a series of videos – I don’t know if it convinced anyone to actually come out to conference but I hope it changed some folks’ mindset to believing that conference may be something worth looking forward to.

We also had the chance to host a “Fellowship Night” which involved setting up a photo booth for attendees to have their picture with friends taken professionally, as well hosting a game show. If nothing else, we entertained ourselves pretty thoroughly.

All in all, I enjoyed this year’s PCNAK far more than I imagined I would. I was definitely more exhausted at the end of each night than I imagined I would be but it was all enjoyable. The speakers for the weekend did a great job as did the various worship teams from around the country. And I can’t overlook the massive amount of work and hours the volunteers from Houston poured into the conference. They really made it all happen. Impressive.

Next year’s conference is scheduled to be in Oklahoma City. While I haven’t decided whether or not I plan to attend, I know it’d make for a great excuse to visit some lovely people, no?

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This post may apply more to the musicians out there, or any of you who happen to purchase music equipment.

Growing up, the only in acquiring music gear, be it guitars or keyboards, the only option was to walk into a brick and mortar store in town and see what they had in stock. While they sometimes could order you a special item, you were typically left to choose from the items they had on the floor, no matter how badly they’d been treated by the hundreds of customers testing them out before you arrived with cash in hand.

In my experience, some stores have cemented a reputation in making a sale as their primary goal, with “sincerely-helping-the-customer-find-the-right-item-for-them” being far lower on the priority list.

When the internet found its place in my home, the countless options that opened up to me were very exciting. I didn’t know of everything available to me at that time so, for music gear, I usually went with the familiar Musiciansfriend.com. They had just about everything I needed at the time at very competitive prices. What more could you ask for, right?

Over time, (and I think in great part to my time at FedEx) I grew an appreciation for customer service and it became easier to spot it (or not) in various businesses I interacted with.

Musiciansfriend.com may have offered a decent selection for a decent price but, in my experiences, they lacked the level of customer service that I expected from a company that wished to keep my business. There have been orders where I received no shipping information after checking out, and a lot of orders where the packaging was careless and sloppy. Not appreciated.

And that standard I’d come to expect came from my experiences with Sweetwater.com. Here’s a company who sells the same gear as Musiciansfriend at the same competitive rates but also offers an extensive line of pro gear as well. Their website is thoughtful and clean as well. Say you’re looking to purchase a guitar; you can find and look at the actual guitar you’re going to receive. The guys at Sweetwater set up and photograph each guitar before securely stocking them in the warehouse so you can decide between the guitars in stock to see which is right for you. Brilliant idea.

If that wasn’t enough, you can call their 800 number and talk to qualified reps who actually know what they’re talking about in reference to gear or software. You’re also assigned a rep so you can talk to the same person when you contact the company. When I’ve placed orders online, I’ve always received a follow up call from Ron Daniel, my customer service rep at that time. About a week after the product has shipped, he’ll even call me to make sure everything got to me alright and is working satisfactorily.

I should emphasize now that I do not work for Sweetwater.com. I’m just a customer who’s blown a lot of money on gear over the years and have interacted with a pretty wide lot of people trying to sell me something. I’ve never had any experience that quite compares to the level of brilliant customer service I’ve received at Sweetwater.com. I have sworn off buying gear anywhere else. They aren’t worth my money.


And this didn’t necessarily spark my positive feelings toward Sweetwater, but it certainly didn’t hurt: On Twitter a couple of weeks ago, SweetwaterSound asked a quick trivia question which I happened to answer correctly and which resulted in me receiving a Whirlwind Phaser pedal. How fun is that?

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