Thursday, March 31, 2011


Hotel Carpet
I'm quite a fan of Hyatt hotels. Or at least they are the big chain hotel group that I remain faithful to.

It all started when the Grand Hyatt was the best hotel in Melbourne, then our relationship was cemented after a week long stay at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. (you need a view of Mt Fuji from your window).

What won me over was the tray of coffee delivered each morning - at a time of our liking, with a hand written note detailing the day's weather. The real skill was the waiter delivering the tray without once looking directly into the room.

The loyalty points from those two weeks in Japan allowed me room upgrades from standard room to club to suite on every stay since. I've done it in Shanghai, Melbourne and Auckland.

So if not a Hyatt fan, at least a Hyatt faithful.

But I think that we might be falling out of love.

Recently at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne the phone booking agent offered an upgrade to a refurbished suite.

But on arrival the upgrade was to a rather old, sad, tatty un-refurbished room. You know the kind - scratches on all the woodwork, ingrained stains in the draylon covered lounge.

Questions were asked, apologies were made, free champagne and strawberries, and an à la carte breakfast was comped. My ill feelings were assuaged.

However the denouement was not so pleasant. The final bill - you know - the ones that is put under the door - was entirely inaccurate - other than the bed-night charges.

We had been erroneously charged for drinks ("I'll reverse that for you now"), charged for coffee during our comped breakfast; multiple charges for internet access on the same day etc etc. All that work done by the very accommodating assistant manager Ryan was all undone with one inaccurate piece of paper.

It wasn't so much the mistake, but that slight air of distrust, like you really had drained the mini-bar and not admitted it - that rankled.  Maybe its the Japanese grace I miss.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Texting while driving - there's an app for that!

As a pedestrian, I notice drivers texting all the time.  They do it at lights, and then continue after someone has honked them because they missed the lights change.
Back in January, T-Mobile launched DriveSmart, an Android app which automatically disables the ability to text whenever it detects that you’re driving.

That launch, it seems, has started a trend.

Sprint’s now getting in on the anti-texting fun, announcing plans to launch a similar (or identical, really; it’s made by the same people) service called “Drive First” in Q3 of this year. Like T-Mobile’s offering, this one’ll be for Android only. Also like T-Mobile’s service, it won’t be free — but at $2 a month, it’s less than half of the $4.99 that T-Mobile is charging.
You can always make money from people's stupidity


Friday, March 25, 2011

Phone tragedy - changing telco's

Recently a friend of mine and their partner moved all their telecommunications over to Telstra. They combined their mobile accounts, their landline, their internet, their mobile data plans, and their Foxtel all together to reap promised discounts, additional credits, and a single simplified bill.

If only we could bill the telco for the hours we spend letting them frustrate us
What they didn't sign on for was over 20 hours of frustration with countless Telstra consultants in too many locations to count. All either promised to solve the numerous problems (billing, promised credits, promised discounts, promised combinations of services) and didn't, or just passed the problem on - that old transfer roundabout.

Transfer roundabout 
I'm sure you are familiar with the drill: "This is not a sales problem, I'll just transfer you to technical support.", or "Oh your on a Mac, not my area, I'll have to transfer you." or the dreaded promise of no solution: "Well I will have to escalate this issue." - when to you it has already 'escalated' to mind numbing frustration.

Customer service
Now my friend is no slouch at customer service. Every phone call was logged, every consultant's name remembered, every conversation noted, every incident number recorded, and every consultant's ID taken down

What a waste of time for my friend, but what a huge waste of time for Telstra.

There must be a better way to manage customers than this.

Oh - and I forgot to tell you – my friend's old telco still thinks they are their customers, and bills them accordingly. Another poor call centre operator to argue with!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why don't TV programs start on time?

This week Conviction Kitchen (its the show that takes advantage of underprivileged people in the guise of helping them - but that's fodder for another post) on Channel 7 ran 12 minutes overtime according to my Foxtel Electronic Program Guide (EPG).

My guilty pleasure on Monday evening is watching a pre-recorded Brothers and Sisters episode.

So - I missed the last 12 minutes of what fortunately was not a particularly enthralling episode (It's OK my life didn't depend on seeing the dénouement)

I pre-record because it clashes with something else I like to watch, and anyway, the whole point of time shifting is:
  1. to fast forward through the ads, and reduce viewing time by 25%
  2. watching things at a convenient time for me, and not the TV channel broadcasting it

Channel 7 do it because it can affect ratings (which run on in quarter hour blocks), and I think because they are bloody minded, and want to discourage time-shifting, and hence skipping through ads, or maybe they have another reason that I'm not aware of.

The problem for them is, that this kind of behaviour just becomes another reason for consumers to ignore broadcasters, and embrace illegal downloading - because at least that way, they can get it when they want it, and without the ads.

Buy the DVD legally you say?  Right, and wait 3 months until they are finally released - not likely.

Viewing is still about timeliness, team.

Oh - and next time I will remember to press that +20 minutes feature on my Foxtel IQ - that I suspect was developed precisely because of the untrustworthiness of their free-to-air brothers and sisters.

(image from Yahoo 7 website screen grab)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

7:30 Report - Can we Talk?

New hosts, new name, new logo, but somebody forgot the innovation.

How is it possible to re-launch a national current affairs show, and forget to give it a personality. I'm not talking about Chris Uhlmann, or Leigh Sales - although they both need to find their feet in this new format - I'm talking about the point of difference with the old the 7:30 Report. It doesn't have one.

Having the opening with the host talking in front of a hug screen, or a new really ugly loud and unsubtly ugly logo doesn't make it different. All it seems to do is remind us that we are missing Kezza. Change is always difficult, and even I who hopes to embrace change find myself, saying "why couldn't it be like before?"

Ok enough kvetching. You have another 6 weeks 7:30 Report before I will really make a judgment.

You have a NSW election, and a great big New Tax (Cut) - depending on who you listen to, an earthquake/tsunami, a potential middle eastern war, and a budding nuclear disaster. That should be enough for a current affairs show to create a reputation on.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Phone fantasy conversations with your Telco

Pro-active #1
Phone Company: Good Morning Stephen, It's Karen here. I know that you normally deal with Simon as your account manager, but he's not on shift at the moment.  I've been looking at your file, and I noticed that you have a backlog of emails waiting to go out. Is that the reason for your call?

Phone Company: Good, I can fix that - I just need to reset something at our end, and you emails should be on their way in a moment.

Pro-active #2
Phone Company: I also notice that you phone usage has decreased over the last month. Would you like me to reset your contract to a lower monthly rate?

Overseas roaming
Phone Company: Your going overseas next month? Yes we can add roaming to your data plan to cover mobile overseas data - you will be charged at the same rate you are domestically, but there will be a one off $20 surcharge for the month. Is that OK?

Same charge whatever the device
Phone Company: Yes Stephen, you are correct, the charge for phone calls is the same on your cell, or mobile phone, as it is on your landline for calls anywhere in Australia. For phoning overseas, there is just an additional flagfall charged which is around $1 per call. And you are also correct about your data, the charges for downloads on your computer via your landline, wifi, your cellphone, and your iPad are all the same.

Phone contracts that are actually customer focused
Phone Company: Hi Stephen, just a courtesy call to tell you that the new iPhone 5 is expected to be launched here in June.  Would you like me to put you down to receive notification of when they are available?

Phone Company: Yes, you can have a new 6 month, 12 month, or 24 month contract including the new handset, or you can buy it outright, and stay on your no-contract agreement.

Any problem, you speak to one person who will solve your problem
Phone Company: No, I won't need to transfer you, I can deal with any sales, account, or technical questions you have. If there is any problem you raise that I can't answer immediately, I'll find the answer and call you back. Yes you are right, we don't believe in transferring you to 5 or more different people, because it wastes your time and ours.

Don't like the consultant - change to another one
Phone Company: No Stephen, we don't 'escalate' calls. I'm personally responsible for sorting out your enquiry in a reasonable time period like 24 hours or less. If I can't solve it to your satisfaction, in that time, then we will issue a credit to you automatically. If you are unsatisfied with my service, I can pass you onto a new Account Manager, who will call you once they have had time to familiarise themselves with your file.