EasyJet Customer Experience – A failure waiting to happen

As companies continue to inch (literally) ever closer toward greater and greater productivity, I can say that I was only mildly amused when the EasyJet flight attendant on a recent flight cajoled us into listening to the pre-flight safety announcements. As with most of us who travel a lot, we consider these announcements over the loud-speaker as an obligatory nuisance. On this particular EasyJet flight, I decided to put down what I was reading to listen. One specific part of the instructions caught my attention. Not that I am against productivity gains; nor am I against an airline wishing my safety. However, someone needs to revisit and update what must be a rather old script.

In case of emergency landing, take the customary “brace” position, by bending over, placing your head between your legs and tucking your arms around your thighs.

Not being of the circus contortionist variety, I can say that I am just about able to put my chest on my thighs, nothing more. Getting the head to tuck down neatly is a bit of a stretch. And, I am fortunate not to have a pot belly.

Brace for it

Here are the instructions as printed on the plastified sheet in front of each seat (in this case for an Airbus A319/320). Continue reading

An example of how not to be customer centric @ Heathrow’s Terminal 5

Heathrow Terminal 5 is in need of an urgent look at its customer journey… literally

I recently took a British Airways flight in business class on a brand new 787 “Dreamliner” on one of the first ever non-stop flights between London and Austin Texas (it was for #SXSW2014). I would note that I certainly don’t intend to be complaining about privileged travel in this post. My point is to observe the explicit consequences of not being customer centric. Embarking at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, I was ushered through the “fast track” customs and baggage control without much ado. After collecting my affairs, I noticed that to the right there was the Concorde Lounge, but was informed that it was only for First Class. I was told that the BA Business Class lounge was downstairs, immediately underneath. To get downstairs, you have to go about 60 meters past a row of stores. The escalator down is around the other side. Once downstairs, I headed back from whence I came. Signage was poor. The route was lined with shops, mostly luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada, Harrods (see below). It turns out that the space “immediately underneath” the Concorde Lounge was under construction. No sign of the Business Class lounge.

Continue reading

Motorcycle Taxi in Paris – Getting around Presidential Traffic Jams

I had my first ‘motorcycle taxi’ ride last Friday. It turned out to be a classic experience of getting to the airport JIT (just in time). My flight was at 4:15pm and I left my meeting at the MEDA headquarters at 2:30pm. According to the driver, we would arrive within 25 minutes, no sweat.

Motorcycle Taxi service in Paris

My first thought about the Motorcycle-taxi regards the very different experience of getting “into” the motorcycle taxi, this being my first such taxi ride. The first point is that my driver, David, felt the need to shake my hand. A personal touch. The next challenge was the suitcase which was apparently much bigger than expected. However, after some stretching of the veritably industrial elastic bands, the suitcase was cabled on to the back of the bike. Then, with hairnet to boot, I slipped on the second helmet. The final ritual involved the alcoholic gel for the hands before putting on the provided gloves. Only fitting, I thought, before you split your legs and sit behind a total stranger. All aboard, we went off with a relaxed feeling – I was, indeed, very confident that we would make it in time. So confident, in fact, that I decided to make a quick stopover at my home – basically on the way to the Roissy (CDG) airport, some 30 kilometres north of Paris.

Having arrived at our home, I scrambled up and down and was back on the saddle at 2:45pm. A little tight, but we should get to the airport at 3:10pm at the latest assured David, my friendly driver. As it turned out, as we arrived at the first entrance to the péripherique (Paris’ ring road), we found the on-ramp blocked off, causing general mass confusion of honking, a lot of frustrated drivers and a quite unexpected traffic jam. We diverted to the next entrance, not without jumping a few curbs. Same problem. The entrance was again blocked. By the time we arrived at the third entrance, my heart had taken on a noticeably less consistent beat. We asked the policeman, who was nonchalantly shooing us off the on-ramp, how many of the entrances might be closed off. “Presidential Procession” was the surly explanation, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders.

After the fourth ‘diversion,’ we wiggled and ziggled and finally found a route onto the A1 toward the airport via St Denis. At last, we experienced some free sailing. We arrived at terminal 2A at 3:18pm. Pretty good, I thought, but later than I would have wanted and less than an hour before the international flight was to take off. Catastrophe struck as I found out that the right terminal was actually 2E. Fortunately for me, David was still re-arranging his bike for his next trip. Putting the helmet back on, without hairnet this time, and jamming the suitcase between us, we zipped over to the E terminal, which, if you don’t know CDG, is a good kilometre away. Imagine my horror, when I discovered that the real right terminal was 2F, some 500 metres away by foot. The sprint was on. I arrived at the check-in counter to hear “sorry, sir, the flight is closed for check-in.” To my good fortune – and thanks to the electronic new age – I had pre-checked in and had a boarding pass. The woman accepted my situation (and my C2000 card) and I was able to go through the final formalities to board the plane. Hurray.

Anyway, the motorcycle taxi definitely saved me… I cannot imagine what might have happened had I been in a classic car taxi. It was worth it all the way. Anyone else want to share a Moto-Taxi experience? Zip on over here and tell us.

Spelling Mistake at Orly Sud Airport… really!

Have you ever spotted a spelling mistake on restaurant’s menu and wondered if you should tell the waiter?

What about when you see an error on an official document or signpost?  Wouldn’t it be handy if, right near by, there just happened to be a comment box (complete with a pen on a string) where you might be able to jot down and drop in a helpful comment?

Instead, I am again left with the only means I know how: a little blog post.  Below is an error spotted at the baggage carousel area at Orly Sud airport, Paris.  I had spotted mistakes in less developed airports (most recently in Marrakesh), but Paris should know better.  Forgiving the extra space after Norway, I could not, however, let the faulty translation of Islande pass by.  For my friends from Iceland: I am looking out for you!

CDG Airport Error on Signpost: Island instead of Iceland

Marrakesh Airport Passport Control – Government 2.0?

Controle des Passeports Marrakesh Airport Sign
At the airport of Marrakesh, Morocco, as we were leaving, I snapped this photograph (above) of the “official” sortie. The Passport Control desk has a sign above it in three languages. The French is given prime real estate. I trust the Arabic is spelt correctly. Meanwhile, the person who approved the English neeeds to revisit his or her spelling (yes, one ‘e’ too many). And, for that matter, one ‘s’ too many as well. I failed to find a “Suggestions & Complaints” box, so had to resort to the blog.

I do wonder how much the world could be a better place if there were open channels of communication for accepting people’s voluntary comments, etc. Aside from figuring out the logistics, one of the problems would be: how many of the suggestions would be right and/or appropriate (cf Wikipedia)? A government 2.0 site for fixing ‘errors’? It could speak volumes for a co-creative relationship between citizen and state?

Do you think life would be better if people had the opportunity to write to the government every time they had a constructive criticism?

Great Values in Hockey…even when it is professional

Don’t you find that too many professional sports smack of too much money & poor values?  Below is an email that has been circulating since the end of last year. It is a great story, with a “mostly true” rating from Snopes. The event occurred November 23, 2008. It was first posted on this NHL Home Ice blog back on Dec 8, 2008.

Ice Hockey Stick Colour Fan Collection

“In the middle of a grueling six game road trip where a very young hockey team is away from home, the third game of the trip ends late on a cold Canadian Saturday night. This is the only break on the trip and the three days between games allow them the only break to get back home in their own beds for a couple of days before going back on the road. A scheduled commercial flight waits for them at Toronto’s International Airport for the short flight home; they could be home by midnight. This plane departs on schedule, but without a single member of the hockey team.

Back in the locker room a vote is taken after the game was complete, and a unanimous decision is made by this young team to skip this flight and stay one more day. They make arrangements to check back in the hotel and on a frozen Sunday morning charter two buses that have no heat and begin a journey two hours straight north into a sparsely inhabited Canada, but where hockey is its passion. They arrive at their destination to the surprise of the teams general manager who is there attending his fathers wake.

After a few emotional hours, this team boards the buses and head back for a two-hour trip back to Toronto. On the way they ask the drivers to stop in a tiny Canadian town because they are hungry.

To the shock of the patrons and workers at this small hockey town McDonald’s, a professional team walks out of two rickety buses and into the restaurant, which just happens to have pictures of two members of this team on its wall. The patrons know every single one of these players by sight being fanatic fans of hockey in these parts. One can only imagine their amazement of the locals seeing and entire professional hockey team sit down and have a meal in their tiny little town in the middle of a hockey season. After a while they board the buses and catch their same flight 24 hours later, giving one day to their general manager.

Chicago Blackhawks NHL Ice HockeyHave I made this up, is this an excerpt from some fictional book? No, this a true story of the Blackhawks last Saturday night and they decided to attend Dale Tallon’s fathers funeral. Its amazing that such a good story can be found nowhere on the internet, and not even mentioned in the Chicago papers. Had one of the Blackhawks got into a fight and punched some drunken loser in a Toronto bar it would be plastered all over papers and the television. This being said, its hard to imagine any professional football, basketball or baseball team doing this, but the members of the Blackhawks claim any “hockey” team would have done this. This is one reason I continue to be a big hockey fan, and another reason I am excited about this Chicago team.

I thought I would share as this story appears to have gone unnoticed.”

Here is the Yahoo News version, printed on Christmas Eve.

The story is a testament indeed to the solid values in hockey. And, as far as the Blackhawks go, their brand value — as in lovemark, although they have yet to be nominated there — just went through the roof. Moreover, the team is the youngest in the league (average age of 25.5 years) and is positioned 4th in the Western conference. I wish them all the luck.  And, I would certainly like to know of any other sports teams that have that kind of heart.

Apple iPod Vending Machine at Airports around USA….

Apple iPod Kiosk at Airport
At Las Vegas McCarran Airport, I found this kiosk selling a number of Apple goods. It was a peculiar site, the logo atop being the little Apple of my eye, caught my attention. While Apple has seemingly established these vending machines in many airports (I have read about kiosks at JFK, DFW, Atlanta, SFO, Indianapolis…) and some train stations, this was the first time I had seen one up close. Apparently, these kiosks have been in place for a couple of years. As far as Apple shopping experiences go, aside from the large touchscreen interface, it is quite minimalist. The kiosk was more or less off the beaten path. A couple of the items were not available (cardboard replacements — which may have been to avoid having the item ‘drop’ into the bucket).

What would prompt a last-minute, self-service purchase of an iPod just before getting on board? Without access to music, there is no way to load the iPod easily for the flight. A really cool idea would be to have the iPod preloaded with the latest songs, no? That said, there were some useful accessories (i.e. earphones, plugs, adapters and the 22nd century MY.VU personal media player) that could lure the odd gambler’s winning purse.

As we all know, as loosy-goosy as their Job-less culture goes, Apple has a very strict policy of distribution. I wonder how the corporate decision making process went to put this in place. I would be curious to see what is the ROI on such a salesperson-less outlet?

Luggage’s Slow Autopilot at Roissy CDG Airport

This conveyor belt at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) airport is an example of how to make tired passengers go crazy. Aside from the usual challenges of getting bags quickly and that priority tags seem to be strictly ignored by the baggage handlers at CDG, the airport has now installed sensors for the entry of the bags onto the conveyor belt (at terminal 2E). The sensor holds the bag if there is another bag within some 3 metres… The photo on the left shows a suitcase waiting diligently. As a consequence, all the bags come out at an excruciatingly slow rate. Just what you need after a long flight. It’s on autopilot alright, but slowtopilot is more like it. Clearly, the engineers did not stand with their clients to experience the agony. With no avenue for feedback, one just has to stand and bear it. Anyone else experienced any other frustrating automation?

Hand dryer versus paper towels?

Is an electric hand dryer truly more environmentally friendly than paper towels?

Have you ever found yourself using a hand dryer for what seems like a protracted amount of time and thinking: this surely isn’t much more environmentally friendly than drying with paper towels?

Hand Dryers are Great!The thought has crossed my mind on numerous occasions. First, when you come across an Cotton Towel dryer on a rollelectric dryer machine that was created several decades ago, the chances are that it was designed for another reason other than greenliness: for example, as a cleaner alternative to the revolving cotton towel (Remember those? See left for example). Consequently, it may indeed be extremely inefficient and, effectively, less environmentally friendly than paper towels.

Secondly, there are many machines that seem to blow when any person passes by or, worse yet, keep on blowing for what seems like an interminable amount of time after your hands have left the sensor area. Sensor hell. Same goes for some faucet sensors. (Read here for a prior post on the troubles at CDG Roissy airport).

enMotion Hand Towel DispenserAnd then, there is the technology on the side of paper towels: rounded rolls (vs folded sheets), functioning sensors (for dispatching just one sheet at a time, eg Lotus EnMotion see left), recycled & unbleached paper… Too bad that these paper towels never get recycled.

Clearly, there are new electric hand dryer machines, replete with well regulated sensors, efficient dryer systems, etc (for example, the 1400W Xlerator). But, the equation is impossible to calculate in absolute terms — the answer depends on the local source of electricity (coal or other), the comparative technologies, etc.

Tree Hugger

The best site I found was from the ever reliable TreeHugger, where they state that the average CO2 consumption of an electric hand dryer is 1.6 tonnes over a 5 year lifespan, while for the paper towels, it is 4.6 tonnes over the same period. I extract below from the TreeHugger article the passage from the Life Cycle Analysis (30-page report) done by Environmental Resource Management. I think it is quite revealing and clear. Note the rendering of the CO2 consumption in car mileage…

Hand Dryer vs Paper Towel Table 3.1

Blast it!

“From [the] Table 3.1 it can be seen that a drier, over its life time, will result in a global warming burden of 1.6 tonnes of CO2. This is an equivalent burden to that associated with a car traveling 5 100 km. Over the same period, the use of paper towels would result in an average CO2 burden of 4.6 tonnes. This is an equivalent burden to that associated with a car traveling 14 500 km. From Table 3.1 it can be seen that a drier over its life time will result in an acidification burden of 10.2 kg of SO2. This is an equivalent burden to that associated with a car traveling 5000 km. Over the same period, the use of paper towels would result in a average burden of 13.8 kg of SO2. This is an equivalent burden to that associated with a car traveling 6700 km.”

Jury still out

Another good article comes from slate.com: Electric Hand Dryers versus Paper Towels (June 2008). A study published in Nov 2007 by the Climate Conservancy establishes the edge of the electric dryer over 2-towel-per-usage… but, what of the one-towel dry? And the jury is still not out. As Rebecca Clarren of salon.com, which commissioned the Climate Conservancy study, cites a 1998 study by Britain’s University of Westminster at the end of its post, which found that the electric dryer doesn’t do well on the bacteria killing front, actually increasing bacteria by 255% — whereas paper wipes off 58% of the bacteria. And, the Green Guru (in a July 2008 post) has a mixed review tending to settle on the hands being dried on the trousers…

A whole other area of improvement would be in the soap dispenser. Soaps that actually cleanse and rinse quickly would be a good start. So many times, it seems the soap dispenser itself is of poor quality with huge amounts of wastage (if there is actually still soap in the dispenser). I happened upon a DEB Purmouss system that dispenses mousse soap (quick application) using a pouch. And the soap appeared to rinse very quickly (hard water?). A good example to follow, it seemed to me.

All in all, the chances are that electric hand dryers are likely to be the better choice — especially if you go for the “quickie” blow dry and then air dry the rest or wipe up and down on your inside shirt (which is likely to be a little cleaner than the one on the outside!). On balance, one should probably go for the electric hand dryer solution as, if NOTHING ELSE, it tends to remind people of the need for environmental friendliness and, in the vast majority of cases, is probably less consuming.

Meanwhile, on another note regarding public bathroom etiquette: Among other areas of improvement, it would also be good if people would automatically actually wash their hands after having been to the toilet… It is also mind boggling to see people leave the washroom without having washed their hands at all (some would argue that washing before hand is the more appropriate thing to do, and I might even agree if you know where your hands have been). The other thing that I find rather shocking in terms of washroom behaviour is when a man don’t use an available urinal (for a #1) — typically the same person will not lift the toilet seat and, final insult, will kick the protruding flush lever rather than deign to touch it (fear of infection). The resulting flush is obviously unnecessarily ample.

Parking Red Light Innovation at Parking Lot in Aix-en-Provence

Little inventions that make the world go round…

Ever driven around and around in a parking lot looking for a free place? Some parking lots mark on a digital board outside that there are X number of free spaces on certain levels and sometimes, judging by hard it is to find a free spot, you would have thought there was a zero too many. Aside from the waste in petrol and time, as you swing down yet another crammed aisle, you have the growing frustration and the intake of additional toxic air in underground locations. Well, I found an answer to that pain below. This is a small little innovation that just tickled my fancy and I felt merited a post.

Aix-en-Provence parking lot
This underground parking lot in Aix-en-Provence [pictured above] installed a small lighting system, whereby when the spaces are taken, there is a red light above each spot in the alley and, if there’s a free place, a green light indicates its location. Ironically, there was no dearth of free spaces in this parking lot… but love the idea.

Since coming across this system in Aix, I have found out, of course, that Aix was not the first city to have such a system…. There are many other parking lots that have been similarly equipped many years ago: Barcelona via Pogue’s Post, LAX and in Baltimore’s BWI Airport among others.

Have noticed it yourself and thought, wow, that’s a great idea! What about commenting on any other small little innovations that help improve our daily existence?