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

An Aus-some trip around the world

It’s not very often that I find a serendipitous link to describe so cleanly the relationship between my last three trips. So, I could not help but share with you my aus-some last month.

In the space of 4 weeks, I was at South By Southwest in Austin Texas for a manic few days at the Interactive conference.  Then I hit the slopes at St Christoph, near Innsbruck in Austria for a joyful week of family holidays.  Finally, I sparked off down under to do some sales training in Melbourne, Australia (this week).  A veritably aus-some trip.

Here are a couple of visual representations of the journey.

Aus-some: Austin, Austria & Australia, The Myndset Digital marketing

 

And a different representation, for the fun of it:

Aus-some, Austin, Austria and Australia, The Myndset digital marketing

Could this be part of some higher cosmic sense, or just plain silly?

Ground Control to Major Tom

We will soon be able to evaluate the truth — at least half of it — behind the statement that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

Here are two marvelous assets about the extraordinary voyage of Curiosity to the planet Mars. Who would have thought that we would witness this day? Not only was this a multinational adventure, it was a second giant step for mankind.

Was it worth it?  Are we after the return on investment again?  As wine man, Gary Vaynerchuk says, then tell me the ROI of my mother!  Herewith a great graphic from I F***ing Love Science (FB Page), comparing the cost of the 2012 London Olympics versus the cost of sending Curiosity to Mars (stats from Forbes and New York Times).

Olympics versus Mars Investment, Myndset Digital Marketing

And an animated video posted on YouTube last year that shows the journey, the sophistication of the landing and of the scientific kit with which the Curiosity rover is decked out.

You can find more coverage from the JPL NASA Youtube page here.  In a tidbit of information from the Wikipedia entry, the rover has a specific tire pattern or tread mark.  ”That pattern is used by on-board cameras to judge the distance traveled. The pattern itself is Morse code for “JPL” (·— ·–· ·-··).”  How crazy is that?  And, what does JPL stand for: Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Some engineer (as opposed to a brand marketer) was thinking through the whole thing?  Had it been a marketer, what message might you have wanted to inscribe in morse code?

GCMT: Ground Control to Major Tom?

Your ideas or submissions!!

Is there Good News in the Swine Flu?

Swine Flue Cartoon
Swine Flu: Some bad news, some profiteers, and perhaps some good new habits!

 

As the world awaits for the onslaught of the swine flu [porcine flu, aka A(H1N1)], there are going to be evident winners and losers. The losers? Basically all of us: consumers, society at large and business (especially with poor cash flow), if the epidemic does come home to roost. There will also be profiteers. While hospitals and pharmacies risk a deluge, the pharmaceutical companies with anti-flu medicine are bound to benefit enormously and, some say, they are behind the summer media frenzy. In the likely panic and fear-mongering that will lead up to the ‘Flu Fall, consumers will surge to buy extra tissues, hygienic towelettes (wet wipes), alcohol-based gels or sanitizers and face masks. BTW I note that Fushi-Protective has bought premium space on Google and advertises in broken English (Chinese company): “specializing in face mask prevent from swine flu.” Frankly, improving people’s personal hygiene — even making acceptable in the Western world the wearing of a face mask as we see in Asia — will be a win for society. Cleaning our hands more regularly would be a good habit to inculcate. Buying internal filtering systems that “clean” up the air inside is another interesting avenue, albeit one that provides also provides a long-term benefit (a player in this area I have come across is called AirSur, which can provide allergy-free air at home).

Distance Learning eLearning

But, beyond the health-related plays, the one area for which the swine flu could be a super boon is distance learning. Imagine the situation: schools being closed down for long stretches, for example 12 weeks, as France’s Education Minister, Luc Chatel, has just announced as a possible measure for the upcoming bout with the potential epidemic. Schools should be getting themselves prepared to turn their courses into proper distance learning or eLearning — not just a rebroadcast of filmed lectures, but up-to-date e-pedagogy based on the exceptional possibilities that internet provides. This is a great opportunity to modernize, if not revolutionize, the education institutions — especially those that have been reluctant to move forward with technologies. The students we know will be willing. The question is whether the schools — and their teachers — will be nimble enough to react.
Distance Learning Mouse & Academic Cap
In the same vein, but only because I happened to be based in Paris this year, I think of distance learning as a great way to get around strikes and scam manifestations such as we experienced in several higher institutions in France (e.g. Sorbonne Paris IV, Toulouse-II Le Mirail, Aix-Marseille-I, Amiens,  Caen, Nancy-II and Reims…). For the teachers and students who were forced to stay at home by a small contingent of indignant ‘revolting’ students, courses should have been available over the ‘net.

Lastly, the trend of reducing business travel (budget cuts under the guise of green fingers) and “congregation” meetings may also continue, since such meetings will only promote further contagion. Another area that is bound to benefit is thus video-conferencing and distance meetings and webinars.

So, the swine flu may be a nightmare about to happen, but I see that there may yet be positive results in the long-term, including improving our hygiene habits, reducing carbon footprints and, possibly, generalising the practice of eLearning.

Your reactions are welcome!

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?

Hotel Stealth of Amenities and More

What is and what is not allowed to be taken from hotel rooms?

Hotel Amenities

 Le Figaro had an article (21/04/09) on hotel stealth by guests. If you are staying at a hotel, have you ever asked yourself which articles you are “allowed” to take and which you are not allowed to take without paying? As the Union des métiers et des industries de l’hôtellerie (Umih) declares, that list is rather short and sweet: basically just the little amenities (i.e. soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. that the manufacturing brands should absolutely want to be taken home by the guests in an extension of the sampling campaign), including the branded pen, letterhead and notepaper. Other than theses amenities, however, there are apparently a number of other unauthorised items that are being added to the virtual shopping cart (virtual in absence of payment, that is). These other items include:

  • Branded ashtrays
  • Cushions
  • Lithographs
  • Showerheads
  • Even… televisions

Low Consumption Light Bulb According to the latest fad: guests are now unscrewing low consumption light bulbs. Hotels are “fighting back” by clearly indicating the prices, doing discrete inspections right before checkout, or better yet, adding RFID to the more precious items… Thieves beware!

Food & Restaurants in Marrakesh Morocco – Part 2 of 3

The culinary experience of Marrakesh and environs

Al Fassia Restaurant MarrakeshMarrakesh.

We had to miss out on the famed Hotel Mamounia because it is [still] under refurbishment. We splurged on two “exclusive” dinners, one at the Jardins de la Medina, 21 Derb Chtoukah, Kasbah Marrakesh) which featured excruciatingly slow service and a waiter that told us that had we wanted a dressing for our salad, we should have spoken up at the beginning. That said, the cadre, inside this deluxe hotel, is attractive. The other “prime” address we visited was Al Fassia in Guéliz (“new” Marrakesh) where we had to reserve two days in advance to get a table. Owned and run by some Moroccan women, Al Fassia (+212 5 24 43 40 60) was well worth it; we gave it top marks for its service and décor and we particularly enjoyed the “pastilla de pigeon” (pigeon patty).
For more local fare in Marrakesh, we had a delightful Tajine at la Gourmandise (151 rue Mohamed el Beqal), also in Guéliz as well as tasted some fine local pâtisseries (Adamo, 44 bis rue Tariq Ibn Ziad, and Al Jawda, 11 rue de la Liberté). If there is one thing I learned here is that Moroccans don’t do good chocolate.
The other eating Marrakesh experience is of course at night in the Jamaâ El Fna square (picutred below). Once you get over the heckling, you can find a jolly good meal. Best advice: find the one where the majority of clients are Moroccan.
Jemaa el Fna Square Marrakesh Morocco

Ourika Valley.

For lunch on our trip through the Ourika valley, south of Marrakesh and a Berber heartland, we aimed to eat at a well-regarded spot recommended by the Guide du Routard; but, apparently, there have been too many Marrakeshis (and tourists) visiting this establishment, so the owner left to seek refuge and rest at a nearby 4* hotel. Clearly, the crisis has not dropped the shoe down here. Our attempt to go to nearby Dar Piano was thwarted as it too was closed, so we hit a lively, open air spot overlooking the river, in the buzzing town of Oulmès. Being the only non-Moroccans, we were the entertainment for the Moroccan patrons of the restaurant. We enjoyed in turn watching nervous Moroccan women wobble across a shaky wooden bridge. As with virtually all local meals, you can have a full family meal (for four) for around 150 dirhams or 15 euros ($20). Tajine (or couscous) is sold for between 7 and 35 dirhams (70 cents to 3.50 euros) depending on where you are. If the prices are not printed, you may end up paying at the higher end of the scale, but for a maximum 3.50 euros, a tasty tajine is still a great deal. In this particular restaurant in Oulmès, we got to learn that people still use the old rials to calculate prices (much like the old French franc). For the record, you need to divide by 20 to get from rials to dirhams.

Tahanaout, Route to Asni.

We took the children to Terres d’Amanar (on the route to Asni, near Tahanaout, about an hour due south of Marrakesh) on the one dismally rainy day of our holidays. The Terres d’Amanar is a large natural reserve featuring a resort hotel and a number of rough and tumble activities such as all-terrain bicycling, tree climbing, hiking, etc. We had made a reservation, but upon arriving, found no one at the welcome desk. Apparently, they didn’t expect us to make it through the drizzle. The kids played for twenty minutes on the wet slides, etc., before returning to the car satisfied for having invested an hour of driving time to get to the destination. The kids’ park is rather small. This is more for people (especially adults) wanting to do a full day of outdoor activities. It looked nice enough, other than the rain!

Ouarzazate.

Another day trip was out on the much less frequented eastern route toward the oasis town of Ouarzazate. We stopped off en route at Aït Ourir where we were fortunate enough to hit the weekly (Tuesdays only) souk. Unplagued by tourists, the vendors were decidedly less pushy and cloying. We profited by picking up some local fruit (tomatoes, chickpeas) as well as a local [crushable] hat for 10 dirhams. We ate a savoury lamb tajine at a local pitstop for the whopping price of 40 dirhams. The route to Taferiate provided for a few pittoresque moments, but beyond, the road desintegrated in quality.

Some advice.

When you want to eat at the local restaurants, the key is to check the food before sitting down. That means asking to take the lids of the clay pots to make sure that the food looks fresh and smells good. Generally speaking, on food, there is not the same threat of having to negotiate. That doesn’t mean that you won’t necessarily get a little tourist taxation, but prices are often printed.

Obama to bring bullet trains (TGV Shinkansen style) to USA

SNCF TGV Train a Grande Vitesse Bullet Train

There are plenty of surprising deficiencies in the US, it being the number 1 world power (still).  I have  written previously about the poor state of education (at the high school level) in the US and the insufficient medical coverage (despite the disproportionately high percentage of GDP spent on health care).  There is, of course, also the fact that the US energy policy is overly reliant on oil and carbon (for its electricity).  But, it is also true that, while the US road infrastructure is quite exceptional according to world standards, the US train infrastructure is quite the embarrassment, trailing way behind that of countries such as Japan (Shinkansen, pictured below left), France (TGV, pictured right above), Germany (ICE), Spain (AVE), and even South Korea and China.   US trains, many of which travel over long distances, basically trundle along today at speeds of 125 kmh (78 mph).  Only five trains in the States average more than 127 kmh (79 mph).  Even the fastest trains in the US only reach 132 kmh.  Fairly desperate, even if speed limits on the road are also remarkably low, too.

What I like about this initiative laid out by Obama this week is that it contains both economic and social sense.  Investing some paltry $8 billion of the $787 billion bailout, the notion of improving the US rail system to have trains hurtling down parallel lines at average speeds of well over 300 kilometres an hour (186 mph) is good (nay fantastic) for improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.  At the same time it is a good way to occupy (hire & train) American workers.  Unplugging traffic jams is just one part of the story.  Faster travel (from point A to point B) and, more importantly, an ability to work constructively while riding on the train must be no small addition to increased productivity.  And, as if I needed another argument, the bullet trains are certainly a lot more interesting to look at from a design angle.   These high-speed trains are just a lot sexier looking than the clunky, stub-nosed Amtrak or even Metroliner trains.   Here is the story as covered by USA Today (April 16).

Shinkansen Japan Bullet TrainThere are many hurdles to making the fast train project succeed: the continuing affection for cars, the poor service record of train service (Amtrak, for example, is quite poorly regarded), the fact that all the tracks would need not only to be widened but also straightened…  All the same, the project is the right one, for all the right reasons.  As long as the unions do not get a stranglehold on the jobs (and becoming a train driver does not mean being able to retire at the age of 52 as is in the case currently in France).  That means, also, that the system will need to figure out how to run on time, without exhorbitant cost.  The team evaluating the train system of the future for the US would be well advised to learn from the SNCF (http://www.voyages-sncf.com/) on how to run a CRM and fidelity program, too.  The last componenet of success (and lesson learned from the Japanese) will be the courtesy of passengers not to use their cell phones indiscrimately (and rudely) in the face of the surrounding passengers.

My only concern will be to see how effectively Government manages its funds.   Otherwise, I enthusiastically press on the “green” button.

All those in favour, say “ay”!  If not, give me your counter arguments.