Three things you don’t know about Iceland

Having just spent a few days Iceland, I have reaffirmed the fantastic advantage of travelling to a country to open your mind. With no more than 24 hours on Iceland’s sunny (if cold) shores, I discovered three things I didn’t imagine about Iceland. Arriving just after midnight into Reykjavik, I was welcomed by a setting sun (see below the nightscape at 1am). And yes, Iceland is home to the famous mid-summer white nights. But, you knew that.

Iceland sunset

A whale of a time

The first thing I discovered about Iceland was that they serve whale. Since I had never eaten whale, it had not occurred to me that the whale dish would be a meat dish. How naive! Would you have thought it so? Here it is:

Iceland dish

Had I not told you, would have thought this image was whale meat? I might add that it was very tasty. If you are interested, here’s a fine address to check out in Reykjavik: 3 Frakkar — which means Three French (a propos!) or Three Coats in Icelandic.

Icelandic naming device

Secondly, unique to Iceland, no child carries the father’s last name. They don’t even carry the mother’s last name. In fact, children carry a last name composed of: Continue reading

British Airways First Class is more like Last in Class

This may seem like a First World problem, but my experience with British Airways is a great point in case about how visceral and personal a relationship can be with a brand.

Two months ago, I had a miserable experience, having been downgraded involuntarily on a 10 1/2 hour flight from London to Austin (Texas). You can read about the British Airways saga part 1 and part 2, here. You will literally be shocked by the treatment. It makes for a scary way of running a business.

First Class… really?

BA First_Class1On my most recent trans-Atlantic flight to San Francisco, travelling on British Airways in First Class, I was emphatically non-plussed by the service. Having had a disastrous experience with BA recently, I was hoping that the BA team might have put 2 and 2 together to make a little special effort. Nothing of the sort. It was a most standard experience. Their tagline is damningly wrong: Designed with you in mind. The only issue is that they didn’t know who you is!

Customer experience – the technology

Outside of one of the flight attendants (Kristie) who was absolutely charming and dedicated (and who had informed the purser about my plight), it was a strictly plain experience. Unlike a business class seat I had sat in recently, the BA 1st class seat does not come with any place to store papers, books, computer, etc. The audio-visual entertainment set didn’t work at least for the first hour and then broke down en route.

Customer experience – the service

to try to serve British Airways

To “try” to serve – British Airways

For the main meal, I foolishly chose Aberdeen Beef. I should have guessed when I was not asked how I would like it; but, it was drastically overcooked. When I went to sleep, to take advantage of the 180º bed, I was peeved to discover that there was was no pillow or cover. No one came to make my bed (unlike some other passengers). Talk about not feeling pampered. At the end of the flight, the well-meaning Purser came over apologetically to say how he had been occupied with the AV issues. Thus, he had not been able to “individually welcome” the passengers.

What is Luxury?

In a fast-paced world, where the experience is the brand, British Airways is an example of how NOT to deliver. BA’s executive team seems more interested in drumming up ideas, writing reports and managing budgets. To wit, BA was the first airline to have an app for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, basic attention to details, pampering of customers and paleolithic style of communication are a testament to a company that has not morphed into the 21st century.

The galling part of the whole experience with BA is that each flight seems to operate in total isolation with anything that happened before or after. In today’s world, building brand affinity and loyalty is all about engaging in a lasting experience, where there is a before, during and after. Brands that learn to craft a seamless, customer-centric experience that is augmented with technology and imparted by an engaged staff will find ways to win. British Airways is definitively not among those that have bought in to that vision.

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!