Saturday, June 08, 2019

Customer service is dead!

That is what I thought, especially in the air travel industry. 

Until my visit to China recently. 

During my domestic travel within China, three things reminded me that customer service in the airline industry was still alive.  At least, outside of the United States. 

First, everybody was offered a free hot meal on any flight over 2 hours!  I still remember the days when Continental would offer hot meals to everybody on domestic flights.  Gone are those days in the US. 

Second, personalized service for every passenger.  On one leg, my neighbor was fast asleep during the entire flight.  When the flight attendants came with food and drinks, they noticed he was asleep and left a note (see note on the right in the pic below) letting him know that they missed him.  And, just before landing, they noticed that he was still asleep and came back with a second note (one on the left) providing information about the arrival city.  They did this to every passenger who was fast asleep!  Now, that is what I call good customer service. 

Third, I noticed thoughtful service even at the airport.  We are all used to the luggage carts lined up in their parking spot.  In some airports, you have to pay to pull out a cart.  In the Shanghai (Pudong) airport, I was surprised to see the luggage carts neatly lined up along the conveyor belt.  Passengers would just come to the belt, grab their bags and load it onto one of the nearby carts and roll away! 

Companies need to look for simple ideas like these to improve their customer service.  Simple gestures like this is what makes up delightful customer service.  You don't have to spend a lot of effort or resources to make your customers happy.   

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Urban street art - Miami Wynwood walls

I happened to visit one of the best places to see urban street graffiti art: Wynwood walls area in Miami, Fl.

The actual Wynwood walls are just a collection of six walls from neighboring buildings.  These walls contain an amazing collection of wall art by artists from around the world.  What's more, the area surrounding the walls has also been converted into artists' canvas.

One gripe, though, is that Miami allows street parking along these murals.  There are several parking lots in the area and it would be best if street parking is eliminated so that people can view and appreciate the art better.

Here are a few pictures of the amazing art in the Wynwood area:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Customer Service - How not to do it

In the day of omnipresent internet, mobile, social media and instant gratification, customers crave for instant answers to their questions.  If the product doesn't speak to you (either by being intuitive or by literally speaking to you), the product doesn't fly. 

I recently stumbled upon a product that literally asked the user to send an email to obtain installation instructions or get questions answered.  Duh!  Are we in the 19th century or what? 

The picture above shows a card that was attached to a hammock I recently bought.  The design is pretty close to being intuitive but can be confusing when it comes to attaching the ropes.  I expected to see instructions printed on the card but all I find is an email address.

What happened to printed instructions?  It could be text or pictures.
What happened to a web site with a user guide?  Video or text or a downloadable document.
What happened to an instructional video on youTube? 

Companies need to embrace the current trends in marketing and attracting customers.  Not just stay in the 19th century. This is such a simple product, a few drawings showing how to tie the ropes would have sufficed.  But the company wants an email from you.  I wonder what happens if they get a million emails from their customers.  Think of the cost of answering them (nope, I don't want a robotic reply) versus a simple illustration on the card attached to the product.

Everyday, I learn something new. In this case, a 'what not to do'.  

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Delighting the customer

A while back I wrote about innovation in elevator technology.  Recently, I noticed the opposite in the heart of innovation: Silicon Valley. 

I was at the San Jose airport car rental center.  The rental center sees a lot of traffic and they have graciously installed what looks like a dozen elevators (it is actually a bank of 8) over a wide area.  There are several locations with buttons for summoning the elevators.

What is interesting about this arrangement is that when one calls an elevator, irrespective of which set of buttons you use to summon the elevators, any of the bank of 8 elevators could answer.  Seldom have I seen an elevator close to me answering my call.  What this means is that the user has to walk all the way (lugging their luggage) to the elevator.  Some times, the elevator moves away by the time you reach it, making it even more annoying. 

We all know that large traffic only enters the ground floor at the same time: whenever a flight lands.  The elevators be programmed so that any idle elevator car always comes to the ground floor to wait.  It may be a bit inefficient, but makes the customer delighted.  Imagine walking into the rental center to find one or more elevators with open doors waiting for you!  That should put a smile on anyone's face. 

Another feature that can be incorporated is assigning a bank of 4 elevators to the closest buttons.  San Jose has two banks of elevators and they could be separately programmed.  Paired with the previous suggestion, this will delight anyone visiting the Bay area. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eindhoven GLOW Festival

Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands, hosts an annual light festival called GLOW.  Eindhoven is known as the City of Light, mainly because of the fact that it housed several match stick factories.  And, then Philips established its light bulb factory. 

I was lucky enough to be in town to experience GLOW 2014.  It was a fabulous experience and some of the installations were mind-blowing.  The city had spent considerable amount of resources to put this project together.  The entire project spanned over 20 installations spread around the city center (Centrum, as they say in Netherlands).

The installations were in the form of light installations, sculptures, projections as well as live performances.  Some of the installations were elaborate and involved high-tech equipment. The entire 'show' started at 6 PM and went on into the night. 

One of my favorite installations was the 'Parklaan Flashback'.  This installation captured the history of Eindhoven at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The show was a light projection on two buildings facing each other.  Spectators stood between the two buildings and watch the show.  The show is synchronized between the opposite buildings and moves from one building to the other.  Different scenes are depicted and 'painted' on the buildings using light with accompanying music.  It made for a spectacular show.  I shot both video as well as still images.  Here are a few of the still images:

The 'Pendulum Wave' was a piece of art built on the principles of pendulums.  This was a great engineering installation with 15 pendulums of varying lengths suspended from a frame.  At the end of each pendulum was a lighted ball.  All the pendulums were simultaneously raised to the side (I guess, using electro-magnets) and then let go.  The pendulums formed interesting patterns governed by their lengths.  As the pendulums swung, the balls would change color.  The entire experience was enhanced with music and fog.

The 'Figures that Wander' was a shocker amongst all the exhibits.  This was the only 'live-art' in the whole festival.  The performance involved four dancers dancing behind semi-transparent plastic curtains.  They formed shapes using light and shadows.  Initially, I thought that this was a projection onto a semi-transparent screen, just like all the other installations.  After watching for a few minutes, I realized that this was indeed live, and there were people performing behind the screens.  This was the most creative, bold and provocative art installation in the entire festival. 

The 'Enchanted Cathedral and the Seasons' was an innovative art creation using high powered color projectors.  Computer generated images are projected onto the façade of the cathedral to depict the four seasons.  Again, the animation was accompanied by lively music.

Here is a view of the cathedral from my room.

'Stereo' was the video mapping projection done on the façade of the Augustijnenkerk cathedral.  This cathedral was right next to my hotel and I could see it from my window.  This audio-visual production transformed the cathedral into a living and moving structure.  Set to music, the high powered projectors painted the façade with features and made the features undulate to music.  It was an interesting way to convert an irregular surface into a projection surface and paint pictures. 

There was another show inside the cathedral.  Even here, they had used a half dozen synchronized projectors to project images onto the tall ceiling as well as the walls of the cathedral.  I was surprised to note that each of the projectors was using film instead of digital technology.  The entire show was cued to baroque music.

All in all, it was an amazing experience.  I heard that other European cities are also hosting such GLOW events and I can't wait to visit them and experience GLOW again.