How to lose customers

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nottingham_exterior_img_060115In recent months at home we have been having quite a lot of work done to make the house more pleasant. This has involved dealing with various tradesmen and retailers. I like to think that I choose both carefully, but as experience has shown using the ‘market leader’ isn’t always the best approach…

I have established a relationship with an excellent plumber, a small builder and a kitchen installer. All 3 are great to deal with and do a first rate job – they are also sole traders.

I am not sure why but we decided to use John Lewis (JL) for flooring, curtains and blinds, the flooring has been done in 2 stages; Stage one was the kitchen, it wasn’t totally pain free but the job was completed well (more down to the self employed fitters). But I did have issues with J L and they paid me compensation – enough said.

This week my living room floor should have been laid – it’s timber and needs a fitter to install it. Initially we were told fitting would be 4 weeks from order, but then when we accepted the quote it became 8 weeks! That was also after they found the flooring they had sold us wasn’t actually made any more…A conversation with JL got fitting down to a more acceptable 5 weeks, which was up this week. All should therefore be fine – except it isn’t.

The flooring has been delivered but the fitter couldn’t actually lay the floor as it needs a levelling screed – something that JL should have checked (but didn’t) when they quoted. The fitter was great about it and we are now being fitted in a couple of weeks. But, JL initially wanted me to pay for the screed that they missed – suffice to say after a ‘conversation’, they are now paying for it!

This isn’t our only issue with JL in recent weeks though, we have also had problems with the curtain and blind orders. The process has dragged on for at least a month longer than it should have done due to initial sample requests not being processed and then the order papers not being sent through to the booking office from the shop. Again not what you expect from JL.

So all in all a fairly poor performance from JL, not according to them what they aim for in customer care, but as they say – three strikes and you are out. They won’t be getting any big orders from me in future, I will use local traders and retailers who are recommended to me.

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Apple Watch – or not?

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I am an Apple fan – I just don’t ‘get’ or enjoy using Microsoft products. I have to use their Software at work but I view it as a ‘necessary evil’. I will use a Mac in preference to any other computing device – period.

So I am obviously a definite candidate for the Apple Watch – but I have been using a Pebble Steel for the last 15 months and have grown used to its way of doing things and really rather like it. Now Pebble are also launching a new watch, the Pebble Time, which is an improvement over my existing one, so which way should I jump?

Pebble Time Steel
Pebble Time Steel

My Pebble Steel has been great and has proved to me that a smart watch really does work for me. Its battery life is great (7 days) – this was my biggest reservation about the Apple Watch.

Earlier this month I thought I knew which way I would go and I backed the new watch from Pebble on Kickstarter  – the Time Steel, it wasn’t going to be as beautifully made as an Apple product and wouldn’t link as seamlessly to my iPhone. But, I took the view that it would provide what I am used to from my current Pebble, with the addition of a colour screen in a similar sized body to the Apple Watch. More impressively the battery would last for 10 days and the screen is always on and very visible in bright sunlight. It is also cheaper…

The three Apple Watch styles
The three Apple Watch styles

However, after watching the launch of the Apple Watch I cancelled my Pebble order – why?

As I say the need to charge the Apple Watch on a daily basis was a concern for me, however Apple confirmed at the launch that the watch will last around 18 hours – I already charge my iPhone overnight so I can live with this.

More relevant to my decision is that I believe the Apple Watch will be much better than Apples usual first attempt at a product. I have previously worked on the basis that Apple hit the ‘sweet spot’ on the second or third versions of their kit, but in this case the gestation has been longer and more considered. The positives that caused me to change my mind are as follows;

  1. It will work seamlessly with the iPhone (and Apple may limit access to other smart watches in the future).
  2. It is just beautifully made (like all Apple products) and comes in 3 configurable styles.
  3. The screen will be great – worth the shorter battery life.
  4. The Apple Pay system adds another dimension to its use.
  5. The battery will be replaceable – via Apple stores (the Pebble one isn’t)
  6. There will be a plethora of apps made for it.
  7. Its operating system will be constantly developed and improved.

I accept it is expensive and a luxury, but my guess is that the Apple Watch will do for smart watches what the iPod, iPhone and iPad did for their respective markets – both lead them and also grow them massively.

I’m in the USA this summer and will definitely be purchasing one. The only issue is which one to go for?

Calke Abbey – dual standards?

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I am a big fan of the National Trust and what it does in terms of preserving our heritage and also providing very pleasant destinations for a few hours walk or similar. As a family we have been members for many years and I do feel it provides great value for money.

Recent years have seen the Trust move towards increasingly more open and commercial approaches to their property management and ‘offer’. Some see this as a negative thing – but I don’t agree, it has made the properties far more popular and busy, they have to move with the times to survive and fund the works to their portfolio of properties and estates.

In many places the retail offer has been expanded to increase the provision of food and drinks – either by way of new cafe or restaurant premises within the properties themselves or in adjacent outbuildings. This is always done in a sensitive manner in keeping with the property and its environment – just as the National Trust do most things.

The new cafe
The new cafe

Calke Abbey which is one of my favourite local NT properties is a classic case in this regard, it is very popular and the restaurant has been ‘creaking’ for a number of years. There is an area to the rear of the restaurant which has been used as a picnic area for years and it has buildings around it which have cried out for refurbishing for a cafe use or similar for years. Finally last year this work was completed and there is now a very smart cafe in this area – and it has been completed in a very sensitive way to fit in with the surrounding buildings – well done National Trust.

However I am at a loss to understand why all hot drinks from here are served in disposable paper cups – this is surely totally at odds with the Trust’s ‘ethics’? One thing that is always noticeable at a NT property is the lack of bins – they expect people to take their rubbish home with them (which most do). So why have they now chosen to use something which I accept probably can be recycled but is surely nowhere as ‘green’ as using traditional crockery and then washing it?

Or am I missing something?

The end of an era…

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Those of us who are of a ‘certain age’ will remember their first mobile phone – it was probably from one of only two manufacturers – Motorola and Nokia. It was almost certainly quite large and had a pull out aerial!

Nokia_7110As time went on Nokia became the ‘king’ of business phones, the 6210 was the phone of choice for business. It was thin (by the standards of the day), had a battery that just lasted for ever (you could go away for a week without a charger!), and most importantly – it just worked. We now take for granted the things that a smartphone can do – but in the ‘good old days’ texting was a really neat idea!

I still have one of my old Nokia phones and can’t bring myself to throw it out – it is the Nokia 7110 which has a sliding from cover – it was I believe used in the film ‘The Matrix’. It is a lovely tactile thing, it hasn’t been used for years but still works and holds a charge in its battery. Much as I love my iPhone I’m not sure old iPhones will hold such memories for me in the future.

It is therefore sad that Microsoft, who acquired Nokia a few years ago – have quietly killed the brand name off. We will no longer see this icon of the 80’s and 90’s on phone shop shelves – I for one will miss them….

 

The Christmas advert….

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The ‘big’ Christmas advert is now well established as a part of the festivities, the big stores all now try to out do each other. Last years winner was without doubt the Bear and Hare advert done by John Lewis. I don’t have a problem with the concept of doing festive big adverts, they can add to the festive feel.

JL-Xmas-Advert-2013-End-Frame

Normally they are fairly predictable and involve snow, party scenes and various celebrities – you can normally guess the store by the celebs they use, every so often we get a weird or wonderful advert. John Lewis seem to fill this quite well, last years was lovely and cute (so I am told), this years with the penguin is just plain weird to me – but harmless.

Last night I saw the Sainsbury’s advert, and I have to say I thought it was poorly judged. If you haven’t seen it yet this links to it. Now they have done ‘the right thing’ and it is in conjunction with the British Legion and raises funds for them – which is good.

My issue is with the subject matter, yes there was a Christmas truce in the first year of the First World War, and it is something special. But is it really the right thing to use the bloodiest war in history to sell a retailer? I don’t thinks so, to me it feels wrong and just badly judged, Sainsbury’s are using the 100 year anniversary for the wrong reason. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is as more people see it…..

Internet speed expectations…

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We all live on the internet now, be it for email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, it is now almost as important as food and water to some people!

So when you go somewhere different, the speed or accessibility of internet access is an issue. I certainly have got to know over the years where the ‘dead spots’ are on the Vodafone network – sadly far to large and numerous in my experience! We have recently moved to EE at work so it will be interesting to see how this compares – I have high hopes!

IMG_2784Part of the reason for the move was to get the higher 4G speeds, and I have certainly seen 50mb download speeds since the move which is pretty impressive by anyones standards.

So, if the mobile networks can provide this for us on average for £10 a month (excluding the handset cost), why is paid wireless in most hotels etc so incredibly poor, and expensive?

This week I have stayed in a Premier Inn, the cost of wifi for 24 hours was £3 – not a lot on the face of it – but see the speed test screen shot, I wasn’t getting much for my £3! Surely it is possible to give a decent connection speed? At home I have 152mb download speeds through Virgin Media – I will let you do the maths as to how much quicker that is…..

My experience of wifi in the USA and even in Europe has always been good, why can’t we sort this out? The only place I have had really good wifi speeds in the UK is on the London underground platforms – and that is provided by Virgin (there is a theme developing here).

We need hotels and pubs to realise that simply ‘providing wifi’ isn’t enough – it has to be useable!

Apple ‘watch’ – will I buy one?

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As a hardy Apple fan you would be forgiven for expecting me to run out and buy an Apple watch as soon as it is released. However, I really don’t think I will, and there are a number of reasons;

Apple 'Watch"
Apple ‘Watch”

Primarily my Pebble Steel smart watch! It is now almost 12 months old and gives me all the  notifications from my iPhone really well. The software is constantly being evolved as well with the most recent including health tracking. However the most important thing for me is that I get at least 5 days use between charges…

Secondly, Apple products are invariably best from the second or third version (the iPhone being a classic example) and I expect this to be the case even more with the watch. Don’t get me wrong, it will still be great, but just not as good as it could (or should?) be.

Marrakech - very sunny!
Marrakech – very sunny!

Thirdly, as with many of the new smart watches it appears to me to be trying to achieve too much rather than doing a few things really well. That is great if you can pull it off – but again I come back to point two above.

So at this stage I will stay with my Pebble – in my view this is still the best smart watch out there, No it doesn’t have a flashy colour touch screen, but that is why the battery lasts as long as it does, and I can see it in very bright sunlight – try that with all the others….

Apple will be market leaders in wearable tech, but not yet – their watch will probably be the best of the rest in its first version…

Bet you never thought you would hear me say that!