Category Archives: Customer Experience

Wellington’s Genuine Progress Index wins national excellence award

We launched the GPI website earlier this year. The GPI is a fantastic project that aims to measure how well we as a region are doing on a number of social, environmental, economic and other measures. More accurate than just measuring GDP, it’s part of a growing trend to look at a more holistic measurement of progress.

The team at the Wellington Regional Council were a joy to work with, and their enthusiasm and the results they have achieved are thoroughly worthy of this award.

My favorite part of the press release

“The GPI provides comprehensive information, largely through its innovative website, about the overall health of the region and how it’s doing economically, environmentally, socially and culturally. It enables anyone with an interest in the region to see and understand where improvements in well-being are being made or where efforts need to be focussed to make improvements.”

It’s actually quite hard to create a website that provides such different levels of detail over such a large area and translating a lengthy report into an interactive view was an interesting challenge. Im really happy with the result, and stoked that it’s being recognised as part of the success of the wider GPI project.

Real Estate Agents, sort yourselves out.

In my attempts to keep my brain going beyond the 25 year mark (when apparently everything stops), Im thinking of diversifying into property.

Well one property, to be precise. I am basically after a place that I can rent out for the next few years until my liver explodes from living in town, then move in and start this brilliant new life of puppies, spa pools and outdoor pizza ovens.

My search so far has been somewhat enlightening.

Since my memories of my experiences buying my apartment had started to fade, and combined with my awareness of how much Agents make, I think I sort of assumed there was some sort of standard around customer service…

However, so far, the lowlights have been:

  • Abysmal advertising that lacks any sort of basic info, no general awareness at all on the area and property (I’m talking insulation, rental rates for tenanted properties, pictures in ads etc etc). There is no standard information, and while I’m aware it’s somewhat up to the owner to provide it, surely a checklist wouldn’t be amiss?
  • Awfully presented homes. Dripping windows, tenants that are not only at home, but in their rooms with the doors closed and hostile expressions. Once again, owners issue, but if I was an Agent, i would be strongly advising hiring a cleaning company and incentivising tenants to be absent. Surely, once you’ve paid Agent fees, marketing fees and legal fees, what’s an extra couple of hundred dollars to present your house in a way that might add value? And for an agent, creating a network of complimentary suppliers surely can’t be that hard?
  • Totally dis-interested agents. Either no response to emails, or when calling for an appointment, being met with a frosty “I’m busy this week.” I’ve actually twice now requested that maybe someone else in the office might have time, and then had them begrudgingly organise a replacement.
  • And then there’s the lovely woman who had a fight with her husband on the phone 2 minutes after meeting us at the door over where he had put the spare key.

All this is a very low time in the property market. I thought Agents would be less arrogant and more eager, but it definitely seems a few missed the invention of the internet and haven’t cottoned on to the fact that we all now KNOW that market is in a slump.

I am aware that Agents work for the seller (though, it seems logical that there is a gap in the market for those who work for buyers – I’m almost at the point that I will walk away from a place simply because I can’t stand the idea of the Agent in charge getting a commission despite, it seems, trying as hard as possible to avoid a sale.) I can’t however see how any of the above is doing anything for ANYONE. Actually anything.

Which has prompted several conversations about what the job of an Agent should be. I know the likes of 200 Square are trying to address the same questions, and I know one Agent who is clearly passionate about changing the industry, but it’s a slow moving beast. My apartment was a private sale, and I’m unconvinced Joe Public has enough negotiation experience, which combined with a lack of emotion towards their pile of bricks and mortar means that doesn’t seem to work overly well.

I’m sensing that my usual strategy of thinking of a better way and running with that, is probably not going to happen here, nor is my guerrilla warfare plan of dropping notes in owners houses, when they have a particularly bad agent. But what to do….?

Just accept ridiculous commissions?

More customer success: MyLawsuit

Just heard from Michele about some early buzz around MyLawsuit.com.

Michele and I ‘met’ several years ago now, and we designed the initial screens for MyLawsuit. Michele is a true inspiration (just read the articles to see what she gets up to!) and I love the concept of a website that helps the little guy in the legal world. With a limited, yet hugely painful experience of the reality of legal battles, I very quickly realised that even if you are 100% in the right and/or you are fighting to regain something someone took from you, it costs a FORTUNE in time, emotion and finance…

Michele (like all my favorites clients) has a very unique and very cool view on her industry, you can see a lot of her personal ethics in the product. I love the fact that she’s trying to remove the terrifying legalese that you are normally subjected to, and run a very open and transparent process to connect lawyers with clients. Its an industry full of sharks and awesome to see someone who’s not afraid of taking them on!

AA Insurance, You Rock!

In my attempt to become carless, I was left in an awkward position, where my insurance expired 1 week before the car was sold.

I rang AA (who I have written about my love for several times) and they said they were happy to give me 2 weeks leeway, but if I was one of those uptight people (which I am!), I could renew my insurance and as soon as I cancelled it, they’d refund me the 51 weeks.

In the meantime, I casually mentioned a minor error on my policy (I own my apartment, don’t rent it) The lovely man was very apologetic and said Id obviously been paying way too much (apparently people are less likely to damage stuff in their own house – which is actually an interesting point of its own). So he went about organising not only my car refund, but my contents refund for the entire time I’d been with AA (I would have been happy with just this year since technically it’s my job to look at my policy!)

So Im about $130 up because of them (that’s on top of the car refund).

In a world where despite social media and the like, companies (especially insurers) have a bad rap with customer satisfaction, Im more than happy to once again recommend one of the cheapest, friendliest and most helpful companies Ive ever had the happiness to pay money too :)

Duh! Getting ripped off by Flexirent!

When I first took sole control of Decisive Flow, I made the very stupid short term decision to rent computers through Flexirent. At the time I was forking out large sums of money in legal fees to extract my ex-business partner and of course, pay him out, so cashflow was key (like how I justify my stupidity??).

However, several years on and those leases are all expiring.

As I’m automatically transitioned into purchasing the equipment (apparently Flexirent has struggled to get in contact with me about the contracts expiring, though funnily enough their spam mail finds my PO Box just fine)… Ive been frantically calling their call-center to try to find anyone within the company to talk to about NOT buying equipment.

Initially it seems that Flexirent is full of hugely optimistic staff, who believe full-heartedly that despite you specifically saying time and time again you want to end contracts, you still DEEP DOWN want to buy from them, and continue to run off that assumption… However, weeks on, I now realise company policy is to trap you into purchasing.

Anyway, in the meantime, doing my sums on upgrading, I realised that I basically signed up with the devil a finance company that was charging me double for the equipment. That’s actually not their fault, I did know that up front.

So a warning for the un-wise… Be very careful when considering leasing equipment. As consumer.org.nz says… It’s pretty worrying but that’s the deal you sign, so you need to be well aware of what you are getting into. I know most small business owners may be a little too overworked to always thoroughly do research, but I guarantee you will be stoked that your hour of research avoided a great deal of self kicking three years on! Especially if you have a good credit rating and a bit of cash, you are in a great position to access finance at a much lower rate that 27%.

One note though, is several phone calls and emails and a bit of negotiation, you can work out a better deal for yourself… Despite walking away with a mild stench of getting ripped off.

The lessons we/I learn!

Moneyscope: Standing out from the Crowd

One of my favorite customers just sent me the latest review of Moneyscope – a Basecamp style approach to financial planning, that enables financial planners to quickly produce attractive, simple and understandable reports for their clients… As opposed to the typical, hugely complex modeling systems that result in reports no one really understands.

I love this product. I love designing it, I love working with Richard (who is about as onto it as they come), and I love the idea of taking on an industry that, to the ordinary person, is shrouded in mystery and complication.

Moneyscope has never intended to compete directly with the big players – it’s monthly cost and simple functionality attest to that, BUT we are quickly picking up on more and more users switching the vast majority of even their most complex customers to Moneyscope… And this is even before the next release of some cool functionality that will take it to the next level.

Read page 25 of this industry publication for this full review, but I think this sums it up:

The discussions with the users of Moneyscope were quite enlightening. We had expected the tool to be used by the mainstream adviser, for simple cases or for initial engagement of clients. The reality is that it is used by sophisticated financial planners as a core part of their advice process.

Keep an eye out for Moneyscope, it’s got the perfect mix of strict focus, simplicity and a massive need from the market.

have you experienced hidden conditions on Grab One vouchers?

I am a HUGE fan of deal sites. This is how I manage to be out virtually every night and still pay off my mortgage… But the ‘hidden’ conditions really annoy me.

The other day, my sister and I bought vouchers for Tulsi, our favorite Friday lunch joint. The vouchers specified they weren’t to be used in conjunction with any other deal.

No worries.

Except, when we arrived, they said we couldn’t use the vouchers because their entire lunch menu was a ‘special’ (It’s the same every week). Fair enough(?). We asked to see their non-special lunch menu. They don’t have one.

So after giving up on that, we said ok, we’ll pay full price for the lunch and use the voucher for the absolutely-no-way-its-on-a-special wine. Which led to a frosty reception when paying, and not so much a fight, but we definitely had to convince them to let us use our voucher.

It appears, what they meant was the vouchers were for DINNER only. However, they failed to let us know that at any stage.

This left us feeling like the whole thing was a bit disappointing. It would have even been better if they were free voucher, but we paid for those puppies, and when you pay for something in good faith, it’s pretty bad to be made to fight to use it!

So, being good customers of Grab One, we both wrote to them about our experience (we didn’t know each other was writing). I heard back once, and then they went silent. Sarah was basically brushed off.

It really annoys me.

All I asked was that in future they make sure the specify the conditions on the vouchers, so everyone knows where they stand. It seemed reasonable to request that, especially because at the time we genuinely believed it was an oversight.

There response (or lack thereof) makes me wonder if sites like Grab One survive on the fact that a large portion of the vouchers they sell are never redeemed, and that the people who buy them are too embarrassed to fight to be able to use them in case they come across as ‘cheap’.

Not the best or most ethical business model, if you ask me.

Cars: Why you must know your stuff.

This morning, I took in my little old car for a warrent. As per usual, I left it to the last possible moment, so when it failed for busted tyres and busted brake hoses.

So, I set about getting things fixed.

Thank goodness that despite my complete lack of knowledge about cars, I have a 24/7 advisor in the form of my dad, so I could quickly call him to get a rough idea of how much it SHOULD cost to fix a break hose.

He said roughly $150, give or take.

The first Mechanic quoted be $200, but couldn’t lock that down, they were also located quite a way from work, so I moseyed on.
The second shot up to $270.
The third turned out to be a towbar place NOT a mechanic (my fault, I rocked up on the basis it looked like a mechanic)
The fourth was a chain store: Pitt Stop.
They took my car, promised me to do a free break check, then call me with a quote. They also said they’d complete the job and take it back to the warrent place to finish that up.
They rang 10 minutes later with a fixed quote for $160.

When you are a dumb girl in regards to cars, you quickly learn that some mechanics take one look at you and pluck a number out of the air on the basis, they know, you don’t know how much it costs.

I remember once being quoted $60 for a $5 lightbulb. Thank goodness, I had, once again checked with dad before heading around.

In my opinion, it’s borderline criminal to overcharge so massively, however not much can be done about that… But despite the pain and time off work, it was a good lesson in ensuring you know a little about cars when you have one.

Making it cool (or not cool)

I watched the Facebook movie. I’m not sure how ‘true to life’ it was, but I one thing I loved was the focus on how important it is to have something ‘cool’. We talk about ‘building buzz’ and all these other marketing, techie terms for ‘cool’, but it was funny to realise, that at the end of the day, the ONLY thing that matters in a successful web app is how cool it is.

I wonder if that’s actually why the internet took off – it inspired a bunch of people who weren’t traditionally ‘cool’ to create stuff that would send their cool factor to the stratosphere – and indeed being cool seems to be a fundamental reason why we now have Facebook, which is even more funny, given that the main reason people use it is to show off how cool they are.

This realisation was was quickly followed by hearing about how they are now playing Mozart in some of the dodgy areas of Christchurch – apparently the sound is so disgusting to the dregs of society, they move on and stop committing crimes in the area.

This tactic seems to have been wildly successful in ‘un-cooling’ the area significantly enough to massively impact behavior, in much the same way as the founders of Facebook believed ads would affect the site.

I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but it feels like there’s something in that.

Thankyou Vodafone!

I HATE Vodafone as a general rule.

Last night I hated them even more when their bung billing system kept charging me the wrong amount… Which meant that even though I’d been merrily paying, assuming they’d tell me the RIGHT amount to pay, I was CUT OFF FROM THE WORLD.

I was fuming this morning, and rang up demanding to pay the right amount, get put back on AND get a discount (the last part was just me being angry, I knew I had no hope).

She didn’t go as far as apologising for the inconvenience and DID try to explain that it was on my head to someone ring every month, wait on hold for as long as necessary and grill the customer service person for the correct amount until they had sorted out their systems…

BUT

I think (from what I heard in between falling in a dead faint from shock) she wiped my entire next bill.

Thanks Vodafone. I think it’s outrageous that yo are aware you have shoddy systems and STILL assume your customer is at fault, but at least this time the poor weary customer support person (who I imagine has spent the past few weeks of her life being screamed at) did something reasonably nice.