Don't Just Stand There, Do Something. Advice For Dealing With Delays

Forty minutes late this morning. So glad I got up before 5am to catch a train … turns out a crew member was late into London from Clacton as his train had failed. The ticket inspector on the train appeared not to care and the announcements at Chelmsford station all took place on the wrong platform so I had to sit craning my ear for forty minutes to see if I could find out when I’d finally be heading North East. Still, I’ll still be here next week shovelling £52 golden pound coins into ‘one’s’ grasping little fingers to keep me ticking over until my season ticket comes up for renewal in August whereupon I’ll have to part with over £3000 for the privilege of such personal service for another year. But, in a change of heart I’ve decided that, with every moan about ‘one’ I should propose a solution, thereby giving them my Customer Experience expertise for nothing.

In The Event of A Crew Member Delay ‘one’ should:
1. Have a back-up crew member in position or on call from the starting station to prevent it occurring, failing that, invoke options 2, 3 and 4.
2. Have clear announcements at every station explaining why the delay was caused and what the most effective solution is i.e. wait for the train or catch train x and change at y etc. etc.
3. Distribute Delay Repay leaflets on the affected train at the same time as apologising personally to customers for the delay, without insipid grins.
4. Detail (on the train’s PA system) estimated new arrival times for each stop along the way.

There, I feel better now, much nicer than ranting at them all the time.


Wired Lifestyle Usability Issues

I’ve just moved into a new place (see previous posts about Ikea) and bundled in one of the drawers in the kitchen was a telephone book sized folder containing all the manuals for the respective household appliances. I’ve not got round to reading many of them yet as, frankly, there are better things in life.

But this raised a interesting point, how much of the technology and engineering scattered about my place is intuitive and usable? There are certain things that, as a tech-savvy 20-something I should intuitively know how to use: microwave, washing machine, oven, electric shower. Additionally there are things that are new to me: dishwasher, integrated multi-room audio, under floor heating and I’ve enjoyed fiddling with this stuff to understand how it works to some extent. The hardest to ‘get’ was the audio system (an EGi Domos) though to be fair I’ve not even started to look at the heating yet.

To start with there are two main interfaces, a central control panel and individual room controls. The first is a complicated panel with multiple tiny buttons and LEDs, icons and descriptors are small and not always intuitive. The second is considerably smaller but, being concealed and discrete, was quite confusing in its own way. Within a few seconds of turning the control panel on I was able to start piping radio to at least one room, good stuff. It did seem quiet though… I went to the room control and pressed the two visible buttons, the station changed and it made beeping sounds. That’s all I could work out. It seemed to have two channels which presumably meant one room could be on one channel and another on a different one. Great, still quiet though….

By this point I was a little bit disappointed and complained to the missus that it must be a consequence of the location in a block of similar flats that the volume is restricted. She sighed and got on with her important stuff. About twenty seconds later I heard a loud laugh and a call to come and see what she’d done. She’d turned the volume up by simply opening the smart plastic flap covering the control and pressing the + button. She’s delighted of course, she’s worked out in about ten seconds (she claims it was obvious) and if it wasn’t for her I’d still be listening to it at library volume. Except I wouldn’t because I’d have read the manual eventually in a bid to understand what it ALL does (something girls seem to care little about, they only want to know the functionality that they’ll need). I wanted to write something insightful about how this demonstrates why users are stupid, why the obvious isn’t always so, why basic users (her) are more clever than potential experts (me) and so on but my own personal embarrassment wants to get me off the topic as soon as possible.

Not before I’ve mentioned the manual though. Which is dire. I’m so used to being fortunate to read manuals in my native language that when you find one in ‘foreign’ it can be either amusing (Asian hardware manuals in over-polite Victorian English) or baffling (in this case). The manual was originally in spanish but had had the English translation on the same page in italics making it really fiddly to keep finding the English bits and meant that the pages with diagrams were confused with twice as much text as they needed to have. Why not simply repeat the information in English as it’s done in 90% of guide manuals with the same layout? They’d decided to reduce costs by printing one manual for every product in the range too. So you have to thumb through and find the specific version of the control panels you’ve got installed and then read their pages complete with footnotes explaining that feature x might not be available depending on your installation. I’d really rather be given a piece of paper inviting me to their (ghastly) site to download the specific manual in English for my installation. It would cost less than sending one rubbish bi-lingual manual to every customer and be a hundred times more effective.

To that end I’ve not even bothered to set some of the more advanced functions, pre-set radio, wake alarms, door entry intercom etc. etc. Finally, the input interface for external audio equipment … a 7-pin DIN! I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these for audio, probably on my Dad’s 1970s B&O tape deck. It’s unbelievable that there wasn’t a dual phono or 3.5mm jack input. I spent ages in Maplin trying to find a cable to fit, it did but wasn’t in stereo (presumably down to the peculiar wiring in the DIN) so I had to order a specific part from the manufacturer. The customer experience of owning something like this shouldn’t be such hard work

Nano Technology, Not So Smart Now Are You?

(This is my first post in the new Beta version of Blogger)

Sometimes the little things bug you. Despite being an astonishingly effective product and, more than that, a lifestyle accessory my Nano can still irritate. Why is it that Smart Playlists are not smart on my Nano? I have gone through and set a complicated series of playlists (based on nested IF statements) which meant that, in iTunes at least, I get to hear songs I’ve not heard for ages within a certain genre and given certain ratings criteria. If these core tunes are available in my Nano’s library, why can the software not cope with live updates of the playlist? Sadly it has to wait until the ‘pod is synchronised with iTunes before it updates the play dates etc. However, this information is clearly available on the pod which stores the play date and time and even creates a recently played history. Does anyone know if they fixed this in the new ones?

"Both James and I are looking forward to getting our hamster back."

Just like the rest of us, Clarkson speaks for a legion of Top Gear fans after Richard Hammond's accident.

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one aware of blog

This week I've seen a big increase in people searching for one related stuff and landing on the blog and the IP logs show plenty of hits from which, if you do a simple WHOIS relates to LER, London Eastern Railway, one's official name.

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