Customer disservice from Virgin Media

Technical stuff

I thought I was over writing posts about ineffective customer service, the kind of thing that was pretty common four or five years ago.

The type of customer service that revolves around call centres and staff that, while friendly and polite enough, either couldn’t move outside their scripted processes, and/or didn’t have accurate information, and/or different call centre people had conflicting information.

The type of poor customer service from Virgin Media that I’ve written about in the past. (There’s worse if you remember Virgin Media’s predecessor incarnation, NTL, and ntl:hell from the early 00s.)

Sadly not the case as far as my experience with Virgin Media yesterday and today is concerned. And, equally sadly, it seems the scripted responses have now made it to their Twitter account.

  • Incidentally, if this type of content in my blog isn’t of interest to you, then please by all means choose something else to read or share. Might I suggest “Instagramming NYFW,” looking at what fashion brands are doing with Instagram and some great ideas for marketers.

Here’s a concise chronological timeline of what happened yesterday:

  1. On May 16, broadband internet and cable TV services went offline at about 3pm according to my wife. She called Virgin Media’s 150 support number and, summarizing it all, she was told that: a) there’s a service fault in our postcode area, b) engineers are working on fixing it, and c) full service will be back but potentially not until about 11pm.
  2. I got home at about 6.30pm – still no TV or broadband. I called 150 to get an update.
  3. I drilled down the voice response menu system and chose ‘TV fault’ – there is not a choice to talk to a single person about faults on more than one service.
  4. The service agent I speak to is polite and helpful; he asks me to reboot the V+ box which I do. TV screen then says ‘digital TV service will start soon’ or words like that. Agent tells me all will be fine in a few minutes. But those few minutes turn into six minutes or so: clearly something’s not right.
  5. Agent agrees and tells me he’ll book an engineer to come on Monday, between 8am and midday. He says the service may be offline until then, but the engineer will fix things. He asks me for my mobile number, saying the engineer will text me on Monday morning to say what time he’ll be here. And if service does come back before then, would I call and cancel the engineer (which I agreed to do). He then offers to transfer me to someone I can talk to about the lack of broadband service.
  6. So I get another service agent, equally polite and friendly, to whom I recount the story once more. He asks me to restart the Virgin Media superhub modem, which I do. To no avail – not all lights light up and the agent says he can see on his screen that no internet service is reaching my property. So he says the engineer who’s coming on Monday will fix it.

And that was that. A weekend awaiting us with no broadband internet and no cable TV. We have alternatives if we choose, eg, mobile phones that can act as modems, Freeview TV and, of course, an extensive DVD and Blu-ray library.

But when I awoke this morning, I saw the broadband service was up and running again, as was the cable TV. Hooray! I thought about cancelling the engineer’s visit for Monday so I logged in to my account on the Virgin Media website.

And see straightaway that no engineer is booked!

You don't have any engineer appointments

[Read more...]

With Nomad, you’ll always find juice

ChargeCard

The bane of contemporary mobile life is your smartphone running out of juice sooner than you expect (what many would undoubtedly see as a classic ‘First World problem‘).

It usually happens to me at a conference or other event when I’m using my device a lot for tweets and pics and sharing them online, and there’s no nearby power outlet; or, more typically, I don’t have a charging cable with me that I can plug into a PC’s USB port.

So when the good folk at Nomad in California asked me if I’d like to try out their ChargeCard and ChargeKey micro USB cables, I was more than happy to say yes. Here’s what each device is -

  • ChargeCard: A thin smartphone cable in a credit-card-sized format casing that’s designed to fit into even the slimmest wallet.
  • ChargeKey: A key-shaped smartphone cable that fits onto your keychain.

They work like normal cables for charging the battery and syncing your phone – in both cases, you plug one end into a computer’s USB port and the other end into your mobile device. There are versions for iPhones and for other devices that use the near-ubiquitous micro USB standard connector (almost everyone else). As all of my mobile devices are Android, I chose the micro USB versions.

The package from Nomad arrived just before Easter so I’ve had a chance to try out both devices. They work better than I expected.

As the photos here show, you plug the micro USB connector into your phone, and the end of the charging cable into a USB port on your computer.

ChargeCard

Above is the ChargeCard connected to my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, plugged in to a USB port on the side of my Toshiba laptop.

As you can see, the cable connector plugged in to the laptop’s USB port looks like (and is) a very flexible rubber-and-silicon material that’s built in to the more rigid hard plastic of the credit card-sized casing.

Below is the ChargeKey on a keyring with my car key.

ChargeKey

As the ChargeCard image above shows, the connector part of each device is amazingly flexible – here below is what the ChargeKey looks like with the S4 connected to the laptop’s USB port.

ChargeKey

Note how twisted the connector cable is. It’s designed to cope with that, Nomad says, and it connects and works fine. It’s an issue you encounter with many mobile devices and charging/sync cables where each connector only fits one way, so you can end up with some contortions such as you see here.

At least part of the equation will be fixed as and when the new reversible USB connector standard makes its way into the cables and connectors we’ll see and use in the coming years when new reversible-connection USB ports get built in to PCs and other devices.

I’ve now ditched all but one of the USB cables that had homes in my various bags and that usually got tangled up in something. Having one is for the time when you can’t use either of the Nomad products – no flat surface, for instance, or it’s just too awkward, so a long cable may well serve you better.

For me, by far the most comfortable-looking of Nomad’s two devices is the ChargeCard. But both are very good and would likely serve different needs. I’m not sure keeping the ChargeKey on a carkey ring such as I have is best – it’s a bit awkward aligning the various devices on a table. I find the ChargeCard to be a better bet for that.

Still, both of these devices are really great. Did I mention sync? Not only do they charge your device, but also they let you synchronize data on your device with what’s on your computer, if you have it set up for that and if that’s what you want to do. Otherwise, they’re devices that enable you to charge up your battery – and very good ones for that purpose.

The built quality is outstanding, a best-practice example of innovative design and manufacturing – and great examples of the kind of flexible wearable technology that’s beginning to emerge: imagine the wiring within the twistable connector in each of Nomad’s devices that does its job no matter how twisted the connection, so to speak.

I did wonder about how exposed the connectors are – how easily might they potentially suffer damage without covers? Nomad addresses that one in a credible set of FAQ on their website. So I’m reassured.

And I like Nomad’s philosophy:

[...] We’re focused on building simple solutions to simple problems, problems that shouldn’t slow us or you down. ChargeCard and ChargeKey are just the start of our modern, minimalist, mobility movement.

Nomad began as a Kickstarter-backed project, exceeding its fund-raising goal by a factor of more than three. It became fully funded in August 2012.

Nomad sells the ChargeCard and the ChargeKey for $29 each in the US, with discounted pricing on quantity orders and referring a friend. They also have an affiliate program (I haven’t joined that so no links here are affiliate links). There’s good news if you’re in the UK – as well as in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain – as you can buy either device from Amazon and get your purchase quickly.

Products that get you juice. What’s not to like?

Valentine expression

You're a fox

Today is Valentine’s Day, the day traditionally when millions of people express a feeling towards another via the mechanism of anonymous greeting cards they send.

Well, note the word ‘traditionally.’

The days of buying a printed Hallmark Valentine card and sending it through the post haven’t quite vanished yet.

But things are quite different today, both the methods of communication as well as what’s communicated. The rise of social media, the online sharing of ideas and creative thinking, along with the huge shifts in behaviours in terms of what people want and are willing to share as a Valentine expression, have produced as many different ways of sharing a feeling as you can imagine.

A few days ago, I received an email from Pinterest with some suggestions for Valentine greetings. Terrific imaginations at work on the board, something to appeal to everyone. The fox you see above is from that board, the pin that has attracted the most shares so far.

I did like this one especially, an elegant use of an animated GIF (if you don’t see it below, it’s here).



Then there’s good old satire for the contemporary age as evidenced in what’s on offer at someecards.com:

Valentine - Groupon

Valentine - Twitter

However you express Valentine’s Day today, have a nice day!

The mutual value of the conversation

2013 Annual Report

The stats helper monkeys have been busy, said WordPress in an overnight email telling me about “Your 2013 in blogging,” a concise analysis of this blog during the year as noted by the stats module in Jetpack, the uber-plugin utility for self-hosted WordPress sites.

It’s a concise portrayal of a range of metrics that are useful to know.

For instance:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 170,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 7 days for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 260 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 2,598 posts.

The busiest day of the year was January 9th with1,838 views. The most popular post that day was Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012.

I can get this information myself, of course, via analysis of the stats. But it was nice to see it expressed this way.

The Jetpack report also tells me which were the top five posts that got the most views in 2013.

attractionsin2013

  1. How to make your business card a smart card – June 2009
  2. How to secure your WordPress site against hacker attacks – April 2013
  3. Good example of a social media press release from ING – December 2012
  4. Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012 – September 2012
  5. Disney brings the second-screen experience to the movies – September 2013

As the report notes, some of these were written before 2013 but still got attention (views) from people, adding:

Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

A good tip, thanks!

The most-commented post in 2013, says Jetpack, was Don’t ignore social voices, Knight Frank #LostMyGiggle with nearly 130 comments including on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Of interest, too, is information on where visitors come from, ie, which sites refer them. According to Jetpack, the top three referring sites in 2013 were these:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Google+

I knew this from other research, but it’s good to see it confirmed by another credible source.

And where in the world did these visitors come from? 193 countries, says Jetpack! Specifically:

Most visitors came from The United States. The United Kingdom & Germany were not far behind.

US visitors are, roughly, about 51% of all visitors according to other measures. But, as Jetpack says, it’s ‘most.’ I suspect part of the reason why US visitor numbers are high is that much of my content has been widely syndicated in the US for much of the past decade.

So a useful snapshot of some of the metrics about what’s published on this blog, what people came to read in 2013, and what they did when they read it.

It makes me think about the value of blogging, especially with a strong business focus that is the characteristic of this blog (not many posts or videos about cats here), a topic about which Euan  Semple had a very good post yesterday.

It makes me think about the exposure of my thinking to others as expressed in posts that stimulate them to refer those posts to their communities or directly add their own points of view, whether here or elsewhere across the social web: it’s all trackable and connectable.

That’s what I call a conversation. So I’ll keep going… :)

It’s all love and hate with Facebook

Dislike

The thumbs-down symbol to register dislike of something on Facebook has long been a wish expressed by quite a few people.

That wish has come to fruition, sort of – there now is a dislike button but only as an add-on to Facebook Messenger, the social network’s text-chat service.

The fact that so many people talk about needing a method with which they can publicly voice their dislike of something in one click or tap illustrates one of the love-hate dilemmas that characterise what so many Facebook users think and say about Facebook.

Indeed, as one of the most popular online places for conversation, chat, gossip, you name it, Facebook itself is constantly the subject of much conversation.

How many users (1.19 billion ‘monthly actives’ at the last count), where they are (everywhere), what gender (mostly women, it seems), etc – all topics for much analysis, commentary and opinion.

And in the all-important area of Facebook demographics – something marketers and advertisers rely on in defining their audiences – all doesn’t seem to be well, with recent research suggesting that teenagers are deserting Facebook in droves because their parents are signing up in droves.

At least, teenagers in the UK according to research published last week.

In a study funded by the European Union, the Department of Anthropology at University College London is conducting ethnographic research in seven European countries to find out what teens think of Facebook. They just posted initial findings from their research in the UK.

[...] What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things. Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

UCL’s UK findings have prompted much commentary and opinion across the media landscape, social and mainstream, nearly all of it basically saying the same thing: Facebook is not just on the slide, it’s dead and buried if a core demographic is moving on.

Wired magazine, on the other hand, has an intriguing and disagreeing view:

[...] all that really matters to [Facebook] is what happens after teens go off to college and enter “the real world.” How will they stay in touch with old friends and connect with new friends as they enter the crucial 18-to-25-year-old demographic in which lifestyle and purchasing habits are formed?

For the most part, this older demographic doesn’t turn to tools like Snapchat or Instagram to maintain long-term relationships. Those tools are great for conversing with your immediate social circle, especially when you still live with your parents and have to keep stuff on the down-low. But they’re not replacements for a comprehensive social tool you can tailor to all sorts of needs.

It’s a compelling assessment, one that will be part of a discussion in the next episode (736) of the FIR podcast, along with some views on the implications for business, that my co-host Shel Holtz and I will be recording later on Monday.

From the perspective of a Facebook user, I wonder what difference any of this will really make in the immediate-to-short term.

If you’re a teenager, well, I guess you’ll be moving on. Maybe that will be welcomed by users in older age groups. Boomers, for instance – that’s my demographic – who used to make up a huge percentage of Facebook users, driving its growth some years ago. Or maybe they’ve moved on to LinkedIn – the business network does seem to be evolving into a Facebook-like media business.

Neville Hobson joined Facebook
April 2007 seems such a long time ago…

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m one of those. Even though I signed up for Facebook in April 2007, it’s the social networking site on which I’m least active, preferring Twitter and Google+.

In 2010, I toyed with the idea of quitting Facebook altogether, eventually deciding not to. It’s something my social networking friend Paul Sutton is currently mulling over on Facebook, and one I increasing see more and more people asking themselves, thinking out loud.

Looking back, I think staying on Facebook was the best decision for me: there are people there who I enjoy interacting with and who aren’t in other places. So I’m willing to ‘meet’ them on Facebook from time to time. Plus from my business perspective, a great deal of activity of interest to me that companies and brands do is on Facebook; to see it, you need to be a member.

But mostly, Facebook is a remote network for me. I’m not there much; the majority of status updates are auto-posts from blogs, Twitter, Flipboard, Instagram and other services that can automatically post your content to Facebook.

In a similar principal to engaging with people on Facebook who aren’t elsewhere, such auto-presence enables my Facebook friends to keep up to speed with what’s going on in my (mostly professional) life without having to chat about it or be on Twitter, Google+, etc, if that’s not what they prefer.

And that suits a lot of people. It works for me, too.

Related post:

Happy Christmas

Recorded in 1972 as a protest song about the Vietnam War, the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” resonate powerfully today, too, especially when set against the backdrop of the imagery in this YouTube video.

So, this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over
If you want it
War is over
Now

Songwriters:
Yoko Ono, John Lennon

Happy Christmas, everyone.