What are you going to do?
What will the runners do?
What are you going to do?
My ex-classmate posted some photos of his overseas holiday trip two days ago.
There are two photos of his kids engrossed with their phones while seated having lunch.
Which makes me wonder if the online world is more interesting that what they are seeing and experiencing personally in the foreign country?
Perhaps they are not interested in the country they are visiting. Or are they curious about what their friends are doing? Afraid they miss out on something in the online world?
I was having high-tea at a hotel's restaurant a few weeks back. Seated a few tables away was a family, parents with son and daughter. All four of them were looking at their phones. The kids were checking their Facebook, mom was playing Candy Crush and dad was surfing the web. Physically present but spiritually absent.
Technology, which is meant to make our lives easier and more convenient has somehow consumed our lives.
How many of you switch off your phone when you sleep? How many of you can't resist checking your incoming messages when you're having meals with family or friends? How many of you are so engrossed in watching the serial drama that you don't even look at what you are eating?
Do you master the technology? Or do you let technology master you?
Think about your business too.
Do you have one as well?
And do you know what is it?
It's never too much.
Thank you all who have been following me on my blog.
I recently wrote about sending an email to re-contract my Cable TV subscription (click here).
After writing back to them after receiving their reply, this is what I got.
If they've checked their records, I've been their customer for at least four years.
And if they check again, I've never been late in my payment.
I wonder why the staff keep harping on my outstanding bill.
Are you pissing off your customers like this company?
Ban the use of calculator in your office for a week.
This is a corner stall at Warorot Market (Talad Warorot), Chinatown in Chiang Mai.
There's desserts, toast with different spreads, bun and biscuits, etc.
But that's not what I want to talk about.
Look at the chairs.
How innovative and creative this old lady is.
Proves that innovation and creativity got nothing to do with one's level of education.
There was an article in a business magazine about a local business expanding into another neighboring country.
Being the largest company among the smallest players in the industry, the company was aiming to expand it's market share of its various services.
Grow this service by 20% for next year. Increase the customer base for that service by 20,000. Capture 3% of the market share for this product.
Well, that's what all businesses do, right?
And that is what a company needs to do in order to grow and expand. By providing more valuable products and services to more people.
And when companies communicate to external parties, they will phrase it that they are there to help their customers achieve their dreams and goals.
Why not use the message communicated to external parties internally as well?
Would communicating how the staff can help to make the world a better place for their customers by fulfilling their dreams be more meaningful and give them a purpos than just telling the staff about market share?
Look at this ad by Gloria Jean Coffee Joint.
Does it sound like a sentence from a conversation between the staff?
If it's for customer, would "Bringing YOU..." sounds better than "Bringing IN.."?
I sent an email to StarHub, my cable TV operator recently to find out if they have any promotion for re-contract of my subscription plan as it has expired last month.
Why send email?
Well, simply I do not want to waste time calling their hotline or visiting their outlet.
Now, the online form asked for my Account Number and Identification Number (known ass IC for Singaporeans).
I asked my sister if she has a copy of the bill sent to us and she said no.
But without the Account Number, I cannot send the email.
So, I just keyed in any number randomly and hoped it gets through. And it did went through. In the email, I mentioned my contract has expired and if there is any promotion currently that I can re-contract.
Few days later, this is the reply I got.
Thank you for your webform.
We would like to advice that we assist to arrange for our sales consultant to contact you.
We would appreciate it if you could kindly make payment arrangements for the amount payable in account: 1.13537693 before re-contracting your services.
Please reply to confirm if you would like us to arrange for our sales consultant to contact you on our StarHub TV promotional contracts and give you more details on the promotions.
Alternatively, you may wish to contact our subscription sales hotline at 1630 to speak to our sales consultant for more information.
If you have any other questions on our services, please email us at this address or fax in to 6720 5000.
A few things puzzled me.
1. Why do they need to have my Account Number when they already asked for my IC Number? If you think about it, which is easier to remember and gets to be remembered? I believe their system should be able to search for customers' profile either by Account Number or IC Number. So why make it mandatory to key in the Account Number? Is it to make the job of the staff easier? By making the job easier for themselves, they are making it difficult for customers to send in online form.
2. Why can't they reply to my email with all the relevant information? Isn't there any brochure that they can attach to send me? Instead, they wrote to me to tell me that they can get their sales consultant to contact me. And then ask for my permission for them to contact me.
3. Providing irrelevant information by asking me to settle my payment before re-contracting. Instead of putting the reminder to settle payment at the end of the email, the notice was placed right at the start of the email.
It seems like they are following a standard operating procedure. For re-contract, you have to get the sales consultant to contact customer or get customer to call them.
No answer to the simple question I asked.
Why not do it this way?
1. Tell me how much I was paying every month in my previous subscription
2. Tell me which packages are included previously
3. Tell me if there's any promotion if I stick to my existing price and package
4. Tell me any other better promotion available
5. Tell me how to re-contract
6. Remind me outstanding payment has to be settled before re-contracting
Are your websites, processes, procedures and systems designed for you or your customers?
My neighbor returned from a two and a quarter day trip to Bangkok early this month.
She has never liked to travel to Bangkok for more than 5 days on every trip. The hotel she stays, the places she goes, the shops and food stalls she patronizes are pretty predictable. She doesn't explore beyond Bangkok, or rather beyond Platinum Mall, Siam Paragon and MBK.
When she came over to my house yesterday, I told her that she will not like Chiang Mai for one reason. There are nothing for her to shop.
Well, not exactly. There are a lot of things to buy. But those aren't the things she will be interested in. And there aren't that many shopping centers.
There's an old and tired looking Kad Suan Kaew which houses Central Departmental Store and a few familiar brands such as KFC, Swenson, Dunkin Donuts, Mister Donut and Starbucks. Opposite this mall is the MK restaurant, a popular chain restaurant selling Dim Sum and chinese food common in Bangkok.
Other than this, there's a Pantip Plaza which sells computers and electronic gadgets. There's a food court inside and unlike it's Bangkok counterpart, consists of a few individually run stalls with very olden feel seating area.
There is a night bazaar selling many items but caters mainly to tourists. There are Saturday Walking Street and Sunday Walking Street at different locations but it seems you'll see the same stalls at both. I only went to the Sunday Walking Street which is located in the streets of old city. There were lots of food, handicrafts and souvenirs for sale but it's more interesting than the night bazaar as the locals also shop here. There's also Warorot Market, which I heard is their Chinatown and the local wet market.
In my four days there, I only saw 3 Starbucks - one at Nimmanhaemin Road near the hotel I stayed, one at Thapae Gate and one opposite Le Meridien Hotel. One Burger King, one Haagen Dazs, one patisserie and two Japanese restaurants. There are a lot of cafe serving western food such as burger and pizza though. And unlike Bangkok, such joints are patronized mainly by tourists. You hardly see any Thais, except for the patisserie which has a fair share of locals.
Although I had expected Chiang Mai to be less developed than Bangkok, I was quite taken aback by the lack of entertainment amenities and international food and fashion brands there.
Even at the airport departure area, there are only four shops. One selling food like chocolates and local snack, one selling sweets and tidbits, one selling branded accessories like sunglasses and one selling Thai traditional ornaments.
Though there were not as many street hawkers as Bangkok, most of the local food I had were of exceptional standard. In fact, this is the first trip where I had totally no chance and opportunity to eat MacDonald for a meal. And I totally did not shop. Most of my money were spent on food and transport.
Well, it's not that there's nothing to buy in Chiang Mai. There are lots of things you can get if you want, especially ethnic souvenirs and handicrafts.
Life seems much simpler and laid back.
Sit at the temple and be awed by the historic and beauty of ancient architecture. Watch monks receiving alms while having your breakfast. Cycle in the old city and stop at wherever that interests you.
And I woke up to chirping of birds, which is something impossible to experience in Bangkok.
But Chiang Mai is not the only place you can take life slower. How about going easy in Bangkok as well?
Explore a new place, take a new route,
I mentioned winning two free air tickets to Chiang Mai earlier.
And by coincidence, the dates I've chosen to travel falls during the Loy Krathong festival.
I've read and seen so much about this festival and finally going to experience it. I did some research and found that there were quite a number of activities going on throughout the three days from 16 to 18 November.
And I'm not going to miss the floats procession.
Initially, I thought the procession is going to be the same for the three days. So I just need to watch it once and do something else for the rest of the two nights. But my Thai friend living in Chiang Mai told me that every day is different. So I planned to watch all 3 nights of the procession.
When I reached the site, it was bustling with activities.
There was a stage with performance. A small night market was just on the right side of the stage extending all the way to the back. The procession route was on the other side of the stage.
People were sitting around on the dividers and along the street. There were no barriers on both sides of the road where the procession will pass by.
The procession started and people were running to the front of the floats to take photos when they stopped. They were taking photos WITH the performers when they stopped. No one is stopping them from doing it.
There were street stalls lining the route. People were performing traditional music and cooking traditional food in the temple grounds. The monks were helping people to release lanterns into the sky in the compound. There were even food stalls in the temple.
While the procession is on, there were lots of people walking along side of the procession towards the Ping river. They were holding beautifully decorated floats to be released into the river. It was as if these people were part of the procession as well.
Closer to the river, thousands of people were sending lanterns off to the sky. The whole bridge and streets were filled with lanterns. Now, there's a skill to ensuring the lantern floats to the sky. You have to ensure there's enough hot air in the lantern before releasing it and make sure there's no wire to entangle the lantern on its way up.
People were posing with the lanterns before setting them off. Some of them wrote their wishes on the lanterns and some said a little prayer before releasing them.
When one lantern goes up successfully, you can see the happiness and excitement on their faces. When a lantern got caught in the wire, everyone started dispersing as it looked dangerous. Some lanterns dropped into the river and you can hear people going "Oh."
The whole sky is filled with lanterns whichever direction you look. It's magical and it's something you have to see for yourself. It's such an emotional event.
And down by the riverside, people were releasing their float into the river.
Everything is so impromptu and everyone is involved in some kind of activities. You can watch the procession. You can walk with the procession. You can release lantern or float. You can eat anytime anywhere. You can watch them perform traditional activities in the temple. You can do some shopping along the way.
That's what makes Loy Krathong so beautiful.
Can you create such an experience for your customers?
That's the Thai word for Thai iced tea.
I remember when I first visited Bangkok, I was so skeptical about the hygiene level of their street hawkers that I avoided anything not cooked and any water from unknown sources. And this includes the cut fruits placed on top of ice.
Finally I caved in to the hot weather and had my first ever Thai iced tea from the street hawker in Victory Monument.
Since then, I was hooked.
I just have to drink this on my every visit to Thailand. In fact, I suspect this is one of the main reasons I'm going back Bangkok so often. Right! Just to drink their Thai iced tea.
No matter whether it's from the street hawker, cafe or more expensive restaurant, I've never been disappointed once.
Yesterday, my friend posted a photo of a glass of Thai iced tea on Facebook.
It's from a stall in the Newton Hawker Center famous among the tourists.
The iced tea costs $4.50 and tasted awful.
Why is it so difficult to find nice Thai iced tea in Singapore? Did they added something that is not available here? Perhaps there's no people with the experience and skill of making Thai iced tea here.
Of course, we cannot compare the standard to the country of origin. And that's why we can never find Laksa (a local curry noodle) as original in Singapore as anywhere else in the world.
You can get a cup of Thai iced tea from the street hawker for 25 Baht (equivalent to $1 Singapore dollar). For the price of $4.50, which is 350% more, one would expect at least a decent cup of iced tea, if not close to the real taste. But most of the times, it is far from truth.
Have our costs of running business become so expensive that we have to cut down on ingredients in order to survive?
If that is true, then all the more they should make the iced tea as nice as the original one so that they can justify for the price charged.
Customers do not care if you have a high rent to pay or high operating costs. They only care about the value they get for the price they pay. If they feel they are not getting value for their money, they will not buy even if it is only 50 cents. If they feel that it's worth every cents, you can charge $5 and there'll still be