Consumption 2.0 and Mobile Society


I’ve just read an article by Hugo Garcia of Futures Lab in Portugal in the latest issue of The Futurist. He was outlining how younger people today are more mobile, more focussed on consuming goods, services and experiences, rather than being attached to things and places. One area that he was strong on was the fact that people are now so mobile and keen to explore the world and their environments.

Location becomes far more important because you are continuing moving around as opposed to tied to a fixed location in the world. He said that one example is the trend towards not owning a home, perhaps ever. I always hear talk about how hard it is to get into property, I don’t think it has ever been easy. When we bought our first home (to give ourselves and our children some long term security) we bought in a cheap neighbourhood and at one stage were paying in excess on 20% interest. For a couple of years in the beginning, we went without pretty much anything, just to pay the interest. Today many don’t want to restrict their lifestyle, making it a choice, their choice is to live for today.

The ‘office’ is for many people today, especially knowledge workers, not somewhere we need to be a lot of the time and the cost of maintaining an office, commuting, car parking (you could almost rent a room for the cost of my Auckland City car park). We go to the office when we need to, for meetings, teamwork etc, but otherwise I can be much more productive from my home office.

White BikesHugo talks about shared mobility. This is not a new concept, but certainly one that is coming back with a vengeance. Back in the 1960′s the Provos introduced white bikes that anyone could use. The idea was that you grabbed a bike, rode it to where you wanted to go and left it there for the next person to use. Their concept, same as today was to reduce pollution and traffic congestion and promote community engagement. They were certainly engaged as very quickly the bikes were stolen and repainted, but the idea was very good.

Today carpooling continues to grow, Zipcars, recently purchased by Avis, which is currently being debated as to whether it was an anticompetitive manoeuvre, is an example of car sharing, which in principle makes a lot of sense. People share ownership in boats, holiday homes and other items and many people are travelling around the world using the services of portals like Airbnb. There are loads of companies sprouting up like Whipcar, which lets you rent out your own vehicle when you don’t need it.

Globalisation is also an area that is changing rapidly. I remember reading history books about the great depression and how people moved from town to town looking for work. Mobility today is something far more international and international borders are being crossed continually by people in search of work, whether it is because they can’t find it at home, want a better life, or simply enjoy the itinerant lifestyle. Over a million Kiwis are working and living overseas, while British and other nationalities are moving to New Zealand to work on projects such as the reconstruction of  Christchurch.

Hugo points out there are pro’s and cons. “Unfortunately, some areas may become abandoned because they lack competitive advantages. The war for talent between countries will increase, but regions that offer good living conditions may gain an advantage.

I note again that knowledge workers, one of the biggest industry segments today can often work from anywhere and travel when required. I know many journalists and developers that live in small towns for the lifestyle, but can still perform on a global stage.

This mobile society opens up huge scope for innovation and disruption, particularly with location based services, applications for mobile use, which can support the new mobile lifestyle. Kiwi developers can and are developing applications used globally, despite those that say you can’t be successful unless you are in Silicon Valley, things are changing. The money may be there, but they don’t have a monopoly of good ideas.

If anyone knows about a mobile lifestyle its Kiwis, anywhere is a long way from New Zealand. We know how to travel, we absorb and learn and we love new technology. Where we need help is harnessing our smarts, to help our innovators and entrepreneurs to learn how to scale and think big. That’s a tough ask and I don’t think our Government is doing anywhere near enough to ensure that smart people are able to grow from small concepts to large global enterprises.

I was just asking myself how I suddenly got on my soap box, but then I’m not sure I ever get off it:)

Air NZ Customer Service


I was going to blog about 3D Bio-Plotting today and if this is of interest to you, bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feed. This is going to be a very exciting disruptive technology that has the potential to have a huge impact on our life expectancy and the health industry.

In my last blog I wrote about how John Donahoe, CEO of eBay has a good understanding of what business eBay is in and it isn’t helping people buy and sell things online, or about their recent purchase of Red Laser for comparison shopping.

I wonder if Air New Zealand really understand what their business is at times. If you read their Vision Statement and Guiding Principles, it doesn’t say anything about the travel experience, or about the social relationship with customers or being the facilitator of people’s dreams. In fact a lot that Air New Zealand does is about that, but at times they seem to lose track of that and of course their major focus is on delivering a dividend to their share holders. The bottom line is people do business with people, like me. Individuals who have feelings, not just bums on seats as they say in the hospitality business.

In What Would Google Do, by Jeff Jarvis, still one of my favorite books, this is what he says about airlines:

Air travel’s business model today is based on overselling seats, billing us for checking bags, charging us for pillows and pretzels and just about everything they can think of but air………………. Does that sound familiar. I know it is hard to run an airline profitably, but as someone who has traveled around the world at least a dozen times, there have been many years where I spent 4 months of the year travelling, I understand that traveling is stressful and tiring and little things like being stuck in transit at San Francisco Airport for 8 hours because the Air NZ counter doesn’t open till 90 minutes before the flight and they don’t have an interconnect deal with their partner Lufthansa can be frustrating. They don’t engender loyalty, which I can assure you cost them a lot of money from me from time to time. I have also declined the two invitations to take out an Air NZ Platinum American Express Card. Why would I support an organisation like that, which doesn’t put me first?

Anyway, I started this blog because of frustration over my latest experience with Air New Zealand. Now I have to say that all the people I have spoken to at their service center have been friendly and polite and helpful to a point. But they fall down on some simple things like detail.

So here’s what happened. Last year my wife an I booked flights to Sydney to attend a wedding in Hunter Valley. Prior to the wedding, we were told that my father in law had weeks to live as he had a recurrence of cancer that he was not going to beat. We had to cancel the flight for which we paid $944.20 including taxes and Air NZ said that due to compassionate grounds they would hang on to our money and allow us to rebook at a later date within 12 months, which we thought was reasonable.

I re-booked in January for a trip at the end of this month (I have flown with Air NZ a number of times since then including a trip to Rarotonga in October). I gave my credit card details for the $150 re-booking fee (for 2 of us). Yesterday I went to print off the tickets and organize travel insurance and there was no email. I rang the call centre to find out why and after being transferred and disconnected and waiting a while to speak to someone again, I was told that the flights had been cancelled because they hadn’t been paid for. I was flabbergasted. I gave her my credit card details on the spot, but on checking yesterday, my card account had not been debited. I have already paid in advance for accommodation and we had both applied for leave etc and made arrangements to meet friends over there etc.

Anyway, the nice friendly chap I spoke to went and spoke to his supervisor and apparently, they can still get us on the same flights, but it would now be more expensive for the transfer fee of the tickets. They wanted to talk to the call center person who arranged the booking for us and she is not back until Monday, so they will get back to me on Monday or Tuesday.

So here’s the thing. I have no certainty for one or two more days that I will in fact get those flights and I may have to pay more for my tickets than the extra $150 which in itself would mean that we are paying $1,094.20 for 2 return flights to Sydney from Auckland, at the same time that Flight Center is offering one way tickets for $79 plus taxes (including one bag) at their travel expo.

I can’t believe that the supervisor couldn’t have just authorized the deal on the spot and taken my credit card details once again. What does it cost them for their time to document the discussions, chase the previous consultant who I believed had booked my flights, confirm back to the consultant who I spoke to yesterday and then have him ring me on my mobile to hopefully tell me they will honor the arrangement we had made in the first place. My cost is of course stress for myself and my wife as to whether we will be on the flights booked, that we won’t lose the money we prepaid for accommodation and so on, and it certainly sours our anticipation of a nice little holiday.

On top of that Air New Zealand have had the use of just under a thousand dollars of our money for free for a year. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and more expedient to just say, sorry, something has gone wrong here, we can’t explain it, but if you will give us your credit card details again, we will send you a confirmation email in around 15 minutes. We hope you enjoy your trip with Air New Zealand. Then I would be writing a blog saying how wonderful and caring Air NZ was, even after they had clearly slipped up. It’s been my experience that often its not the problem but the way it is dealt with that makes all the difference. Frequently when a company has a problem and deal with it well, they will end up with more loyal clients than they would have had if the problem had not occurred in the first place.

OK, I’ve had my vent and will let you know if Air NZ fix things for me or not.

In the meantime, what about your experiences with airlines. What do you think of their visions and their customer service? Do you feel they have a good balance between customer service and shareholder satisfaction? Are you loyal to a particular airline? Why?

It’s almost Easter – Does anyone even remember who Brian was?


On Sunday I was driving home from Whangarei on a nice sunny afternoon when all of a sudden about 2 km before Puhoi, the traffic just stopped. There didn’t seem to be any reason, we just suddenly ended up in a line of cars that turned out to stretch for about 7 or 8km. I suspect that many of them were people returning from their holiday home where they had been preparing for the Easter weekend which is coming at the end of this week of course. On the way North on Saturday I had been driving behind a steady stream of cars towing boats and caravans, although ironically the traffic flowed pretty well.

It made me think about Easter, because the long weekends heading out of Auckland are diabolical for traffic. Pretty much every Easter half a million Aucklanders try to escape the hustle and bustle and head North and South. A third go north and create chaos, another third head for the famous Coromandel where they stop in a huge line at the notorious one way bridge in Kopu and if they are lucky, might get a free Red Bull for their trouble. The others head further South along State Highway One which is less of a problem until they meet the Coromandel people coming back on Easter Monday.

One thing I really like about Kiwi’s is that they are polite and know how to queue and are strong supporters of fair play. Just about anywhere in NZ, people will find the end of a queue and stand in line and wait their turn, unlike many other countries I have been where it is survival of the fittest. Unfortunately their are exceptions and heading south that exception always happens just south of Waiwera, famous for its hot pools. You see, there is a passing lane. Everyone knows when the traffic is travelling at 5km per hour, that there realyl isn’t any point in using the passing lane, because it just unfairly pushes people backwards who have waited patiently in the line of pollution spewing diesels and other assorted vehicles. But there is always someone who has to be different. On Sunday it was a SUV with the number plate TMAG who decided, “Here’s an opportunity, I’m going to race past those suckers and move ahead a good 40 car lengths”. So he did and now it wasn’t just the car radiators that were boiling, but also the people who had been sitting in their cars in the end of summer heat. Hey how about yet another sin, thau shalt not begat your fellow motorist’s position in the traffic jam.

And I got to thinking (I know you don’t start a sentance with a conjunction, but this is my blog ok? lol), that guy must be a pretty miserable person. Easter’s coming, doesn’t he remember Brian? Brian Cohen was put on the cross at Christmas in Judea in 33AD when he was mistaken for the Messiah and really, for many of us life hasn’t been the same since. Even though he wasn’t the Messiah, he really tought us something about good spirit and making the most of your lot. He brought us that famous hymn ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life‘, known by some as The Song Jesus Whistles.

Now I don’t know if Jesus ever whistled, I don’t recall ever reading about him doing such a thing, but I’m sure there is relevance in the attitude that no matter how bad things get, there are aways better times ahead. I took that in as Trag, sorry TMAG raced up the empty passing lane on Sunday and other than flipping him the bird, I resisted the impulse to race after him and tell him what I thought. He got the message anyway when further up the road noone wanted to let him back in the line.

I won’t be joining the mass exodus on Good Friday. I’ll sleep in and do some chores around the house and relax while I’m looking on the bright side of life and on Saturday I’ll check out the Herald and read about and see photos of the 20km line of frazzled drivers waiting to cross the Kopu Bridge on their way to a relaxing long weekend.

Are you serious about being carbon friendly?


Are you serious about your business being carbon friendly? Are you really making a difference or are you paying lip service to the concept. Do you have company vehicles? What can you do to reduce their carbon footprint? What are you doing about it? Here are some thoughts from a New Zealand perspective (where I have shown URL’s you will have similar services in your own country):

1.       In order to measure improvement, you need a baseline. Let’s start by measuring how many km you travel per month. Measure this over a year because there are always fluctuations. In addition to measuring km travelled, measure fuel consumption, i.e. km per litre of fuel. If you use fuel cards, you probably already have this information in your monthly reports. If you don’t maybe you should, fuel cards usually also offer discounts.

  1.  Get your vehicles regularly serviced and tuned up. It’s easy to see the ones that aren’t, by the smoke and soot they trail behind them and especially trucks and buses that have huge black patches covering someone’s expensive advertising material.
  2. Car pool. How often do you and your colleagues go to the same event in separate cars when you could have shared?
  3. Drive by the most efficient route. There are many way to do this. If you have a car navigation system, you can usually select the fastest or the shortest route.  Note that the fastest route will usually have fewer stops such as intersection controls. You use far more fuel stopping and starting your car than you do when cruising. If you don’t have a car navigation system such as Navman or TomTom, the most reliable is to use a quality web site that offers driving directions such as www.aamaps.co.nz or www.wises.co.nz.
  4. If you have multiple locations to visit, try to plan the most efficient route to visit all of them. One option for this is to use a site such as www.aamaps.co.nz that not only lets you create via points for your trip, it also allows you to re-order them to create a more efficient sequence.
  5. When you are travelling to visit a client, see if there are other clients or prospects you can visit in their vicinity to save future trips. In the freight industry everyone knows that you should always try to find another load for the return trip.
  6. If you have a vehicle doing multiple deliveries, using Route Optimisation you can establish the most efficient order to do them in. A furniture delivery truck using Route2Go from GeoSmart, could not only reduce travel distance, but also load the truck in the correct order to minimise the drivers workload. If you have multiple trucks, you can set a range of rules that decide which trucks do which jobs in which order and eliminate guesswork.
  7. Using a Fleet Management system, fleet operators can view the location of their vehicles and ensure that the closest vehicle gets the job. Fleet Management solutions also monitor driver behaviour such as ‘clutch riding’ and excessive acceleration to assist in driver training.
  8.  Trip planning on websites such as Wises and AA Maps can also assist with things like petrol and lunch stops, making sure they fit into the route rather than having to drive out of your way when the time comes. The same applies to finding a convenient car park rather than driving around in circles around your destination.

Simple proactive measures can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint and consequently on your profitability.  Vehicle service costs will be reduced along with the inconvenience of not having the vehicles on the road with reduced maintenance costs. Fuel costs will reduce and you will be able to fit more business into the same amount of time thereby increasing productivity. You will also earn the right to announce to the business world that you are genuinely playing your part in reducing your company’s carbon footprint.

Carbon Tax on petrol, yet another great idea?


get-in.jpgThe New Zealand Government has once again raised the prospect of a Carbon Tax on Petrol, rated as 7 cents in the litre. The concept I gues is based on a user pays scenario, so the more you drive, the more carbon you burn. Given that in most parts of New Zealand our public transport systems are pretty substandard, it looks like most of us will pay the price.

They have talked for a long time about measuring exhaust emissions and setting levels below which you can’t pass your Warrant of Fitness tests, but that still hasn’t come in. Of course that doesn’t generate significant revenue and the NZ Government has just announced a significant budget deficit, not that these 2 things are in any way related. I’ve also noticed that many of the ‘greenies’ drive diesel cars that blow black smoke and are often covered with soot, as are many of the buses I follow on the motorways. I suspect that the black soot on the bus I saw recently covering an advertisement on the back of a bus which said “we are drivers too” is a carbon waste product.

Currently, according to Caltex NZ, 41.6% of the price we pay for petrol in NZ is tax, so why not just round it up to an even 50%? The story was good though and I was impressed with Caltex’s excellent suggestions on how to use less fuel, some of them are very good. I suspect though that most people will continue their normal lifestyle. It’s like the old story of putting a frog in a pot of warm water and bringing it to boil slowly. We still love our big cars and we want to enjoy the great outdoors which is why many of us love in New Zealand.

The thing that amazes me is that we are still so slow with introducing alternative fuel engines. Toyota and Honda have done very well with Hybrid engines and they can’t seem to get enough to meet demand. Maybe the government should do something to encourage these vehicles and lower the import taxes on them. It’s yet another example of why the things that are good for you cost so much more. Give businesses in the cities an incetive to buy Smart Cars, but of course we have a problem with renewable energy as well, especially after a long dry summer. But wait, what about solar power? This is another tangent, but I read a couple of years ago about people in the USA getting major rebates for installing solar energy in their homes, plus the ability to sell their surplus power into the grid. We have certainly had more than enough sun this year, well actually I wouldn’t mind if it lasted all year round, but the point is we aren’t harnessing it and we aren’t offering people an incentive to help with the cost of making it happen.

So, we continue to encourage the use of fossil fuels (yes I know we are starting to include small amounts of biofuel into the mix, but all that will do at this stage is allow the oil to last a little longer. We know oil is a finite resource and once we have run out and the Middle East has caved in, what then? My prediction based on current consumption is that fuel will become incredibally scarce, travel and tourism will become incredibly expensive and this could have a disastrous effect on economies like ours.

So lets see what happens. Petrol prices go up because of oil scarcity, whether through resource depletion or through wars and terrorism. Oil prices also go up because of carbon taxes as oil companies have to buy carbon credits to meet their obligations. Taxes go up because they are based on a percentage of the price, whether through excise, GST, carbon, road user and others. The cost of living goes up because this impacts on everything we do, all goods and services involve transport. Domestic tourism and entertainment will suffer as people decide it costs to much to go anywhere. We all become a nation of obese couch potatoes because it’s cheaper to sit at home to watch sport or cable TV instead of going out and getting some exercise.

One day it will be too prohibitive to go anywhere except for special occassions and we will we end up living virtual lives, never leaving our homes at all.

Actually I wouldn’t mind the carbon tax if it was used on R & D for alteratives, for incentives for people to develop and commercialise alternative fuels and engines to run on them. The whole concept of carbon taxes seems to be punitive instead of constructive. What happened to Kiwi innovation? We’re still patting ourselves on the backs for inventing number 8 fencing wire, Hamilton jets and bungee jumping. Let’s pay people for coming up with new renewable energy resources instead of punishing people for using the only resources they have available to them, there’s a novel idea? There might even be international carbon credits in it.