If you have been following my recent posts you will know that I have decided to set up 150 values based activities or experiences to achieve in the next 5 years, having been told that I am now in remission from cancer.
I have always been fascinated by lava. Living in New Zealand, I have been to White Island and experienced sulphur plumes, seen active crater lakes and live a few kilometers from Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano in Auckland. I’ve seen bubbling mud and enjoyed geothermal hot pools, but I have never seen actual lava pouring down a volcano.
So Life List #5 is to go to Hawaii and experience this from a helicopter or whatever safe way we can get to see the fire coming out of the belly of the earth. of course while there, we can also get to experience another part of island life, Pearl Harbor and other aspects of the islands.
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.
Hugo 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:)
If I had only one application to use on my road trip it would be tripadvisor. Having said that it wasn’t enough on my road trip although I spent more time using this app than any other. I put a lot of planning into the trip before hand and contacted US State Tourism organisations asking for information. Only Tennessee came back to me with a booklet including useful maps of the whole state and things to do, places to see, which was great. I filled it with post it flags.
All tourist organisations have material like this book, but they don’t make it easy to access and they don’t appear to collaborate interstate. This is a major negative for a traveller on a road trip that regional tourist operators in New Zealand and Australia should also think about. I managed to get a similar book for Louisiana when I arrived in New Orleans, which looked like it was designed by the same company. I was lucky that the property we stayed in had one in the room. Otherwise you need to find an Information Centre, but of course these aere widely spread out and you need info to find one.
The biggest problem was that these books were segmented by town or county and not well linked to the main map. They were designed more for people who are looking at locating themselves in a town for a holiday and exploring from there. Also the maps for each state ended strictly on the state line, so if there was something worth enjoying on the other side, it wasn’t going to be on the map. This makes it really difficult to plan a multi state holiday. It would be far better for State and Regional Tourism Operators to work together to mutual benefit. I’m going to cross the line whether you make it easy for me or not.
So back to tripadvisor. If you install it on your mobile or iPad it will help you find Accommodation, Restaurants, Flights and Things To Do, sometimes. What I found was that they worked pretty well in cities, which was the same case with apps such as Foursquare and others, but when you go to rural USA, which was my plan for 3 weeks, the information tends to be more limited to accommodation and sparse when it comes to the many interesting attractions that people have put huge effort into but leave most people blissfuly unaware of them.
My main use for tripadvisor was accommodation and this was really interesting. When you travel through rural America there is a huge variety of accommodation options from very cheap to very expensive. The great thing about it is that it is full of reviews from people who have stayed at those properties. Reviews is something that scare the hell out of tourism industry publishers who charge people to list on their publications, websites, reservation engines etc and in New Zealand some property operators have complained about competitors giving them bad reviews, therefore saying the systems don’t work.
My message to them is that I trust my peers more than I trust advertising, especially those who have stayed at the properties. When you do advertise, make sure you are honest and deliver on your promise. When you say you have high speed WiFi Access throughout the property, make sure you do because this could be the deciding factor as to why someone books and stays with you and the one negative if it doesn’t work, that they will tell the world about.
For the app user:
- Read many reviews. Look at the dates they were posted and read them carefully. Often there are unique stories where the person had unique needs or expectations that were not met. The more reviews you read, the more you will get the real big picture. Some people are unreasonable or feel that if they are doing a review they have to find fault. Do other people contradict their comments or are there common threads?
- Think about what your needs and time frames are. For example I got a cheap hotel for one night in New Orleans as we were arriving at 1AM and leaving again first thing in the morning. The review said it was clean and tidy but the air conditioning was noisy. They were right, but we knew we were going to be so tired after 30 hours of traveling that it wouldn’t keep us awake and the price and location was good.
- We ended up rating properties based on the things we were looking for and canceling out any that looked dodgy, for example several had complaints about bed bugs.
- We were able to ‘star’ the ones we thought were ok for a re-look.
- We also looked for situations where people had complained and the manager of the property came back and offered solutions and responses. In some cases there were managers who responded to every comment good and bad.
- The problem is that there are many options and when you are doing a road trip and trying to find attractions etc, you can easily waste hours of what should be relaxation time on your trip, but this is one of the costs of being a FIT.
- Tripadvisor offers many choices of reservation engines and price checks. I quickly found that once I had found a property I liked, a phone call to their front desk not only got me a cheaper price than all of the reservation sites, but also cooperation on a better room. Many properties will put you in a crappy room next to the laundry, the road or the busy swimming pool when you get a cheap online booking. If someone recommends a room number and their review sounds like what you are looking for, ask for that room.
Tips for the Tourist Operator:
- Your property is likely to end up in tripadvisor whether you submit it or not.
- People will talk about your property whether you like it or not. Most of them will be bona-fide guests who benefited from the application and are therefore sharing their experience.
- Put yourselves in their shoes. Your business is about hospitality and for your guest it is totally personal. Treat them as you would your family.
- When people make a comment about your business, good or bad, acknowledge and respond to it.
- If you sell rooms cheap on reservation engines don’t automatically give them the crappy room that you never sell if there are better rooms that are going to stay empty. I had a property in Auckland, Sebel Suites, do that to me early this year. They said they could only give me a room with a view of the carpark, because I had booked
on a cheap promotion. The thing was that they didn’t sell many of the nice rooms overlooking the beautiful Auckland Viaduct Basin that night (I followed up the next morning), but if they had, it wouldn’t have been fair to the people who paid full price. So here’s my advice to them, which the Duty Manager didn’t want to hear. I live on the outskirts of Auckland. I have the choice to go home, but sometimes my wife and I like to go to a show, or out for a night, have a few drinks and not have to worry about driving home. We have stayed in many properties in Auckland. We have told all of our friends and tripadvisor which ones we liked and which ones we felt let us down. We will never again go to the Sebel Suites, we will go back to hotels like the Sky City Grand which has some great promotions on their site. As I said, it travel and tourism is personal.
- Make sure your business is on sites and apps like TripAdvisor.
Bottom line, I almost hated tripadvisor by the end of my holiday because we became almost fanatic about reading the reviews. We found the star ratings didn’t help much and whilst there was a function to save the ones we wanted to revisit, we couldn’t also flag the ones to avoid. We spent a huge amount of time on the site, BUT in every location we found exactly what we expected. We knew which rooms to avoid, and quickly learned to read between the lines.
For developers, this is an excellent site / application to learn from, not perfect but very good, even using your location on your mobile to help you find locations. For users, do give back. If you value crowd sourced feedback and make decisions based on it, you need to give back as well. If you are in New Zealand or Australia, talk to us at GeoSmart. We can help you with practical experience as both frequent travellers and users of apps and a mapping company that cares very strongly about the quality of our location-based data, maps, Points of Interest and the success of applications developed using it. We are local and keen to help. If you are here, but aiming for the world, we can help you get a start based on what we know about the industry and our experience as travelers. We want to help grow New Zealand international success stories.
Planning a road trip somewhere or know somene who is? The may be interested in this series of blogs, which they can find at https://luigicappel.wordpress.com Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think may benefit from it. I wish I had been given a lot of this advice before I left for my trip.
I will follow this up with some ideas as to what would have made tripadvisor a better app for the road tripper, which may be of interest to people looking at developing apps for travel and tourism and am happy to discuss my ideas and experience.
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?
In a previous blog I talked about how brands such as Subway could use Location Based Services (LBS) to promote their products to school students as a next step from their service where you can text your order through to the store. Location (x3) used to be the mantra of the retail industry, especially when consumers didn’t move far from their homes or work area. Of course today people are far more mobile.
I have frequently spoken about the value of PR as being far superior to advertising, which is a major problem for advertisers themselves. With Tivo, MySky and other services we can avoid TVC’s and with more and more people going online for their news, the advertising in print gets less views. The key point I make though is that people don’t trust advertising. In my Geosmart Blog, I wrote about the impact of this and the need to find different ways to deal with this.
Earlier this year in Amsterdam I spoke to a number of people who are developing expertise in the areas of social networking’ LBS and proximity based marketing and a common thread to this was in fact trust.
The marketers tell us that if the guys wear Lynx hygiene products, the girls will come running. In a previous blog, Why Do People Still Smoke? I showed a video of a doctor expousing the benefits of smoking. It’s no wonder that marketers and sales people are often looked at as shiny shoed spin doctors.
In 2006 Gallup asked pollsters to rate the values and ethics of a number of industry groups. Advertisers scored 11% on the high trust scale. Harris did a similar poll the same year and found that in contrast 66% of people trusted the ordinary man or woman in the street.
Amongst the changes that are happening in many areas these days are consumer advocates. Because people don’t trust advertising, and in many cases with good cause, they are turning to other consumers for advice. When I went to Jamaica a couple of years ago, I used Travelocity to read reviews from people who stayed at various resorts and used their feedback to book my stay and was pleased to find everything as I expected. As a consequence, I also used them to make my booking.
If 66% of consumers are happy to trust the man in the street, then what if we could give them access to their peers. This is of course where social networking comes in. Typically in a social networking environment, whether it is Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, doesn’t matter, we end up developing online relationships (and real ones) with people that we associate with, that share our values and interests.
Mobile phones now offer a vehicle to extend the social networks into location. People now meet up in different parts of the world as a consequence of their location. I can use a number of applications to ask people in my network about local shops, accomodation or anything else. If I’m in LAX for 6 hours waiting for a connecting flight, I can go onto Twitter on my mobile and see if any of my friends are nearby, or ask them what’s worth seeing, where is a good place for a coffee or a meal etc. I will then get their recommendation based on their local knowledge or experience. I can trust their feedback.
So I was talking about Proximity Based Marketing. If consumer advocacy is the most reliable form of marketing, there is an opportunity for brands to harness this. Off course the codicil is that they have to provide a great product or service because otherwise the mention will be poor and they need to be consistent.
One concept I’ve considered is a loyalty program around a hospitality brand, it could be a chain of bars, cafes or any other organisation. They could have a program whereby you got rewards for bringing other people to their establishment. For example, use a social network around their brand (a starting point could be as simple as a Facebook Fan Page) and then use your mobile to see which of your friends are in the neighbourhood. You could have an impromptu meet up at Starbucks and have the ability to send your friends an electronic coupon on their mobile, together with turn by turn directions and a map, to show them how to get there.
I’ve blogged previously about distressed inventory and Proximity Based Marketing. Imagine you go to the Cirque du Soleil and book via your ticket agency who is also a social networking site, such as EventFinder. A few hours before the show you get a TXT message offering you a deal if you can entice some other people to come along. You then use the location part of their application on your mobile to see where your friends are (as I do with Google Latitude) and send them a message with an electronic coupon to join you at the show, with a 40% discount.
A number of popular web portals, such as AA Maps, Wises, Google, allow you to rate / review businesses or locations on their portal. Wouldn’t it be good if you could access this data on your mobile in real time? But it would be even better if you can link a real time recommendation from a ‘friend’ to a location based service. Where’s a good place to get a coffee at Miami Beach? A friend replies with a name of a cafe, which automatically gets linked to their geocode (location coordinates) and as your mobile knows where you are, it can then request and display turn by turn directions and the map. The friend then adds, “If you can get there for 2PM I’ll meet you there.”
All the pieces are already in place and Beta sites are starting to pop up, offering these sorts of services. GeoSmart can provide the tools and data required for New Zealand and are already working with parties to support better maps and Location Based Service for New Zealand. Perhaps you should start thinking about how you can use location and consumer advocacy to drive forward your business.
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Thanks so much for your support:)
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.