#Times Plus – #Murdoch’s Times – That One – #Fail


Some time ago I took advantage of The Times (TimesPlus, Times+) offer via their iPad app to sign up for a month’s subscription for just GBP 1.0

Whilst not a big fan of The Times’ general positioning (editorialy wise) , I love the app – unique as far as I can see on the iPad offering, as it does, a beautiful electronic paper experience.  Being a succour for experience I have glossed over some of the content issues I have had.

Recently though I noticed the (now usual price) monthly subscription charges on my credit card bill.

So, I thought I would log on, review my details, my monthly charge and my statement… you know, all the usual stuff we now expect to be able to do online.

But can I do that with The Times? Can I hec.  Nothing is available.  No review of payment details.  No indication of the current subscription charge.  No details of payments taken to date.  nothing.

I have been in touch via email with their help team.  Apparently I can cancel by emailing them they told me.

These are the last two emails we’ve exchanged:

From Me:

Thanks for your reply.

Why is there not the option to Manage my own credit card details and view recent payments as there is with every other website I do transactions with?

From them:

Thank you for your reply.  We do not currently have the facility to link our payment system with the ‘My Details’ area of the website.  Our online development team does review feedback from readers and they are aware of the demand for this feature; we may be able to offer this facility in future. I will of course pass your comments to the development team for their attention.

“Are aware of a demand for this feature”?

Really?  No shit Sherlock.

Hopeless.  Really hopeless.  What a joke.


Creating Magic Moments


Have you ever had a birthday or Christmas or other occasion
when someone has given you a gift and you’ve thought, ‘that’s just what I
wanted’?  I do hope that it’s
happened to you. Do you remember how nice it felt?

There are many reasons, of course, why that particular gift
might have hit the spot.  Perhaps
it was the latest book by an author you particularly like or the latest CD from
your favorite band.  It may of
course have had some more specific contextual relevance for you pertaining to where
you were ‘at’ in your life at that time. 
You may have been planning a trip and someone gave you a travel guide
for your destination. Or you may have simply renovated your kitchen and a kind
and thoughtful person saw some lovely crockery thinking it would look resplendent
in your new beautiful cupboards.  It’s
these sorts of gifts that can feel a lot more special than those that, whilst
no less generous, just don’t seem to have much thought behind them.

Whilst it seems like rather cold and odd language to use, these
cases of great gift giving are examples where one person had demonstrated an
understanding of the recipient.  It’s a cold way of speaking about a lovely moment, I know,
but I did warn you. 

The reason I am breaking it down to this level is that I feel
that companies and brands also have a real opportunity to create these special
moments – Magic Moments – as I’ve seen them called, by simply doing exactly the
same thing – by simply demonstrating to their customer that they understand
them – that they have made the extra bit of effort to get to know them. 

And whilst there are many ways of being very clever about
this (I’m thinking about rigorous data mining algorithms employed to churn
through millions of point of sales transactions as popularized by people like
Tesco in the UK with their Club Card) it’s often some very basic thinking along
with the simplest of customer insights that can, if acted upon, bring a smile
to the face of the customer. 

I’ve recently started using the products of two companies
with whom I have had little or no interaction before.  And, in some ways, there is a gaping chasm between the
experience I’ve had with one compared to that which I’ve had with the

I recently signed up with a cable TV provider here in
Singapore – Singtel and their MioTV package.  I should say at this point that they have generally been
very good in coming to my house when they said they would and the guys have
been helpful and pleasant in setting up the kit and helping me out.  But using the set top box is like
suddenly being asked to man one of those workstations you think of when you
visualize NASA’s Mission Control replete with Ed Harris pacing impatiently
right behind you.  Ok, I exaggerate
a bit, but I’m a very tech adaptive person (I just made that phrase up) but I
find navigating my way around this particular cable TV menu system a complete
nightmare. I’m almost always the one helping others find their way around
computers and other devices so I really wonder how some people I know would even
begin to understand what I find a real struggle.  As I side note, I should say that, despite the intense
frustration over the menu system, I am eternally grateful to Singtel for giving
me the opportunity to now watch F1 in glorious high definition. 

Contrast that experience with the one I have with an iPhone
application I recently downloaded called Walkmeter from Abvio. Walkmeter measures the time of your walk
and fully exploits the GPS functionality on my iPhone to give me distance,
average speeds, comparisons with the last time I did the same route and
overlays the route on Google Maps. 
It’s a joy to use.  And
what’s key here is that it took me no time to get used to using it and that was
without using any instruction manual. 
What was particularly engaging for me – what really put a smile on my
face – was that the application almost seemed to anticipate what I’d like to
see it do.  As I explored it for
the first time there were a couple of moments when I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be
cool if it…’ and almost before I could finish the thought the application was
doing exactly what I wanted. 
Brilliant.  What a feeling –
these guys were thinking of me when they designed this.  The application seemed to know what I
wanted and, it also seemed to know I’d like things that I didn’t know that I’d
like.  Without sounding too
Rumsfeld – like, it delivered twice – firstly by anticipating what I already
wanted from it and then by delivering great functionality I hadn’t even
realized I wanted. 

Now whilst my experience of these two products is hugely
different, I can’t help thinking that it would only have taken some basic customer
centric research or observation techniques to enable Singtel (or whoever does
their remote control user interface design) to make a better UI and ultimately
a better experience.  It wouldn’t
have taken much to ensure that I had some Magic Moments as I enjoyed with the
Walkmeter application.

We just need to ask some basic questions when thinking about
these points of engagements with our customers to create our own Magic Moments
for them.  What is it they actually want to do at this moment?  What else might they doing at this
moment?  Where are they at this
moment (physically and also with reference to the rest of their day of their product / service journey with the

Make me smile and surprise me – give me magic Moments – and
I’ll be back.  Oh, and I’ll also
tell loads of people about you. 

Chumby Update


I was reading Stephen Fry’s latest Guardian piece  where he was talking about being able to order products normally only available to those with a US address.  It was particularly interesting to me as the ‘Chumby’ is something I have wanted for a while and it’s the example he uses so, "thanks, Stephen"

I can thoroughly recommended Mr Fry”s podcasts too or ‘podgrams’ as he calls them.  All available on his website.

Not everything brilliant is British, however. Ever been annoyed about
desirable products that are available only in the US? I recommend international-orders.com
which ships American goods around the globe. For us there’s VAT and
import duty, plus the website’s handling surcharge, but the dollar
still being relatively weak, transactions can work out cheaper as well
as making available droolworthy gizmos and doodads that can’t be found
here. I had a Chumby delivered to my door (chumby.com
won’t deliver outside the US): it’s a soft, squashy Wi-Fi internet
device that loads customisable widget or gadget style programs. Through
international-orders.com it will cost about £120, plus whatever Revenue
& Customs adds on