We need to apologise to Connect's management. Had we understood that it was actually their strategy to treat customers like babies, we would never have poked fun. We stand corrected.
04 July 2009
24 June 2009
14 June 2009
A story was told to me shortly after I arrived in Fiji almost seven years ago:
A man was walking down the beach when he saw a fisherman carrying two buckets of crabs walking in the opposite direction. One of the buckets had a lid on it, the other had no lid.
The man said to the fisherman, "Why does only one of those buckets have a top? Won't the crabs escape the other one?"
The fisherman said "No. The bucket with the top are the international crabs while the bucket with no top are Fijian crabs. The Fijian crabs will try to climb out but will be pulled back down by the other ones left behind."
Although I remember chuckling when I first heard this story, I didn't truly get it. I had to spend a number of years here before it really made sense.
11 June 2009
The Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) launched their new branding and vision yesterday (10 June) after more than 40 years living with the previous logo mark. The launch event was an intimate and very Fijian affair with the Prime Minister as the chief guest, the board of FNPF, some guests and the majority of attendees made up of FNPF employees. I actually thought that was a nice touch since the soul of any rebranding effort are the people that work at the organisation. After all, they're the ones who are expected to drive change. From my perspective, there was a heightened level of excitement around this launch driven, in part, by all the new uniforms staff will get.
The event itself, as written, was very Fijian with the first hour or so taken up by a lovely sevusevu with all the usual adornments including a massive pig and an even more massive trunk of kava bigger than a redwood. Although the ceremony is conducted entirely in Fijian, I never get tired of listening and watching the ritual unfold. There were then a handful of speeches and the new logo was launched.
Incidentally, the new logo and branding was done by Art & Soul, a Suva based creative agency. Oceanic has been working with the new brand for the past few months during development of the fund's new website. At this point, the the new site (located at www.myfnpf.com.fj) is primarily a new foundation for future functionality and outside of a new design and information architecture, does not differ wildly insofar as functionality goes. Although I know that might disappoint some people who expect to see account management functionality, I do believe that's in the cards for the organisation. In fact, it has to be at some point.
There has been a lot of content development taking place as well and I see that growing significantly in the coming months as old material is updated and new messages take its place. I still see work needed in this area but as content creation is consistently one of the biggest client challenges, I think FNPF has done a good job in putting themselves on the right path. They are very aware of their content's importance, too.
There's a lot that can be said for the launch of any new brand and the website is just a single facet of a larger strategy. Not surprisingly, I tend to put a lot of faith in its role as a real game changer insofar as the fund's ability to reinvent itself for its members. I believe there is definitely interest on the part of FNPF to begin exploring the online channel for quality member support and that will likely be the next phase implemented, I think.
Please take the time to visit the new FNPF website and keep your eyes peeled for some of the new feature changes in the coming months.
09 June 2009
I've been a customer of Aquasafe for almost six years. It was one of the first companies I dealt with when I arrived to Fiji, in fact. I have bottled water at home and we also have bottled water in the office...both serviced by Aquasafe (Pleass Beverages).
Every month or so, the guys from Aquasafe would telephone my house ahead of time and come by to service and clean the dispenser unit. This was part of the standard rental contract but even more than that, they actually did it. They were proactive about calling my house and making arrangements to come by at a time convenient to us. We don't have them deliver water though...for that, we drive to Walu Bay and pick up water ourselves.
In our office, however, Aquasafe guys come every few weeks and bring new water. Whenever we're running low, they appear almost magically to top us up. I cannot remember a single instance where we needed them to come and they weren't able to either. The distance in time between our call and their visits is rarely more than half a day.
This morning, the nozzle on our water dispenser broke off in the hands of an over-anxious and mildly de-hydrated staff member. We called Aquasafe and told them about it...they arrived this afternoon with an entirely new unit to replace the one that broke. They rushed in, changed it all out and left.
It was masterly efficient and well organised. No bullshit, just proper service.
This is why I'm still their customer and will continue to be. I was imagining this same scenario with most other service businesses around and got nervous thinking about it. Getting fast response on anything is a nightmare to begin with. Further, we didn't need to prove our innocence with this broken item...in fact, it never even came up. We just got a new one. I didn't need to call their CEO. I didn't need to show paperwork or argue how long we had the item.
Is it possible that the team at Aquasafe simply understands the lifetime value of a customer? It just seems that every time I'm forced to interact with that company, I walk away satisfied. It's the way things are supposed to be and like their actual product, it's wildly refreshing.
02 June 2009
It has been almost a month since my last post...that may be the longest stretch since this blog was first penned. There's no specific reason for a lack of postings here. I've been busy but more than that, I've just felt empty-headed when it comes to writing. Not good.
Today was a tough day for no other reason that it was crap in the morning and then just spiraled out of control as the afternoon wore on. I see no reason to hide behind this stuff and pretend that everything is peachy keen out here in the tropics. It's just not so.
I have no issues with the amount of project work we have going on so that's not it...I think we've never been busier as a company and in this particular market, it's something I'm happy with. However, collecting money for our work is a massive challenge right now. People and companies are either on edge all the time or they're requesting work they cannot afford. Possibly a combination of the two.
Some of our clients have legitimate reasons for delaying payments. Others, however, are simply playing unfair. Clients that cost us money as a business are clients not worth keeping. I am so convinced of this and yet still struggle when it comes to sacking clients. Pulling the trigger is the hard part. More on that in a future posting.
So by 2.30 p.m., I was near boiling point and threw my hands up in the air and said to myself "just go home". With my head pounding, I stopped by the supermarket to pick up some dinner food for the kids. It was as if that damn EFTPOS machine saw me and said to itself "lets screw with Jonathan ", I was doomed before my groceries were even tallied up.
The woman at check-out swiped my ANZ Access card. DECLINED. She looked at me. I looked down at the stupid, little piece-of-shit black box knowing it was wrong yet I still found a soft voice inside of me and kindly asked "Could you swipe it again, please?" DECLINED. I had enough cash in my pocket so I paid, tucked my tail between my legs, avoided the looks of shame from the people in line behind me and sighed my way out of the store swearing at the bank.
In my car, I called the bank and said "What's going on? Why was my transaction declined?" The man on the other end of the phone said "Hmm... there's nothing wrong with your account. In fact, I can see that transaction actually just went through. Actually, it went through twice!"
Now lets go back to my mood about 30 minutes earlier when I left my office. I was ready to bite the head off of a mongoose. The words I heard come out of the mouth of the ANZ support guy was not "the transactions went through".
No...instead, what I heard was "Thanks, Mr. Segal. I'm going to strike you with the impossible-to-resolve-issue axe and it should keep you fairly well occupied for the next three weeks, by which point you'll either give up entirely or you'll get your $88.74 back but by that point, you won't care either way."
I watched the next three weeks pass before my eyes. It was filled with visions of countless telephone calls, faxed receipts, bank visits, supermarket calls and then supermarket visits. If you think I'm being melodramatic, then you've never been to Fiji. All this so I can be credited back my stupid $88.74. If I charge multiples of that for just an hour of my time in the office, why should I even bother going through this hassle? That's really the question, isn't it?
Remember, I feed on complaining sometimes...nothing bothers me more than the inefficiency of someone else impacting my own ability to get something done. When I run into these problems, I always turn them into customer service scenario training sessions inside my head. I think of ways they should be taking care of me all the while believing it's not worth my time. That's the fuel that powers my thought.
So here I am...about to embark on a customer service love fest with ANZ. Whether it's resolved quickly or not is no longer the question.
If you don't hear from me in 48 hours, call for help.
03 May 2009
I made note of a quote I read somewhere a few months back:
"The head of Black and Decker once said, folks don’t buy our products because they want one inch drills, they buy our stuff because they want one inch holes."
As an advertising agency, it's important to keep our eyes on the latter (the holes), not the former (the drill). Getting attention in an ever-increasing world of messages requires more creative thinking and creative thinking all too often gets a bad rap.
The Consumer Council of Fiji filed a complaint about an ad we ran this week for KIDANET. Here's a copy of the ad which spawned the complaint (click on it for a larger size):
The nature of the complaint from the Consumer Council was that KIDANET was somehow attempting to benefit from the scourge of the recent Swine Flu outbreak...that the advertisement was meant to scare people. It's not just this ad either, according to the news report on Fiji TV last night. Apparently, the people who make Protex soap were equally evil in their advertising direction.
I've included video segments of this headlining story below...please feel free to folllow along...
15 April 2009
Fiji is a culturally-rich nation which has evolved over the years supported, in large part, by the power of stories and the talanoa (communication). With so much negativity out there right now, I sat thinking last night about what is good and specifically, what brought me to live in this country six years ago. It's a positive story, I think, so for no other reason than that, I wanted to write it out.
It begins here...
"There are shrimp off an island up north that are bright red." George told me. "They have the color of being cooked but they haven't been cooked. They're just bright red!"
"I've never heard of such a thing," I remember saying. "I've never ever seen anything like that."
"No, of course you wouldn't have because you can't photograph them. Your pictures will come out blank!"
This was one of the conversations I had with George over the course of about three weeks. It was February, 1993 and I had been traveling in Fiji for about a month. I met George on an island in the Mamanucas where I had gone to get my scuba certification. As I remember it, we spent a great deal of time doing very little but sitting around partying and talking.
"There's a cave on one of the islands." George relayed during one of these sittings. "It's called the pregnant cave. Huge, fat people can go to this cave and squeeze in without a problem but if your 3 weeks pregnant, no chance. The cave will not let in pregnant people!"
My time in Fiji listening to George relay these stories rank among my top travel memories of all time. It solidified Fiji in my journal as different from any other place I had every been to. Prior to Fiji, I had been in Tahiti and Bora Bora and although I felt the aesthetics of French Polynesia might always earn it top honors, there was a completely different vibration from the Fijian people and the air in this country. It felt as if every person I met was deeply engaged in the conversations we had and that, in itself, was a pretty unusual and special feeling. My conversations with George reinforced that.
"There's another cave on one of the outer islands called 'The Spitting Cave'," George told me a few days later. "You can be inside this cave and scream at the top of your lungs and no one can hear you but if you spit, BOOM!! Everyone on the outside hears it!!!"
Suddenly, George turned to me and said "Ya know, Jon, when we were cannibals...".
I had to interrupt at that moment. I couldn't let him finish the sentence. In my entire life, no one had ever started a conversation with those words. I was in heaven.
14 April 2009
The doomsday headline "Fiji military given OK to shoot civilians." called out to me from UPI.com. I'm not sure what was more jarring, actually. Was it that fear-mongering, sensationalist headline or the fact that UPI.com's tag line is "100 years of journalistic excellence"? Some international media outlets use old video footage of the 2000 coup with soldiers in the streets carrying weapons. I don't believe a tiny "file footage" in the corner of the screen is fair, either.
As an expat, I don't openly comment on any of the politics in the country and for obvious reason. I see positives and negatives in everything anyway and there is also enough noise out there from other sources. However, one of challenges Fiji will continue to face when not enabling open communications with the rest of the world are stories such as the sensationalist one above. I've received well more than a handful of emails and messages from friends in other parts of the world who appear to be getting warped views of what's happening in Suva.
"Are you safe?", understandably, is the most common question I hear and I still respond with the stock answer I have always used.
"I feel safer here than on the streets of any big city in the world."
Fiji is a very safe country, even in the face of some rising "petty crime" which include home invasions and robberies. For tourists, though, this is not a risk and the news they are seeing on TV and the warnings from their governments are, frankly, blown well out of proportion. I'm not saying the situation isn't serious, though. It is serious, but things DO NOT feel unstable at all in Suva right now. Could this change? I suppose it could but I'd like to believe it won't. If I felt that there was a real danger, I would not be keeping my kids in school right now.
A laughable headline in the Fiji Sun today "There is no problem in Fiji, says tourist" did send the wrong message. Of course there's a problem in Fiji, but it's not driving and overtaking the lives of the public as far as I can tell.
Embassy warnings that scare their citizens into staying away from protests and gatherings are done more to protect those governments from being accused of not warning those citizens than anything else.
"Honey, go grab the kids and lets join that anti-government protest downtown!" is simply not the kind of phrase you'd hear an expat exclaiming anyway, even if there were such protests.
Again, I am not discounting the seriousness of what Fiji as a nation is facing right now. I'm a part of this community as is my family and I'm concerned for my friends, my colleagues, my business and everything else. It's just a real shame when the entire or partial truth can't get out there and I also recognise that it needs to run both ways too.
Fiji needs visitors now to keep the economy going. If you're planning a holiday here, please do not cancel those plans. The water, the beaches, the interior and the people haven't changed. No one visits a country for its government anyway, do they?
Let me repeat that Fiji is a safe country but it is facing a number of hurtles. When it does emerge, it will hopefully be stronger and better. That written, I would certainly like to see things move along a bit faster towards that emergence. I think most people do.
04 April 2009
Last week, Vodafone Fiji passed me along a BlackBerry Storm. I don't know anything at all about how they'll be rolling the product out to the public or when this will happen, though. In fact, this "mini review" is really not about Vodafone Fiji at all but I do need to tip my hat and thank them for the opportunity to play with new technology. Much appreciated...
On that intro note, perhaps it's appropriate to start any mention of the BlackBerry Storm with a few comments about its performance on Vodafone Fiji's network. Without a doubt, this is the best sounding BlackBerry I have ever had and Vodafone's 3G service pairs beautifully with it. Audio is crystal clear when making calls. So much so, that I was amazed I was even noticing it. I wish other BB models followed suit. Browsing the web was also quite pleasing and I have no complaints at all about that.
I promised myself one week with the new model. I would put down my Bold and use the Storm for a single week since I knew that there would be some kind of learning curve with a phone that relies on a touchscreen. I gave up after three days. In the end, I realised that whether I had the phone for an hour, a day or a week, I would never get used to fighting with my phone and that's exactly what I found myself doing.
It's not all crap...just most of it. I liked the updated 3.2 MP camera a lot. I also liked the form factor of the Storm with its slick and curvy shape. Unfortunately, it felt slippery and heavy and unlike some of the other BlackBerry models, the Storm didn't feel as if it would be so forgiving if dropped. I didn't test that theory, however, even as I wanted to smash the unit against the wall a number of times. The only other praise I can give the Storm is for the screen. It's very bright and colors are very vivid. However, I was constantly having to clean the thing of fingerprints.