Archive for March 2009
Beware the “free” email account. Especially if it is an account set up with your mobile telephone number.
Some extremely important lessons have been learned about them – and (lack of) customer service – in the past week.
I concede this posting might make me appear totally naive when it comes to the ways and wherefores of the interweb, but so be it. I know there are more people like me than there are superhighway aficionados.
Some of the blame might lie at my feet, but Orange has an awful lot to learn about customer service and its procucedures after what happened to me recently.
I set up an orange.net account in September last year when I knew I was going to be made redundant and would be attempting to scratch a living at freelance journalism. It was chosen because I had an Orange mobile phone.
But when I decided to upgrade from pay as you go to a monthly contract last week, Orange committed the offences of serious lack of customer care and appallingly stupid procedures.
Within three hours of my new mobile phone being activated (I kept the same telephone number), my email account disappeared.
Not only had it disappeared, I was informed that no such account had ever existed. Confused? Well, I’m afraid I was. Trouble was, I couldn’t get through to Orange to get an answer. It took three attempts – I was on hold for at least 20 minutes each time – before I actually got through to a human being.
Yes, said the “customer service representative”, my account had gone. It was in the terms and conditions that I’d obviously read and digested when setting up the account all those months. It stated that if I changed my contract, the email account would be wiped from its server.
No, there was nothing he could do about it. It was tough. Read the small print, idiot, was pretty much how it was summed up (yes, I was abusive back. I was angry at the lack of information imparted by Orange representatives in the store where I bought my phone; furious that there was no warning about my email account being wiped; and in shock that my work contacts, folders, work-related paraphernalia had gone).
Another call made the following day and there was a glimmer of hope: I argued there must be back-up, that my emails must be somewhere. This time, the representative said he thought so, too, and promised to look into it and try and get my account address out of quarantine.
I heard nothing.
A posting on complaintcommunity.com produced better results. A woman from Orange’s executive office took my complaint seriously. My address was retrieved from quarantine, but nothing could be done about getting back my emails. She was told that as it was a free account, there is no back up, no help offered in these cases.
She was shocked by the lack of thought on the part of Orange, that no procedures were put in place to warn customers what would happen. “I’ve never read terms and conditions in my life,” she said. “It’s not a customer-friendly system, is it?”
She has recommended procedures should be put in place so that customers are warned about what will happen if they make changes to their accounts; ensure that customers have 24-48 hours’ notice so that important emails, addresses etc can be backed up; and offering a system whereby customers can pay to ensure their account is backed up if something goes wrong with the server.
Will it happen? No idea, but I’m making sure that every important email I receive is copied onto my hard drive. If I had more technical nous I’d probably set up a forwarding account, too. I’ll look into that later (if it’s not too late).
Anything else I could do? Please post any advice!
Piotr is a Polish boy who is orphaned when his parents are killed in a car crash.
The Nazis have invaded his country and, as a minor, is forced to leave his home for an orphanage in Warsaw.
There he is assessed and measured by the Germans, who categorise him as “racially valuable” because he is Volksdeutscher (of German blood) and packed off to Berlin to the home of Prof Kaltenbach and his family.
Hailed as a perfect German specimen, Piotr quickly realises he wants nothing to do with the Nazi movement and decides he has to do something to get out. But, this is 1942 and possibly the most dangerous time for someone in his vulnerable position to go against the prevailing political storm.
A profound and moving story, Wolverhampton author Dowswell is an historian who has captured beautifully the intensity of the time, the fear and trepidation of young Germans during the Second World War.
Very different in style and tone from his previous children’s books, which centred on a young boy, Sam Witchall in the Napoleonic Wars, this is a mature story and one that carries a powerful message about how corruption can destroy almost anyone.
It does take a little time to get going, but it really is an excellent novel with some incredible historical insights, including the Fritz von Rabaneau adaptation of Silent Night that included the words, “Silent Night, Holy Night,all is calm, wakeful only is Adolf Hitler, watching over Germany’s destiny…”
While this book will receive obvious comparisons with John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, simply because of the time in which it is set. They are totally different, but if you enjoyed Boyne’s incredible novel, then Dowswell’s is certainly worth exploring.
Hurrah for the Local Government Association.
It wants all public sector organisations to ban the appalling jargon and gobbledegook that litter their publications and reports.
The association wants ugly phrases and words to be banned, arguing that they alienate the ordinary person, and are often meaningless.
I applaud this sentiment wholeheartedly.
Is there anything so ugly as listening to someone discuss “blue sky thinking” or “citizen empowerment”?
Why are so many reports bogged down in the sludge of horrible management-speak such as core values, facilitate, edge-fit (what?!), service users, improvement levers, worklessness and – a personal “favourite”, incentivise?
These words and phrases strangle our language and do nothing to “improve our skill set” (sic). They are of such profound hideousness that you might wonder if they fell out of the ugly linguistic tree and hit every branch on the way down before being stamped on by the OED.
These report writers use these phrases because they think it makes them appear clever and professional. No, it doesn’t.
The chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr Margaret Eaton, said it is vital that councils get their messages across clearly.
“The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases,” she said.
“Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?
“Councils have a duty, not only to provide value for money to local people, but also to tell people what they get for the tax they pay. People would be furious if they have no idea of what services their cash is paying for and how they should get to use them. “
Who’d disagree with that?
There are some words and phrases that might (and I say “might” with extreme trepidation) have their place in the privacy of the boardroom, where inter-departmental co-workers might wish to cross-fertilise their ideas and champion collaborative best practice so that they are coterminous for the end user/client. At this point in time. Naturally.
But, for heaven’s sake, don’t be lazy and trot out these sterile phrases because you can’t be bothered to think outside of the box (sic) and engage with the populace or other stakeholders in a meaningful way. Such parameters are not good network models. We want the outcomes to be normalised.
So let’s embrace the LGA’s wish and be proactive in streamlining the potentialities of negative strategic priorities outcomes.
It’s time for these local authorities to interface with the agencies and engage in place shaping so that multidisciplinary practitioners can look at them as beacons of communication.
After all, we live in a can-do culture where there is sufficient capacity building to overcome such challenges.
Consider it actioned.
I’m not sure it was meant to be such a large project.
A tweet went out on micro blogging site Twitter in mid February, asking if anyone would be interested in a collaboration to produce a book for Comic Relief.
Linda Jones, a journalist and director of Passionate Media, and fellow scribe Louise Bolotin wondered if TwitterTitters (a name voted upon by the discerning users of Twitter) could be done in time for Red Nose Day, March 13, 2009.
Before they could change their minds – or even take a breath – submissions were pouring in, a website was set up and comedian Dave Spikey, of Phoenix Nights fame, had agreed to have a previously unseen work included.
And then Nat Coombs, whose online Chelsey:OMG! is gaining a huge following, wrote the foreword to the book.
A PR agency, a Twitter contact of the organisers, got involved, an editor, illustrator and judging panel soured (all through Twitter); advice was sought on the micro blogging site and messages flew around to keep everyone up to speed.
Such a valiant effort meant the book was conceived and born in about the same gestation period of a mouse.
And what a book: 12 pieces of wonderful writing from established and emerging comic talent. Some of the stories will make you giggle; others will have you guffaw uproariously. How do I know? Well, I was one of the judges.
Thrilled to be asked in the first place, and ever so slightly daunted by the 70+ submissions, I pored over the texts and was thankful I wasn’t in a public place when I read them, such was my snorting and occasional shriek.
It was a tough task, but the shortlist was drawn up in super quick time, we judges – Martin Millar, Diane Shipley and Maria McCarthy - didn’t fight (although an arm wrestle was suggested) and the book – published by http://www.Lulu.com – was on sale before you knew it.
So, go on, buy a copy. Please. It costs £4.99 to download or you can get a real 120-page paperback copy to treasure for £9 (or JUST £9, as those sales types say). All proceeds go to Comic Relief – nothing, rien, nada goes to those who were involved with its production. All they need is the glow of satisfaction of a job well done.
We might not have climbed Kilimanjaro, but we have climbed our own mountain doing this: doing something funny for money.
Please support the TwitterTitters book – you can buy a copy here: http://www.lulu.com/content/6281246
If you want to find out more about Comic Relief and the projects it supports in the UK and Africa, click here http://www.comicrelief.com