A rainy Sunday in Birmingham

We’re off to the German market in Birmingham today. It’s going to be the second year that Aimee has been and I’m hoping this year she’ll enjoy it even more than last time.

She’s turning into her own person more and more every day, so it’ll be good to see how far she’s actually come in terms of understanding Christmas.

It’s going to be a long day, not helped by the fact that it’s raining just a tad at the moment(!). I’m taking the camera with me and will post the pics up on Flickr when we get back.

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I found where TalkTalk hid their Customer Service

After my slight rant about TalkTalk a couple of days ago, I decided to take the advice of a long suffering customer who has just started using their forum to see if it really was possible for a company to redeem themselves.

Interested in uncapping my speed up to 24mbps for £4 a month, I decided to post a message on there and giving them a go. After four months of battling over the phone everytime I had to call Customer Services, I must say that this was a refreshing change.

It’s so refreshing for a company to be open to changing the way they work from the ground up and not only that, to use the Internet to do it. I guess the only problem at the moment for them is that their phone support staff are clueless about a lot of the ‘boosts’ that are being launched now and, because of word of mouth, a lot of customers are flooding the forum with requests to be upgraded.

When I worked at Direct Line, it was on the ‘internet section’. We dealt with customers who had registered their claims online or wanted to query their existing ones. Although this was five years ago, it made a lot of people comment on how easy it was to get answers instead of having to wait on the end of the phone for any great length of time.

I think it’s time other companies start to embrace the fact that their customers want to manage their accounts online, not only for paying bills, but for sorting out problems as well.

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Four days of family

At 15:00 today, I finished work until 14:00 next Monday. That’s four whole days (and a bit) of me, Michelle, Sophie-Rose and Aimee. I’m pretty sure most of the time we’ll all be sleeping, but when we’re not, there are still people who’ve not yet met Sophie and a German market to visit in Birmingham.

It’s going to be a busy few days, but I’d much rather spend it with my girls than stuck in an office booking hotel rooms for the obnoxious public. I guess I’m officially a family man.

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What’s happened to customer service?

Free broadband. Sounds good, doesn’t it? After a series of bad experiences with broadband over the past few years, I decided to go with TalkTalk. It meant leaving BT, perhaps the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced and just having to pay for the line rental and the calls we make.

Since then I’ve had a pretty appalling experience whenever I’ve had to contact them, which is at least once a month. Direct Debits haven’t been taken when they should have, it took them two weeks to respond to a technical query and every time I speak to them on the phone, I get so frustrated that I want to shout like a madman at the ‘customer service representative on the other end of the phone.

The actual service we’re receiving is fine. It’s quite fast, somewhat reliable and for £10ish a month it’s something I can’t fault. I’m just beginning to wonder how companies can get away with treating their customers like dirt, when without them they would be out of business.

Today sees the launch of their new ‘boost’ options. Up to 24mbps, double the download allowance and a couple of others for £4 on top each month. So far I’ve not been able to find out where to add these features on, but if they work, I’m sure they’ll be more than worth it.

It’s interesting to see whether companies will look to improve their service in the future, especially seeing as they might be getting more and more desperate for business in the near future.

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Back to normality

This week has been a long one. Sophie-Rose came back from hospital on Tuesday and since then it’s been non stop. Any family is keen to see a new arrival, especially after waiting so long.

Today marks the end of her first week at home and we did that with quite a big family party. Surprisingly, she didn’t wake up for any of it; despite lots of Aunts’ and Uncles’ passing her round like a hot potato (and back to Mummy or Daddy when she filled her nappy).

She’s changed so much in the last few days, but we’re already making the most of using online services like Flickr to keep a track of her early progress and give us all something to look back on when she gets a little older.

odadeoI’ve been using Odadeo a little bit this week. It’s quite a unique service that enables Dads to make pledges about things they’re going to try and do more of with their kids. Once those pledges are made, users can ‘pip’ everytime they do something towards it adding a point to the DADSDAQ.

You can then see your progress in comparison to everyone else on the site. So far I’ve not actually used it too much to track progress, mainly because I’ve been quite busy with both Sophie and Aimee, but it is looking like something that I will use from time to time to make sure things are on track with the various pledges I’ve had a look at.

I’m going to have a look at GTD (Get Things Done) software for Linux shortly, which may make use of the pledges on the site redundant, but it won’t get rid of
the great community of Dad’s that seem to be building up on there.

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Flickr reaches 3 billion photos – I uploaded 789 ;)

I love Flickr. I’ve been using it since 2005 and see it as a great tool to store photos and videos. Having two kids, photos are a parents way of tracking their progress from day to day.

Pondering something

Looking at Aimee’s first photos on Flickr and then comparing her now, I can see subtle features in her face that remain today, she’s just got A LOT bigger 😉

Flickr, Twitter, Plurk and whatever other social media apps get released in the next few years will be instrumental in documenting both Aimee and Sophie as they grow up.

It’ll be interesting to look back (provided the services still exist) and save them the hassle that my certainly my generation have of having to scan in their Parent’s and Grandparent’s photos for upload to the ‘net.

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Time to Head North?

I spent this weekend with a friend* of mine in Sheffield after having to miss out on the festivities in London.

Saturday was spent travelling, drinking tea and getting ready for an 18th birthday party in the evening. As the day went on I realised a number of things; mainly that nearly everyone you meet in Birmingham would sooner look at the ground than give you a smile and start chatting about random things. Even though I was seen as the outsider to start with, by the time the beer had been flowing for a while it was like we’d known each other for years.

On the way back to Brum yesterday I couldn’t help thinking about what it would actually be like to live up there. Most of my friends around here have either moved away or are eternally stuck at their desks, never having enough time (or energy) to go for a few beers. Is it time I took the plunge and moved to somewhere new? This isn’t all based on what happened over the weekend, it’s the culmination of a good six months of transition in my life. I went through a break up, met someone new, lost my grandad and got interviewed for the BBC (among other things).

It’s always going to be hard to move away from somewhere I love, but I think it’s time I ’spread my wings’.

*For those of you wondering, the friend I referred to is of the female gender and no, I’m not going to give you any details.

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