Links: Citizen Engagement Blog – Australia

I have just connected with Despina Babbage from DIIRD (Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development) in the state of Victoria, Australia. Despina blogs over at Citizen Engagement, I was connected through Michelle Lyons who i met face to face for the first time at UKGovBarCamp.

On her blog Despina states she is interested in finding out about e-participatory developments, so do get in touch via her blog in you have some you’d be happy to share.

I am planning on meeting up with Despina when I visit Melbourne for some conversation and exchanges of ideas and opportunities.

Customer Experience, Australia Day and Chinese New Year

Today i received a call from Southall Travel who i used to book the flights for my family holiday to Australia, my first thought was why are they phoning me, but to my surprise i received some excellent customer service.

The lady on the phone asked me to confirm my details by stating what she knew about me and the details of the flights i had booked and then said there is a slight change to the return flight. She informed me that our connecting flight in Hong Kong was now delayed by 35 minutes. I chuckled to myself as i thought wow, they have phoned me to tell me that one of my flights has been changed and is now 35 minutes later, to be honest 35 minutes is nothing and i mentioned that we will be in the airport anyway so are unlikely to notice such a changed but thanked her for taking the time to call me. She then said that she would send me a new itinerary and that i should print these out. Within 2 minutes of putting the phone down the new details arrived in my inbox.

I came away from that experience thinking what excellent customer service and even though the flight information had changed by 35 minutes and it doesn’t really impact us, it could impact a wide range of other people and i valued the fact that they are aware of our details and that they have a policy to contact and communicate with their customers of teh slightest delay or changes in the original booking.

This got me thinking to some of the key lessons the public service could learn regarding simple customer service.  I have often been on the receiving end of projects, bookings and other transactions that have not bothered to contact me once the original transaction has been completed.  The fact that this simple experience which was only a phone call to ensure that i was kept informed and was then sent new updated information is not rocket science but just common sense.

On a separate note and perhaps a coincidence, it is also Australia Day today so even the though our weather isn’t that good at the moment take the time to overcook meats on semi hygienic BBQ’s, laugh at English Cricket and down a few cold ones.

On an international note it is also worth noting that today is also Chinese New Year and we are now in the year of the Ox. You can find what your year is here.

To celebrate both, i will have a chinese stir fry with an australian cold beer. I refuse to laugh about English sports…why? well everyone else does…

Daddy Day

A short round-up of the day……The plan for a BBQ was postponed due to rain, but that didn’t stop us enjoying the day. We made a scarecrow for our allotment to protect our sweetcorn, it is only a small scarecrow and is wearing a pair of Ewan’s old jeans and an even older waterproof jacket, don’t want him to get too wet!!

Being father’s day I received some excellent drawings from Ewan who had even managed to write “To Daddy, Love Ewan” in the father’s day card he made me. Finley painted lots of cats on the front of his card, not sure of the relationship to father’s day but still it looked great.

Sharon and i were dreaming about Australia earlier and i started to go a bit over the top…I was thinking about what things could be like if we had won some money on the lottery. I would like a large bit of land that had a apple orchard, so i could make cider, a vineyard for wine, large allotment plot, tree house for kids and a huge garage/workshop for the campervan and doing odds and sods. Sharon wanted a garden nursery space and a shed for making pottery… It was a nice thought, however unlikely…..

Well my only thought for today is, if you think about something hard enough do you end up getting it or driving it further away?

Evening Sun

Today has been a very relaxing day, spent most of it with the kids and Sharon, just doing stuff and playing.

I am now sat with the dog (Charm) with the evening sun just chilling and reflecting on the whole week.

Last weekend i was planning the trip to Coventry which i was looking forward to as i had heard from a colleague Tim Davies that the chair/facilitator for the day Ewan Mcintosh was inspiring and was great at opening eyes around web 2 and social media. So my expectation was quite high considering most of the time my expectation is quite low for any event i go to as they tend to tell me what i already know. But I was not let down, i found myself inspired and i actually learnt new things which was great and i now find myself a week later with a Twitter account and writing a blog about, well just about anything.

Whilst i enjoy, what seems like the last bit of sunshine before the rain comes, to be honest i don’t mind as the garden needs it and as Billy Connolly once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes“. I find myself thinking back to when i was in a band (Redi).

I played the guitar (rhythm not lead), not great but with the rest of the band we collectively sounded good, well i thought so. We wrote a song called Evening Sun and it was one of my favourites and sat here right now i can actually remember the first timed we played it at a gig and this is the type of night that for me it was dedicated to….

The reason i am no longer in the band is that when we had our second child, we started to think about what our next goals would be. We contemplated a number of things, working and paying off the mortgage, studying, or emigrating. After some time we both felt very passionate about emigrating. There was only really one location for us although we had also considered Ireland as we had been there a number of times and just found it a wonderful place to be. But our eventual choice was Australia.

Now i have never been to Oz but was already reading every book i could get my hand on, visiting websites about all types of places and checking out property prices and dreaming about great locations close to excellent surfing beaches. Within 4 weeks of deciding we also realised that studying was also something we should do between now and when we hope to go (2-3 years) depending on application timetables.

But that meant that the band would become very difficult to manage alongside the additional study, so made the very difficult decision to quit, it was even harder than it should have been because we had just recorded our first album and were all positive about what could happen. But there were also a number of other issues which i am not going to go into detail about which also caused friction between us all and also distracted our attentions from making the most out of what we had just achieved. But that is now a different time and a different place.

Anyway, the Australia choice starting gaining momentum and we were using the web to decide on a likely destination when we “hopefully” emigrate. It was also coincidence that on the BBC at that time they were showing a programme called “Wanted Down Under” where they sent families from the UK to Oz for a week to make a final choice about whether or not they would make the decision to emigrate, to say i was hooked on all things Australian was an under statement.

We first looked at the surrounding areas of Sydney, but found house prices and job opportunities, all be it a few years in advance off putting, so we then started to focus on Melbourne and its surrounding areas. We then found a superb place, which i decided to even take a virtual tour in google earth, a place called Geelong. It is the state of Victoria’s 2nd largest city and is also very close to the Great Ocean Road and the famous surfing location of Bells Beach and surf coast.

So whilst i sit here chilling and reflecting on what has happened, my mind ponders the future and all the opportunities that could bring.