Sunday, June 22, 2008

Product request: car alarm fryer

Would be great if someone would invent a high powered directional-microwave-tazar-thingy that could be used to fry car alarms from a distance.

From where i write this - the intensely populated uppper-west-side - there has been a car alarm going off intermittently for about the last 2 hours. It is probably stressing out the several hundred people who are in range, hence inflicting thousands of dollars of pain and suffering.

Taking a sledgehammer to the car is very tempting, and as far as i'm concerned absolutely justified, but it would have the downside of probably putting me in jail. How much more satisfying to fry a car's innards from a 5th floor window.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The American service paradox

America is a wonderful place that revels in its leading edge technologies and superior service culture. Much of that is, much of the time, perfectly valid. But it seems there are various blackholes into which the latest techno wizardry and service with a smile disappears with a poof. Healthcare, finance and telecomms industry are three not insignificant industries where my recent experience as a fresh off the boat new yorker suggests much could be done to improve the situation with a dose of scandinavian efficiency.

My darling fiancee (more to come in future installments) has been witnessing first hand the need to improve the service experience in healthcare. Not only is the quality of the advice for her badly mashed up foot particularly patchy and inconsistent, but the process reeks of inefficiency. Having had a number of surgeries in the hospital, last week she had to fill out a whole bunch of
additional paper forms about some other procedure, all requiring the same mind numbing and time consuming repitition of standard info such as address, insurance providers etc. This is not only inefficient it can also affect the service experience - one of the times she noticed that the basic dates for the operations had been entered wrongly on a bit of paper, potentially resulting in all sorts of trauma.

My own experience of US finance is poor. Coming from First Direct in the UK, am staggered to find myself swimming in paper and a morass of expensive and impenetrable fees that are applied to you by banks for most of the functions associated with merely being alive. Getting my salary paid direct debit rather than by cheque is harder than it should be (can't remember when i last saw a cheque before arriving to the US).

And perennial favourite telco rounds out the list for my triple waaaaammy. As the nation crowded round their sets trying to watch Big Brown cheat history on Saturday we were frustrated as the local monopoly provider Time Warner had blackouts over the whole of the upper west side. We ventured out to a local bar which mysteriously seemed unaffected. On both the broadband and mobile side (Apple's singlehanded efforts notwithstanding) the US is a lumbering giant - an embarassment to this nation of nation builders.

Whenever I can I interact with these guys via their website, as to dial an 800 number is to consign yourself to a desperate game of eternal loops, bereft of logic, feedback and feeling, where the winning prize is a date with a bored and surly operator with interest in nothing except churning your call. Lots of room for these companies to start decentralizing the service experience back out to the edges and figure out how to let us better help ourselves, and each other.