The story of a restless soul, searching for peace and her place in life

Opononi, New Zealand, Dec 2016

(Originally written for the Bring Your Story movement started by my friend Bea)

I’ve always known that I couldn’t just live in one country my whole life. So when I was 21, I moved to Australia from Singapore, then on to New Zealand with a one way ticket when I was 22. I had no contacts or friends over there, so I built a life from nothing, and threw it all away 5 years later to embark on a journey of… what exactly? The purpose of this journey has changed several times since I took the first step out of my old life, and this ride has now turned into a much longer drive than I expected, with plenty of unexpected detours along the way! All roads lead to Rome, I guess.

So far, I’ve wandered the Earth for a year without a job and discovered how tightly entwined our identity is with our job titles. I am lost without a regular income. I gained more freedom in time, but I lost financial independence. Suddenly I had to keep track of every single expense, and where every penny was going to. Yup, I am not good with money =p

The first 6 months of being unemployed was awesome; I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted, especially stuff I’ve put off for ages. I felt more productive in that 6 months then I did at the last 2 years of work. Actually, I sleepwalked through the last year at my old job. It was a great job – I love my colleagues and the company I was working for, but after 4 years there I desperately needed a change that they couldn’t provide. The next 6 months of being jobless was full of crazy highs and even more crazy lows. Time flies when you’re not working. My moods oscillated; I was super motivated, super scared, super kickass, super worried, super fun, super stressed out, super excited.

I don’t know how much more I’ve got to go. Sometimes I’m tired, just so tired, of hustling and being on the move all the time. I’m tired of the uncertainty and never being able to make plans with anyone. Sometimes I’m so grateful for being able to do this – not everyone could just take a year off like that. It’s a privilege. I’m privileged. Mainly, I am beyond thankful to my family and friends, without their support my journey wouldn’t have been possible.

When I quit my job, I also sold all my things and moved out of my place. My friends took my homeless ass in. I basically spent the last year crashing with different people. I did A LOT of packing and unpacking, and A LOT of organizing and planning for a place to rest my head at night. But you know what, I chose this. I chose to live like this. It’s been a long year. But I sense that the chaos is coming to an end.

Sometimes just being, is the best present we can give to ourselves and others. I realise that “being present” in the moment literally means that you’re “being a gift” to yourself and the people around you.

Thanks for listening to my story xx

The World of User (UX/UI) Design

“Companies are trying to solve a business problem while people [or customers] are trying to solve a human problem.”

“These spacesuits’d better be user-friendly!” NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, Feb 2017

Recently, I decided to check out the Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera by UC San Diego. It’s also where I got the above quote from.

I am typically the “Client” in the world of Design – mainly working with in-house Designers and very occasionally with outsourced ones. Now, I have a lot of friends who are graphic designers, or in the creative industry, who often complain about their clients. You know, the usual, “client doesn’t know what they want so they gave me a different brief each time, we’re on our 4th artwork proof now”, or “the budget is too small  to accomplish what the client wants”, or “client has no eye for design but likes telling me how to do my job” etc etc.

Some of it is beyond the client’s control, such as the directive from the top management changing at every meeting, inflexible budgets, or even differences in aesthetic preferences.

Well, me being the emphatic type, would take my designer friends’ comments to heart, and resolve not to be the client from hell they hate so much. Plus, it’s really not that hard, all it takes is a little diplomacy and understanding. Also, arguing with designers over work already produced is a waste of everyone’s time, and could have been avoided in the first place with proper planning and clear instructions, barring the occasional unforeseeable mishaps.

Anyway, I digress. I was originally talking about another design field – the field of interaction design, or according to Coursera, “How to design great user experiences. Design that delights users”.

I have a personal interest in this because I love consumer behavior, and finding out what makes people tick/what makes them do the things they do. Broadly, I am fascinated by human behavior in general, but because I’m in Marketing, it is now my job to dive even deeper into the world of user experiences and design.

I believe that user experience is about understanding how users actually navigate their world, and designing to that, while adding value to their lives.

“Good design melds physical, digital and social worlds. Many of the services that are exciting right now are things that combine the world of atoms with the world of bits and the world of culture.” Scott Klemmer, Associate Professor, UC San Diego.

“This can be the pop-up food truck that announces where it’s gonna be on Twitter. This can be Etsy, where we have people all around the world creating handy crafts and vintage items and then selling them through an online portal. This can be many common elements of political life that are coordinating large numbers of people through an online system.”

In the course, Scott also talked about “Laddering” – a market research interview technique to uncover consumers’ underlying motives and their decision making process before buying a product/service. Laddering makes explicit connections between an experience and the value they’ve put on it (e.g. self-esteem, accomplishment, belonging, self-fulfilment, family, security).

Which brings us to User Motivation. How do you learn more about that? By doing lots and lots of research, of course!

There’s the human way:

Through surveys, focus groups, interviews, diary studies (long-term user behavior), observing the way users actually use your product in the real world, truly listening to user feedback and then acting on it, and constantly testing new approaches/new ways of doing things. You can read up more about them here.

And the computer/data science way:

Analytics and metrics, artificial intelligence, data mining… We are in an age of big data. There are technology and software out there to help you analyse the data you have collated, by measuring and statistifying, identifying patterns, and predicting trends, among other things. Here is a great article about how data science affects user experience.

While I can see that we are heading in the direction of data science, (and why not? Data science is an amazingly cool field where we finally have the opportunity to use real numbers and figures to help us in our own decision making process and building a superior product/service), it is also vital that we maintain a balance between the human way and the data science way, using both to help us better serve our customers.

How to provide AWESOME! Customer Service and why it is important

TLDR; in this digital age, customers have Google, and choices, so it is important to show them that you care about their individual needs and wants through AWESOME! customer service.

Bad customer service turns us all into the incredible hulk. Fiji, May 2017

The customer is always right – agree or disagree? As with many theories in life, there are many different schools of thought. My school of thought is – prevention is better than cure. Let’s not even allow ourselves to enter a situation where the customer gets to be right or wrong; by first focusing on ourselves and our way of handling customers; aka futureproofing your customer service.

What do I mean by that? Now, customers could be upset by all sorts of things, from being unhappy with the product to bad user interface to subpar customer service… We should already have solutions in place for all of these predictable issues:

Not happy with our product? I’m sorry to hear that, here is a full refund. Also, could you tell us why you are not satisfied with the product?

Bad user interface? I’m sorry that our website/app made you frustrated, we will work on providing you with a more user friendly experience. What would you like us to improve on?

Awful service? I am sorry to hear that you had an unpleasant experience with us. Please let us know how we can help you feel better about our service.

The Customer/User Experience field is a HUGE one – from consumer behavior research to user interface design to adding value to your customer’s unique experience. Today, I would like to focus specifically on Customer Service.

In my About page, I mentioned that “Globally speaking, there is a need for personalized customer interaction, and a focus on enhancing the unique user experience.”

One easy way to do this is to offer your customers an impeccable customer service. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is important. With the internet and globalization, your customer has plenty of options to choose from, so why should they choose you? Because you have shown that you actually CARE about them. That their thoughts and feedback matters. That they are not just a nameless number to boost your annual sales.

Have you ever called a company to complain about their product/service or ask for help related to their product/service, and walked away with a warm fuzzy feeling? Or did you walk away feeling unsatisfied and even more unhappy? Or worse, did you hang up the phone feeling like it was all a waste of time, and feel more frustrated than ever?

I have personally experienced all of the above, as I’m sure you have. After some thought, I realized there are a number of reasons we were unhappy with the customer service we received:

  • 1. Our issue wasn’t resolved and all we got was
      • We can’t help with that, sorry (basically means, you’re on your own there)
      • There is nothing we can do about this matter (so why did I call you then?)
  • 2. Lack of follow up to original issue
      • e.g. This is the third time I’ve called about the same problem and no one has gotten back to me
  • 3. Something we were promised by the company didn’t happen
      • e.g. We will send you a new product to make up for the faulty one you currently have (it’s been a month, where is that replacement product?)
      • e.g. Our customer service helpline is available 24/7 (rings them at 11pm on a Monday to hear that the 24/7 service is only available from Tuesday to Sunday)
  • 4. Rude or indifferent staff
  • 5. We are having a bad day and this customer support person is not helping

How to get around the above…

  • Training – product, and empathy

Make training your staff a priority. Proper training helps prepare them for the problems they may encounter when dealing with customers, and the appropriate ways to handle these situations.

Training MUST include Product training, so that staff are familiar with the product they will be helping customers with. I am usually able to tell when someone on the other end of the line isn’t knowledgeable about the product they are supposed to be selling.

Empathy training is also crucial, as it is key to show your customers that you care, and that you value their business. Show some compassion for the people who support your business! Without customers, you don’t have a business. This does not mean that customers are always wright (wrong + right), it just means that customers are important.

  • Autonomy

If your staff are well-trained, you should have no qualms about giving them a certain level of autonomy so that they can go above and beyond for the customers. A powerless employee makes me feel powerless and raises doubts about their ability to help me with the problem I have.

  • A system

Provide employees with a detailed overview of “who does what, where” within the company, so they know where to direct customers to, or at least make sure that feedback/customer issues are passed on to the correct team.

  • Company culture

Keep your staff happy. When they feel that they’re working for a company that values them and their contributions individually, it will show in their work. They will be proud to work for you, and take pride in their responsibilities at work. In turn, customers will pick up on their happiness and subconsciously associate good vibes with your business. Overworked and disgruntled employees are painfully obvious to me, which in turn makes me think twice before making a purchase with the company.

There you have it. Let’s work towards a world of AWESOME! Customer Service. Let me know your thoughts!