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Posts Tagged ‘starhub

Yesterday I shared some simple and general things I learnt from my visit to Amsterdam. Today I share what I learnt about the people I met and even those I did not meet in person.

The Dutch seem to possess a dry wit. I know this from the way street artists and window dressers expressed themselves.

In the windows and walls of #amsterdam #jordaan #funny #creative

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

In the windows, walls & bikes of #amsterdam #jordaan #funny #creative

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

The people I dealt with — from the public transport ticket agent to the sandwich lady to the SIM card guy — were very direct. Their mindset could be represented by this sign I saw at a knick-knack shop: Be nice, or go away.

Sign: Be nice, or go away!

I was nice, so I did not go away. But in being nice, I used phrases that did not work. For example, I revisited a sandwich shop that I chanced upon and discovered that the friendly old man was replaced by a seemingly uptight lady.

As I was there at opening time, I asked, “Are you open for businesses?” The lady replied, “Well, the door is open.”

Me: I mean… Are you ready to serve?

She: Let me wash my hands.

Me: (Waiting silently, looking at all corners of the store)

She: (At the sink area) You can order. I am not facing you, but I can hear you.

I made conversation about meeting the old man who told me that they were going to sell piccante, a spicy meat. I ordered two piccante sandwiches and my wife wanted two small slabs to bring home.

While the sandwiches heated up, the lady cut a few slices of piccante for us to nibble on.

I not only learnt where the best sandwiches in Amsterdam were, I also learnt how to be more direct with the Dutch.

The Dutch in the service industry were also prompt. Very much so.

I only exchanged emails with the host of my apartment. He said that he only had a landline, but I suspect that my emails to him were rerouted through an app on his phone or computer. Our email exchanges quick that they felt more like being on WhatsApp.

Montage of some screenshots of a display at the #vangoghmuseum #amsterdam

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

I also emailed the Van Gogh Museum because I wanted to get tickets in advance. I had an I Amsterdam card that allowed me to get into the museum for free. However I noticed that:

  • There was an online time slot booking system
  • People queued to get tickets in one line
  • The same people queued again in another line to get in
  • Some people used their phones to skip the first line

I wanted to know if I could get a mobile-based ticket by choosing time slot online with my I Amsterdam card. I emailed the museum and got a reply. The bad news was that I had to queue twice. The good news was that the reply arrived within an hour.

Some folks here take pride in being efficient or productive. I challenge that notion with the museum example. I also provide evidence of how slovenly we can be by comparison.

Upon returning to Singapore, I learnt that my telco had disabled access to my account information. This was true for the mobile app and the web-based portal.

StarHub app access denied.

I emailed my telco three days ago and have not received a reply. Not even an acknowledgement.

In learning about others, we learn about ourselves. When we look in that mirror, do we like what we see? Do we do something positive about it?

Last year I outlined how the poorly designed McCafe app could be used to learn design principles. Missteps and mistakes are often the best sources of learning.

My StarHub is an app that I use to check my data consumption and it is a wellspring of lessons on how NOT to design a mobile app.

The app claims to let users customise what they see. Currently, there are four fixed cards and six selectable ones. The latter are selected by default.

One cannot actually customise as 1) there are fixed selections (including ads), and 2) if deselected, the optional cards return after restarting the app.

The people behind the StarHub app might have forgotten (or do not care) that the customer likes to customise. Perhaps they need to adopt a new custom and repeat it as a mantra.

The app also breaks the old web page three-click rule. This is the rule that states that a user should be able to find what they need within three mouse clicks. In the mobile app universe, this should be a one or two tap rule given the nature of the platform.

Once I open the app, I need to make six taps to know how much data I have consumed in detail. I need to tap on:

  1. My Account.
  2. Mobile usage.
  3. The filter option (I manage and pay for my family’s numbers and mine does not appear by default and I have no option to choose my mobile number as default.)
  4. My number in the filter.
  5. The done button.
  6. Data usage to view current usage.

The app offers a minimalist graphic on main page that looks nice, but 1) it does not always appear, 2) when it does, it sometimes happens after a delay, 3) it is not detailed enough for my needs.

All this puts form over function and the needs of the designers over that of the user. This makes for a terrible app experience and I am reminded of it every time I use it.

Designers of user interfaces should be familiar with the concept of user-centric design. I wish more were passionate about the practice of the same. This is particularly important for designers of educational apps, especially those that provide access to content and learning management systems. No one wants angry, frustrated, or anxious users even before the learning begins.

It is Singapore’s National Day today. We are a youthful 51-years-old!

Every few years there are official attempts to come up with new national songs. However, we cannot seem to recreate the conditions of the 80s that led to the boom in catchy national ditties.

That, or we are collectively becoming old farts who only appreciate the old sounds and smells from “back in our day”.

Video source

But all is not lost. There are lots of creative people here. While the official agencies go for flops, the private sector, like StarHub, and independent agencies create videos like the ones above and below.

Video source

Video source

StarHub’s home run this year was its second in a row. Last year it inspired with Home by Homes.

Video source

I had the good fortune of meeting the agency behind both Majulah Moms and Home by Homes. I found out that their latest was their fourth partnered effort with StarHub. I might reflect on what I learnt at that meeting another time.

So back to the point of this reflection on National Day…

Video source

The agency also shared a “making of” video that, unfortunately, does not have as many views as the main video. As I type this, the main video has 556K views while the other has 11K views. Might this indicate that we are still more interested in the finished product than in insights on the process?

Efforts like Majulah Moms are from outsourced creatives. Most behemoth organisations do not recognise their own creative elements or do not operate that way. They partner with smaller ones that can do what they cannot or will not.

Schools here do much of the same with vendors. While the vendor scene is not quite at the level of the national day videos — you need only look at the resources kids bring home — I wonder how much schools learn from their partners. Do they learn from what their partners do better than them? Do they avoid the mistakes their partners make?

We are 51-years-old. That is still young for a country. Are we humble enough to learn or are we already old farts?

Patience might be a virtue, but frustration might be your reward.

I am nothing if not patient. When I read the news in November 2015 that my telco provider (StarHub) would lower its fees, I almost did a joyful jig.

As I was still tied to an existing two-year subscription plan, I had to wait to take advantage of this change. In January this year, I visited a StarHub store to find out exactly when and how to make the switch.

I found out that I could do this in late June 2016 for my mobile line and last week for my wife’s line. While the when was easy, the how was less so.

The process seemed to be designed to dissuade those that dislike jumping through hoops. According to a customer service representative (CSR), I had to call 1633, inform them of my wish to change, and then make the change myself online.

I did that, but I wondered: Why call when the process is do-it-yourself? Do some people need help figuring out when they can do this and which web page to visit? Automate the process and put it online!

I already had the URL by trawling the telco’s site, but the CSR on the phone read it out to me one letter at a time anyway.

I managed to make the switch online. The process involved verifying my credentials (logging in), checking my eligibility (a button on screen), and making the switch (clicking on that button). The initial phone call was not necessary.

I thought all was well and merely had to wait two more weeks to repeat the process for my wife’s line. However, hope springs eternal, patience is a virtue, and shit hit the fan.

StarHub messes up.

When I logged in to check my account, the telco had my mobile line under the wrong scheme. As a Hub Club member, I qualified for the SIM-only 4G 3 plan at $21.45 instead of $42.90 per month. My online account information indicated that I was on the more expensive plan, but an email stated that I was on the cheaper plan.

Which piece of information was I supposed to believe?

I emailed and called the helpline again and received email and verbal confirmation that I was on the cheaper plan. But the information online still indicted that I was on the more expensive plan. Which information will the billing department use?

Last week I tried switching my wife’s mobile line to the SIM-only plan. However, the process had changed. The verification process was no longer available online and there was no option to make the switch.

I called and emailed again. I was told to wait because they had to check their backend. If I was not already bummed out by that point, I might have made a cheeky response about them caring only about the bottom line or their service being the butt of jokes.

Instead I tweeted this:

I received a reply to DM my number phone and account number. I did so and also provided the annotated screenshot I shared above. Now I screenshot their DM reply.


Apparently when they “escalate” something, it takes three working days. As it was a Friday night by the time they replied, I presume they mean an optimistic Wednesday.

This sounds reasonable since I am not a Member of Parliament or mrbrown. I am just a little person who subscribed to StarHub services since its inception.

Three working days is definitely reasonable when there are still “contact us” pages elsewhere that claim a 14-day wait for a reply.

I can wait. The telco can take its time. During that time the billing cycle will kick in like clockwork to charge me more than it should. To address this, I will have to call, email, or tweet. Again.

Patience is a virtue, but frustration is my reward.

50mm f/1.4 vs fiber optic light by vissago, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  vissago 

I normally blog my reflections, about what I am reading or about what I experience and observe as a teacher educator and as the head of the CeL. Today I blog as a Singaporean geek trying to hop on the local fibre optic bandwagon.

I was overjoyed when I first heard of the plans to lay in place fibre optic infrastructure in Singapore. This could replace the dated infrastructure for phones, cable TV, Internet access, video conferencing, etc.

I waited patiently for my area to get the upgrade. When the time came in January this year, I was probably among the first in my apartment building to get the fibre optic cable and termination point installed in my home.

But then I had to wait some more. What for? More testing and for service providers to actually provide service to my area. So I waited patiently again.

Earlier in this April, service providers flipped the switch in my area and I arranged for StarHub to activate the service in my home and to provide the proprietary equipment, an optical network terminal (ONT) as well as a free wireless home gateway (WHG).

The ONT splits the TV and Internet/voice signal. The WHG is like an elaborate router that you connect your wired computers, home phone, network attached storage and wireless devices to.

At least that is what I think they do because the information provided by Starhub online and by personal communication is poor. I had to search forums high and low for early adopters who shared this information.

The other reason is that the service as promised to me on Apr 23 was not delivered. A customer service representative called to tell me that it was a “technical fault” at their end. He could not elaborate on what that meant and I was left to imagine forgetfulness, incompetence and robot mutiny as possible causes.

So we arranged for an alternate installation date in May and I sought compensation. Why? If I had cancelled the appointment, I would be charged an additional fee. But if there is a technical fault, StarHub somehow reserves the right to charge me for the bad service. I should be charging them for the inconvenience, my time and my advice (see last paragraph).

I refused to pay any service and installation charges and got my way. But in order to do that, I had to get very angry (but reasonably so) on the phone several times. I kept demanding to speak to someone higher up who could make a reasonable decision.

So to others who might be taking the plunge, I share my experience as a warning and offer that tip on dealing with a stubborn service provider.

To Starhub (sometimes known in by the local Twitterati as S**thub) I offer this advice:

  • Train your customer service representatives to deal with conflict and give them the authority to make decisions. This will reduce unnecessary phone calls and email.
  • Speaking of phone calls and email, know when to use what. Things like terms and conditions are best elaborated upon in email, not over the phone.
  • Provide professional looking and editable PDF forms instead of those that look like they were rescued from a fire or prepared by a three-year-old. I don’t want to have to print out the forms, fill them in by hand, scan the forms and send them to you. You serve me, not the other way around!
  • If you make a mistake, admit it and be open with it. This reduces frustration and creates trust.

Our part of the world experienced a slowdown in Internet access yesterday. Like other users, I wanted to know why.

I started by trawling local and regional news sites, and when I found nothing, I turned to real-time search on Twitter. There I discovered that others were complaining about slow Internet access via Singnet and Starhub. Soon a few tweets and retweets mentioned the then unsubstantiated cause: A damaged underwater cable near Taiwan.

I was mildly disappointed. Disappointed because I thought that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could have leveraged on social networking tools to provide more timely and accurate information. Instead, they added to their PR problems.

I was disappointed with the folks on Twitter because they relied largely on hearsay or rumour. But I was only mildly disappointed because I know that is how many people learn things or get information (by asking around).

I also thought about how we could take at least three lessons away and apply them in the realm of education.

First, like the ISPs, teachers should learn to embrace the tools that their students are already using. Not for the sake of merely using these technologies, but of integrating them into curricula in pedagogically sound ways. After all, if you don’t reach them, you can’t teach them.

Second, teachers should model and teach students digital literacy skills like how to evaluate what they find online. For example, students need to distinguish opinion from fact and know when to cite one or the other. They should also learn how to triangulate what they find. For example, the Internet slowdown was tweeted almost immediately. But the reason for it emerged more slowly. Various sources tweeted why at first, then ComputerWorld reported it, and finally Channel News Asia deemed it newsworthy. This makes the information more reliable.

Third, the type of thinking and learning that results from using real-time information vs. textbook information is often more meaningful because the real-time information is authentic. Both teachers and students deal with real-time information and solve problems every day, so why don’t we see more of this in classrooms? Using this strategy is probably one of the most difficult things for teachers to do largely because they have not been taught that way. Furthermore, not everything can or needs to be taught that way. But so much teaching is still skewed to the outdated textbook and delivery-oriented model. It’s time to change!

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