Category Archives: Business

Redcliffe Festival KiteFest – It’d be Good Value if it Were Free

My wife, baby daughter and I visited the Redcliffe Festival KiteFest 2015 this morning. We can see it from our home at Woody Point and we’ve thought about visiting for the last two years but never got around to it.

Kitefest Sign

This time we decided we’d go check it out with our 2 month old daughter. Knowing that the parking would be a problem we decided to walk from home. We got a fantastic view of the aerobatics display by a Yak-52 from the Woody Point waterfront.

Aerobatics Display as Seen From Woody Point
Aerobatics Display as Seen From Woody Point

There was a great view of the kites that were flying as we walked along Bell’s Beach.

As we walked past the white fabric wall towards the entrance I said something that got this shocked response from my wife Jacqui:

“You mean you have to pay?”

I responded in the affirmative. “Be prepared to be shocked by the price” I told her. I wasn’t sure what the exact cost was as I hadn’t checked in advance.

As it turned out it was $8 per adult, $5 for children or $20 for a family pass. A family pass covers 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. Bad luck if you’ve got 2 adults and 3 kids. You’ll have to pay $25. Just to get in.

So what did you get for your money?

The main entertainment stage
The main entertainment stage

Well you got to walk around a smaller version of your local Sunday markets. There were a number of activities available for kids. For instance:

  • Kite Making Workshops – Cost $5
  • Animal Farm – Cost $5
  • Rides – $5 each or $25 for a day pass
Kite Flying Demonstrations
Kite Flying Demonstrations

There’s the main arena for kite flying displays and there was a number of water skiing displays during the day off the coast. In addition there was a live music stage in the main food area. Speaking of food, about 1/3 of the stalls were food trucks with a nice selection of food, but fairly expensive. We were there before the big crowds and yet the lines were still quite long. We ended up just getting a sausage sizzle.

The eating area
The eating area

We wandered around for about an hour and by that stage we were ready to go home. Sure there were a few shows coming up but they were age ages away and we didn’t want to queue for ages for food and drinks. Much cheaper to get some chips at the local fish and chip shop(for that matter the only food truck selling chips had run out – at 11:30am on Saturday). Plus you wouldn’t have to fight to find a place to sit amongst the too few tables and chairs.

One of the streets of markets
One of the streets of markets

The Bottom Line

The Redcliffe Festival KiteFest is a nice event. There’s some interesting kites displays and other shows. By and large though it’s a smallish Sunday Market. That’s fine it’d be a great thing to visit, if it were priced appropriately. $8 per person is just way too much. A family of 4 could easily end up spending $100 just to get in and have lunch. In our case, the $16 we spent to get in was money we didn’t spend at the food stalls inside.

Some more of the kite demonstrations
Some more of the kite demonstrations

The view of the kites and flying displays is better from Bells Beach or even the Woody Point Waterfront. If you’re just interested in the aerobatics, go to Woody Point Jetty.

An appropriate price would be $2 per person like the much better value Eat Street Markets. Free would be even better.

Had to laugh at the beautiful smoker's lounge - for once not taking up the nicest outdoor spot
Had to laugh at the beautiful smoker’s lounge – for once not taking up the nicest outdoor spot
For some reason Australian's can only be trusted to drink when they're behind a fence
For some reason Australian’s can only be trusted to drink when they’re behind a fence

The Australian Car Finance Industry Needs a Shakeup

Over the last couple of days I again had the displeasure of shopping for a used car. I had forgotten how bad it was last time until yesterday. It seems in the two and a half years since I last did it, nothing had changed.

I have a fairly complicated financial situation, with quite a bit of debt from a previous failed business. I have two existing loans through ANZ, one in my name and one jointly with my wife. Plus I have an existing car loan though ANZ’s Esanda business. Pretty much all of my finances have been managed through ANZ for the last decade. I’ve never missed a payment, never defaulted and apart from multiple finance restructures my credit record is good.

Car shopping with my wife and baby
Car shopping with my wife and baby

Last time I’d done this 2 years ago, ANZ only offered the car loan through Esanda and I didn’t get the best interest rate, 9.99%. I was disappointed about it because dealer’s finance offered a better rate, but I stuck with ANZ Esanda due to brand loyalty I guess. I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t add the loan to my internet banking. Apparently ANZ’s car loan business runs on an older system to the rest of their credit system and it’s not compatible with Internet Banking.

Given my strong relationship with ANZ it seems obvious to me that I’d likely be best going to ANZ for a new car loan. They’d be most likely to approve my finance because they know my full financial history.

Should be easy as I’m already a customer. Apparently not.

I initially contacted Esanda to find out how much I have left to pay on my current loan. They quote me a balance. I’m not too sure what the point of quoting a balance is though, as the payout balance is the only thing that means anything. I was informed that payout balance they quote only lasts a few days at a time(a week maybe).

On Thursday they could only quote me a payout balance that expired that same day, because it was the regular payment day. The payout balance on Friday would be different, but their rules and computer system prevented them from telling me what Friday’s payout balance would be, despite my fixed interest rate and fixed payments. Not very helpful given I was going car shopping Friday.

They also couldn’t quote me what interest rate I would pay. The interest rate would be dependant on my application’s approval. To find out what they would offer I would have to apply for a loan pre-approval.

Why would I want to apply for a loan when I don’t know it’s terms?

Not wanting to apply for something I didn’t have full details of, I went to ANZ’s web site, where they were offering a ANZ Secured Car Loan with an online offer of 7.29%. Great, that’s a lower rate than I currently had and appeared fixed.

So I rang ANZ to ask details about it. Yes it’s rate was 7.29% if you’re approved. You’re either approved for 7.29% or you’re not getting a loan. That seemed great to me. I asked the question about Internet Banking. Turns out the ANZ Car Loans are the same thing as Esanda, running on the same antiquated, non internet-connected system. Really!

Despite that, I figured lets go for it. So I go into the online application process. Despite myself and my wife being existing ANZ customers, we fill in a huge amount of details about ourselves that ANZ already knows, such as current address, previous address and the like. We then get asked about our financial position. So we have to tell ANZ about the ANZ loans we have, which they know more about than we do.

Finally I get to the end of the process. I click Submit.

What I got after submitting my car loan application online
What I got after submitting my car loan application online

Great. My whole application was gone. I hadn’t saved it on the way through as I intended to complete the application in one go. I couldn’t apply over the phone, because the 7.29% deal was not available over the phone, only online.

So I went through the process again, this time saving at every step. Got to the end, same problem.

The next morning I tried again to submit my application. Still had the same problem. For the record, the ANZ Secured Car Loan application process is still “down for routine maintenance” this morning, two days after my first attempt.

At this point I took to twitter, complaining about my frustration. To their credit, ANZ’s social media team responded quickly:

I replied with the appropriate details and was informed they’d get a car loan officer to contact me as soon as possible.

Two days later I still haven’t received a call.

The annoying thing is, even if I had decided to apply over the phone rather than internet, I would still have to wait for a loan officer to return my call. You can just call up and apply immediately.

Overall it’s been a very poor customer service experience. I ultimately decided not to buy a car at this point, but if I had I have no doubt it’d be the same frustration as last time with back and forth between me, the bank and the dealer to finally complete the deal.

So here’s what I want to see from a car loan product by a big bank:

  • Online application that allows me to just confirm or update the existing information the bank knows about me, including the details of the loans I already have.
  • Instant online approval if the application meets pre-determined rules. If a manual intervention is required, it should be handled within 30 business minutes.
  • Funds available immediately after approval, either by real time bank transfer settlement or via my debit card.
  • The loan should be connected to my internet banking.
  • Easy online process when you want to upgrade to a new vehicle.

It shouldn’t be hard.

The technology can handle it. It’s just a case of “that’s not how we do things around here”. They’re too fixed in this old school sales model of customer service officers being commissioned salespeople. It’s time to break this old antiquated model and change to something that works for customers and provides a non-dealer finance choice that is quick and easy.


How to Fail at Online Supermarket Delivery

Shopping at the supermarket has always been one of my least favourite weekend activities. I was pretty happy when I was able to convince my wife Jacqui that we should stop wasting time in the supermarket every weekend and instead order our groceries online.

We’ve never been totally loyal to one of the Australian supermarket chains. We go to Coles when convenient and Woolworths when convenient. However as our closest supermarket is Woolworths we typically go there. They have good quality products we like and nice service.

However our first online supermarket delivery experience was with Coles(due to a discount voucher we had). I was away, but my wife Jacqui was delighted with the delivery. The driver was friendly, explained everything as it was her first time and the products were all perfect. The driver even unpacked the bags out of the crates. Great service.

We were hooked. Jacqui was happy with it and keen to keep using deliveries.

Given we usually shopped at Woolworths, we figured lets order this one through Woolies and lets buy a 3 month delivery package. At only $3 per weekly delivery it just made sense. We didn’t give it another thought.

Then our delivery came. First time with Woolworths delivery. The driver’s demeanour wasn’t as friendly, but he did what we wanted. However the bags had been packed with much less care than Coles had done. When we opened the eggs, 4 out of 12 were broken. So we ring up the customer care line, discuss the problem, the eggs are refunded. No problem we figure, just one of those things that happens.

Second weekly delivery and the driver didn’t want to bring the crates inside. We didn’t press the issue though. This time the seal on a packet of bacon was broken. Again Woolworths refunded it. Then a few days later we went to open our packet of bean sprouts and they were mush. It turned out the used by date was the day after the delivery. Again Woolworths gave us a refund.

Our squashed bread alongside the offending potatoes
Our squashed bread alongside the offending potatoes

Tonight we got our third delivery. This time some genius decided to put 2 KG bags of onions and potatoes on top of our bread. It’s squashed as pictured. So that’s 3 out of 3 bad customer experiences with Woolworths.

So far we’ve been happy with Woolworth’s customer care line. There’s never been any question, they’ve just refunded damaged items after we told them what happened.

Not tonight. Sure they were more than happy to refund the items. But they didn’t care what was wrong. When we insisted on telling the customer service officer what was wrong, she tried to blame the delivery driver. The driver doesn’t pack the bags! So it seems they don’t care about improving their service, they’ll just buy your happiness!

We don’t want to have to phone Woolworths every time we get a delivery to get refunds on damaged items. We just want to get the same quality service we would get from a checkout operator.

Checkout operators carefully pack bags to ensure items don’t end up squashed or damaged. Why can’t Woolworths just get their checkout operator trainers to train their delivery packers? They’ve got all the hard parts of the logistics of delivery right. It’s just the simple things that they’re failing.

I’m not looking to bag them out, or chase refunds all the time. I understand this is a new service and there’ll be teething issues. I’m happy to help Woolworths improve by providing feedback. It seems they don’t really care about improving their customer experience though. They figure it’s just about refunds.

So the lessons I’d draw from this for all businesses is learn from your mistakes and make sure your customers know you’re improving. Seek feedback on your customer experience and apply it. It’s not just about giving money back – actually correct the problem. Not improving will lose you repeat customers.

Unless Woolworths lifts its game in the next 2 months we still have left, we’ll be going back to Coles.

Follow me on Twitter @davidjfindlay!

What Happens to Taxis in the Future of Driverless Cars?

When it comes to innovation opportunity, there’s three ways a business can go:

  1. Not notice it till it’s too late
  2. Defend against it
  3. Seize the opportunity and exploit it

Taxis vs Uber is an example of an old school, slow moving industry at first not noticing an innovation opportunity. Protected by their monopoly protectionist government regulation the taxi industry has been slow to catch on to the needs and wants of the market place.

Taxi companies protected by their monopoly enforcing governments have long ignored the customer experience. Uber and Lyft saw an opportunity to provide a better customer experience and their success has has shown they’re providing what the customer wants.

But in 2015, Uber and Lyft are standing together with the taxi industry facing another innovation opportunity. The driverless car is not far away and no one is prepared for the societal changes it will bring.

Imagine: you want to go from work to your favourite pub. You pull out your phone, select your pickup location and time, then select your destination. An algorithm finds an electric driverless car that will be available nearby at your pickup time with enough charge to handle your trip. The vehicle arrives, you don’t have to make small talk(perfect for the introvert) and quickly takes you to where you’re going while you read a book on your Kindle. Simple.

Think this is science fiction?

Google Self Driving Car Prototype. Photo: Google
Google Self Driving Car Prototype. Photo: Google


  • Google’s driverless cars can already handle the driving. It’d be pretty simple to connect the car driving computer to a cloud-based dispatch system.
  • Uber and Lyft using consumers wouldn’t have much of a problem with accepting driverless car technology.
  • Tesla already has electric vehicles that can do 300+ kilometres on a single charge and swappable battery packs already exist.
Tesla Electric Car. Photo: Steve Jurvetson
Tesla Electric Car. Photo: Steve Jurvetson

It’s pretty unlikely that people will be buying driverless cars in 5 years. However an innovative start up could team up with a driverless car manufacturer to get on the road pretty soon.

The taxi industry has already chosen innovation option 1 and has now moved on to option 2. Regardless of what government regulators do they will lose! They will lose because they were too comfortable in their monopoly regulations.

The question is will it be Uber or Lyft to first roll out driverless car services or will it be another new company still waiting to be started in someone’s old school garage?

The Pulse – October Brisbane Meetup

My wife Jacqui and I just attended our first “The Pulse” meetup in Brisbane. The Pulse is a community of entrepreneurs who meet up monthly for expert panels with startup and business leaders. This was our first attendance at one of these meetings, which was held at River City Labs, a startup coworking enterprise in Fortitude Valley. We found it to be a great opportunity to hear a wide range of expert opinions and meet new people in the entrepreneurial start up space.

The session was a fast paced Q & A type format. Here some notes on what I got out of tonight’s session with Steve Baxter(@sbxr), Aaron Birkby(@AaronBirkby), David Eastes and Ben Duncan:

A question was asked on tips for transitioning from 9 to 5 work to a startup:

  • Do both for a while – working 24/7 as it were.
  • Try to save capital if you want to take it full time.
  • Hardest thing you’ll ever do is raise money from an investor – use your customers to fund your business.
  • If you can’t make a few thousand dollars from your startup don’t leave your job.
  • Turn first customers into walking billboard.
  • Sell something straight away. Get customers to bankroll your start.

One thing panelists would do different if starting again now:

  • Hire staff earlier. One panelist tried to do too much. He wasn’t doing vital stuff because he was too busy working in the business.
  • One tip was to potentially offer an equity stake to good staff after a year or two.
  • One panellist suggested being a digital nomad.
  • Hire more people you really like working with.
  • Don’t stress out

Which 3 processes most important:

  • Don’t be too process focused too early – otherwise you can’t move quickly
  • Need to have processes to track your effectiveness – e.g. Validation of A/B Testing and Conversions
  • Processes need to come later on as you grow.
  • One panelist suggested when you get your second staff member you now need processes but you need to be flexible.
  • Allow everyone to change their processes if they’re broken.
  • All the panelists stressed the importance of good consistent project management. Base Camp and Trello were suggested tools
  • Project management important from the start

There was a question about finding angel investors while still pre-revenue:

  • Panelists suggested use customers as your angels.
  • If you can’t sell your product maybe there isn’t market.
  • If no one is investing maybe take a harder look at the idea
  • Got to be able to sell it.

Does anyone gain funding after proof of concept?

  • It was agreed by some panelists that you do hear of companies gaining funding in this way a lot.
  • It was suggested it’s still better to try to get customers to fund the idea.
  • Talk to customers find their pain point. Ideas from customers can be of varying value though.

Biggest challenge for the panelists?

  • Having total confidence in your product.
  • Suppliers being skeptical.
  • You need to talk about it like it’s your firstborn even if you don’t believe in it to begin with.

What do you tell people who don’t believe in you?

  • If you can’t push through that messaging you’re not going to make it
  • Prove your idea by getting a customer to pay you something for it.

Do startups need to look to Silicon Valley?

  • It helps to look at whats happening in a successful place.
  • US Market is huge in comparison to Asutralia.
  • The USA is an easy place to get to as an Australian.
  • Good Australian ex-pat community in Silicon Valley you can connect with.

Struggled with self belief?

  • All the panellists said yes!
  • Don’t wait till your ready. Just do it!

Was success a series of events or just one or two big things?

  • Panelist David Eastes said that for him it came down to two things:
    • Getting into good rankings with Google
    • Investing time and money into customers
  • Other good points:
    • Advertising waste of money. All money on word of mouth. Make them want to tell their friends
    • Do things that customers don’t expect – travel mugs, key ring bottle openers, etc.

There was a question about time management and commitment:

  • If you have an ability to work full time on your startup don’t waste it
  • Be sure to manage your heath and family time however
  • Put a high value on your time – $500 per hour for instance. Would you be doing a task if that’s how much your time was worth?

There was another question about quickly validating start up ideas:

  • Use the Lean Startup formula and customer validation.
  • If you can’t make something work, give up, move on.

How do you pitch your idea without losing IP?

  • NDAs are worthless and investors won’t sign.
  • Do your research on the person you’re pitching. Find out if they’re trustworthy. Have they invested in a competitor?
  • You’ve got to share your idea

Someone asked about the best methods of selling to your customers in the early days:

  • Direct mail. Get in front of them 3 times and they’ll remember you.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Advertising expensive hard to get good ROI
  • Conventional media has a lot of power in USA
  • Celebrity endorsement
  • YouTube

A question was asked about outsourcing an online app startup

  • The panelists thought it was important to hold Intellectual Property tight and not outsource your core team.
  • One panelist said your startup is broken if you can’t build it yourself

There was a question on how to keep momentum and enthusiasm

  • Find a problem someone will pay to fix
  • If you’re not naturally passionate about what you’re building there’s a problem
  • Keep a good balance. Recreation helps with inspiration. Get away from desk.

At what point should you become a company?

  • The panel was unanimous that you should be a company from day 1 of your startup.

The last question was on the difference between an entrepreneur and a “wantrepreneur”:

  • An entrepreneur doesn’t die wondering
  • An entrepreneur is constantly thinking about doing things better
  • An entrepreneur take risks
  • Get s*** done
  • Fail a lot

There was also a suggestion to check out the Dan Norris 7 Day Startup.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at The Pulse and will definitely be going again. It was great to meet a positive group of people trying to achieve success. I hope some of you find these notes useful.

Why I Will Never Fly Jetstar Again – A Case Study in Bad Customer Experience

My busy schedule over the past week has given me an interesting case study in customer experience. As a I’m hoping to one day be an entrepreneur I’ve been a keen student of business practice and theory. These days we don’t just talk about customer service, we talk about customer experience. How does it really feel as a customer to experience your product or service and how does that affect whether or not I buy again or recommend you to others. As noted in Forbes, ‘Customer Experience’ is today’s business benchmark.

In the past seven days, I’ve flown three different Australian airlines over four different flights. One flight was on Qantas, the next on Virgin Australia, and the last two on Jetstar. It’s been a good opportunity to compare and contrast the service offerings of the three. I didn’t get a chance to try Tiger Airlines, but then again I prefer my pilots be qualified to fly, so probably best that I didn’t.

Qantas still has it’s old fashioned approach to customer service. It’s good – a bit dull, but good. Everything works the way you expect although there is a big push towards self service everywhere.

Virgin Australia has a fresh innovative feel to it, but they do focus on good old fashioned face to face customer service. You can use fancy new mobile check ins and boarding passes, but they don’t make you feel guilty for using the traditional bag drop either.

However it’s Jetstar I really want to focus on as a real case study in a bad customer experience. The first thing you’ll notice when you book Jetstar is their deceptive marketing practices. They have been forced kicking and screaming to moderate some of these by the ACCC, however you will find that in practice the fare they advertise is not the fare you pay.

Fares advertised by Jetstar are advertised as “1 way carry on baggage only”. Carry on baggage is defined as 2 items total of 10kg. What they don’t spell out clearly(sure it’s in the fine print though) is that they can’t actually offer what they advertise. If everyone brings 2 items of carry on to a full flight, they simply cannot fit them on the plane. Not only that, because of the $25 standard extra fee for checked luggage, everyone will be trying to take 2 items of carry on. Therefore they go to extreme lengths to enforce the 10kg rule.

What they don’t advertise is that unless you book the checked luggage in advance, they will check your items with scales in the boarding lounge. It’s easy to have a suitcase well under 10kg. However what’s not so easy is to have a suitcase and backpack or another bag under 10kg. Most of us often carry 4-5kg in our back packs without even thinking about it. Most people on my flight were stung with this. Main bag only 5-6kg. Second small bag 4-5kg.

Now what would be a reasonable cost to check suitcase. The $25 standard checked fee would be good. But no. After baiting people to try their luck with carry on, they sting you $50 if one of your bags has to be checked from the gate lounge. A quick look at how many people they stung, tells you that this is a major profit strategy for Jetstar.

Plus, they won’t let you check your bags until precisely 2 hours before departure. Too bad if you do the right thing by being early and booking checked bags. It’s ok in Melbourne, there’s good facilities outside the secure zone. Too bad if you’re in Brisbane where there’s barely a coffee stand for your long wait to bag drop.

The bad customer service experience doesn’t stop once you’re through security. The terminals, bars and cafe’s in both Jetstar departure lounges were filthy, both times. Ok so maybe Jetstar doesn’t operate the the bars and cafes. However they do set the standards that companies are expected to work by in their terminals. The massive stacks of empty pizza boxes, piles of empty drink bottles and glasses, and food all over floor shows that they don’t care about their customer experience. I don’t expect polished gold leaf, but I do expect to be able to find somewhere to sit without having to move other people’s empty drinks out of my way and having to wipe down the table.


No professional commercial vehicles here!
No professional commercial vehicles here!

When you watch the tarmac prior to departure you see more of their cut price approach. Instead of professional looking well marked trucks, services are provided by a bunch of people who stuff waste into the back of a bodgy looking stationwagon with a cheap magnet stick on the side. Angry baggage handlers hand carry extra bags to the plane. Not a good look.

On board you’ll find the cabin crew are courteous but short. They combine the lack of formality of Virgin, with the lack of humour of Qantas. Overall it’s a bad end result. Even the food cart practice is worse. Instead of both people operating the cart from both sides like other airlines, one person operates the till(the main focus of Jetstar’s model) and only one person serves. The result is if you’re waiting to get a drink on the plane you’ll be left thirsty for a long time waiting.

So overall Jetstar gives a very poor customer service experience. I can complement them on one thing though. They do have a very good safety demonstration and briefing, particularly for exit row passengers, in comparison to Virgin and Qantas.

I would suggest only flying Jetstar if you only fly occasionally and they have the cheapest fare(after adding all the fees and surcharges). Be very careful and don’t believe the prices you see advertised. I would also suggest the following tips:

  • Be sure to weigh all bags before leaving home if you expect to use the “2 Carry-On bags, 10kg option”. If you’re anywhere close, I’d suggest book the $25 checked luggage option.
  • Don’t expect fast service on board – take your own food and drinks.
  • You can’t check bags until 2 hours of your flight time – find a bar outside the checked area if you can and wait.
  • Don’t bother with their mobile boarding pass option. It’s a joke and a waste of customer time.
  • Lower your expectations.

Hopefully Virgin Australia will show how discount air flight can be done with their recent acquisition of Tiger Airlines. It won’t be hard to top the service offered by Jetstar.

What would Jetstar have to do to win me back?

  • Clean up their act – get their food vendors to keep the place clean.
  • Just offer checked baggage standard. It makes the flight more comfortable for everyone if the occasional travellers aren’t struggling to get their bags into the overheads lockers.
  • Stop the silly restrictions – really how many people are going to be coming to the airport more than 2 hours before their flight? Is it really that big a problem to just accept it?
  • Get a Customer Experience consultant to advise on how they can improve their cabin and ground services to make it just “feel better”.