Monday, December 12, 2011

Fernando Torres - any advance on a fiver?

I was in Kingston (upon-Thames that is, not Jamaica) on Saturday and I wandered past the Chelsea FC shop, where this very much amused me:I know he's been a great signing ... for Liverpool ... but surely he's worth a bit more than a fiver?

Friday, December 2, 2011

@virginmedia - 100k strong and growing!

Our social media customer care team have come a long way since December 2008 when I posted the first tweet from @virginmedia (or at least I did once we got the name off the user at the time!) ... in fact so far that they've just posted their 100,000th tweet:We're also on the cusp of 30k followers on Twitter (and we're also on Facebook) so why not give the team a follow and shout out if they can help at all?

Great work to Billy, Pete M, Sam, Michael, Pete S, Kyle, Ian, Dan, Sue and Shaun ... and for all the new joiners about to come on board and help us make it even better :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

George from the Bank

Spotify put a brilliant thing up on their Twitter feed today - a playlist mocking Nigerian scammers that they came up with based on song titles.

I thought I'd have a go at it myself, given how much of a Spotify addict I am, with my own tribute to Fonejacker's funniest character:The fact that it starts off with the cheesiest video of all time just adds to it for me. I even got an artist in there called 'Scam Artist'. Beat that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Best Halloween costume ever!

I loved this when I was sent it last week:Whilst I loved the drive thru, the bit at the petrol station is the funniest part of it. It does go on a bit though ...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tonight's QI

Here is a clip from tonight's episode of QI, which I saw being filmed earlier in the year:
I'll be avoiding it tonight and watching the 'XL' version tomorrow night, but no doubt people will let me know in the meantime if they spot me in the audience.

It was an excellent night and I really enjoyed it. I wonder how many times the phrase 'Michael Winner' makes the final cut though ...?

Monday, October 24, 2011

If Carlsberg made Sundays …

24 years of hurt. It's like how Manchester United fans felt when they first won the Premier League. More on them later though.

Yesterday was pretty much as good as it gets for a proud Kiwi who is also a Liverpool fan and likes comedy, so I thought I'd share it and see if anyone else can beat it for a day.

I was up bright and early, fished out my All Black jersey and was glued to the sofa to watch us play the French in the World Cup final.

I’ve never been the world's biggest rugby fan but 15 years away from New Zealand has certainly made me more interested in how the All Blacks do as a proud Kiwi and I was even finding myself singing along to the words of the dreary dirge that is our national anthem God Defend New Zealand (not the Maori words though, sadly we were never taught those when I was at school) and cheered a particularly good All Black Haka – although I was disappointed that the ABs didn't do the iconic Ka Mate.

There followed 80 minutes of nerves as we were – frankly – out-played by the French and every Australian I know started texting and tweeting me messages about choking (naturally I usually retort when this happens with an Ashes-related jibe or mention the underarm incident – incidentally a distant relative of my Mum's was the batsman who faced it), but as the best team in the tournament and the only unbeaten one we definitely deserved to win. The hall carpet's a bit worn today though!

As Sean Fitzpatrick always says 35 times in every sentence on TV, all credit to the lads. Skippered by Richie McCaw they finally ended our hoodoo:
[Image from Getty Images / The Guardian - hope they don't mind me using it!]

Speaking of the TV coverage, wasn't the commentary awful? (in my own personal opinion of course!) It was summed up in the final for me when the ITV commentator said that McCaw was "the closest thing to royalty in New Zealand". Apart from the Queen (as head of state). Oh, and the Maori King of course. What nonsense!

Have heard plenty of stories of partying from friends and family, which is quite impressive given that the country shuts down at 8pm daily and the game didn’t finish until almost 11pm on a Sunday night.

But the day just got better. Liverpool played really well on Saturday so I was disappointed with a draw even if I did have Craig Bellamy as first goal scorer, but Sunday's football was as good as it gets.

I sat down in front of the TV to watch the Manchester Derby once my nerves had recovered from the rugby, and accordingly spent most of the next 90 minutes laughing heartily at the screen as Manchester United had a player sent off and shipped 6 goals to City at home, who you'd have to fancy to win the league now.

Even funnier than the United fans emptying the ground before the game was over (to be fair it's a long way back to Bournemouth and Bangkok on a Sunday afternoon) was the look on Gary Neville's face on TV afterwards:

Genius! Can't think of a more deserving man.

Chelsea having 2 players sent off and losing at QPR added to the comedy factor that could only have been bettered if Fernando Torres was one of them.

Once that was over it was time to head into town, meet my oldest mate Russ for a brilliant curry and then off to see Reginald D Hunter live at standup comedy, and he was really very, very funny indeed.

Can you beat that for a day?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Air New Zealand's marketing genius

Well we did it! France were definitely the best team in the final but somehow New Zealand won the World Cup in Auckland this morning, which is fair enough to the best team in the tournament - as we clearly were.

Given that the game finished just before 11pm on a Sunday night New Zealand time, hopefully the national tradition of the 8pm shutdown didn't happen and people could get out to celebrate all over the country!

I was very impressed by a cunning piece of marketing (which was clearly pre-prepared) that I had sent to me less than an hour after the final whistle by Air New Zealand (I'm on their mailing list having previously flown with them):Very clever indeed, Air NZ! It's not the first time they've jumped on the rugby bandwaggon though ...

Friday, October 14, 2011

My kind of wordcloud

Some people seem to think that wordclouds are becoming a bit passé, but personally I still like them and think they're a great way of displaying a lot of text in an easily digestible way that pulls the trends about what the text contains really well.

I was reviewing some recent (from the last few weeks) feedback from customers yesterday about our Digital Home Support service (more info on that here) which goes down really well with our customers that take advantage of it, and I thought I'd share the feedback of several hundred of them summarised as per below:
It certainly brightened up my day :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beer or kebab? How about both?

I actually like lots of things about working for a Virgin company, and yes I'll freely admit I'm biased.

One of the things I do appreciate is the challenging convention, doing things differently and not taking ourselves too seriously - hence I laughed when a colleague sent on this image this afternoon of some of the regional advertising we've done in Southampton to support the area's cable network expansion:Click on it for a larger image ... I'm sure it will make you smile. Very amusing indeed :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

*The* social media strategy tool

I loved this site I was sent the link to overnight:
Apart from the rude words (apologies for those) there's some genius efforts that I must try and put into a PowerPoint deck one day to see if anyone spots them :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Watch out, Spider!

There’s a very funny thread happening over on our forums at present – with this being a moment of comedy genius from a customer:
"... when I held the reset button it didn't go back to factory settings, I even was face to face with a huge spider when I had to press the reset button and I should claim compensation because it scared the hell outa me."
Maybe we should send him a free video on demand movie of Spiderman :)

Just thought I’d share. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A new environment for the tweam

I'm still settling back in post a trip to Australia and New Zealand (which was great), but it's clear while I've been away that things have been busy with our social media customer service team (or 'tweam' as we call them, a hangover from the day when they were known as the 'Twitter Tweam') moving into a new area in our Manchester offices and I think it looks just great (and can't wait to visit again soon):

We've grown the team this year as we've taken on Facebook (well, only in that we're now offering customer service via it - we're not challenging them or anything) and more people engage with us online, so I hope the new environment is going down well with Kyle, Mike, Billy, the 2 Petes, Ian, Sam, Sue and Dan and I'll see you soon guys!

As each visit costs me a box of donuts I have to save up :)

You can find us on Twitter @virginmedia and on Facebook at

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sydney Monorail

I'm in Sydney on leave after attending a conference and was highly amused to see the Simpsons-like Monorail, which I can tell from speaking to the locals they're not overly keen on.

I thought I'd upload a video of it ...

... and when I went on a lap of it there was a load of purple velour wearing people there too, which just added to the kitschness of it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Virgin Media Digital Customer Care

Find attached a Slideshare of presentation I am doing next week for the Web 3.0 and The Future of Social Media conference about the Virgin Media story in terms of Digital Customer Care - what we've learnt and our future:
I look forward to the event!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Facebook tattoo a hoax

Oh, looks like I've been victim to a good publicity stunt ... well at least I'm not the only one ...
More detail here. I wonder if someone will be going out and doing it for real now though?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The social media tattoo

I'm a bit of a fan of tattoos - I have a few myself - and I'm also a big fan of social media.

However, I'm not sure I'd go as far as this in having my Facebook friends tattooed on me:

As my cousin rightly asked herself (on Facebook naturally), what do you do when you want to cull someone? The other question is obvious though as to what to do when someone changes their profile pic ... you hack into their account and change it back!*

* Not really, of course

Update 12/06 - It's a hoax!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Link this up to your Facebook account

I got sent a brilliant link today to one of the best social media things I have seen for some time, Intel's Museum of Me application, which links into your Facebook account (with your permission of course):I'd highly recommend giving it a go - and it's worth doing so with full sound, I was just blown away myself.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wired UK review of our Twitter 'Tweam'

Some really good news about our great Twitter 'Tweam' at @virginmedia.

In the WiredUK podcast from April 21 (approx 16 minutes in) the site's editor (and a Virgin Media customer) Nate Lanxon gives our guys a really good review about a response to his enquiry being received within 20 minutes of him posing a query.

Nate also thinks that this is what all companies should do. I'll admit to being biased but I do agree!

The podcast can be found here and thanks for taking the time to feed that back Nate :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shiver me Timbers

As part of the day job I get to read a lot of comments from customers - and have developed a keen eye for the natural comedians that brighten up my day when I come across their feedback.

One of the best recent examples of a humorous interaction was the exchange I saw this week between a customer and Billy from our Twitter 'Tweam':


My landline is down and my iphone is being repaired, no one else in the house til tonight so I can't make any calls

please help!


Good day Me Heartie,

Looking into your telephone issue it isn't something that's affecting your area, so we're going to have to look a bit deeper. Could I ask if you've tried using a telephone? If you haven't is there anyway you could give that a whirl, I don't want to be wasting your time with a technician visit if it's not needed.

Look forward to hearing you soon cap'n =)


Yo Ho Billy, I hoisted up a sail on the ARRRRRRRRR virgin media support forum, so I did, so I did.

A buccaneer by the name of Ray has signaled a privateer to come aboard on the 6th day, heres hoping he fixes me magic talky box.

Not only was the whole exchange very funny, Billy from the 'Tweam' and Ray from the forum team did a great job to resolve the problem and we have a happy customer!

On that note, I'm off to Ticketmaster to buy a pair of tickets for Billy's standup debut.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beautiful British Name

I’ve been on a bit of a comedy binge (insert gag here of your choice about my career) over the last year or so, having seen Frankie Boyle, Dara O’Briain, Russell Brand and Al Murray live amongst others, and really enjoyed most of them (although I was disappointed by Frankie, who had very little fresh material).

A couple of weekends ago I had a total comedy binge, seeing John Bishop in Bournemouth on the Saturday and Al Murray (again) on the Sunday in a really compact venue at the Hammersmith Lyric in London.

What a cracking weekend it was!

Despite the venue being a bit odd (it’s usually a conference centre) and the staff being over attentive with their continuous announcements over the PA system in Bournemouth it was a really enjoyable night.

The best bit was the hecklers, who tended to be from the Liverpool or Manchester area and he dealt with them really well. I thought one of the put downs he used was hilarious:

John: Where are you from?
Heckler: Wythenshawe!
John: Wythenshawe? It’s like what it would be if the cast of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ settled down somewhere!

Not very politically correct, but very funny!

Sunday was Al Murray, headlining an event that had a few other comedians. Al, as you may know, is legendary for picking on people in the audience – and thankfully we were safe as we were in row G. Phew!

Or so I thought. The front row was row F. Here’s how far away Al wasn’t:

Now I’m aware I’m a reasonably conspicuous person (and wearing a T-Shirt that just said ‘pancakes’ on it doesn’t help much), so we started preparing our stories for when he asked us what we do.

Al: What do you do Alex?
Me: I work for Richard Branson.
Al: What do you do, do you blow up the balloons?
*Much laughter*
Me: I work in customer experience for Virgin Media
Al: Any Virgin customers here, anyone got any problems? Alex can sort them out for you!

Well, that was nice of him wasn’t it? Thankfully the responses were amusing and just to wind me up, as I didn’t have any business cards on me!

Of the three of us only one other got picked on, with her saying she was an “office manager” … which Al summarised as being “oh, you’re a cleaner then aren’t you?”

It was another really good night and a great weekend of comedy, and I even got a tweet back from Al when I said I’d enjoyed having the mickey taken out of me!

Being in a much smaller venue that was a lot more intimate than when I last saw him (at the Hammersmith Apollo) really made it a much more enjoyable night with the Pub Landlord – not that it wasn’t great first time!

I’ve now seen enough comedians live that I thought it was time I ranked them on the basis of enjoyment and how much I laughed:
  1. Al Murray
  2. John Bishop
  3. Dara O’Briain
  4. Billy Connolly
  5. Russell Brand
  6. Frankie Boyle
Who’s the best you’ve seen in the flesh?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Twen Commandments

I've been pondering recently the things on Twitter that wind me up, but, more importantly, what works well in use of it as a medium and I thought I'd share my 'rules of Twitter' or my Twen Commandments if you like - as I tweeted them earlier today.
  1. Anyone using deckly or similar such services breaks the spirit of Twitter and will get unfollowed!
  2. Any applications that tweet 'as' you (or DM you unsolicitedly) without your knowledge are evil.
  3. Don't RT any feeds that ask you to do to win something. You taint their brand and make you look like a spammer.
  4. Never beg for followers. It makes you look like a sad act.
  5. 'Celebs' who don't engage with their followers by replying to them are vacuous and should be ignored/unfollowed.
  6. Any brand not on there and not responding to tweets both to and about them doesn't care and has no clue.
  7. Be patient with newbies. They keep it fresh and relevant as a medium and drive innovation.
  8. 'Humorous' news related parody feeds that live for anything more than 4 weeks is flogging a dead horse.
  9. People who only ever tweet when they are trying to promote something (PR etc) must be unfollowed immediately.
  10. Finish lists like this when the material naturally ends, rather than rounding it up to a landmark number.
Had to add the last one as a homage to social media 'news' sites that endless post dull lists of even duller things (am sure many will know who I mean!) but thought I'd share generally.

My personal opinion and all that of course ...

Michael Jackson statue

I turned down a ticket to see Fulham v Blackpool at Craven Cottage today - and in doing so I've missed the best thing ever, the Michael Jackson statue unveiled by Mohammed Fayed.
Picture credit from Twitter user @zulfikaralex

See some more pictures of it here on the Mirror website - you must have a look!

Fayed saying that anyone who doesn't like it can "go to hell" is a bit harsh though and I thought his comments were off the wall.

The match itself is set to be a thriller.

OK, I'll stop now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Got to love our customers!

As part of the day job recently I've been reading lots of comments customers give us, and I particularly enjoyed a gem a colleague came across this morning:
It was refreshing when I got a call from your customer services recommending I would benefit by changing my phone package to free anytime calls, (My WIFE doesn't understand "Off peak" or "Keep it brief"). Good job she’s gorgeous. Anyway, looks like my bill next month will be smaller. Thanks.
That made me laugh out loud heartily. Good work!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thirty years of revenge

This month marks 30 years since the personal computing revolution really kicked off with the launch of this computer, the ZX81:
Some would say it's a sign of old age that I remember it well (I would counter this with the fact that it is still only 1987 in New Zealand, where I am from!), and more so when my best friend got one of its successors, the Spectrum.

Software was stored on audio cassettes and hence you got to hear lots of machine noises when you loaded a game, much the same as you also heard when using dial-up Internet access – which we got a bit later after my brother got a Commodore 64 for (I presume) his birthday one year:Software was also loaded on cassettes, and these were the days when computer magazines published all the code to games – I well remember Jason (my brother) and I doing shifts around the clock to type games in, and of one game in particular that we were very excited by at the time called Richthofen's Revenge (that you can still play in a C64 emulator here).There always seemed to be typos in the magazines and you had to wait the next month's issue of it for the corrections so that you could actually complete and play the game – which was a very frustrating wait for the Brown sons who were very keen to have a go in the meantime!

Interestingly some of these retro machines are now worth a fortune to collectors on the likes of eBay. Our Commodore 64 was last seen acting as a door stop to the hall cupboard and being chewed on by our dog at the time.

And it was the last time I wrote decent software!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Twitter customer service podcast

I recorded a podcast a couple of weeks ago largely about our experience with customer service on Twitter with Callum from Stopgap Marketing that I thought I'd provide a link to if anyone is interested in a listen. It can be found here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

That Mitchell Johnson, his sledging is *****

One of the funniest things from the Ashes series win was the Mitchell Johnson song that the Barmy Army came up with, which goes something like this:
He bowls it to the left,
He bowls it to the r-i-i-i-i-ight,
That Mitchell Johnson,
His bowling is *****
Am sure you can guess what the word starred out it is, it rhymes.

His sledging is no better given by this YouTube video sent to me by a colleague yesterday:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quake 2011

For all of us Kiwis it's been a shocking week, when 102 (so far) people have been confirmed as having been killed in the Christchurch earthquake, and so many places that I know so well have been destroyed (as I've seen on TV).

Having heard of people close to those I know being killed, I've been relieved that nobody I know of has been anything other than spooked (including friends and family of the Kiwis I work with), although from catching up with my folks it does sound like some family have had very serious property damage.

My best friend growing up Bernie posted some shocking pictures of the previous 'quake in Christchurch and has put up a blog of his experience this week. I'm just glad both he and his family are OK, and am thinking of those who have not been so lucky. Hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with him when I'm back in New Zealand later this year.

My thoughts and best wishes are with everyone affected.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mystery Twopping

I'm a great believer that one of the best ways to find out how you are as a business in your customer's eyes is to experience it as a customer yourself, via the mechanism of mystery shopping. I did a whole bunch of it a while back to check out how our TV packages were being explained to new customers (good results by the way), and have been involved in another example of it over the last couple of weeks.

Previously (well, a number of times) I've mentioned our brilliant Twitter 'Tweam' – Michael, Billy, Sam & Pete – who are based out of Manchester and help out customers reporting problems via Twitter both reactively (those talking 'to' Virgin Media) and proactively (those talking 'about' us – but not to us direct), resolving any problems they have and delivering a brilliant customer experience.

I could blog some great examples all day, but below is just one comment from a really appreciative customer recently:A month or so ago a customer Tweeted about (i.e. not to us direct) Virgin Media on Twitter, reporting she had a problem that she'd had trouble resolving. Sam from the 'Tweam' stepped in and picked it up, got on the case and fed back to the internal IVR team some ideas on service improvements as a result of it – as well as keeping the customer up to date every step of the way.

What she didn’t know was who the customer was – the Chief Marketing Officer of Satmetrix, the company we set up our Net Promoter® programme with.

I had a contact from her (Deb Eastman) subsequently (you can follow her on Twitter here if you're interested) about her experience, and it's true to say she was very impressed. Not only did she tell me in some depth how good the experience was, she also asked a whole bunch of questions so she could tell everyone attending their annual NPS conference in Miami a few weeks ago :)

If you're interested you can find more detail on what was said via the conference blog of one of the delegates and also from Deb's blog – but either way it's great recognition for one of the many fabulous teams we have internally and well done guys.

And no, this isn't an attempt to get out of buying the donuts I've promised to get for the 'Tweam' next time I'm up to see them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Superhub Update

There have been many comments to the blog I put up last year about our new Superhub devices, which customers on higher broadband speeds are now installed with - the devices being a 'gateway' that replaces the separate modems and routers from before with a single device.

One of the most common feature requests has been for the ability to use the Superhub as just a modem and for customers to be able to use their own router for those who wish to. This is known as 'bridge' mode, and there is an update on how we are getting on with this (along with some trial details) here.

We have also setup another thread on the help & support forums to capture any other ideas for future Superhub development. This can be found here, and we'd appreciate any ideas and thoughts being submitted to this that thread so we can keep them all in one place.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to speak New Zillund

I'm chuckling away at this in the office today (click on image for a larger version):Blimey - do I really sound like that?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Truly the King

Loved the effort from Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish in his press conference this morning in taking the mickey out of the Sky reporter after the sexism story of the last few days:
Still the King!

Friday, January 7, 2011


What do you call an Australian with a century?
A bowler.

I’ve always loved cricket since my Dad took me to the Basin Reserve (the world’s biggest traffic island) in Wellington to see NZ play England in 1984, and as a proud Kiwi I support two teams, as this T-Shirt puts it so well:So it’s no surprise who I’ve been supporting in the long nights I’ve sat up over the last few weeks watching the Aussies take beating after beating in the Ashes, laughing heartily at Ricky Ponting’s antics (almost as much as I did at his dismissals) and cheering England on all the way through.

What has been as funny is to see the reaction of the (normally – see a particularly poorly judged recent example here) crowing Australian press:Couldn’t happen to a nicer country eh?

England played so well and really gave the Aussies a kicking most of the way through (well other than at Perth and for a day at Brisbane) on their own turf, and were so entertaining to watch along the way – in the end it was a great way to use up the remainder of my leave from last year.

I expect I might have lost a few Twitter followers though over the month of December, as maybe I did go on about it a little bit:Either way I can’t wait for the next series in 2013, which seems like too far away already – although 2.5 years of winding up Aussies will no doubt fly by.

Bring on the world cup … oh, and the NZ vs Pakistan series which started last night. There goes another weekend of trying to sort out the body clock!