Friday, October 31, 2008

Memorable Journey (1/2)

Late summer 2008, a fun weekend of Ultimate Frisbee in Amsterdam is laying ahead and before that I arranged a job interview with a dear friend in Brussels. It has taken us about four months since our first -coincidental and driven by syncronicity- meeting far down at the Indian Ocean in Oman, during the 3rd SoL Global Forum to make that happen.

As I always do, being fond of public and rail transport, I take the train for such travels - much more relaxed travelling with time to sleep, read and talk. Getting the ticket for the distance from the German-Belgian border to Brussels (I own a German Railway Pass for unlimited travels) was rather time consuming and couldn't be done via internet (strange in times of globalization and web 2.0 solutions - I wondered;-().  I leave Leipzig early in the morning with an ICE (just recently the ones running between Leipzig and Frankfurt - where I was heading to catch the next connection - are not running due to problems with axles;-() with an approximate arrival time in Brussels around 2:35pm in the afternoon.

Even though we are a bit delayed on the route to Frankfurt everything works fine and the super-highspeed (compared to French TGV, that is rather slow travelling with a speed of around 300 km/h) to Cologne could be caught. Everything seems working flawlessly - like it should and probably most of time does. It is only the single events that come into the public and nobody talks about what is going like it should.

Cologne - second connection on the way - changing to the Thalys which is starting its way from Cologne to Paris via Brussels. Like the last time (it had been to a Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Brussels two years earlier) people are rushing, coaches are packed and litte space for luggage and the interior somehow looks worn (must be the heavy use of rail travellers;-)).

I enjoy the ride with the other folks on the train, which is a real multi-lingual, and multi-cultural conglomorate (English, French, Arabs, Turkish, German, you name it) and it was fun listening to all the different voices. Besides I was going to an interview, looking forward to two days of excellent Frisbee at ADAM (actually the most choice HAT Tournament I know Breakfast on Sunday is a MUST:-)).

Always curious about service and how customers are treated (everywhere I am a customer I play two roles: customer, observer (=mirror to service personal) I scan the overall situation and especially what could be made better to achieve an excetional service (which will attract future -presently potential- customers).

Due to the multi-lingual passengers the announcements have been in three languages (French, German, English) and there have two (?) conductors on board of the Thalys (German, French).

I am reading my books and let the landscape pass and then we arrive in Aachen - the border town before we move into Belgium. As the non rail traveller must know the electricity system changes from German Railway to Belgium Railway (the Thalys is multi-system capable which makes a great positive impact on the travelling time as locomotion changes are not necessary).

That shall be the first part of the story which will continue in part 2 following over the weekend and Aachen is where the troubles started (which eventually made it an unforgettable journey).

See you


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coffee - it can make a real difference

Have you challenged the café of your choice asking for permission eating some cake bought elsewhere and enjoying their coffee?

What would be the answer in most cases (if we would ask;-))?

"No, sorry that is not allowed. My boss could come back and I have no power to allow that."

What would be the harm for their business? There must be some hidden assumptions, as I can't see any bad impact (especially if it is a café focusing mainly on the coffee and not so much on the muffins, cakes, and such).

Meeting with a friend -coming back from a business trip- at Leipzig Central Station she bought some special cake ("Baumkuchen") at a bakery and then we looked for a nice place to have a coffee, a chat and eating the cake in the meanwhile. First choice on our search reacted like the one just mentioned:-(

Then couraged by this we asked at another one, The Coffee Culture (just opposite track 17), and guess what happened?

"Yes, sure. We don't mind on the contrary, you are very welcome. Come on in:-)"

So we did, enjoyed two hours talk, great coffee and atmosphere and one or the other great idea for the future (besides writing this short lines).

Small things will surely stick in your head and you talk about, tell others and so generate indirectly new customers for the place that has hosted you so generously.