Random thoughts about nothing

ASB Bank (Update)

, posted: 10-Dec-2012 20:49

After the previous excellent experiences with ASB (see blog post ASB Bank - One Step Ahead in Creating the Future), this is just a very quick update to say that I have joined ASB. It's not a full shift but an account has been opened, and the service provided by all ASB call centre, branch, and online staff continues to range from perfectly adequate to bloody amazing.

Why do I feel compelled to post a blog update simply to say I've joined ASB?

I was accused of wasting people's time by posting about the excellent experiences I had with ASB when I hadn't actually joined the bank. As I said at the time, switching banks isn't exactly like switching brands of toothpaste. There are all sorts of factors that make it difficult to switch banks.

Anyway, here's to a long-lasting happy relationship with ASB Bank. It's certainly been a hell of a lot more enjoyable than my recent dealings with extremely smug, arrogant, and annoying ANZ Bank staff. I don't ever remember them being this rude under the National Bank brand.

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ASB Bank - One Step Ahead in Creating the Future

, posted: 31-Oct-2012 12:18

Banking is on the minds of a lot of people at the moment, with the imminent death of a popular banking brand being announced recently. It has been on my mind a little longer than that though, as a major Kiwibank campaign encoruaged us to challenge stupid rules. As a Kiwibank customer, some very stupid rules come to mind, such as charging customers to self-service automatic payments, as well as the recent introduction of a $5 fee to establish Direct Debits. Stupid indeed, and definitely necessary of challenging. Not that Kiwibank is listening though.

I've already previously blogged about how AWESOME I have found ASB Bank. Note that I have not been paid to say anything, nor am I a current customer (although I have had accounts previously). In the interests of full disclosure I will admit that ASB did once send me a Kashin Money Bank as well as some M&Ms when they launched their iOS app (and thanks for that!).

So while on a long distance drive on Sunday night I thought I'd kill some time and phone the ASB Call Centre to discuss whether they would have any suitable accounts for me. The representative I spoke to was highly knowledgeable, and suggested a perfect set of accounts that would fulfil the requirements which I had set out. Amazing.

There was one further question that occured to me later, and while I would not expect my bank to offer Twitter support at 10pm on a Sunday night, that's exactly what happened. The well initialled ^SM responded in a timely fashion, and while unable to offer a complete answer, at least didn't just make something up to keep me happy!

Let me just say here that if I had not received an answer on Sunday night I would not have been "disappointed". Replies at such times go well above and beyond the call of duty, and I would not expect every query I make to the ASB social media team at all hours to be answered immediately.

^SM later suggested that I take a look at Experience ASB website, which I had been meaning to do for some time anyway. Starting out with the HTML5 support (say no to Flash, kids), the site was very impressive, with well crafted and informative videos and explainations. I already knew about the ASB FaceBook Tellers (when they opened up, I popped in just to say "hi" and the teller was super friendly and happy to say "hi" back), but what I never realised was that ASB is at least One Step Ahead when it comes to making payments to other people.

What I learned (this will not be news to savvy ASB customers), is that not only can you make bank transfers to any account in NZ that you have the account number for, you can also transfer money to anyone simply with their mobile number or their email address! While the process is well streamlined by ASB, it did take me a while to get my head around it, and assure myself of its safety and security. Turns out that it's so simple, it's genius!

An ASB Bank customer can simply direct a transfer to go to any mobile number or email in NZ. The recipient receives a TXT or email from ASB, telling them that they have received a transfer, along with a transfer code eg. ABCDEF. All the recipient needs to do, is log into www.asb.co.nz/collect and enter some very basic details (no need to sign up for an account or anything like that) to receive their money.

johnr (vote for him in the Kordia IT Superhero awards) kindly agreed to give me some money in order to test this service, and even upgraded me from the $0.01 requested to a coffee shout (cheers John!). The TXT came through immediately, and all I needed to do was to visit the ASB Collect site, enter: (1) The transfer code, (2) The mobile number I received the payment TXT on, (3) My own bank account number; and the process was completed. Once again - no need to register an account with ASB or anything silly like that.

This is truly brilliant, and really inspires confidence that ASB is serious about improving banking services for their customers. It can be a bit of a hassle to switch banks, but everyone has a tipping point at which the pros outweigh the cons. If that moment comes for me, ASB would certainly be my front runner (pun not intended but certainly apt).

Movie Review: Chronicle

, posted: 14-Oct-2012 13:07

Guest review by anonymous internet correspondent.


Saw one of the worst movies I've ever seen last night. Chronicle.

Avoid it like the plague.

It also shows me that IMDB can't be trusted. This turd was rated 7.6. The plot was dire, the actors were horrible people, special effects sucked and the very end had a douchebag American going YEEEEEAAAAAHAWWWWWW!!!! outside a Tibetan temple like a c**t. At least the best part quickl followed. The credits.

Does Video Ezy honour the CGA? It cost a dollar for 3 days, but I feel I should be billing them for every day it's in my possession.

This was the Extended Edition Blu-ray which offered the choice between the Theatrical version and the '9 minutes of extra torture' version.

I choose to watch the Theatrical version. It was the only right choice I made that night...

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The Telecom Treats Ultimate All Blacks Experience

, posted: 17-Sep-2012 15:23

On Saturday night the All Blacks played their first ever Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, and I was one of several hundred guests that were hosted by Telecom NZ as a "Telecom Treat". The proposed aim was to deliver to us the "Ultimate All Blacks experience" through practical usage of technology on "The Smartphone Network". The experience started with an email providing personalised access to a Web app which contained a welcome video filmed by the All Blacks, explaining the basics behind how the invitee's smartphone would be the cornerstone of the experience.

The Web app contained an electronic ticket to the match, allowing for entry via barcode scanning at the special Telecom gate. Forsyth Barr Stadium has barcode scanners at their entry gates, but apparently these are not in usage, which meant Telecom crew at the ground needed to manually scan guests in at the designated Telecom gate. One of the Telecom hosts was having trouble with her scanner, which meant we needed to be manually signed in - despite best efforts, technology seems to have a knack of failing just at the most inopportune time. Checking guests in probably served a secondary purpose, and that was to indicate to the catering team when food could be delivered to patrons.

As part of the Telecom Treats experience, guests had been invited to order food which would be delivered directly to their seat. The only down side was that food needed to be pre-ordered before the match day, but it was bloody marvellous not having to queue for food, knowing that piping hot food and appropriately chilled drinks would be delivered by the wonderful Telecom team . It was very much like an experience from the future where we might be able to indeed order food and drinks from the comfort of our seats, all from our smartphones.

Telecom organised for a WiFi hotspot to be available to their guests, and logging into the network was simple and worked well despite the possibility of several hundred devices connecting simultaneously. Twitter loaded well, as did webpages, and uploading photos was smooth. The main purpose of providing the hotspot was to allow guests to connect to the Live Commentary which Telecom had arranged in conjunction with Radio Sport. On my iOS device, this required me to download a small app from the App Store, but after this small inconvenience I was up and running with the commentary. Telecom even provided guests with a pair of earphones for this purpose.

Unfortunately due to the nature of internet radio, the commentary ran several seconds behind the match unfolding in front of us. At the start of the game there were many people seeking assistance from the Telecom hosts to get this commentary set up on their phones, but by the middle of the first half I noted that most (including myself) had taken out the earphones from their ears. It was a great idea but unfortunately didn’t work out in practice. Live radio wouldn’t have suffered from the same problem, but the theme of the evening was to enhance the experience with smartphones. Many android devices do have an FM receiver, but in Dunedin sport commentaries are provided on the AM network only.

There were some additional nice touches like hand/finger warmers being provided in the “goodie bag” provided to all guests. The purpose of these was to ensure fingers were in a fit state for heavy smartphone usage, but under cover at Forsyth Barr Stadium I was sufficiently shielded from the elements. A Telecom seat cushion and binoculars completed the goodie bag.

All in all the sizeable Telecom Treats group appeared to have an enjoyable experience despite a few hiccups with food orders due to people being moved from originally allocated seats due to an allocation problem (think shifting seats on an airplane when a meal is about to be served). Aside from the rugby game, it was nice of Telecom to try to enhance the experience via thoughtful use of technology. Some things worked better than others, but the efforts were certainly appreciated by those that attended.

Thanks again to Telecom for their kind invitation. It might not have fully lived up to "The Ultimate All Blacks Experience", but it was definitely something I took away fond memories from, and I look forward to future innovations when it comes to sporting fixtures and events.

Smartphone Network Aims to Deliver Ultimate All Blacks Experience

, posted: 13-Sep-2012 19:49

An awesome surprise landed in my inbox yesterday. The wonderful people on the Telecom Online Response Team arranged a personal invitation for me to attend the very first All Blacks test at the glorious Forsyth Barr Stadium. But this was not just any invitation. As I read the email (and pinched myself repeated), I realised that Telecom was aiming to deliver a unique experience enhanced by the use of smartphones.

A special web app has been developed by the Telecom Treats team, which is used to retrieve an electronic match ticket, is a portal to All Blacks news, offers General information such as ways to get to the ground (excellent for visitors to Dunedin), as well as a way to order food and drinks which can be delivered straight to your seat so that you don't have to miss a moment of the action!

Speaking of the food and drink - Telecom is even shouting me a free feed and a drink so that I can try the service out! It's a shame that food and drink needs to be pre-ordered days before the actual game, but even so, this is a glimpse into a near future where such a service will be able to be provided in real-time by stadia.

Telecom have even arranged for WiFi access to their guests on the night - something I have recently advocated for on Twitter as a way for sporting events to be more "social".

I'll be reporting after the weekend on the experiences on Saturday night - I'm pretty excited not only at the prospect of seeing the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium for the first time, but also the opportunity to see how Telecom can enhance the event with smartphone technology.

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