Hi Tech Monday : Customers Are Social Too

I’m making another change to the 7kindsofmind this week, I’m introducing Hi Tech Mondays – I may be talking about my newest app obsession or something on social media that caught my eye. If it’s techy, it’s Monday.

So this week I’m interested in the ways in which customers use social media to communicate with businesses. The relative new-ness of social media as a method of formal communication means that the relationship between businesses and consumers is ever evolving. The idea that every user can have an equal voice means that well-known figures as well as the everyman get to have their say, and as such businesses can be built upon word of mouth, but this time it’s the entire world having a conversation. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin, as a customer trying to work out why it takes 7 months for a Scottish brewery to deliver my brother’s Christmas present (and when I say Christmas, I’m talking about 2012. Seriously. Those guys are useless.), or as a representative of my employer sometimes replying to Twitter questions. This has been a fairly new thing, but it means that we can still answer people’s questions about our theatre and our hardworking Marketing Officer can actually enjoy her weekend.

I have always been interested in keeping up with what is being said about my employers, whether it’s their Facebook page or Twitter account, just to see what kind of feedback our company gets. It’s nice to know if you’re doing your job properly. These are not always positive comments, sometimes people expect the impossible or are simply having a bad day, where any slight inconvenience feels like the end of the world. Sadly, I do not control the weather in an open air venue or create a new product on the spot that will fit one person’s very specific requirements. I’ll definitely do my best. Yes, a person is more likely to speak up if they are dissatisfied by an experience, but that doesn’t mean that it is all bad.

When you work in customer service, there is nothing more rewarding than a person making a point of thanking you for the assistance that you provided, it really makes my day. Which is why I strive to be good at my job – if my customers are happy, then I’m happy. The mind boggles as to why people put no effort into their work and then complain that they receive very little in return. A positive attitude is key. There have been times when, reading a Twitter feed or Facebook comments, I have recognised the person discussing their experience and felt that their enjoyment of a performance is a credit to the many people across all departments working hard every day to make sure they have a good night out. That is the whole point, after all.

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Sunday Cook Off : Homemade Pizza With Pancetta and Grilled Vegetables

Inordinately proud

Inordinately proud

This week I decided to put to use the breadmaker that has been sat in my cupboard collecting dust ever since I inherited it from my mother’s clean out. So, baby steps, I decided to make some pizza dough – not too time consuming or complicated, not to mention incredibly tasty.

I know there are recipes out there for making your own pizza dough by hand, but I’ve yet to try any so I won’t recommend a specific one. I’m sure that Google can help you there.

As a complete novice I wasn’t exactly sure of the procedure of how to manage the dough once it’s ready, other than what I’ve seen on ‘I Love Lucy’. So I squidged the dough out into a roughly circular shape to the size that I wanted my pizza to be, and then pinched in the edges to create a bit of a crust. In hindsight, I could have squidged a lot more and still would have been left with a (much larger) deep dish but hey, that’s what experimentation is for! One tip I did make use of was adding polenta instead of flour to shape my dough to give it the gritty kind of texture that I love in the classic takeaway.

For the toppings I spread some tomato puree over the dough and add some grilled up pancetta and mixed vegetables – namely red onion, sweet pepper and tomatoes – then added in a quite frankly excessive amount of mozzarella and mascarpone. It’s a weakness. I’m getting help.

Then I put it onto a flat baking tray and left it in an oven preheated to about 180* for around 15 minutes. Each oven is different and everyone prefers their pizza to taste a certain way, so just keep checking on it until you think it’s ready and then tuck in.

 

This week’s cook off wasn’t particularly scientific or accurate, but boy was it successful (and tasty!), so why not try a bit of experimentation once in while? Life is so much more exciting that way.

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Saturday Potluck : Late To The Luminite Party

I may be incredibly late to the party, but when you work every evening you miss all the good TV, which is why iPlayer, YouTube and 4od are my friends.

These guys have progressed through the auditions and semi finals of the UK’s Saturday night manufactured monolith, Britain’s Got Talent, and will aim to beat some shadow dancers who exploit everyone’s natural emotions this Saturday in the final. Even if they don’t win, which is likely as everyone seems to be enamoured by Attraction, the aforementioned silhouette people, Luminites appear to have a successful career ahead of them. I’m borderline obsessed with their audition rendition of Millie Jackson/Susan Cadogan’s song ‘Hurts So Good’, to the point where I need to force myself to step away from YouTube. The beautifully harmonised vocals and skilled beat boxing aside, it is the group’s pure charisma instantly that makes me want to buy their album. So if Simon Cowell could snap them up quickly after their 2nd place finish and get on that, that would be great. Dancing silhouettes will entertain the Queen, but Luminites are destined for far greater things.

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Fame On A Friday : Further Proof That Will Smith Is A Gift To Interviews

Will Smith never fails to deliver memorable and entertaining interviews, while some people trot out the same anecdotes in a desperate attempt to seem interesting, he seems to have the natural knack for making a person feel that they have experienced something unique. This week was no exception, as he joined Graham Norton with his son, Jaden, and reunited with his ‘Fresh Prince’ cohorts to create a TV moment that is enough to make a pop culture buff’s head explode.

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Thursday Me Time : Finally! Some Office Experience!

This week I officially started a new job, I’ve been training for the last few weeks while juggling it with my other job at a West End theatre. But this week I dropped down to casual contract there to start a part-time contract in the box office at a different theatre, in which I have worked before. It’s a seasonal venue, so year round contracts are a no go, but after last year I knew that I wanted to return if I hadn’t managed to get a career-making job by the time of their interviews. So I’ve progressed from ripping tickets to selling them, and into what I hope recruiters will see as an admin position.

My main obstacle to a steady job and start to my career has been a lack of solid office experience. Never mind that I know absolutely that I can do it, that my incredibly techy family means that I understand computers, that I’ve been known to solve quite a few problems with photocopiers before, that I know how to co-ordinate and book itineraries. No. Apparently I need to have worked in an office for 3 years to even stand a chance of gaining an entry level position. Fine. But now I’m in the vicious circle of needing experience to get experience. Which is where my new job comes in.

So I’m hoping that the considerably more office-y nature of the role will finally prove to potential employers that I am not a risk, but that I am a competent and passionate worker and worthy of the trust that is placed in a new employee.

Maybe they’re reading this, in which case, please know that I apply for jobs because I know that I can do them and am excited by the prospect of making a difference within a company. So why not let me?

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Wednesday’s Got Issues : Angelina Jolie is Living Up to Her Name

Today’s post can only be about Angelina Jolie’s decision to speak about her double mastectomy. The statement has met with widespread admiration and support, and has inspired others in the spotlight, such as Barbara Walters, to come forward about their own decisions to prevent cancer through elective surgery. Who knows quite how many people will choose to take the test to determine their genetic susceptibility to cancer now that the issue is being more widely spoken of.
The addition of Jolie’s status as a sex symbol adds a whole new dimension to the story, as a woman known so often thought of as an object has chosen to alter what is arguably her most bankable asset for the sake of herself and her family. Jolie’s reputation as a de facto angel can only increase after this move, and hopefully it will help to change the perception of women as a body to be scrutinised. If women who would previously have been hesitant to consider such a radical treatment, due to the stigma associated with female perfection, can now see the infinite benefits that come with knowing that your chances of cancer are significantly reduced. That is not to say that it isn’t an incredibly difficult and life altering decision that is certain to have an overwhelming emotional effect, but hopefully Jolie’s choice will give people the sense that they are not alone in their plight, and make people realise that this horrific illness can happen to anyone-even them.
I know that I will be researching the availability of a test to determine the presence of the cancer gene in the UK, and I hope that others are as well. F*ck cancer.

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Telly Tuesdays : The Ice Cream Girls

Last week I looked forward to the conclusion of ITV’s 3-part drama, ‘The Ice Cream Girls’. In previous episodes, we were introduced to Poppy, a quiet woman just released from prison after serving a long sentence for the murder of a teacher when she was a teenager. She had been tried alongside her friend, Selena, whose lawyer mother ensured that she was found not guilty. The episodes use flashbacks to explore the question of who was really to blame for the murder of a man revealed to be a manipulative abuser of young girls, as well as the impact of the event on the girls’ lives as they have grown up. Selena has since achieved a good education, married and had a child, while Poppy’s fractious relationship with her stepfather and feckless mother leaves her isolated upon her release.

Throughout the series it is impossible not to feel sorry for Poppy, both of the excellent actors portraying her at different ages left in doubt that she was innocent from the beginning. Her desire for affection clear from the first scene involving her mother, who betrays the cardinal rule of parenting by choosing her husband over her child. I found her the most irritating character in all this, she displays no hint of backbone while her husband remains hostile towards Poppy and it becomes easy to see why the teenager was so open to manipulation by a man willing to give her attention. Like mother like daughter I suppose. Yet the lack of a resolution once (spoiler alert!) Poppy’s innocence has been proven is incredibly frustrating. The much loved younger siblings whom Poppy has repeatedly asked for return, and yet there is no comeuppance for the man who has always believed in her guilt, or for the woman who excluded her eldest child from a family meal.

For Selena, her sense of guilt worsens as the story progresses, though it is unclear until the conclusion whether this is due to lies in the courtroom or the lies told to her new family, who know nothing of her past. Again the young actress portraying her teenage self shines in the scenes involving her abuse by a teacher.

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Sunday Cook Off : Chocolate Covered Hokey Pokey

Homemade crunchies

 

This week I decided to try something a bit easier, and then proceeded to choose one of the more difficult things I could make: Hokey Pokey, or Cinder Toffee as it is sometimes known. It’s basically a homemade Crunchie bar. It sounds like an easy enough recipe, just sugar, golden syrup and bicarbonate soda, but the difficulty comes in knowing the best time to mix it all together. When you boil the golden syrup and sugar, you need to wait for as long as possible before adding the bicarb (without letting it burn), or you’ll end up with the kind of sticky mess that is sure to mess with dentistry. I covered it in chocolate to hide the slightly bitter aftertaste that comes with the bicarb, plus anything covered in chocolate is pretty good.

Recipe

2 tbsp caster sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate soda

1. Put the golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat, stirring constantly.

2. Once the mixture has begun to boil, turn the heat down to low and leave it for up to 7 mins. Only stir once or twice so that it retains heat. Keep a constant eye on the mixture as it can burn quickly if left.

3. Check the mixture by putting a drop in a glass of cold water, if it is sticky then leave it for a while longer. You want it to be hard and brittle.

4. When the mixture is ready, remove from the heat and immediately add the bicarb then stir until combined (this should be very quick)

5. Once the mixture has foamed up and the bicarb is mixed in, immediately transfer to a greased baking tray (I tend to just put a sheet of baking paper in as opposed to greasing – less washing up). Spread the mixture out a bit, but be careful not to flatten it too much or it will lose all of the air bubbles.

6. Leave it for 15 minutes.

7. Then either cut it up with a knife or just break it apart with your fingers, keep the pieces a decent size to aid the chocolate dipping.

8. Break the chocolate into pieces into a bowl then place it over boiling water in a saucepan and stir until melted.

9. Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl and saucepan from the heat. Take each piece of hokey pokey and dip into the melted chocolate ensuring that it is fully covered – you can use tongs or your fingers, whichever suits.

10. Place the dipped pieces onto a sheet of baking paper and allow to cool. If you are in a rush you can stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

11. Once the chocolate has hardened, enjoy!

 

[Image via http://www.petitepigchocolates.com] I didn’t have time to photograph mine before my colleagues devoured everything!

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Fame On A Friday : Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan Should Hang Out and Share Their Crazy

The world of celebrity isn’t exactly a nurturing or supportive atmosphere for young, rising stars, so it should seem hardly surprising when people who have grown up under scrutiny turn out to be that crazy person who you avoid on the tube. This week Lindsay Lohan began her court ordered rehab program, complete with temper tantrums because she wasn’t allowed to bring cigarettes/she didn’t like the look of the place/she generally didn’t get her own way and was actually having to face the consequences of her actions for once. Not that it will make a lot of difference to her character. This girl has broken law a number of times and at every court appearance the judge is apparently determined to take a harsh approach, only to reduce any punishment to a minimum – and even then Lohan seems to think it is too much. Yesterday it appeared that she was shopping at an electronics store while her (now fired) lawyer assured the courts that she was safely ensconced in a treatment facility. She then finally checked herself into the Betty Ford clinic (where “she knew people”, which is always a sign of a life well lived) just before a deadline that may have resulted in jail time. We can but hope that some time away from the world and her batshit crazy parents will help her to realise the extent to which that she is destroying her life.

Another starlet in dire need of psychiatric attention is Amanda Bynes, who has shed her sweet Disney persona for that of a genuinely unstable and worrying human being. She is frequently photographed around New York in a variety of strange outfits and situations, stories about her behaviour abound. Today a video was released of her in the gym on a cross trainer looking….interesting. In contrast to Lindsay, Bynes seems to be evoking genuine concern from her family, the public and fellow celebrities alike. Lohan has had her chances, Bynes seems to be oblivious to her vulnerable situation in a way that is reminiscent of Britney Spears’ infamous meltdown. The only question is when there will be a significant event that will lead to Bynes getting the treatment that she so obviously needs, before something infinitely more tragic can occur.

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