COM0014- Blog 1: Vacation in a city where you have problem communicating

I am not much into travelling as I am more of a stay at home person, who enjoys comforts of home and tunes away from entire world during my vacation. However, two years ago I went to Shenyang in China for three weeks for a teaching assignment. It was an interesting experience to be in city where barely someone could speak English. Have you ever had that experience? How did you cope with that?

img_0327.jpgShenyang, is located in the central part of Liaoning Province, is a beautiful city with clear air and natural scenery. This city bordered by the Liaodong Peninsula on south side and Changbai Mountains on north side belongs to Bohai economic circle. It is a relatively small city in comparison with China with population of 8.29 million (

I wouldn’t lie, for the first week, it was bit nerve wrecking to go out on own without fear of getting lost and unable to ask for directions as no one would understand. I was hesitant in going out as even hotel staff could barely speak English. The Shenyang city does not see many foreigners and every time I would approach someone with a smile gesture or hello, they would run away!  IMG_0318

Finally, I came with an idea of using a translator app and I had a screen shot of translating so I could show the taxi driver and locals of which hotel I was staying. Another interesting experience I had was that no social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) or Google worked in china. Can you imagine your life without Google considering how much we depend on Google for information? 


IMG_0378Beside teaching, I had evenings and weekends to stroll around the city. While strolling, I was surprised to see how active the senior population of this city was. Every day and at every few blocks, they would do square dancing, and anyone could join. I joined two groups on two separate occasions, and it was a lot of fun. What a creative idea to get socially and physically stimulated.


Have you ever crossed a road that is full of busses, cars and no one is letting you cross? How would you cross? Well, that is how roads are crossed in China. Group of people get together on one side of road and then they all start crossing the roads at same time forcing cars to stop. It was scary!

img_0391.jpgImagine ordering food from a menu that is all in their native language and you are unsure what to order. When I would walk to a restaurant to eat, I would look a menu and see if they had pictures as I am a picky eater and cannot try everything! Eating out is very popular in China as food was cheap and fresh at same time. My favorite place was a small noodle restaurant that was operated by a husband and wife and they would even make fresh noodles. At one restaurant, another patron even bought some beer for us as we were foreigners visiting his city and he decided to welcome us. Isn’t that sweet?

When I reflect my experience of being in a new country, it was bit scary but an interesting one and I would do this all over again.




Technology can’t replace the human touch

Everywhere you go, you see technology making so much advancement and replacing some human jobs with Artifical Intelligence (AI). According to Wikipedia, “Artificial intelligence (AI, also machine intelligenceMI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”



My majority of experience has been working in hospitality. Though, I would say that these kiosks are certainly a great invention for our industry, but it totally depends on customer to customer. For many guests who do not wish to stand in line or do not want the human contact would definitely make the most use of it. Like at airports, I see many travelers using and agents are pushing travelers to use and check-in using the kiosk. Whereas, certainly in my case I like and enjoy the human touch and most of times I choose to go see an agent. I would also argue that these kiosks are also removing the human touch from providing personalized service to guests. Like at many hotels, introduction of Ipads in the room where the guest just needs to touch and service would be delivered. They do not need to call reception desk and talk to a live person. I think with the introduction of new technology like self-service kiosks we are getting away from the human touch from providing exceptional great customer service! But not everyone is going to want this kind of experience. Some people like to be welcomed by a person, who not only takes the order, but answers questions about the hotel and brings you your extra towels, coffee etc.



While a machine can perform a given task, often more efficiently than we can, what it lacks is the artistry in the activity, that uniquely human ability to cater to the needs of the individual. The protocol may suggest one approach, but a person who is good at their job understands when to adjust and the subtleties that are required.

I would also argue that how can you create customer loyalty without human touch specially for a service-based industry? If you are a guest staying at hotel, you check in yourself using an app, check-out using an app and never see an agent. From a hotel’s perspective how would they know whether you enjoyed your stay at the hotel or not? If something was not satisfactory, how would hotel staff know to resolve the issue?

I recently travelled to overseas from Ottawa International Airport and was amazed to see self-check in kiosks at Airport and how Air Canada’s agents are pushing travelers to use those machines. Have you been to Ottawa Airport recently and tried using those machines?




My experience was bit frustrating as I tried checking myself in using that kiosk, but it failed to print me baggage tags, for which I had to go see an Agent. The lineup for seeing an agent was long as there were only two agents working. After being in line for over 40 minutes, I went to see an agent and when asked, agent replied, “These AI machines are not that smart” as they needed to verify my visa for country I was travelling. I told her then why push international travelers to use that kiosk when it is bound to fail and frustrate guest.

Do you prefer using technology or do you prefer the human touch?

Facebook: Technology can’t replace the human touch. Read here:

Twitter: Do you think #Technology can replace #human #touch. Read here:


Do you suffer from Social Media Addiction?

According to phychologytoday, addiction, “Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences”


Istockphoto from

In this era, Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. have taken over our lives and well-being. We often visit social media several times a day to get updates, which translates to spending too much time that it interferes with other aspects of daily life.

Researchers at Chicago University concluded that social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and booze following an experiment in which they recorded the cravings of several hundred people for several weeks. Media cravings ranked ahead of cravings for cigarettes and alcohol.

And at Harvard University, researchers actually hooked people up to functional MRI machines to scan their brains and see what happens when they talk about themselves, which is a key part of what people do in social media. They found that self-disclosure communication stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers much like sex and food do.



Are you spending too much time checking social media several times during the day? Do you log on to social media sites when you are waiting for a bus, walking back from school or work, at doctor’s office waiting etc.?

An addiction to social media might not be something you’re ready to admit, but it’s estimated that 54% of social media users feel some level of addiction to their social network of choice. Research shows that 46% of users visit their favorite social network several times a day or even constantly. You might argue that your constant social media log-in’s are out of boredom or curiosity. Whether that’s the truth, or you’re checking to see how many likes and comments you got on your latest post, constantly checking your social media may mean that you have an addiction.

According to CBS news, “Several recent brain imaging studies, severely effected Internet addicts show structural and functional brain abnormalities similar to those found in people with substance abuse problems. Other research has shown that Internet addiction frequently coexists with anxiety, depression, or an addiction to other things like alcohol or drugs”



Are you still thinking that you are not addicted to social media, right? Put a checkmark on these signs to see if they apply to you:

  1. You check your Phone first thing in the morning.
  2. You take your phone to the bathroom.
  3. You get upset when you don’t get the response you were hoping for.
  4. You lose track of time browsing through social media.
  5. You schedule your posts
  6. You question your posts when they don’t attract attention
  7. You re-read and double check social media

Do you believe now that you have all or some of these signs that you are actually addicted to social media? Are you feeling bit guilty that you do lose track of time when you are on social media web sites? It’s time for you to set some rules and break this addiction.

  1. Calculate how much time are you spending on social media
  2. Be Vigilant- set a per day time limit to use social media and stick to it.
  3. Get back to spring cleaning i.e. Delete friends perhaps you have never spoken with since they became part of your friend list on social media.
  4. Get back to basics- Decide who you really want to be friends with. The larger the friend list, the larger the news feed.

If you are still having hard time discipling yourself with this addiction it is best to go cold turkey and deactivate your account or delete the app from your smartphone. Personally, I found by deleting the app from my smartphone helped me to be in present and enjoy the people and moments vs checking the news feed.

Facebook: Are you suffering from social media addiction? Do you have these signs? Read here:

Twitter: #socialmedia #addiction? Do you have these #addiction #signs? Read here



Social media as an advantage or threat to customer service?

With the new era and fast expansion of social media channels, companies are enabling customers to engage and create more interest with past, present, and potential customers. Social media has opened a new channel of communication for exchanging information about products and services. On the other hand, companies can focus on individual customer needs by answering each request individually and creating loyalty and personalized service. In response, brands are striving to monitor and quickly respond to those complaints to prevent them from festering and damaging their reputation. Many consumer brands equip their social media teams with significant organizational customer relationship management (CRM) experience, as well as access to the associated CRM system, so that complaints can be effectively and efficiently managed online.





United Airlines learned this the hard way when the now-famous protest song “United Breaks Guitars” went viral on YouTube in 2009. Although most customers probably would not bother writing a song to share their experience, increasingly people are simply tweeting publicly to corporate Twitter accounts to complain. According to a New York Times article, such a public approach may work out better for consumers than spending time on the phone. In response, companies are scrambling to monitor and respond to consumer complaints on Twitter, effectively providing customer service on social media.

Do you prefer calling a company for an issue or contacting them through social media? I



definitely prefer contacting companies over social media vs long phone calls to companies. To be honest, who has time for that specially when you are bounced from one department to another and have to confirm your identity. It becomes frustrating.


Recently, I switched my home Internet from Rogers to Bell, predominately because I live in suburb area so wanted something with better speed. In my experience when you are a new customer, every sales person would show you the moon and stars and gives you better pricing till you get the first bill. It was the same case, when I got my first bill, the agent signed me for bunch of added services which I did not agree and when I called to cancel, they were going to charge me more price. I went from one agent to speaking with several and spending lot of time and getting frustrated. Then I decided to give up from calling and just went on to their Twitter account. You would be amazed to know that I got the reply in 15 minutes and my issue was resolved within couple of hours. I thought it was very convenient. Do you have a similar experience? Have you complained and got a speedy response?

My only big fear is that do people go and post on social media accounts to appreciate about great service received or is it predominately a tool available to complain? Some questions always ponder in head i.e. Have you ever written a positive feedback on company’s social media account? How important are reviews from other customers to you? How would you react if you see company’s responding to each post vs ignoring all negative comments? Food for thought….. i.e. whether by empowering customers to communicate via social media is a threat or an advantage to companies?

Facebook: Social media: Is it detrimental to empowering customer? Read more:

Twitter: Are companies empowering #customers to #complain?


 Work cited:

Whose and What Social Media Complaints Have Happier Resolutions? Evidence from Twitter PRIYANGA GUNARATHNE, HUAXIA RUI, AND ABRAHAM SEIDMANN


Has your smartphone taken over your life as your companion?

The evolution of cell phones has drastically changed in last decade i.e. from traditional mobile phones to smart phones. A smartphone is “a mobile phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, typically having a touch screen interface, internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018)


Can you imagine your life without phone for a day? It’s hard right? Do you have hard time putting your phone down? According to article on Readers Digest, “21 signs You’re Way too Addicted to Your Phone” I have all 21 signs! In my defence, phones do performs many functions of a computer and instead of being on computer, I get most of information through phone. I do my banking through mobile app, read news through twitter and Facebook, stay connected with my friends and families overseas through iMessages and Whats app. What is your excuse? What do you use your cell phones for?

Do you suffer from Nomophobia? “Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.The word nomophobia is a portmanteau made up of no + mobile + phone + phobia. The term was created by YouGov, a research organization based in the United Kingdom. In a 2008 study, researchers reported that 53% of mobile users felt anxious when they were unable to use their mobile phones and over half of users never shut their phones off. Subsequent studies have found that the numbers have increased since then.”

For me having my phone with me is like a safety net i.e. if I ever get stuck at some place, I have a solution of contacting someone for a rescue. The readers digest article talks about and I tend to agree that at times instead of networking in small groups, we all tend to spend time on smartphones and browsing that we forget benefits of socializing vs isolating.


Beginning of this year, I accidentally forgot my phone at home as I was running late for work and as soon as I realized I didn’t have my phone, I started to panic. My anxiety level was high and then during noon hour, it went down as I was getting used to not checking my phone every five minutes. At that moment, I realized that how addicted I was to my phone and how peaceful it was for me to stay away for few hours. Instead of being in present time I had urge of replying to texts, emails as soon I received them as I thought making other person wait for my reply would make them impatient. I was not spending time doing any hobbies that I liked and it was keeping me away from uncomfortable situations i.e. from looking bored and from being unproductive. I was suffering from Nomophobia and my anxiety level was high when my phone battery was low and my phone usage was noticeable at social gatherings among my friends as I was busy flipping through my phone as a distraction.  After that,  I took few days to think and came up with some goals and rules of taking my addiction away. I realized that I didn’t have to be available every second of the day. This gives me more time to enjoy my present time and not constantly glare at phone for notification. I have turned off all notifications from my phone so I am not forced to check my social media accounts and I only check them once a day to get updates. I turn phone off during night so in middle of night if I am awake, I won’t be attracted to check my phone. By just trying simple steps, I was able to get away from my addiction, my phone battery lasts all day and I am able to enjoy my present time and not have my phone as my companion!

Are you addicted to your phone? Do you have some or all 21 signs as mentioned in Readers Digest article? Can you stay away from your phone for a day? Share your comments.


Facebook: Do you feel your phone is your new companion?

Twitter: Do you have hard time putting your #phone down?

References:  (Images links and work cited)