Thursday, August 20, 2015

The week I became an IT Help Desk...and failed!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you've all had a good week and weren't too fooled by the sunshine / heat of last Saturday before the drenching / "cold" this week!

Thank you and sorry!

I just wanted to start off by saying thank you so much for your support this week with the launch of the new PAYG (BLUK!) system, and to also apologise if I've inadvertently caused any undue stress / angst to anyone in the process, as obviously that's not my intention. I started off on Monday mentioning a few teething issues we've experienced during the launch and these have now been magnified many times over with everyone getting started using the new system. I did my due diligence by investigating over 20 different possible software companies prior to selecting MindBody (a major industry leader) and then spent nearly 4 months totally devoted to building it correctly, only to not be able to truly test things until we have gone live. 

I have been reassured by many of you in the IT / business sector that these things are never without hiccup, but what has caused me the most stress is knowing that it's been a troublesome process for some of you too and given that I always like to think of you all as my friends and extended "family" here in Perth, you'll understand me when I say that it's been a bit of a rough week! I cannot say that I am more sorry and feel like I have let you down unwittingly. 

I appreciate as well that when I write I like to give ALL the detail, but am totally cognisant of the fact that many of you don't have time to read everything. That's OK - I figure that those who want to skip will, but those who need the detail and direction will benefit from that. If you're having any issues / concerns, can I politely ask you to skim-read the headings below and if there's something I haven't covered then by all means drop me a line, but otherwise if I can just ask for your patience and trust whilst I work through these issues, that'd be fab. 

The current modus operandi:

  1. use the online portal to login with the account details I sent through (remembering to change your password)
  2. check your schedule and opt-out of sessions you know you can't attend
  3. check-in using the iPad kiosk at the pool
  4. wait for an automated-email to let you know you're low on credits and then follow the prompts to pay for more

…in essence we're all still really just using "The Traditional Method" as the "Cool Kid Method" hasn't yet allowed you cool kids to unleash it's power properly yet, but trust me, it will!

As such, I have tried to lay out exactly where we stand with everything currently to allay any concerns going forwards for those who want to know. Before I do that though, I thought you might all be keen to check out a couple of pages in the new website as this has been a bit over-shadowed by the teething issues I feel and I really hope you'll find it to be a great resource:

Where things stand with the new PAYG (BLUK!) system:

Below is a detailed list of what's working well, what's not and what we're doing about it to make your experience much more enjoyable! At the end of the day we all just want to get in and swim, but I'm hoping you've caught an inkling of how the new system might help us all down at the pool. I'll be the first to say that there have been MANY times this week where I've felt like throwing my hands up and wishing we were back to the paper PAYG cards, but as 69-yr old Sue Oldham has proven in her adoption of the new system, once you're in, it's really quite simple! If Sue can do it, so can you (she allowed me to say that - thanks Sue!). I'm going to take the weekend off to recharge my batteries, so please bear with us and know that the basics are still working and tracking properly.

What's working well:

  • Wait lists - some of you have registered your interest in joining the wait list for a particular session. The way this works is that if the number of sign-ups drops below a certain threshold as people in the session opt-out, those on the wait list are automatically invited and added in via SMS / email. Pretty cool!
  • iPad Check-in - I'm hoping that if you've used the iPad kiosk you've found it quite easy to check-in on the pool deck and much easier than waiting for your card to be ticked in the rain! In the event that you haven't signed yourself in yet (but have attended a session) myself and the coaches have been manually adding you when it's apparent that the group list is short of those in the pool swimming. So if you're a keen bee who wants to be in at 1 second past the start time of the session, please don't feel panicked if there's a small queue at the iPad - we can do it for you!
  • Opting-out - many of you have done a great job already of opting out of the sessions you know you can't attend, which in turn helps with the wait list process (a key thing to prevent the ├╝ber-quiet 8-10 weeks we've just been through despite an ever-increasing wait list). Big thanks on this one!
  • Low credits reminder - this is set to come out when you are down to your last two credits or with 2 weeks remaining on your expiry with a direct link showing you how to recharge
  • Purchasing credits - given that you can elect to safely and securely save your card details within your account or in the app, purchasing new credits can be as simple as a one-click process rather than digging through the old website and using clunky PayPal, saving you a lot of time

What's not working quite so well:

  • Smartphone sign-in - I was told this would work with any iOS / Android device, but apparently this is only working on Android at the moment. They can't give me a time-frame as to when iOS (or even Windows) will be working sorry, but please see my solution below on this point as I believe this is a key feature to avoid queues at the iPad kiosk.
  • Credit balances - what I can see "behind the scenes" and also what I'm doing with my manual back-up register is 100% correct for everyone, but what you're seeing in your account, in the app and on the iPad check-in is sometimes not. The explanation I've been given is that if you're registered for say 2 sessions per week for the coming year (i.e. reserving your spot), that might be say 100 sessions. If you've got 20 credits, these will be assigned to the next 20 sessions, but will show that your balance is "zero remaining", meaning "zero remaining past the 20 you have paid for". I find this confusing personally and I am asking them to look into this as we speak. This also makes it challenging to pay for a wait-listed session if all of your credits have been allocated for the future. Please bear with me on this one as I see this as a major priority. 
  • Late cancellations - as we've always operated within the squad, I have disabled the setting to charge you for a missed session. However, the system has a known bug which is over-riding this. They've only just informed me of this, in fact, I am the one "geek" from over 64,000 business users who've found this glitch in their system! Don't panic though, I've been going into the back end after every session and "early cancelling" anyone who hasn't shown up. As people learn how to opt out up to 12 hours before the session, I'm hoping that this will be great for everyone as it gives enough notice time for those on the wait list to attend. Apologies if you received an email saying you have been charged, you haven't. We will run this until the start of November and I'll make a decision of whether it's a necessary requirement or not - I'm hoping not if you're able to "BLUK!", i.e. the purpose of the whole attendance management system.
  • US calendar - if you've tried cancelling a session you might have got an email back saying you've done this but for it to display in US calendar version, i.e. mm/dd/yy - this is very confusing (a pet peeve of mine) so I'm asking the developers to look into this for us.
  • Cookies - those of you running Safari as your browser on a MAC computer might have run into not being able to see the online portal properly (or at all). If this is you either: 1) go direct to this link; 2) enable your cookies within your Safari preferences to "Always Allow"; 3) try a different browser
  • Too many emails - if you're finding you're getting too many emails reminding you when you have a session coming up, you can turn this off in your Profile within your account by opting out of the reminder and equally changing how you receive that reminder - SMS and/or email
  • Bulk cancelling - this can be rather tedious if you have 6+ sessions to cancel. If you have 6+ sessions that need cancelling, may I suggest you send me over the inclusive dates that you will be away and I can do this for you. Depending on your settings in the point above, will determine whether or not you've received loads of emails for each individual cancellation.
  • Searching for 1-2-1 appointments - unfortunately the "browse for next available appointment" only searches for up to 2 months in the future. My bookings are always 3+ months in advance, so it's been hard for people to find a spot with me. In this instance, if you search forwards from 3 months, you should find a few coveted spots. Equally, Sally's availability is much sooner than mine, so don't neglect booking a session with Sally - she's fab!
  • Paying for 10, 25 or 50 credits in the app - this is not as intuitive as it should be and involves you finding a session that you want to sign up for and then selecting that for the payment option to pop up. The trouble is the vast majority of you are already signed up for the sessions you want to do, so this is proving frustrating. Solution # 1 is to wait for the automated email to come through when you're running low, or Solution # 2 is what might be possible with our efforts below

What we're doing about it:

  • Working around the clock - I have to say the MindBody support team have been nothing short of brilliant, giving me 24/7 support. The trouble is I've literally been using it and working through the night all week on many of these issues! I've told them that I appreciate their help but that some of these issues need resolving asap as many of you are feeling some of the angst that I've been feeling. They are working hard for some resolutions and even with 64,000 other business users, because our set-up is very unique, many of these issues haven't come to light until we've launched, so I can only apologise for the inconvenience this might have caused you.
  • A bespoke app - the MB Connect app which some of you are using has a nice feature in that it's connected to many other fitness and health businesses here in Perth, so some of you might have already benefitted from finding a new yoga or pilates class that you never knew existed. The trouble is, this generic framework is possibly working against our 'kooky' set-up as we may need some more specific functionality to make the process smoother for you all, especially on the checking balances and paying for new credits front. At 3am last night (!) I gave the green light for the team to build me a new specific "Swim Smooth Perth" version of the Connect app using the same technology but geared totally to us. This is not inexpensive and will take 2-3 weeks to build but will also allow SMS-like "push" notifications to come to your smartphone in the event of me needing to send out a quick key message, i.e. "pull is closed due to the storm". Currently I am paying an SMS service to do this, but it's expensive, the push notifications will replace that and are easily disabled by yourself if you find these prompts annoying. It will also solve the lack of Sign-in capability we have on iOS at the moment and have a much better interface as well. I'm excited! This will then replace the MB Connect app, but will still work with the same login, all being well. It should also improve sync-issues that Connect seems to have.
  • Working the conversions team into the ground - our use of PAYG credits works a little against how MindBody is currently configured, so the conversions team are working around the clock to give us a solution to make it easier for you to understand how many credits you have remaining etc. We might end up adapting our terminology to sync with MindBody, but rest assured you'll still have all your credits - I just want you to all be able to see them consistently and be in control like you were with the old paper cards!

Hope this is all useful info, and if you're still reading, thank you!


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