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Helpling: a helpful online cleaning service… or not?

cleaningThis weekend, I decided to try out Helpling, one of the latest web-based cleaning booking services that has cropped up lately.

This was my first time using Helpling. I’ve been needing to find a replacement for our current beloved cleaners as they haven’t been able to service spaces over a certain square footage anymore. I was hoping Helpling could be our new go-to service.

So in the end… how was it? This was my experience and how I think they can make it better.

1) The website

When I got to their site, I was impressed by how clean and user friendly it was. Unfortunately, as soon as I started filling out my information, I found that the site had some bugs, the first of which forced me to enter information into the “optional” second line of the address fields. “Optional” should not mean mandatory. This must have been an oversight, and therefore should be an easy fix. That said, until it’s fixed, it’s really not the ideal as many people don’t have addresses that can extend into two lines. As for me, I usually have to fill out my address with my suite number in a very specific way to get past strict credit card verifications against my on-file billing address. Splitting up my billing address often means credit card validation is declined. The fact that it went through is convenient on the one hand, but really not so good, as it raises security concerns.

A second observation was that the site form didn’t have any space for customers to fill out additional information. Information like key pick-up, perhaps where the cleaning supplies are, or any special instructions in the event a customer can’t meet the cleaner face to face.

The verdict: It doesn’t matter how beautiful a site is if the basic functionality doesn’t work. Helpling would benefit from going through another round of site QA and fixing these sorts of bugs – both form submissions and the security flaw. Adding a comments or additional information section to the form would eliminate the need for customers to have to call Helpling to give that information over the phone – which ties into #3 below.

2) The big bug – location for in-person services is really important

The next bug was a doozy, and I only discovered it a day later when I happened to review the confirmation email I was sent in more detail… because I’m anal like that. What I found was that the address listed as the cleaning location was incorrect. The system had actually overwritten my cleaning location address with the billing address. Not good. Especially because my timelines were crazy tight that day between coordinating a double move and a hand-over of my place to new tenants. I didn’t have the wiggle room to have a cleaner show up at the wrong address where I wouldn’t be at. It goes without saying that had I not noticed, it would be have been a significant problem. Luckily, I was able to correct the issue with a call through to Helpling. As an aside, I also found that the addresses in my profile and other address on file showed the two postal codes as being reversed for some reason – another bug, but really inconsequential to me at that point.

The verdict: This one really has to get solved or people won’t bother using the service at all. It really eliminates all the benefit to a fast, convenient online booking service. Read more


Apple is going social! Or are they?


Can it be? Is it true? Is Apple dipping their big toe into social media?

The story that the tech giant may be finally taking steps into social media with the launch of their isee5c page is certainly starting to ripple across the interwebs. No major momentum yet, but the discussions are certainly starting to take place. And if this is the case, it seems that Apple has chosen Tumblr as the social media platform of choice to launch the famously silent brand’s social presence onto. Bravo to Tumblr. Any why not? Tumblr boasts a young user base that closely matches the demographic Apple is targeting with their iPhone 5C, not to mention a highly visual and flexible platform that can be fully customized and skinned exactly as a user wants (which Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Pinterest aren’t able to boast).

If you go to the page – you’ll find a fun grid of blocks that you can explore. Each block is a 15 second video that pays homage to different lifestyle moments that you can then reblog or like. And that is the extent of the page (for now – can’t discount that “Coming soon” call out!).

So are they going social?

I’m not so sure. They’ve launched a social marketing campaign in social. Tumblr is being used as a channel to push their content: their series of fun, colourful video vignettes that cleverly tie back to the brand. They’re enabling sharing and likes to take advantage of the viral nature social media enables. Whether the content will actually get shared will be seen in time. And what about Apple’s “voice”? I mean the two-way conversation that is a keystone of the origins of social media. The part that fans have come to expect and the reason why brands originally joined the social foray. This brings us back to what Apple is famous for: their silence. And if that’s the case – how much has really changed? Can this be considered a major step change into social for them?

As an aside, it’s be worth noting that as some sources point out, Apple has not actually formally confirmed that the Tumblr page is theirs – although fans are seeing a lot of promoted posts, which suggests media dollars backing the campaign. All in all, if it IS theirs – it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Samsung’s Power Sleep app. Donate computing power while you sleep.

I think it’s safe to say that of all the “free giving” programs out there, Samsung’s Power Sleep app takes the prize. (And by “free giving” I mean programs that allow people to contribute to a good social cause while doing what they normally do anyway.) In case you haven’t heard about Power Sleep yet, the app was developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna and donates your phone’s unused computing power to scientific research while you sleep. What kind of research, you might ask? How about research on cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer?

Researchers found that they didn’t have enough computing power to process the data they were working with. According to Dr Thomas Rattei, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Vienna, “in order to fight diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer, we need to know how proteins are created. This requires series of tests that need immense computing power and this is where Power Sleep bridges the gap between science and society.”

Read more

A new year, a big cut, and hair for cancer


The new year evokes a certain excitement that takes root from new possibilities, opportunities, and fresh starts. For my family and I, this weekend also marks the 5th anniversary of the end of my late father’s long battle with cancer. As such, I’d decided to mark the occasion in a different kind of way: the lengthy locks I have been saving up are finally getting donated to a cancer wig program.

Charity, my beloved stylist at W did the honours. The short, but sweet, process was captured in the Vine below. And how did it feel? Fantastic.

If you live in Canada and are interested in donating your hair to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients, you can refer to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s list of organizations by province. Aside from that, there are a few things you should know in advance before you donate your hair. The rest is easy.

  1. You’ll need at least 8″ or 12″ of untreated hair (hair that hasn’t been previously dyed, bleached, or treated). The length requirements will depend on where you’re donating to. For example, the “Beautiful Lengths” program managed by the Canadian Cancer Society in partnership with P&G requires 8″, while A Child’s Voice Foundation for children’s wigs requires at least 12″.
  2. Your hair will need to be both clean and dry. They don’t accept wet hair. If you cut it while it is wet, make sure it is fully dry before sending it in.
  3. When you cut your hair, make sure your hair is tied off at both ends. Braided is best.
  4. There can’t be more than 5% grey hair in your ponytail. This is because it takes between 8-15 hair donations to make a wig. To make the wig uniform in colour, all of the hair needs to be treated and dyed one colour. Grey hair tends to take in the colour at a different rate than hair of other colours, which affects the final result of the wig and how authentic the wig looks.

Fuller instructions are provided on each organization’s site, along with their address. It’s best to check in advance to make sure they don’t have additional instructions or more specific requirements I haven’t covered here.

As for me, I decided to send my hair to the Canadian Cancer Society and P&G’s Beautiful Lengths program. In Canada, their address is:

Pantene Beautiful Lengths
C/O Archway Marketing Services
P.O. Box 434
2110 Kipling Ave.
Etobicoke Station B, Ontario
M9W 5L4

Happy New Year and all the best in 2014!

Happy holidays from Hailo and Molson: Operation #ExitStrategy


For the month of December, Hailo and Molson have teamed up to offer $10 free taxi credit to their users during this season of holiday parties and celebrations. The campaign gives users going to select establishments (map below) a $10 credit that they can access through entering a unique promo code into their app before they hail a cab.

If you’re not familiar with Hailo, the service allows users to hail a cab and also to pay automatically for their cab fare with a few taps of their finger through a phone app. Users can see who the driver is going to be, call them, and follow their driver’s progress to their location on a map. The service launched in Toronto a little over a year ago and was met with huge fanfare and open arms. I was certainly one of those fans. And why not? A more convenient, reliable, faster, and safer way of hailing and traveling in cabs? Fantastic.

But back to the campaign – it’s a brilliant example of a triple win campaign. Molson gets customers going to Molson establishments that serve their beer. They also have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their “celebrate responsibly” messaging in a very direct and active way. Hailo gets users using their app – potentially new users who have never tried their app before. And finally, all users who participate in the campaign get $10 off their cab fare after their night out.


For marketers, campaigns of this nature are not always easy to create as it’s important to find the right alignment of strategy, opportunity, and channel. However, a strong focus on the end user and what adds value to them is a great place to start. This joint campaign is a great example of providing value to customers in a relevant and integrated way that makes great use of the social and mobile channels.

Happy holidays, everyone!

The Bear and The Hare: John Lewis’ holiday campaign done right

Every year, UK retailer John Lewis launches a holiday campaign that tends to melt the hardest of hearts. This year, they did not disappoint. In true John Lewis style, they launched The Bear and The Hare, carrying the message: “Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget”.

At the campaign’s core is their television spot: a beautifully hand-drawn partial stop-motion animation about two dear friends, the bear and the hare. It’s simple, captivating, and moving. (I’ll let you watch it to see for yourself.)

The TV spot is fantastic on its own and is only strengthened by the layer upon layer of digital and offline extensions John Lewis has wrapped around it: each encouraging further exploration, engagement, and reminders of their lovely tale. And with reminders of their tale are also reminders of John Lewis as a retailer for families out shopping. (I have to confess, I wish there were one in Canada.)

As a story, The Bear and The Hare is very accessible to families and children and lends itself exceptionally well to family oriented extensions like: Read more

Remembering the fallen

The Fallen

Tonight is the eve of Remembrance Day and I’m struck by how grateful I feel to be sitting in the warmth and comfort of my own home – unafraid and with ample freedoms. Our country is one of the fortunate ones where people are not actively persecuted for their ideas and opinions, religious beliefs, political dissonance, or under constant threat of war and death.

It has been just under eight years since I was in Afghanistan. I wasn’t there as part of military service, but as a civilian. Upon meeting some of our Canadian troops at a Canada Day event the Consulate was putting on one year, the question I was asked over and over was “how can you be here as a civilian? I can’t even imagine”. Because you see, they couldn’t believe how people like me could go about our days working and living without protection (armed with firepower) – particularly in light of the things they saw and were exposed to on a daily basis. They were all too aware of the constant dangers that faced us all. However, the reality was that people like me were protected… by them. Because they were out patrolling, I got to sleep at night. As one of the protected, I never had to see or be exposed to the kinds of things our military personnel did.

One incident that remains vivid in my memory was a suicide bomber attack on an ISAF troop vehicle right outside my work compound, which resulted in us going into lockdown for over ten hours well into the night. It was the military personnel who cleared the roads, completed two more controlled detonations, and had to deal with the threat of additional suicide bombers who might take advantage of the situation. It was not me. The people like me were inside our compound in lockdown, waiting. Waiting for safety, and eventually, the escorts to take us home. And they did.

I’ll never forget.

And on this eve of Remembrance Day, it seems right that we think back and remember the current and other wars before us and all the men and women who gave their lives for our current future. I was so moved when I came across the news of the project “The Fallen” created by British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss, along with hundreds of volunteers earlier this fall. Read more

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