Customer service jobs in the hard times

The problem with customer service jobs in difficult economic times is that the customers demand a whole lot more when the economy is in a bad way.

Even the bargain basement shops are forced into upgrading how they deal with customers these days although, so far, the local LIDL hasn’t risen to the customer service levels of the LIDL shops in France. That’s pretty odd really as France isn’t exactly known for high customer service levels so it’s puzzling as to why the bargain basement shops have much higher customer service levels than the very same shops have in the UK.

However, there is the small problem that in difficult times, there isn’t the scope to improve customer service through adding to staff numbers nor even through extra training for the staff. What’s needed is a cultural shift in the organisation so that people automatically do the small things that can often make the biggest difference to how service is perceived.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Greek hotels and resorts

Greece is one of those places where you get a mix of the ancient and modern, often side by side and that applies equally to the accommodation as it does to the tourist sights and sites that you will see during your holiday in the country.

The Corissia hotels in Crete are very much at the modern end of that scale as even the briefest glance at their website will show you. That modernity is reflected in the hotel rooms too with all the facilities that you’d expect in the most modern of hotels from the big things such as air conditioning and satellite TV through to the smaller items like the hair dryer that you wish you’d brought but couldn’t face packing it.

Of course, all these means nothing if the hotel isn’t in the right location. That’s particularly difficult on Crete which is quite a long island with attactions all over the place so ideally you want somewhere near the centre and, of course, on the coast (the northern coast is best). However, you can get quite close to this ideal with, for example, the Corissia hotels of Corissia Beach and Corissia Princess both currently offering free airport transfers for early bookers (worthwhile as the airport is towards the eastern end of the island).


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.


I went along to the seminar run by the Dementia Services Development Centre last week to try and get more of a handle on the condition. As you’d expect, the majority of those attending were there to pick up some information in respect of an elderly relative though there were also a handful of care organisations represented as well.

Quite a lot of the morning sessions were on the various strategies that the organisation are involved in and the things that are starting to come to fruition of those. Not really of immediate benefit to most of those there but it’s nice to see that there is work going on behind the scenes.

The rest of the sessions were much better targeted at the audience starting with a good session on the behaviours that one could expect and some strategies to overcome some of the more troublesome ones. I’d not realised that having a diagnosis of vascular dementia is quite a different thing from altzheimer’s and that the development pathway is substantially different so that’s useful to know. De-cluttering is often suggested but the explanation that it’s down to the person being unable to cope with the complexity is rarely given. Having said that, some people can’t cope with the de-cluttering and prefer a bit of chaos so it’s important to take account of the person with the dementia.

Depression is a problem on two fronts. For one, dementia can be mistaken for depression but equally if you’ve got dementia you’re more likely to have depression too. Not really an easy thing to address but things like reminiscence and memory books can help.

They went into aggression quite a bit as it can be a particular problem. Ways of coping with it are to try and avoid it in the first place by noting triggers, having a calm environment  and keeping to a routine. Related to that is the issue of communication which can be a trigger and it’s worth noting the little things like hearing aid batteries and eye sight tests which can kill communication.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Hawaii’s other islands

hawaii spouting hornFrom this side of the world, there is just “Hawaii” but what we know of Hawaii is just one of the islands in the chain (Oahu) and the others are very different from that one.

Kauai is very different. Here you’ll find a much quieter type of holiday with resorts giving you the chance to have a beach holiday but in a beautiful island setting. Although the whole Hawaii chain of islands looks pretty small on the map, some of the islands are quite large and all of them have so much to do that we’ll only be looking at a small area of Kauai which should give you a good feel of what the island is like.

As with all the islands in the group, Kauai has all the beaches that you’d expect with water sports, snorkeling (in beautifully clear waters) and, of course, the scenery. National parks abound and near Poipu you’ll find the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Along with the other islands you’ll find lava formations and Spouting Horn is worth a visit to see the lava tube formations: quite spectacular as you can see.

Vacation homes are one option that will help make your holiday a little bit more relaxing or for something a little smaller condos (apartments) give you a choice midway between a self-catering house and a hotel room (usually somewhat closer to the action than the vacation homes are, of course).

For the area, vacation rentals seem the best way to go. Hotels are the choice for Oahu but for Kauai, you need a more laid back option to make the most of what the island has to offer.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

DSE212 Exploring Psychology

Chapter 2, on Evolutionary Psychology, runs to 46 pages and is quite a change in content from the identity chapter. It’s split into four basic sections with two essentially biological and two more psychological in nature. One of the options in the second TMA is based around the final section on altruism so the notes on that will probably be better than those on the other sections initially.

I’ve highlighted the key exam topics.

The chapter begins by looking at the different types of evidence which evolutionary psychologists use. Archaeological evidence includes the relative sizes of males and females, pelvis size, tools, cave paintings and evidence of social groupings from excavations. Genetic evidence looks over a longer time-scale considering the evolutionary split between apes and our human ancestors and any breeding that may have taken place between the various human species in the past. Studies on present day non-human primates and hunter-gathers looks at the social structures but recognising that these populations are not the same as our distant ancestors and that the presence of modern humans may distort the findings. Studies looking at the universality of behaviours and what modern humans actually do consider that if a behaviour is universal these days then it has derived from a common behaviour amongst our ancestors e.g. the male preference for features that indicate fertility in females.

The chapter moves on to consider the various evolutionary processes which generated all the differences that we see in the present day in what feels very much a whistle-stop tour of evolutionary biology. The genes which collectively form the DNA are at the core of this with the mixing of the chromosomes during sex forming a unique individual from the contribution of the genetic content of the egg and sperm. Selection is at the core of this with natural selection relying on 1) variation in individuals 2) part of this variation being due to genetics and 3) there being some competition in terms of resources. This selection process leads to adaptations with the fittest for the particular circumstances out-breeding the less fit. Sexual selection is the process though which reproductive success is improved by passing on physical and behavioural characteristics to one’s descendants; males by having a lower investment in their offspring would generally tend towards having more of them whereas females tend to invest more in each so look for long term mates. This section finishes with a brief overview of the hominine family touching on the super-family of apes from 30 million years ago, to hominoids (apes and humans) 22 million years ago and our human ancestors around 5 to 7 million years ago, noting that up to around 30,000 years ago there were multiple human species around at the same time.

From the biology, we have a bit of a lurch into psychology with the theory of mind, which is the ability to think from the perspective of another and to thereby predict what someone else is likely to do. That it is not fully present in chimpanzees indicates that it evolved after the split some 5-7 million years ago. The Maxi (Sally-Anne) [Wimmer and Perner, 1983] test indicates that we develop a theory of mind by around 6 years old although the false-belief that it tests is not all that encompasses theory of mind and alternatives (e.g. Chandler’s 1989 hide and seek test) have indicated that it is present from around 2 years of age. Although children generally follow the same developmental trajectory, the age at which it arises differs across cultures. As one might expect, it is much less developed in those with autism. Apes exhibit the deception aspect of this. It is illustrated in archaeology in terms of art from 30,000-40,000 years ago but the lack of human evolution for some 200,000 years indicates that it has been around for quite a while despite the lack of concrete evidence for it earlier than the cave paintings.

Finally, the related issues of altruism and reciprocity are covered. Since natural selection is all about reproductive success, you might think that altruism would play no part in the selection process. However, the reproductive success is not about the success of a particular individual but rather about the reproductive success of the genes involved. Therefore, through the process of kin selection one can see that it is advantageous to help individuals with whom we have a lot of genes in common i.e. our relatives and that we would tend to help those with whom we had a greater number of genes in common i.e. the closer the relative, the more the help that would be offered. Outside our relatives we also help complete strangers which is generally on the basis that a helpful act will be repaid later (reciprocal altruism) which brings into play a certain amount of game theory. This is illustrated in psychology by the prisoner’s dilemma where the best strategy is usually to defect (i.e. not to make the initial altruistic act) although in an ongoing relationship, it’s better to be altruistic first then do whatever the other guy did on you; it also has cultural biases and the students that it’s generally tried out on would be expected to be somewhat more clued in than actual criminals. Indirect reciprocity covers the situation where others benefit but there is no direct benefit to the altruist, the assumption here being that the altruist will gain brownie points as their benefit which in turn helps them. Evidence for altruism in animals is mixed with initial studies looking at food sharing indicating that it didn’t happen (but they tend not to share food at all) whereas later studies looking at general helpfulness showed that they were altruistic; there are issues with all of these studies as they were using animals raised in captivity.

For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are highlighted above and are:

Theory of mind
Natural selection
Sexual selection
Reciprocal altruism

The next chapter is on learning which is an exam rather than a TMA topic but I’ll be covering it over the next week anyway.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.