Archives for category: Customers

Often a simple ‘thank you’ is all people need for the acknowledgement of their work. Someone remembering or taking time out to tell them that their efforts are appreciated.

So it is with ‘please’, the mannerly corollary to thank you. Simple, thoughtful manners go a long way to getting what we need, and sometimes what we want too. It makes the person we’re asking feel better about donating their time too. I always try to say please when I’m asking for something, no matter how insignificant the ask is. It’s a basic human courtesy.

In my view, we should be demanding that voice activation technologies like Siri and Alexa be reprogrammed to only comply with our commands when we say please. ‘Alexa, can you play Ten Story Love Song by the Stone Roses on Spotify, please?’ How hard is that?

Much more importantly, especially with youngsters, what great behaviours would those engrained manners encourage for interacting with other human beings?

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I’ve written before about the need for product manufacturers to design and deliver the whole product solution, or in other words, the entire customer experience, rather than just their product.

This includes the packaging, the accessories, everything you use when you consume the product.

A case in point is the squeezable marmite jar. You either love it or hate it, as the advertising goes, and I’m one of the lovers when it comes to Marmite, always have been. The unmistakeable branding, smell, consistency, taste and round glass jar. In the last few years the Marmite folk have taken to using a squeezable plastic jar to deliver their gooey goodness.

The trouble is, the stuff is so damn viscous that you can’t get more than 70 or 80% of the product out of the jar; the jar won’t squeeze down enough. I purchase a replacement jar – glass – before I realised a good bit of my purchase was yet to be consumed. To get value for your money, and who doesn’t want that, you have to twist the top off and collect the stuff from the inside of the top and the mouth of the jar. It gets everywhere, and leaves your kitchen cupboard, the jar and your hands a sticky mess. Not a good experience.

All the stuff outside of the product itself is an important part of the overall experience. You have to get all of it right, or you risk turning away first-time triers and seasoned customers.

Is there a more depressing sight than an empty in service bus in a major town or city? Maybe there is, perhaps a full in service bus in the driving rain that you’re trying to get onto.

Anyway, it’s hard to run through all the reasons in a minute or less as to why I find an empty bus depressing. The lost productivity, the inefficient use of my tax-paying dollars, the additional traffic burden of a vehicle not designed for the narrow streets of an ancient city but which only makes sense if it’s nearly full and takes a number of cars off the road. Where to start?

Buses are designed to ease traffic by offering commuters a cost-effective and convenient way of getting into the centre of town so they don’t have to stomach high parking charges and hideous traffic. Throw in bus lanes, and buses and taxis combine to make city centre navigation by public transport bearable, preferable and sometimes even enjoyable.

But when you see empty buses around the place, then someone has got the load planning way wrong. Maybe it’s political, or maybe they don’t care, don’t want to improve the service, I don’t know. For me, it’s like using a service that’s supposed to be every 15 minutes, but really it’s every 30 minutes because buses gather in twos or even threes and convoy the route, taking it in turns to leapfrog each other at each stop, for an easier life. It’s not in the interests of the paying customer, because the organisation is not genuinely incentivised by and therefore geared to the needs of the paying customer.

 

I’m sure I’ve written before about US strip malls and the fact that staff park their cars in the furthest away spots to allow their paying customers to take the most adjacent spots. It simple, thoughtful and common sense practice.

You don’t see so much of it in Europe in my experience. Staff seem to get priority. That cosy consultant’s parking space at the front of the hospital. How come they get that? Surely it should be for the nurses or the midwives who do most of the bloody work, no pun intended. Or perhaps, revolutionary thought, the patients, who have to pay to park in the next parish.

Anyway, I was waiting in the car park for my 9 o’clock doctor’s appointment the other day to rid myself of a pesky chesty cough that I didn’t want advancing to a chesty infection. I was 8 minutes early and so people watched from the comfort of my car. By 8:58, the car park was full, since staff had used up both the car park and the spaces behind the surgery which are supposed to be for staff only. There simply aren’t anywhere near enough spaces for both staff and paying patients.

Who has to to park on the curb? The paying patient of course, who in this country funds the vast majority of the salary of the attending staff.

Madness, I tell you. If I ruled the world, or at least administered some of it…

Automation exists to make our lives easier, or sometimes to make our supplier’s life easier. We adapt our traditional manual behaviour to new behaviours on the basis that the new behaviour, thanks to the automation, is easier or less effort, or both, for us.

A few months ago I was in a gallery in Dublin and went to use the facilities on the way out. never waste a chance to use the facilities of the facility you’re in – no double pun intended – especially when you’re in a big city.

After completing my task and washing my hands, I moved across to the automatic hand dryer and hovered my hands under it and waited for the sensor to pick up my presence and whizz my hands into a dried frenzy.

Nothing doing, damn thing was broken I concluded, after several experimental variations of hand position.

Turns out I had mistaken an empty paper napkin dispenser for an automatic hand dryer. Learned behaviour, on auto-pilot, had let me down. Back to the drawing board, or rather another dispenser with a napkin or two in it.

The vast majority of bowls are round. It’s simply the right shape to polish off as much of the contents as possible. Sure, square or rectangular bowls are more efficient for storage and look different, but that’s about the extent of the pros list.

My mother’s had these square bowls for ages. Well, they’re not actually square in the sense of an equal-sided quadrilateral. They’re rectangular, or oblong if you prefer the sillier-sounding version. They’re part of that range of everything for the home designed by the ‘George’ bloke who made his name at Next and after that with Asda. Every time I eat my cereal out of them, it reminds me why I dislike them.

Firstly, you can’t add the right amount of milk because the cereal is differently distributed compared to in the circular bowl you’re used to. Usually you end up putting too much in. I don’t like too much milk with my cereal.

Then you can’t get the smaller bits of the cereal out of the corners. The spoon’s too rounded to make it an easy job.

Finally, you can’t drain your bowl like you can with a round one. It kind of pools in areas rather than being drawn effortlessly into the centre under control of the force of gravity.

No, they’ll never go mainstream, those square bowls, square wheels never did. They can’t, surely.

I caught one of those winter colds over the holidays, the type of thing that comes along every holiday period, and spreads like wildfire, felling thousands in its path as it wreaks its havoc.

All of a sudden it seemed like everyone across the country was getting sick as a huge miasmic stain rippled through the landmass. It got me thinking about how a virus is properly viral, in comparison to what we’re used to seeing in cyber security and social social media circles.

Then again, Internet malware and viruses do move pretty darn fast as well, now that I think about it. Social media memes or other concepts move rapidly too, but not with quite the accelerating destructive force of Internet-borne badness we’ve been used to seeing in the noughties and early teens of this century.

As business people, or people seeking to influence consumers, we long for our own thing to go viral, hoovering up support like a giant tornado, getting ever stronger and increasing our wealth accordingly. The physical reminder of seeing and experiencing real physical infection at speed served to remind me of the power that important new ideas have.

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.