Archives for category: Customers

I’m not sure I qualify as an Ex-Pat, an Englishman  living in Ireland. It’s not quite Singapore or Sao Paolo is it? Still, if and when Brexit happens perhaps I’ll have more of a case.

As long as there’s been an Internet I’ve used the BBC website as my de factor home page. I use it to get a snapshot of the news, the sports goings on, and some of the magazine articles. Even though I live in another country the exemplary BBC site is my anchor.

One thing gripes, though, and has always griped. About every year or two they issue a survey on the site for their foreign readers, which usually culminates in the offer to be a member of the BBC Global Minds community. Every time I complete the survey I always mention my major gripe. Due to the licensing laws, most of the sporting videos are content ‘not available in your location’, or similarly worded nonsense.

What’s that all about? I can switch on BBC on my Freesat box and watch the sporting highlight. Same jurisdiction, same video footage. So why is not available on the web? And what is the BBC doing about for its British nationals abroad?

Even though the site is still peerless, there is a small disappointment in the product not delivering every time the video content is denied to me. Less than optimal.


The fantastic end-to-end experience we get when we shop at Amazon has serious repercussions for our experiences when we shop on other ecommerce sites. This is especially true for us in Ireland when we want to shop on Irish websites.

I was reminded of this recently when I was trying to buy two items on the Currys PC World website. I selected the two items and went to my basket to check out. The first item, incredibly, was not available for posting to me – WTF! – so it offered me click and collect. I selected my closest store and it said it was out of stock. Yes, I was at the checkout stage. The closest store was in Dublin, over 100 miles away. S0 that’s €30 on fuel and a full day to pick up an item that cost €30…

I moved down to the second item. This was not available for click and collect – why not? – but was available for online delivery. With me so far? I filled in my billing details and clicked ‘continue’. No good, WTF! 2. I had to go back up and delete the first item that was only available in practically the next time zone. When I deleted the top item the page refreshed and left the bottom item in the checkout but wiped all of my hitherto completed payment details – WTF! 3.

None of these WTF! moments would have occurred on the Amazon site. I left the Currys PC World site feeling that its experience is so excremental compared to Amazon. We become so conditioned to how good the Amazon buying experience is, and the experience itself, by which I mean the shopping process they take us though – that it negatively predisposes us against other vendors.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I do the vast bulk of my online shopping on Amazon and why they’re hoovering up business.

When you’re an employee, you’re paid for working 52 weeks a year, and in many European countries you get about 4 weeks off, plus national holidays. You’re paid for those holidays, which is great, so the challenge is being able to switch off and not think about work when you’re on a well-earned holiday.

Nothing new there of course. When you’re working for yourself, in a consulting capacity, you can only charge for the time you’re spending on a customer’s work. When you’re not working, you’re not earning. You surrender a good deal of certainty, benefits and a regular monthly cheque for a good deal of flexibility.

I’ve been working in a consulting or contracting capacity for something like 6 out of the last 30 years, but, tellingly I suppose, 6 out of the last 15, and exclusively the last 4-plus years.

I should be used to the ebbs and flows of the consulting life, and I am, mostly. Except that when I have periods of not earning, I find myself worrying more, and the worry increases proportionately to the length of the period of not earning. This is an interesting dynamic when you’re working on a speculative project, like a pitch for work, or an idea for a new business, or book and so on. There’s an opportunity cost to choosing to spend your critical time on a non-paying project, which might turn out to be a pipe dream, over both a paid project and a proposal for a project. You’re not getting paid for the work you’re doing, but you are investing your time in the hope of a decent return. Still, it can sometimes make you feel uncertain, and makes you examine a bit more carefully your choices of what you choose to spend time on.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me very conscious of not wasting these non-earning days. I want to make them productive, because in effect I’m sacrificing income. Conversely, when I elect to take the day as a day off, I make sure to treat it as a day off, as if I was an employee.

Doesn’t always work though…

I was able to pay off a mortgage the other day. I expect it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time to thousands of homeowners. It had a few months to go before it was finished and it seemed to make sense to get a redemption figure and get rid of the very small outstanding amount a few months early.

Another reason was that my other mortgages are not due to be paid off for another 15 years or more, so I wanted to get this one out of the way.

So, in the time-honoured and fuddy duddy old way, I wrote in looking for a redemption figure, they wrote back a fortnight letter, and I sent off a cheque for the balance the next day. Fabulous.

That was a few weeks ago. I haven’t heard anything. No acknowledgement letter with a zero balance. More importantly, no congratulations letter.

This is a missed opportunity. Firstly, it’s a golden rule of marketing that you celebrate each milestone of the customer journey with the customer. Secondly, this doesn’t have to be the last milestone, it could be the chance to say ‘hey, well done, you’ve paid off your mortgage, you’re going to be a few quid better off a month, here are some savings suggestions.’

I realise much of this is automated these days, but you can still build rules into your process that trigger a congrats letter to each customer, celebrating the mortgage payoff. It’s very cheap, it’s common sense, it leaves your customer with a good feeling and it might prod them to buy another product from you. Easy.

I heard an ad on the radio the other day. It was for the travel company TUI, who used to be Thomson Holidays in the UK before they were taken over. So the ad passed the first test, namely that I was able to remember who the ad was for.

At the end of the ad it delivered its payload, which as far as I can remember was this: ‘We cross the T’s and dot the I’s on your holiday, and put you [as in U] in the middle.’ Beautiful. Achingly beautiful.

In one line it has made the brand the message.

You have to bear in mind that TUI is a German company. Someone came up with this genius strapline to work in the English language, so it’s almost certainly not the case that the strapline came first and inspired the brand name.

For me, when the brand becomes the message, or is the message, you’re onto a winner. I can’t imagine how well the strapline works in a visual – rather than auditory – ad, perhaps with a touch of animation. Delicious.

I was driving in central Dublin late on a Friday and a Saturday a few weeks ago, marvelling at the traffic. There’s not much traffic about, but it’s almost all taxis. Whole armies of them, pulsing through the arteries of the city. I don’t know how you can make money as a taxi driver that time of night. Supply seems to far outstrip demand.

Perhaps people can’t afford to pay Dublin parking rates, or perhaps they fear for their car’s safety at night time. Perhaps the one-way systems drive them mad or maybe they simply prefer public transport or taxis when they’re out at night. Either way, it got me thinking.

There seems to be a considerable drop in the amount of private cars in the city at night time. There’s been much written about the Uber platform over the last few years and what it’s done to the traditional taxi industry. But has the Uber phenomenon also contributed to a drop in car ownership in each metropolis?

We’re supposed to be moving to an eventual situation where we don’t need to own a car anymore. We’ll simply dial up a request for a car which will be deposited at our departure point. We’ll drive it to our destination there, where someone else will drive it somewhere else.

I was talking to a friend the other day who came back from a sabbatical in England in the summer. He’s not bothered to move back up to a 2-car family – they sold their second car before heading to London – and on the odd occasion he needs a second car he simply hires one for the day or weekend.

It feels like we’re gradually making the move towards treating a car as a service rather than an asset, if the connection of uber and car ownership is truly causal. It’s about time too. There’s no other major asset we purchase which starts depreciating the moment we get it.

When my Dad died, about 12 years ago, there were a number of pieces of paperwork we had to complete. I say paperwork because the forms we had to fill in were just that, paper.

Dad was truly pre-digital. He didn’t have a mobile phone, an email address or an online bank account. He didn’t have anything digital. Heck, the guy didn’t even own a pair of jeans. When he died, we wrapped up his affairs in a 100% offline way. And that was it. He generated no more paper. He didn’t write any more letters.

Nowadays a good portion of us are digital. I’m sure you are, reading this blog post. When you die, what will your digital death be like? Will someone set up your email out of office for you? ‘I’m sorry, but Paul is not in a position to reply to your email, ever. You see, he’s dead.’ Will someone close your Facebook account, your other accounts, your online subscriptions? Will they even know where your passwords are, if you’ve committed them to offline or online sttorage somewhere? There’s guy I’m connected to on LinkedIn who hasn’t just retired. He died along time ago, and I get his work anniversary notifications, which is a bit surreal.

Your digital death extends way beyond your physical death, perhaps forever. When you die, you’re not just in our hearts and minds, you’re still around in the ones and zeros.

‘It’s better to give than to receive,’ or so the old saying goes.

Many organisations and institutions rely on donations to fulfil their role in society, even for their survival. A regular donor is worth their weight in gold. Their donor lifetime value is often a very sizeable sum.

And then there are the high net worth individuals who give vast sums. They are of course the holy grail. In very many cases their donation results in something being named after them. The Smith Room/Building/Wing/Stadium/Institute/College; the list of possibilities is long. For the donor this is rewarding and gives them the public acknowledgement and legacy that they probably feel is a fair reflection of their generosity. And why not?

Then there is the other type of donor. The folk that don’t need for there to be a connection between them and the thing that their donation is funding. Anonymous donors are the truly special breed. For them the satisfaction of giving and the knowledge of the benefit it will provide is enough for them. They’re happy to play second fiddle to the receiving organisation. For them the shadows and the light under the bushel.

Anonymus donors have a special kind of nobility.

Blanket banner advertising

Online advertising is getting more and more targeted, as you’d expect. Companies and websites are getting better at collecting and mining customer information so that they can deliver more targeted ads which have a higher chance of converting, since in theory they resonate and are more relevant.

That doesn’t stop the odd bit of blanket advertising. Here’s one I got earlier in the year from M&S, promoting their Big & Tall range. I’m far from big and I’m far from tall. Surely if this is just a bulk buy from hotmail then it’s not appropriate for a section of the population in the high 90’s per cent?

I get lots of such ads to my hotmail account. I can tell you that they’re not remotely targeted. The only ones that are targeted are when I’ve abandoned a purchase on an ecommerce-savvy website like Amazon, and then it presents back to me the exact product I was either researching or declined to purchase.

To understand why companies still persist with untargeted ads and their microscopically small click-through rates, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they don’t get the data from the owner of the space. Perhaps the click-through rates are still worth it. Perhaps the front-of-mind awareness, which has always been so hard to measure in the traditional offline world, is good enough for them.

Either way, it’s hard to believe that this form of untargeted online advertising has much of a shelf life.


Are you a ‘State of the Art’ person or ‘State of the Ark’?

State of the Art people love trying and owning the latest hot tools and playthings. They’re always on the lookout for the fresh and the new. They don’t mind paying a premium for being at the front of the queue and in some cases they’ll tolerate the kinks and bugs before they get ironed out.

State of the Ark people are quite happy with their outdated device, since redundancy or obsolescence don’t faze them too much. It works well for them, and if it isn’t broken then they don’t want to fix it. For them the gains in pleasure or productivity don’t offset the pain and effort of scaling the learning and adoption curve. Let the guinea pigs deal with the problems; we’ll take it when it’s 100% ready to go.

Much of this depends on where we are on the adoption life cycle for new things, toys and technology. It’s a kind of bell curve with innovators and early adopters at one end, and laggards at the other. In the main part of the bell curve are the early majority and the late majority who make up the vast bulk of us all.

It’s not just gadgets and gizmos though. The adoption lifecycle works for anything new and our place on it says a lot about the kinds of people we are and our attitude to change.