Archives for category: 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.

 

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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.

When we’re taught the rudiments of writing a press release, we’re sometimes encouraged to get to the ‘five w’s’ in the first paragraph. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why is often the last W to be addressed, and it’s probably the most important W. Why are we doing this? What impact are we hoping to have?

I remember an ad campaign for a national newspaper a few years ago, for a broadsheet rather than a tabloid, which was all about the why. I thought it was a great campaign. The answer to why is this happening or why did this happen is the most informative answer.

Why is a very pertinent question to ask in business as well. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? This is a concept popularised by Simon Sinek in his book Starting With Why. I hadn’t heard about the author or the concept until a good friend told me about it some time ago. It’s a really simple and profound way of thinking about your business or your organisation and what its purpose for existing is.

I love the concept, but I haven’t read the book yet. It’s sitting digitally on my Kindle, working its way up my list and I’ll get to it over the holidays. What we do is something every company knows. How we do it is something that a smaller proportion of them knows. Only the very special ones understand, throughout the organisation, why they do what they do, why they’re in business in the first place, and that’s where great organisations should start. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, take exactly 5 minutes to watch this abridged TED talk, it’s well worth it.

Then you can ask yourself the question why are you in business. And if you don’t have a good answer, maybe start a new organisation with a new answer.

 

 

Value Added Tax, now there’s a misnomer if ever there was one. Is it a tax on value added goods, or in fact almost anything of value? Or is it the tax itself that is adding value? It’s confusing. Is it virtually fat-free milk or virtually fat-free milk?

We pay tax on our income, we pay a national insurance contribution, and depending on the country we reside in we pay a range of other taxes as well, like the Irish ‘universal social charge’, corporation tax, property tax, community tax and inheritance tax. Nothing wrong with tax of course, as long as national and local governments are providing good value in the form of social services for the income they make. There’s that word value again.

Scandinavian countries pay very high taxes, but people are very highly paid too and those countries lay on a superb array of social services.

Value Added Tax, or VAT for short, is a huge earner for governments, and an increasingly large number of different goods and services get drawn into the VAT net. How long before children’s items and basic items are forced to join the fold?

The level of VAT varies too. In Ireland it’s 23% for example. In the UK it’s 20% but a glance at the history books will tell you that it’s been creeping up from a low of 8%.

But really it’s the name that jars with me. Before VAT was called VAT in the UK it was called purchase tax, which is much closer to the mark.

I think I’ve always preferred the US term ‘sales tax’. Because that’s what it is. Simple, really. It’s no longer a tax on ‘value added’ good and services, it’s a tax on most things that are sold.