Thursday, 27 September 2007

It's obvious (isn't it?)

Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. Take diagon alley; I had read the first three Harry Potter books before I realised that there was something obvious about the name of this street!

It happened to me again today.

Melissa and I were having a chat about reference programme with a software company when I asked "why are customer references seemingly more important to software companies than other organisations?" I had noticed previously that attendees from software companies appeared to be the most plentiful at customer reference forum events.

It was explained to me that, other than the interface you cannot see software or easily separate the qualities of one software flavour against another. Potential customers want to hear or see third-party endorsement of the business benefits a software product can bring. Doh! (Obvious when you think about it)

Sometimes only seeing is believing; this is where reference programmes come into their own

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Do some of your best work; take time off

I have a brilliant job, really. I get to talk with people all over the world about their reference programmes (programs), working with them to create better ones.

While there are some universal constants such as 'How best to engage with the sales teams?' and 'Do we incentivise the customers and/or salespeople?' I am always amazed at the breadth of challenges requiring bespoke solutions.

Here's the thing, we run around from meeting to meeting and deadline to deadline so when do we have time to think and truly create?

Most creatives agree that their breakthrough ideas come when they are doing something completely unrelated and out of their normal 'work' environment; exercising, even walking seems to be top of the list.

Concentrating more and more on an issue is probably not the answer. I currently have some projects that require radical solutions.

Sounds like a need a day off...

Monday, 17 September 2007

343 million reasons to give customers a choice

Continuing the thought about Google and how a brand should keep delighting customers even (and maybe especially) when it achieves market dominance rather than abusing its position (an easy mistake to make) I found the Microsoft anti-trust ruling and £343m fine interesting.

Is this about giving consumers more choice, a European court taking a shot at an easy US target or a precedent for something bigger?

The legal team was quoted as saying:
"these principles of the judgement will not just apply to the Microsoft case...They will apply to any dominant company that engages in the same behaviour...It provides legal certainty now as to what you can and you can't do in relation to information you have to make available to companies who compete in your environment to enable them to be a viable competitor..."

I suspect that Google and eBay are watching developments in this case with interest.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Ten things Google has found to be true

Very few would argue with the statement "Google is a cool company". Any organisation that maintains this perception while achieving a dominant market share is doing something right.

I came across this list of Ten things Google has found to be true which is now four years or so old. Still rings true and a philosophy to which I subscribe.

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There's always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You can be serious without a suit.
10. Great just isn't good enough.

Count me in. This is how a brand name becomes a verb.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Detractor to Promoter in five minutes flat

I am pleased to report that customer service is alive and well in Cheshire, UK. Recently I hoped to enjoy a business dinner with a colleague in an impressive country house, converted into a hotel and extended to cope with the huddled masses.

The restaurant was recommended (good start) and was almost empty, however things went slowly (the perfect word) downhill as with well over an hour since placing an order and our meals yet to make an appearance I decided to have a discrete word with the maitre d', who swiftly informed me that it was indeed our fault for ordering things that took a while to prepare and maybe I should, on reflection, consider sushi or a blue steak next time.

My colleague had caught an early flight from Germany and we were just a the ' OK, let's leave' stage when our meals finally appeared. The food was great, however by this point I was in the middle of a real British 'never to return' rant (under my breath of course) and more likely to buy the latest 50cent greatest hits CD than act as a promoter for this establishment.

Then a strange thing happened. I was presented with a bill on which there was no charge whatsoever for food. I questioned the maitre d' who now agreed wholeheartedly that the service we had received was appalling and under no circumstances would he consider charging a single penny. Wow (this was a pricy eatery).

Ok so I'm back as a promoter, which goes to show that I can be bought. Easily.
Click here for a great meal in comfortable surroundings with slow but and excellent service :o)

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The world's favourite airline? When a brand represents a nation

British Airways is about to launch a print, online and radio brand campaign entitled “Upgrade To BA”. Interesting; I really hope this is a little more than a smoke and mirrors PR exercise and here's why:

I have journeyed from committed BA advocate to reluctant detractor in a short space of time (This is an airline run by accountants; never a good thing. BA, you had my loyalty and you blew it) meanwhile BA has almost continuously and very publicly damaged its brand (
Brandindex) in recent years, creating no lack of negative publicity and prompting crisis management as a result.

Even if we discount the scrapping of Concorde they have had the
lost luggage issue (28 thousand bags), the price fixing issue (£271 million in fines which lead to the departure of Martin George) and the January strike. I could go on.

So what? you might say. Well the B in BA is pretty important to me and around 60million other people. When a brand represents or is associated with an entire country surely it has a duty to be remarkable, and for the right reasons.

The good news is that this campaign is to highlight “high levels of services” while predictably attempting to spin "improvements in fuel efficiency" for the green lobby.

Maybe some of this £60m advertising campaign investment could have been better spent investigating a
how to make a WOM-worthy airline (jackie huba) to deliver an exceptional customer experience, learning from the marvellous Captain Denny Flanagan.

'The world's favourite airline' is a worthy ambition requiring substance behind the spin when a brand is also a nation's flag carrier.

Monday, 3 September 2007

27 forbidden phrases, including "there's no money"

When you receive poor service you can always complain, vote with your feet and withdraw your custom. What do you do when faced with an unacceptable level of assistance from a government department? Shrug your shoulders and wait for the next election to effect change?

It's not surprising that Government departments get a lot of bad press as the rules of customer service and accountability have not historically applied in this environment.

Until now. as per
this BBC article Alexander Kuzmin, mayor of Megion in western Siberia has issued a list of 27 excuses which city officials must no longer use, including "I don't know" and "it's lunch time".

Mr Kuzmin's three main points were:

  • "City officials should help improve people's lives and solve their problems, not make excuses."
  • " I am tired of civil servants telling me that problems were impossible to solve, rather than offering practical solutions."
and my personal favourite...
  • "the use of these expressions by city administration officials while speaking to the head of the city will speed their departure."
Banned phrases include:
  • What am I supposed to do?
  • I'm not dealing with this
  • We're having lunch
  • The working day is over
  • Somebody else has the documents
  • I think I was off sick at the time
  • I don't know
  • It's lunch time

We recently supplied references to the UK cabinet office which was keen to demonstrate how public-sector IT projects CAN be successful and run to time and budget.

Apart from references being hugely important in providing assurance (and justification) for those holding the public purse strings I think that Alexander Kuzmin has got it right; accountability and service are not merely restricted to the private sector and/or election time.
He gets my vote.