A Road to Nowhere

April 29, 2009

I was in central London the other day, I was in no hurry to get to my next destination, but it started to rain, so I jumped on a bus. After a couple of stops I noticed a tourist having a hard time getting on the bus. His English was fine, he knew where he wanted to go, he was on the right bus, he had money to purchase a ticket, yet he couldn’t get one!

Why? because you can’t purchase a ticket on this bus, you have to purchase it before you get on. So here is a guy that is willing to pay for a service, he has the money in his hand, he’s willing to hand it over in the most logical way, directly to the driver, the guy offering the service, but someone, somewhere (more than likely a bean counter) decided that it would be more efficient & save time, if consumers pre-purchase their tickets, thus freeing up the driver’s time & making the schedule run more effectively. But that’s no good to this guy, he has to get off, find a ticket machine, purchase a ticket then get back on, this process takes more time, so the driver decides that waiting isn’t an option and drives on, leaving this guy behind as he purchases a ticket!? Not a good scenario, the driver could have waited, he didn’t, he had a schedule & job to keep, the passenger could have purchased his ticket beforehand, he didn’t, but he didn’t realise he had too. So who’s to blame, the driver, the passenger, the bean counter? The answer is all of them & none of them!

You could argue that the passenger should have read the signs & bought a ticket, or that the driver should have waited, or that the schedules should allow for this, or that the bean counters shouldn’t get involved in the first place, and you could come up with plenty more reasons, but essentially this approach doesn’t work for a simple reason, because it’s been designed to improve bottom line & efficiency for the bus service & not effectiveness & convenience for the customer, do the latter & you’ll have more passengers than you can handle, which is good for business & something you can solve, so that’s a good thing!

Another example is the incredibly useful & easy to use iPhone app MyRail, that gives real time rail time tables & automatically locates your nearest station using the built in GPS. But it doesn’t work anymore, not because the software is broken, but because  National Rail Enquiries has stopped the app accessing their database. Why, who knows! So rather than allowing me to use an application that is easy to use and convenient for me, with the sole purpose of allowing me to know what time the next train is so I can purchase a ticket. They would rather I logged into a website that doesn’t work on most mobile devices, and when it does make it so tricky & time consuming to get the info I want, that I’ve missed the train, so decide to jump in a cab instead!

This example is madness, why aren’t they looking at the bigger picture, the opportunities are their… if someone wanted to leverage your business or offer a service to your customers that you’re not offering, don’t stand in their way, embrace the fact with open arms, they’re helping you sell your product and they’re servicing your clients where you’re not. If someone is that much of a fan about your products don’t stop them, encourage them, you’ve more to gain than lose!

Dirty Laundry

January 6, 2009

We’ve heard it so many times from clients & suppliers… “we’re customer focused… everything we do is with the customer in mind… we’re number one for our clients… you can trust us to deliver… we won’t let you down… yawn yawn etc” Then they proceed to say “But don’t take our word for it, listen to what our customers have to say” then they role out a series of amazing client testimonials which cover them in glory.

Brilliant idea, that’s what you should do, it’s what everyone else is doing so it must be a good idea, wrong, wrong, wrong! Don’t do it, as you’d be wasting your time.

If you want to encourage or build a new client / customer relationship I’m afraid there’s no quick fix, no matter how good your testimonials make you sound, we know you’ve edited out the mediocre or bad ones, you’re only revealing half the story (in fact probably only a 10%, as you’re unlikely to ask every client for a testimonial, only the ones that you already know are going to write something good about you). So testimonials won’t do it for you.

So how do you build trust, how do you get a customer to use you or trust you? The answers quite simple actually, you have to honest with them, you have to be open, but not just saying you are, you have to be truly transparent!

How? Ever used eBay? If you had two sellers selling exactly the same things, same price etc and one had a 90% “unedited” good hit rate and the other had a 100% “edited” hit rate which would you choose? My point exactly, the “unedited” completely open & honest seller.

So if you say you’re customer focused, and you put your customer first, prove it. Ask every single customer to give you honest & open customer feedback, at the end of every project ask your clients to fill in a satisfaction survey… but don’t ask them, why did you choose our product or how good was the project delivery, ask them why would they choose a competitor, what was wrong with your delivery, how could you improve it next time, what other things would they like you to offer!

But here’s the really good bit, if you’re truly customer focused, then put your money where your mouth is, put it ALL on display, hang your dirty laundry out on your website, the pristine white shirt hanging pride of place alongside your socks with the worn out heels & holes where your toes stick through. Nobody’s perfect, so don’t pretend to be. You’ll soon become focused on getting more of those white shirts on your line, that the holey socks will become a thing of the past, rather just hidden away when visitors come round.

If you can be honest with yourself, then you can truly be honest with your customers, they’ll respect you for it and over time, they’re really trust you!

If ever you needed evidence that web 2.0 is reversing the balance of power into the hands of the consumer, then check out these videos and the www.comcastmustdie.com website. I’ve posted previously how the tide is changing & how companies need to be in there engaging with their customers and protecting their brands, companies ignoring this strategy do so at their peril.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Networking or Not Working
Make Your Business Viral, Not Just Your Campaigns
Can Stephen Fry kill a gadget?

Networking or Not Working

November 14, 2008

In today’s 24/7 wired world of social networks, web 2.0 & mobile platforms, if you’re business is not networking then you’re not working!

Do you have a group or page on a social network such as Facebook?
Do you have a Twitter account?
Do you have a Blog?
Do you have a YouTube Channel?
Do you have an account on Get Satisfaction?
Do you run a Forum?
Do you have a mobile strategy?

Answer no to any or all of the above, then ask yourself why not? If you say it’s because you can’t afford the time or the resources, then find the time & the resources, as the cost to your business of not utilising these platforms will outweight your investment of time.

Answer yes to any of the above, great stuff… answer yes to all of them, that’s amazing! But remember simply registering in these places won’t mean anything if you’re not participating & engaging your audience on a one to one basis, plus it’s not just about getting large numbers. Having 5,000 people in your Facebook group won’t mean a thing if you’re not having direct two way communication with them.

It’s easier now more than ever for you to open dialogue & interface with your audience directly, but it’s also easier than ever for your audience to talk about you to others, you need to ensure what they’re saying showers you in a positive light. If you ignore the conversations going on, soon you won’t be in them anymore, as your audience will be talking about, and to, your competitors, and it will be very difficult to get them back!