Thinking Out Loud

Friend or thief?

farmersOne of my pet hates when I shop at Farmers is when they put that big piece of sticky tape over your bag to prove that you haven’t stolen the thing you’ve bought or to stop you stealing more. It really erks me but I try to keep it to myself. But the other day, it all went out the window, I just couldn’t help myself.

It was one of those 50% off childrenswear days so the place was packed and it was 10pm at night. I got to the front of the queue, handed over my ClubCard when asked, paid and then they put the tape over my bag. And then I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I asked the lady on the till if I could make an observation. (At which point all the people in the queue looked at me like I was a crackpot). This was my observation.

“In one breath you are asking me for my ClubCard which is rewarding me for my loyalty and thanking me for being a friend of Farmers. And then in the other breath you are accusing me of stealing something. Does that not strike you as being odd?”

At which point all the other ladies on the tills turned around and started nodding their heads in agreement. And the customers in the queue still thought I was a nutbag.

My beef wasn’t with the ladies on the till as I know they were just doing what they were told to do. My point was that I am sure in splendid isolation both these things make sense. Marketing are right to think that a loyalty programme is a good idea. And Risk is also right to think that tape can limit their stock losses.

However – when they come together at the customer – they just don’t feel right. Who looks after the experience the customer has? Who is in charge of that? If you don’t have anyone – you need to change that.

How are you making your customers feel?

What have you done for me lately?

Janet JacksonI always find it interesting when a client comes to me with a customer retention issue and the first question they want to know is – “why are customers leaving us?”. Because I’m not sure that is always the best question to ask. In the famous words (well almost) of Janet Jackson maybe you should be asking yourself “what have we done for them lately?”.

Obsessing on why customers left you is futile as 9 times out of 10 they will always say they left because of price. And using price as a retention tool is not sustainable long term. But if you put the spotlight on what your brand has done to show loyalty to the customer since they have been with you I think you will get to an entirely different place.

Challenge yourself – what have you done for your customers recently to earn their loyalty?

Stories for every journey

Qantas - Story Books for Every JourneyQantas have recently come up with another way to reward their frequent flyers – specially curated books that flyers are able to finish just as the plane touches down. It’s called “Stories for Every Journey,” and is a collection of bespoke books, each of which promises to last only for the duration of one of the airline’s routes.

I thought this was a novel (pardon the pun) way of rising to the challenge of engaging with frequent flyers who, at the top end are probably not as driven by points accumulation as your average flyer. I love it from a customer point of view as it simply excites me about travel again. When you are a frequent flyer, you are probably doing it for work and subsequently it turns into a bit of a chore and just a way of getting from A to B. But with these books I’d be chomping at the bit to get on board and have some “me” time rather than work time. Which is a nice association for the brand to have and also the book gives you a very tactile experience. You’d probably pass the book onto colleagues as well so would have a decent life span.

They have skewed the books to a male audience – so think crime, adventure and sci-fi but would be great to see this evolved to be driven by a customer’s preference. It would also be interesting to think about whether a digital experience would be more appealing to some customers. In terms of appealing to a more female skew, this idea reminds me on an initiative at Heathrow Terminal 1 some years ago where frequent flyers where given the opportunity to customise their own magazine before they boarded a flight.

But in general I thought it was another great demonstration of a brand being loyal to a customer and really getting the experience they have.

Big business could learn a lot from small business

Sometimes I ponder on the fact that small businesses are actually a lot smarter than big ones.  Big ones could learn a lot from small ones.

They truly are closer to their customers as they are the ones talking to them everyday.  Helping them, testing out things with them and solving problems for them.  They don’t have to do endless focus groups to find out what customers are thinking.  Focus groups are hilarious.  Picture this – a small windowlesss room, 9pm on a Tuesday night,  with people who have nothing better to do eating free sandwiches and critically evaluating a doordrop that in real life would barely have 30 seconds dedicated to it.  Quality way to get insights to feed your marketing strategy. Not.

Successful small businesses focus everything around their customers.  And they don’t need any internal change programme to do this or a snappy project name.  They just do the right thing.  My favourite small business at the moment is my dentist.  Two very cool reasons.  First up – everytime you refer someone to his practice – he sends you a handwritten thankyou card with a $50 credit voucher to use on your next visit.  Nice. The first time it happened, it was a complete surprise and now I actively recommend whenever I get an opportunity.  Secondly – because helping his customers out is the first thing on his mind, he never takes any appointments in the week before Christmas.  He does this because he wants to keep his schedule free in case any of his customers have a toothache or a problem that needs addressing before the long break.  Put simply – he gives up revenue in that week before Christmas so that none of his customers are in pain over the holidays.  Wow – that is clever.  And that is going to earn you lifetime loyalty.



Even Trinny and Susannah can’t work it out.

Recent events have got me thinking about that question that most mums have at some stage. And in my case – on an ongoing insane basis. Should I be working or should I be at home? What is the right thing for the kids? What is the right thing for our family? What is the right thing to do for me? So, I stand corrected – it’ actually multiple questions.

Last week I came across this article about Trinny And Susannah (from What Not To Wear fame) and it made me thing – man, even famous, rich people have this problem! It was the same kind of epiphany that I had when I realised that despite having a full time chef, trainer, and shrink – Oprah still can’t lose weight. There is no hope for me (but that is a whole other topic for a whole other time!).

It is another reminder that this question of can you have it all – is indeed a question perplexing all women – rich, poor, successful, fat, thin, I’m not unique. I’ve come to a realisation on why I think this question is so frustrating. So here goes – the women who have this problem are used to being able to solve complex problems everyday at work. They are bloody good at it. They get paid to do it. I get paid to help big brands solve pretty tricky problems. So why can’t I sort out this? Sometimes I think to myself and sit down with a blank piece of paper “Ok – how hard can this be. Lets just have a think about how this could work. We could do day care for DD, after school care for DS and DS and maybe a student to help me 4pm – 7pm. But I would still have to get out of the house by 8am with lunches, uniform on, homework done, school slips signed, fights quelled. And leave work on the dot at 5pm.   Arriving home with tired children who are hangry (and so is their mother).  Hard at the best of times. And then there is what happens when they are sick, school holidays and other such challenges. So they you go back to the nanny idea. But should I really be the one taking DD to the ballet? Who is toilet training her? Should I be spending time with DS to improve his reading? But actually – I like working so do I really want to leave that behind and lose a little bit of me?”  And thats the sideshow happening in my mind.  I’m meant to be clever. And I can’t work it out.

Don’t get me wrong – I have a fantastic life  and I am so lucky as I truly do have a choice of whether I work. But it does kinda screw with your mind.  A lot!

You say cruciferous, I say brassica.

There is a storm being raged in the wholefoods world as we speak.  Are brussel sprouts part of the cruciferous or the brassica family of vegetables?  There is debate over what the correct name is.   I prefer the name cruciferous for no other reason other than it sounds fantastic.  Imagine saying that at volume when walking down the fruit and vege aisle at Countdown?  Thats the kind of thing that gets you noticed.  The one thing that we know for sure is that the vegetables within this family – cauliflower, kale, cabbage, radishes – are super healthy, super good for you, reduce stress and lower your risk of developing cancer.  So I say – get amongst it people!  It used to be that just the thought of brussel sprouts would make me gag and cauliflower only tolerated when covered in cheese sauce.  But these recipes have changed it all for me.  Delicious as a side or heated up the next day for lunch.

Brussel Sprouts with bacon, walnuts and parsley

Cauliflower and Prosciutto Pasta

Hello world!

Welcome from the desk of the Chief Happiness Officer!   As I sit here in my corner office surveying the skyline of Manhattan, I sometimes have to remind myself that I am not Tess McGill and no one else can hear Carly Simon singing “Let The River Run”.    Thank you for visiting my blog and I welcome your comments!

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