spider webspider web
October 14, 2020 /
Comments Off on Don’t be the customer’s spider

Don’t be the customer’s spider

spider web

Why are people so afraid of spiders?

Why are people (me included) freaked out by spiders? Because they are so different to us. A dog has two big black eyes, whereas a spider has eight. Yuk.

The answer to that question also answers a question I often get asked by clients.

Exactly what should my staff say when serving customers?

When it comes to serving customers, don’t think of what to say, think of what to “be”.

Be a mirror.

Researcher Richard Wiseman studied whether mirroring or positive reinforcement was more effective at building customer connection.

One group of waiters used positive reinforcement by dishing lavish praise about the menu choice and encouragement with words such as “great”, “no problem” and “sure”. 

The other group mirrored their customers simply by repeating the orders back.

The results were stunning. The average tip of the mirroring group was 70% higher.

A mirror is the door to empathy.

So a mystery shopping question aimed at evaluating the welcome is more complex than it seems. 

Instead of asking:

“Was the staff member pleasant?”


“Did the staff member repeat you request”, then ask
“Did the staff member adjust the conversation to follow your needs”.

Don’t be a spider, be a dog.

September 21, 2020 /
Comments Off on How a flimsy sign altered behaviour

How a flimsy sign altered behaviour

Hungry Jacks Coffee sign

We see thousand of pieces of advertising each day. 

Sure consumers feel bombarded and it seems impossible any of it can stand out. 

But it works!

Why else would companies keep spending the money?

Today I was in an unfamiliar town looking for a coffee break during a long drive. 

On one side, KFC, on the other Hungry Jacks. 

I thought to myself. Do they even do coffee?

Then I saw a sign at Hungry Jacks advertising Barista coffee. 

I know there isn’t a barista in there but it was a signal. A signal that a) they sell coffee and b) that they sell coffee worth advertising. 

A sign is a signal. Same word, one is a noun and one a verb. 

So I bought it. 

These forms of advertising are expensive to buy and maintain. 

But in order for it to work the store must actually have the sign on display and it must be in good order. 

Maybe KFC should have had a sign on display and it wasn’t taken out for the morning? They should. 

Tardy signage signals tardy product.  Non existent signage signals non-existent product. 

These little things matter. So does the little matter of auditing signage, presentation and displays. 

Two minute video of how a flimsy sign changed my behaviour.

August 11, 2020 /
Comments Off on Why you should collect useless information

Why you should collect useless information

Why a staff member should collect information even if they can’t do anything about it

I closed a bank account today, and the reason I had to close it IS relevant.

2 minute video explaining why you should collect more information than necessary

I closed it because my bank, Greater Bank does not have Apple Pay as part of their Visa card offering. 

I am now wallet free, digital license, apple pay, phone key, electric car driving child of the internet age. I don’t want to carry one single card, so I decided to ditch this last dinosaur by opening an account with another bank.

The staff member who closed my account could not have been more helpful. But she didn’t ask me why I was closing my account.

Now sure she couldn’t do anything about it but she could’ve done two things. Firstly, she could have asked me why I was closing my account, and second, she could offer to leave the account with a zero balance and no fees until such time as the function I was seeking would be available (which it will eventually).

Now another bank has got my transactions, and our banking does tend to follow our transactions. So they’ll probably end up getting the whole of my company’s banking.

Collect information from customers, even if you can’t do anything about it.

January 29, 2020 /
Comments Off on Shuddup and take my money

Shuddup and take my money

Imagine this. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m riding along the coast with some great buddies. One of them casually mentions a great café he visited with his wife the previous weekend.

It’s got outdoor seating in the car park of an old timber mill with the café located in an old shipping container. In the timber mill there is a florist, Potter, and other quirky stores.

“Sounds perfect!” I said.

Cafe in shipping container

I took my wife there, and it was everything it was pumped up to be. On top of everything, the food was fantastic. 

The owner/chef was also very accommodating of my dietary pickiness.

I asked for a Rueben sandwich without bread. Hey, at least I didn’t ask for a decaf soy latte.

I wrote a good Trip Advisor review and decided to take my cycling friends. I mentioned this to the owner as I left and he beamed a big smile.

“I’d love to have you all come by” he said unsurprisingly.

Though the café is slightly out of our way, the crew were more than happy to try somewhere new.

A couple of weeks later I rolled in with a dozen cycling friends. Our typical breakfast stop involves a big feed and at least two rounds of coffee.

Group sitting at coffee shop

I had a chat with the owner as we entered to ensure he remembered me.

“Of course I do, and thanks for the TripAdvisor review man!”

I didn’t expect streamers like the ones thrown as people left on ships after World War II, but I was expecting a little more acknowledgement.

The crew loved the place and the breakfast, although the coffee was a little ordinary. But here’s the problem. 

The café is relatively new. If you get the opportunity to get potentially 12 ravenous guests come to your cafe every week, you might make a little special effort.

Here are some simple steps the café owner could have taken to grab the market.

Acknowledge the entrance.

Make a big deal about a new group of people coming into the cafe for the first time. Make them feel welcome and appreciated.

Check on the table

Get someone to come to the table regularly to make sure that everything is okay. But get that person to come and have a real and engaging conversation. Not just a throwaway line like “everything ok?”

Clear the table

The group ordered a round of coffees before breakfast. Come and clear the table so they have a clean environment upon which to enjoy their breakfast.

Make more money

Nowadays, café owners have a portable point of sale machine. Get someone to walk to the table after breakfast and ask if anyone would like an extra coffee. Although the café is walk-up service they would sell coffees as they clear the breakfast plates. It’s literally money being left on the table because most people will say:

”Oh, why not”.

You may even sell a small sweet desert.

Make it free.

If you don’t want to pester people with an upsell, consider giving away some free coffees especially for the first visit. Imagine if the owner walked up to the table and said:

“thanks very much for coming to the cafe, let me get a free coffee for anyone who is interested.”

I can’t imagine any situation in which that would be a bad idea. At worst, it might cost $.40 a coffee but it’s almost guarantees return purchases.

Business acumen and customer service

It’s not rocket science. The problem is that the owner is so obsessed with the food and its presentation that he’s lost sight of the human touch. 

Simple business acumen can get some of that money that is being left on the table, and the customers will be more than happy to give it to you.

Indeed, they will thank you for taking the money.

Business smart and customer service I’m not incompatible, in fact they feed each other.


October 16, 2019 /
Comments Off on Everyone is in Customer Service

Everyone is in Customer Service

Yes! I.T. departments are in customer service.

Yes! Accounts departments are in customer service.

Yes! We are all in service.

Exposed by a simple problem

We recently had a problem doing a simple transaction uploading a Bank Payment file.

Screen shot of Banking error sowing how the forget about customer service

For some reason we were getting the weird error above.

The bookkeeper at my mystery shopping business had spent the morning trying, and I invested the whole afternoon.

I called the bank in sheer frustration. Maybe they could help me?

To my horror, I found out that the upload system had been down for weeks and might be down for another two weeks.


Everyone should have service foresight

No-one in the IT department had the foresight to put a small message on the page to say there was a problem, not spell out the workaround.

It would affect hundreds of business customers. It was a silent inconvenience.

The I.T. silo is in full isolation mode.

Everyone is in Customer Service. Everyone.

September 20, 2019 /
Comments Off on Do customers want automated customer service?

Do customers want automated customer service?

Automated customer service gets a bad wrap.

I often get asked in media interviews about the effects of artificial intelligence on customer service. So many people bemoan the seemingly soul-less interaction we have with chat bots online. But we we prefer them. And so do our customers.

What does the research show?

Our internal research at Service Integrity Mystery Shopping shows that:

  • Customers prefer knowledge 87% over presentation 13%
  • Customers prefer knowledge 59% over warm customer service 41%
  • Customer prefer knowledge 59% to cleanliness 41%

Ai in telecommunications

I recently heard a keynote by the head of artificial intelligence at Optus telecommunications at the Google Cloud summit in Sydney. The Optus executive said that customer net promoter scores (NPS) were higher when they interacted with artificial intelligence then when they interacted with humans.

Customer Service Secret Shopper

They also stated that artificial intelligence bots can now handle up to 75% of all enquiries.

This tells me it’s only getting better. We want knowledge above all else and artificial intelligence is the best tool to give us that. And it can give us the knowledge we need instantly. 

Bad nostalgia

Now that the technology is getting to the point where it is useful, we will NOT look back fondly on the days we had to wait 20 minutes or 2 hours on the phone to speak to a representative about a mobile phone issue. Will be able to login and get it dealt with within 10 seconds or a minute. 

I like shopping instantly online, rather than waiting for someone. I like not having to wait for someone to come fill my car up for me. I like not having to wait for a checkin persona at the airport.

Automated customer service improves service, not diminish it.

I don’t care that I’m dealing with the machine. I just want my question answered and I don’t want to wait.

Are you meeting this challenge with your customers or still reminiscing about the good old days – which were not so good.

(This begs the question about the role of people, but that’s a whole other topic)

September 09, 2019 /
Comments Off on The ultimate test of good customer service

The ultimate test of good customer service

The ultimate test of good service is to sell something.

My friend Kon goes into a shoe store to ask for some specific shoes only to find they are out of stock.

They frustrate him so he goes to the company’s other store 20 minutes away. He then tries another store of the same retailer. Still no luck. In an effort to ‘serve’ the customer, the store suggests he goes online – thus losing control of the sale.

To make matters worse, Kon hates buying shoes and clothing online. They tried to help him but didn’t.

The purpose of serving customers is not to be their friend.
The purpose of serving customers is not to be ‘nice’
The purpose of serving customers is to sell…. and
The purpose of the customer’s visit is to buy.

Don’t be confused, and don’t be scared to make this clear to staff.

(Cover image https://t.co/oWoPaqi1MY?amp=1)

August 30, 2019 /
Comments Off on How Uber Eats almost destroyed a small business

How Uber Eats almost destroyed a small business

We have to be careful of the shiny new toy.

My local cafe has started doing Uber Eats deliveries.

Good for them!

Well….. not so fast.

The wait times jumped to 20 minutes and then 40 minutes.

My big cycling group worth $600-$700 per month has slowly moved to another cafe (despite many second chances).

We are (were) loyal for a number of reasons.

There’s a certain vista we were used to. There’s the food. There’s the way the the Norfolk Pine tree casts shade in summer mornings. There’s the familiarity of where we sit.

People buying online have less reason to be loyal. The emotion tugs are absent, and the business can evaporate.

All it takes is one change to an Uber Eats algorithm and it’s gone. What do you do? The shiny new object is so tempting?

The problem is that the cafe isn’t clear on its purpose. As consumers, we can feel that they are only there to squeeze money out of it. Profit is a result and consumers see straight through it.

The last section of this video explains how a small business can use purpose to inform them of what to do. Chase Uber Eats? Chase loyal customers? Or both?

August 21, 2019 /
Comments Off on Are you making these small service mistakes?

Are you making these small service mistakes?

Software companies struggle with service. It’s so avoidable.

I use www.surveygizmo.com for some of my client survey needs. I usually pay about $70.00 per month, but this month they decided to try to charge me for the whole year upfront $1,020.00.

Luckily AMEX caught it and I stopped the payment.

I contacted their help through their website but got no response.

Then two days later I got an email saying my account would be suspended if I didn’t pay “tomorrow”. I depend on this software to serve my clients. It’s critical.

Here are all the things that are wrong with their service. Note, it’s a US company and I am not in the US.

  1. They swooped and threatened to close the account within one week of non-payment. So much for dispute resolution or payment problems.
  2. They didn’t respond to the initial request though their web page ticket system.
  3. It’s impossible to find tracking of help tickets online (in case an emailed resolution was missed).
  4. They only have a US toll free number. No other numbers.
  5. When you the only options are 1) Support (which you can only access if you pay for it), 2) Sales, and 3) Credit card payment. No option for Billing or general.
  6. If you try support and don’t have a special number they just hang up.
  7. The credit card option is only open mountain time (US) business hours.

This is what I do for a living and I try not to diss people online. This is an exception because I hope I can illustrate how easy it is to get the details wrong.

Call me SurveyGizmo. Call me.

July 12, 2019 /
Comments Off on The iconic brand doing a Blockbuster

The iconic brand doing a Blockbuster

An iconic Australian department store (DJ’s) is doing its best Blockbuster impersonation.

They are reducing two Sydney flagship stores to 1, and eliminating 6 floors.

Profits have been declining every year for 15 years (lightening reaction times).

Online sales rose 46.8 per cent and now account for 7.7 per cent of total sales.

But they call it a “retail recession”. 15 years is not a retail recession. More like a crusty brand recession.

The wonderful DJ’s service was legendary, but the legend is built around invisible staff and awful service.

Service counts more than ever in physical stores but it’s the place they cut.

They had/have a chance to fix it if they become an iconic.com.au but they are probably cooked.

They saw their purpose as a multi-brand landlord, but they should have considered themselves to be a multi- brand marketplace.

This would have enabled them to pivot to online.

When service and purpose clash it’s like waves crashing on an outgoing tide.

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