Posted tagged ‘communications’

What price good customer service?


“…One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing -
is what we do for others…

Lewis Carol

It is a fact that good customer service seems to be getting very difficult to achieve.  In an average week we are subjected to customer service that stretches from the woefully inadequate to the quite frankly appalling.

Take my week.  I visited the Post Office in Liverpool to join a line of fifty people waiting to be served by four people who were sullen and fed-up.  They moved around slowly with shoulders slumped and everything was depressing.  No eye contact – they just looked beaten and dejected.   The up-sell at the end of the transaction for travel insurance and mobile top ups was so unconvincing.

Then there is transport, as an example, waiting for a late Easyjet and hearing monotone announcements about late inbound aircraft and apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.  Northern Rail also used the same bland statement when my train was delayed.  Then, standing in a Tesco store, about to close, seeing the duty manager frantically searching for the script to use on the public address system.

In contrast take my milkman who always has a smile and chats freely as he collects the money, a difficult task as he has to be up in the early hours to do a hard job against stiff competition from the supermarkets.  Then he has to spend an evening door knocking.  Of course we can now pay the dairy by direct debit and manage our account online, but interestingly, He tells me few are taking up the option as they like to chat to him!

Take my local charity arts centre (,uk) managing a full house of rock fans and people mobbing the bar and yet five people serving multi-tasking pouring multiple drinks, taking money, engaging numerous customers.

Take Café Nerro employees in my local store who never fail to smile, engage and ride out their company dictated barista up-selling to talk to customers and keep the line moving servicing lots of customers at once.

So what is the difference?

Well it comes down to natural communication, no scripts, no standardised wordings just plain courtesy, common sense and engagement.  Of course there are added complexities like having a good employer and job that is fulfilling.  But the difference is stark and I am now making my choices based on this service.  Bodyproject believes organisations are all about people and that people offer the best service when the organisation treats them as adults and allows them the freedom to express themselves.  I hope that, sooner rather than later, all organisations will take a deep long look at themselves and get their customer service sorted out.  If my local art centre and local milkman can do it then surely the likes of the Post Office, Tesco and rail companies can sort it – or can they?

What can professional communicators learn from a tragic crisis?


“…I want to stress we have the resources and resilience to deal with this situation and my officers are out in large numbers to provide reassurance and protection…”

Sue Sim Acting Chief Constable Northumbria Police

The shots that rang out in the middle of the night brought to an end the crisis phase of a very unique manhunt that has been at the forefront of the news throughout the week.

Now the reviews and investigations will take place but there is one aspect that I think can be commented on immediately and that is the handling of the various stakeholders by Northumbria Police.  I think they have done an exemplary job in very difficult circumstances.

Not only have they had to conduct a massive, complex and highly dangerous operation but they have had to work with multiple organisations, manage the international media and reassure politicians and citizens alike often having to take tough decisions.  It has been stakeholder crisis management at its most intense

Bodyproject believes their actions have demonstrated stakeholder management at its best and the learning points for us as professional communicators is not only how they handled the events as they unfolded but in the way they prepared for such an eventuality.  The processes and procedures and then training and knowledge have been clearly in evidence.  All of the statements made from senior leaders to the people on the teams have been absolutely defined and delivered with care and targeted.  The public meetings, media briefings, deployment of multiple agency resources highly effective.

It is a pity that global super brands such as BP and Toyota could not learn and adopt similar ways to deal with crisis and stakeholder management.  Public servants are often lambasted, not least by the new coalition Government, and in some cases rightly so.  But in some circumstances they are leading the way for all to follow including business.

Of course, the death of Raoul Moat and the many other victims of this tragic episode will throw up all sorts of review points from could it have been avoided in the first place to single events that could have been handled better.  Ultimately the loss of two lives and the injuries to others is tragic and whether it can be used as a case study for organisations to learn from is difficult given the sensitivity and emotion.

Having said that I believe that Northumbria Police have used exemplary communication and stakeholder management throughout and should be commended for their efforts and we can all learn from such events.

Marketing in a sceptical world


Spieler – a Market Trader who tries to convince a customer in all manner of ways that a product is worth buying

Extract from the Market Traders Phrase Book

Every Sunday in Liverpool, Stanley Market is thronged with traders and punters and has the most amazing array of goods.  What always fascinates me is that even in 2010 some traders are still pedalling magic ‘shammy’ (chamois) leathers or miracle mops or conducting meat auctions.   “For you, not £20, not £15 but £5 and I will throw in half a dozen sausages!”

You would think in this modern era that such selling would have had its day.  Surely selling has become far more sophisticated and such methods are transparent and as dubious as the world of scams with e-mails from Africa bestowing riches upon us in exchange for our bank details, financial consultants selling duff policies and numerous people willing to take our money and run.  You would hope that the regulators of marketing, advertising and PR would protect us from anything approaching the definition of a scam. However, even the most experienced marketing person can be subjected to some very interesting selling techniques that raises questions about my profession – marketing.

Business owners across the land have been puzzled by a direct mailing consisting of a torn newspaper page with a handwritten Post-it note, which says “Hi, I saw this and thought you’d find it useful – he’s really good! J”. The page arrives in a plain white envelope, which appears to be addressed by hand, with a second-class stamp attached.

It’s a compelling communication and makes a ‘free’ offer that is too good to miss.  Except, like anything, one starts very quickly to suspect there is something not quite right.  This particular mailing comes from marketing expert Chris Cardell and is certainly causing a stir as it has raised fundamental questions about his methods and has somewhat backfired upon him.

The mailing has landed him with a referral to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and their adjudication makes sober reading –

For me, the Cardell approach is worth looking at.  Many of his materials, thoughts and techniques are fascinating although his brash and somewhat arrogant approach is not to my liking (If you want to see him in action selling to you from a luxurious location then enjoy this –  The problem is where to ‘draw a line’ in communications and to determine at what point Cardell’s methods push  beyond the boundaries.

Of course, read the direct mailing cutting and one begins to fast see through the gushing copy.  The handwritten post it note is clearly misleading as actually there is no person that knows you called J who may have sent this mailing and the whole presentation from the stamp, postmark and hand writing is all aimed to provoke certain actions without telling you this is actually just a marketing device.

For me, Cardell has stepped outside the rules and the ASA adjudication establishes this.  It has also given him an interesting challenge as he is a disciple of Google and evangelises their tools, except now his name in their search engine returns with the word ‘scam’ which is hardly great for a guru of advanced internet marketing.  It will be interesting to see how he responds .

Bodyproject feels distinctly uneasy about the reputation the likes of Cardell bestows on our industry; but at the same time he has something to offer that is unique and ultimately compelling.  There is also a perversity in me writing this as I have subscribed to his free offer and thus offered my e-mail address to his clutches, but in mitigation I have done so for professional research reasons as I am sure you will understand!!!!

Catch It Bin It Kill It


“…To prevent the spread of flu, when you cough or sneeze, catch it in a clean tissue, bin it and kill it by washing your hands as soon as you can…”

Advice from the Department of Health 2009

Bodyproject endorses seven rules of communication and has at rule one the age old saying actions speak louder than words. The Government’s new campaign, that responds to the emerging flu virus that is now nearing classification as a pandemic, utilises another rule – the rule of three with the clear message for action – catch it bin it kill it.

The campaign is huge appearing on multiple outlets from a mass door drop to all points advertising and any other channels available.  

This blog supports the initiative not just because of its serious intent but also that it is an exemplary communication with a clear and concise set of three messages that aim to provoke behavioural change and real action.

So please encourage everybody you know to catch it bin it kill it.

To find out more about the seven rules of communication contact Bodyproject.

Say it as it is


“…It is a legislative requirement not to smoke in this bus station…”

PA announcement heard in St Helens Bus Station

The Bodyproject stakeholder management methodology looks closely at the use of language within communications and we never cease to be amazed at the way some organisations do everything they can not to use direct words.

I recently spotted a display sign at Wigan train station saying the train originates here!  How about the train starts here.  The quote at the head of this page is a case in point.  Where a simple smoking is not allowed or please do not smoke would be fine instead a grand word such as legislative is used.  What does that mean and can the average user of the bus station even understand it?

Smoking of course is an emotive topic and so is telling someone to stop or that they can’t do it.  The NHS at the vanguard of stopping smoking can’t quite bring itself to say stop smoking and talks about smoking cessation.  What is that?  I also heard the use of the words discontinuation of smoking.  Interestingly it is often the public sector that uses this sort of language.  Commercial organisations, in this case the makers of Nicorette patches use the straight forward quit smoking as a call to action.

The main point we at Bodyproject try to get over is to keep things simple and communicate so the person you are trying to get the message to can understand it.  If you want someone to stop or quit smoking then say it.  Asking them to participate in cessation or discontinuation as it is a legislative requirement might just not work.

To find out more about the Bodyproject stakeholder management methodology, our seven rules of effective communication and our thoughts on language please get in touch through the contact tab on this site.