The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Nothing Shows You Care Than When Things Are Shit …

Just like HR is often about protecting management from their people rather than the other way around, the same can be said for customer service.

Of course, no one says that, but there’s far too many examples of companies stating the importance of their customers, and then using their customer service department to completely undermine them.

As I’ve written before, real customer service is demonstrated when things are bad, not good.

Let’s be honest, when a company can spot a sale, the full charm-offensive is on display.But when things go bad … oh, that’s when the truth is often revealed.

The irony is that this is the exact moment you can create a level of loyalty that can last a lifetime.

I’ve talked about the time VW came good after my brand new Golf GTI had the gearbox collapse and the turbo blow up … and I’ve found another example of a brand making something bad, a little bit better simply because they looked at things from their customers perspective and acted accordingly.

Isn’t that amazing?

Considerate. Compassionate. Personal. Helpful. Generous.

At the worst of times, a company has found a way to not just solve a problem – but help relieve some of the pain, that wasn’t even of their own making.

If a pet food company can do that – with their relatively low priced product – then any company should be able to. But many don’t. Not because their staff don’t want to, but their bosses won’t let them.

Years ago I worked with a consultant called Geoff Burch.

He was a beautiful maniac.

What made him great was he challenged management to live up to their responsibilities – both to their companies reputation and their employees ability to be successful.

We were working on an Italian car brand together and at the client briefing, the CEO said the call centre staff were offering too many benefits to appease dissatisfied customers.

Geoff asked why they were dissatisfied and the response was their were reliability problems.

Quick as a flash, he replied:

“Maybe you need to realise your responsibility to your employees is more than just a desk, a roof and a paycheck, but making a product that is fit for purpose. I can’t help a company who wants to blame others for the faults they have created and protect”

It was incredible.

And while there was a very awkward atmosphere in the room after that outburst, the CEO – after what seemed like a lifetime – acknowledged he was right.

To be fair, it helped that Geoff had an incredible reputation, but he wasn’t saying anything truly revolutionary, he was simply saying ‘reputation is based on what you do, not what you say’.

And while that should be plainly obvious, it’s amazing how few companies still don’t get that. The companies who think making a few dollars more today is more valuable than a lost customer tomorrow.

Seriously, the way some companies operate, it’s like a bloody ponzi scheme.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should ‘spend your way’ into customers hearts.

This is simply about valuing your customers perspective rather than purely seeing the World through your own.

Which is, unsurprisingly, the true definition of customer service.



If Companies Want To Know About ‘Agile’, Ask My Son …

3 different nationalities.
4 different countries [In 4 different continents]
5 different homes.
4 different schools.
Two major long lockdowns.
All of this in just 6 – but soon to be 7 – short years.

And yet despite all that change … all that waving goodbye and learning to say new hellos … he remains a happy, curious, cheeky and compassionate kid.

And while he loved his life in China, America and the UK … he is blossoming in NZ.

Sure, some of that is because he has been able to get back into some sort of routine, meet new friends and play with other kids his own age – at least until Delta struck and he got locked down with his parents for weeks on end – but it’s more than that …

Outdoor life is a way of life here.

Being outside is no longer a conscious choice.

The line between indoors and outdoors is now very slim.

No need to change clothes. No need to wear shoes. Spontaneity is allowed to flow which – let’s be honest – is exactly how a kid should be able to live their life.

I’ve lived in similar environments before … in Australia and America for example … but whether it’s because I’m older or now live in a bloody treehouse or have a kid of my own, I appreciate it so much more.

Watching him be able to run around outside is a real privilege.

Of course, for people born here, that’s a normality … but I have lived in environments where that’s not the case, which is why even seeing him watch his iPad in the sun is something I don’t take for granted.

We cannot discount the importance of being able to play outside, but sadly many governments and councils seem to.

Viewing it as ‘a favour’ rather than a fundamental right.

Playing outside helps kids in so many ways.

Bond … learn … imagine … express … play … explore … compete … respect.

It’s not a ‘waste of time’, it creates a deeper foundation for life.

An ability to think outside of lines and others definitions.

Giving kids an environments where they can be outside is basically an investment in a countries future.

A nation of curious, interested, healthy people.

But not everyone gets this.

Some actively try to stop this.

Often people of immense privilege who either associate outdoor life as something for either the elite or the rough.

Fortunately NZ does not see it this way.

They revel and celebrate it.

They have the best parks I’ve ever seen in my life.

Parks made to enjoy and encourage kids to push their boundaries.

A new discovery of what you’re capable of with every visit.

And while for most kids it’s about developing, for Otis it’s also about grounding.

A place he can feel is his.

A connection to where he lives in a way he’s not had before.

Because while he is young, I do not underestimate what he has been through.

Fuck, there’s people I have worked with who have literally freaked out when asked to move office desks … and yet here’s my kid, who has moved countries, homes and friends and still embraces the possibilities of every situation.

So much of that is down to his brilliant Mum who has helped that change happen in the most comfortable, seamless way … but it still requires a mindset to look at what you’ll gain rather than just what you lose.

And while I know one day I’ll no doubt be dragging him off for another adventure somewhere else on the planet [but don’t worry, it won’t be for ages. Probably] I want you to know that I love you from tip to toe and let you know I’m so, so proud to be your dad.

Thank you Otis, you’re a little legend.



A Story About Systems Vs Humans …

We need systems.

We need them for all manner of how we live.

From ensuring we get our content on Netflix through to ensuring our food is safe.

Systems drive efficiency and effectiveness and are a competitive weapon for business.

But they can also be suicide.

When ‘human centred design’ isn’t that human.

When you focus more on what the system does rather than who it’s for.

When you set rules that become dictatorial rather than accessible.

And while the post below is funny, it’s a good reminder that if you don’t put the needs of people first – rather than what you want the needs of people to be – then you not only run the risk of having to tell your customer/client/colleague “the computer says no”, you may end up calling them a loser … literally and metaphorically.

Worse, the person telling them that is a bitch. Apparently.

Again, literally and metaphorically.

And then you will have invented a new system.

The customer disservice and ineffective model.



If Everything Is An Experience, You Better Make Yours Great …

I’ve written a lot about experience in the past.

How important it is.

How it can drive brand value and growth.

How it can create distinction and differentiation in crowded categories.

I’ve also talked about how badly so much of it is done.

That it’s more about consistency than excellence.

That it isn’t a new approach, just a new profit centre.

That many aspire to everything average than some things spectacular.

It blows my mind what some agencies and companies think is ‘an experience’.

Especially when you compare it to people who genuinely ‘get it’.

Whether it’s certain luxury brands or my client, SKP-S in Beijing.

Which is why I love the picture at the top of this page.

At the time, the person on the runway was 62 years old.

SIXTY TWO.

This was taken on the first of 3 nights of performing to 68,000 paying people.

So over 200,000 in total.

In South America.

Think about that for a second.

OK, so the person in question is Brian Johnson … lead singer of rock band AC/DC.

But let’s also remember we’re talking about a group of pensioners.

Literally.

Yes, I appreciate there are all-sorts of factors/considerations/contexts/excuses you could use to explain why they can achieve that sort of response when brands – with all their experience models and big budgets – can’t.

But the one thing AC/DC understand is if you want to keep people coming back, you need to focus on creating a seminal moment for your audience not average consistency.

It’s why I always ask ‘experience strategists’ about their life rather than just their work. I want to know what their frame of references are for experience. Because frankly – and I appreciate I’m being a massive snob here – if it doesn’t include festivals, theatre, art, music, retail, museums … then I don’t know if we’re ever going to share the same ambitions.

Because while I appreciate ‘average but consistent’ has value to some organisations, I would rather drink bleach than advocate that as a brand goal.

Not simply because I have an aversion to average.

But because when you do experience right – which means knowing who you are and who your customers are – the profits extrapolate. See, I’m not totally selfish.



Paint Pictures, Not Instructions …

I like quotes.

Always have.

I like them because they often frame something in a way that sets my brain on another track.

It’s why I enjoyed the Rules Of Rubin series I did a while back. And while that was for a specific work-related reason, I came out of it with far more than I imagined.

Recently I had another one of those quotes, not by Rubin but by Paracelsus … a Swiss physician who was a pioneer in many areas of the medical revolution’ during the Renaissance.

It’s that one at the top of this post.

Yes, I know what it is saying is obvious.

Let’s be honest, the phrase ‘everything in moderation’ has been around for decades, but there’s something about this that just has more bite.

Maybe it’s the use of the word poison.

Maybe it’s the way it doesn’t define any specific thing as bad.

Maybe it’s the way it doesn’t feel condescending or judgemental.

But it set my mind whirring far more than using words like ‘moderation’ and I would imagine it would do the same to any creative having to work with such a brief.

Quotes have a wonderful way of doing that.

They’re far more valuable to provoke different ways of thinking than filling in a creative brief with the answer you want the creatives to execute rather than giving them the problem you want their brains to explore and resolve.

We’re in danger of only valuing literal thinking rather than lateral … and that’s what I love about quotes. They challenge how you think … make you take some leaps, look in some new corners, explore what you think is possible … but never adding pressure on what or where you go with them.

I have always had a hard time writing briefs.

I place so much pressure on myself to get to something intriguing and interesting that I end up writing 7 or 8 different versions – all with different possibilities – so I and the team – can have a real chat about where our energy is at.

I think my record is something like 14 odd for Spotify.

And that’s before we even start on all the other briefs that come from it.

I still do that, but what’s helped my sanity is starting with a bunch of quotes or poems or song lyrics. Stuff related to the issue without being obviously directly about it.

It’s such a great time saver to open discussion.

Like the brief before the brief.

The opportunity to work out what excites you about a possibility without getting too lost in the detail of the possibility. At least initially.

So next time you’re stuck on where you should go, don’t start filling in the brief boxes in the hope the answer will present itself [it never does] … fill up the walls with stuff that opens things up before you start closing things down.

Because the best briefs are not a flow of logic, but a story of adventure.