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


When Love Turns To Apathy …

You might just be getting over the shock of yesterdays post, where I showed the world I was wearing shoes.

Real shoes.

Proper, proper shoes.

Well hold on to your hats because it’s going to get worse.

As many of you know, I have had a long, long, long, long, long time love affair with Taiwanese restaurant, Din Tai Fung.

I have been there so many times.

Literally hundreds.

The food is amazing.

The service is amazing.

The whole thing is amazing.

It’s the first restaurant I took my son to.

It’s the first restaurant we went to when we moved to LA.

It’s the first restaurant I looked forward to going to when we moved to the UK.

Now, to be honest, the food wasn’t quite the same in LA compared to China/Asia.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice … but some of the ‘classics’ had been adapted to American tastes.

A bit sweeter.

A little less spicy.

But I could deal with it because apart from the free soda refills, it’s Din Tai Fung and that’s all that matters.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

You see when we moved to London, the restaurant had not yet opened.

In the 3 months between moving here and the doors opening, I had told everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – how this was going to change their life.

Well, we went … and I was right, it did change my life.

FOR THE WORSE.

I know … this is possibly even more shocking than the Birkenstock situation.

You see, while they had food that was on all their menus around the World, it was a poor imitation of it.

Worse, the sizes were smaller … it was less well cooked … it was served by people who were severely lacking in the kind, seamless service I had come to expect and a shedload more expensive.

As you can see from the receipt, a meal for my wife, 4 year old son and me was over £100.

ONE HUNDRED POUNDS.

No booze … no excessive amounts of ordering … and yet it cost about twice as much as my biggest ever order in China and trust me, that was a huuuuuuuuge order.

Now I get London is more expensive than China.

I get people in London may not have a frame of reference for what Din Tai Fung should be.

But it utterly destroyed me.

I went in their with such high hopes and came out disappointed and dismayed.

OK, so they have just opened and may still be having teething problems … but sadly, I doubt that is the real reason. As in the fashion with many companies trying to duplicate the success of one thing, they tend to focus on the ‘big things’ to copy and completely miss – or ignore – the small.

The details that make the big things sing.

While I’ll give them one more chance, the reality is I fully expect I won’t be back until I am back in Asia and while that might not sound a big thing, the fact they have lost such a massively loyal customer should be of concern to them.

Sadly I doubt they’d even care.

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Humanity From A Calculator Company …

So how was your first week?

I don’t mean being back at work, I mean reading this blog.

Depressing wasn’t it.

Well I want to leave you with a little bit of positivity.

As many of you know, my Mum helped develop the calculator that is pictured above.

It’s one of the reasons why I’ve continued to use the one she gave me for the past 35+ years.

That – and the fact I’m crap at maths – so ended up using it more to type 55378008 than work out any trigonometry challenge.

Or basic addition.

Anyway, to my mates, it’s as identifiable towards me as my Birkenstocks – even though when I was at school, they took the piss claiming it was as big as one of the BBC Micro Computers we used in class.

Sadly, when we were moving to London from LA, the stupid movers broke it.

Not just interns of it not working, but in terms of cracking the actual case.

I was very sad, because – like the Braun Bedside Clock – it was something that was a real connection to my parents, so I wrote to Texas Instruments on the off-chance they could fix it.

Unfortunately they said any attempt to repair it could cause more damage so instead they’re sending me a mint condition, new-old one as a tribute to my Mum.

I cannot tell you how happy and thankful I was to hear this news.

I cannot tell you how much I love the people at Texas Instruments.

A company that makes office tech showing more heart than companies that claim to be in the people business.

They didn’t have to do that.

They could have just ignored my email altogether.

But they didn’t, they listened and they tried to help.

We could all learn from this. Especially companies who claim to be in the people business.



When Thinking Isn’t Thinking …

I have long-written how Asian hotel hospitality – albeit in the better end of the hotel ranking system – absolutely trash their US counterparts in almost all aspects of comfort and service.

The same can be said for a whole host of things, including airports, infrastructure and educational standards … however recently, on a trip to the US, I saw something that basically summed up the whole madness of American standards, at least in terms of hotels.

To demonstrate the point, come with me on a terrible z-grade bit of storytelling …

We are in the boardroom of the Sheraton Suites Hotel chain.

The team are meeting on room design …

“Where should we put the full length mirror” asks one of staff members.

“There’s so much wall space – we’re in America, greatest land in the World – it could literally go anywhere” replied a duty manager.

This debate goes back and forth for a while before they determine they won’t be able to get to the answer by themselves.

So after opening a P/O number and conducting some internal questionnaires, they spend a further 6 days at a ‘mirror brainstorm summit’ offsite before deciding they needed external help.

Enter McKinseyBainBoston&Sons … management consultants that now can turn their hand to anything if the invoice has a minimum of six 0’s attached to it.

Off they go and do a full brand audit and interview process.

This takes 9 months.

Finally, after spending millions of dollars in expenses and time, the consultants come back and present their answer to the Sheraton Suites board.

Obviously they love it, McKinseyBainBoston&Sons are the pinnacle at whatever they do.

A grand party is set to announce the answer.

The whole company comes together.

There is lift music, average food and fake smiles before finally the time has come.

With great fanfare the envelope with the answer is opened.

“Place the mirror directly opposite the loo so guests can see themselves when they’re having a shit”

Everyone claps wildly.

Except anyone who stays there.



You Can Tell How Proud Someone Is By How They Act …

I’ve written about my best mate and his new venture, Frothy Coffee.

Well a few weeks ago I went to Nottingham to see him and I have to say, it made me so happy.

Not just because he’s doing really well or even how he’s doing it – though some of his ideas would put big agencies to shame [offering dog biscuits and water so dogs get used to stopping at his stall so their owners end up buying a drink] -but how he is between customers.

The way he cleans.

The way he tidies.

The way he looks around to make sure everything is right.

The way he prepares for what might be coming up.

The way he makes warm, welcoming comments to people passing by.

He loves it.

Every single thing shows he absolutely loves it.

And you know what?

That feeling is infectious.

You want to have a coffee at his place.

You want to have a chat and even a sit down.

He pulls people in and suddenly strangers start chatting.

The love and pride he has in his job translates to something special … something as warm and welcoming as his drinks.

Everyone should feel this way, but not everyone does.

Many dream of starting their own thing, but few do it.

And to them I say they should go and see the Frothy Coffee man, because when you see the pride and joy Paul has doing his own thing, you’ll realize that no amount of fear can stop you wanting to feel that fulfilled.

I’m so happy and proud of you Paul.

[And you Shelly … the best YTS assistant I’ve ever seen]



Service Without The Script …

I’ve written a lot about customer service over the years.

Or specifically, bad customer service.

And the ironic thing is the worst examples tend to be organisations who literally say they’re in the ‘service industry’.

I suppose that’s why I loved how Claridge’s hotel train customer service to their staff – especially their belief in moments of stubbornness – because while they set incredibly high standards and ways to deal with situations, they always leave room for their staff to act in ways they feel is in their guests best interests … even if their guests don’t realise it yet.

And for me, that’s where customer service becomes it’s most powerful.

Where it moves from service to care.

Not just in terms of the obvious things, but reading between the lines.

Where it goes beyond just anticipation, but true consideration for the other party.

In many ways, it’s the ultimate demonstration of loyalty …

Not expecting it from your audience and instead, providing it to them in return.

Proof that they matter.

Proof that they care.

Proof they need each other.

Recently I saw an amazing example of this.

Surprisingly it came from a Chief Executive Officer.

More surprisingly, it came from a Chief Executive Officer of a football club.

And even more surprising than that, it came from the the youngest Chief Executive Officer in the entire football league.

Now to be fair, it’s the CEO of Barnsley Football Club … a club that is known for how much it values its community and fans.

But even that doesn’t quite capture what Gauthier Ganaye – the Barnsley CEO – did.

Read the letter below … then next time you’re with a client who talks about customer service or social listening, show them it and ask them how they’re going to demonstrate how much they value their audience, rather than just saying it in their corporate mission statement.

_______________________________________________________________________

PS: For the record, he – nor Barnsley – promoted this, the receiver was the one who made sure this act of loyalty, compassion and service got to a bigger audience.



Apple Lets Out Your Creative Side.

So before I left LA, I bought a new iPad.

Please note the words, “I bought”.

Yes, Bazza, Rodi and David were all too tight to give me one.

Pricks.

Anyway … one thing I found interesting about shopping at Apple in LA was that the people who worked were quite different to those I found in other markets like Shanghai or Singapore.

Sure, they were as knowledgable and – generally – as polite and [semi] helpful as their continental cousins, but they were all a bit Stepford Wives … that is if Stepford Wives looked like LA Hipsters rather than Virginia housewives.

But there was an exception, this guy.

Yes, that really is a genuine Apple staff member.

Now maybe he’s wearing pajama trousers and a cycle helmet because he woke up late for work and had to rush on his fixie [it’s almost certain he has a fixie] to get to Manhattan Beach on time.

Or maybe he’s fell off his bike a week ago, bumped his head and was rushed to hospital so now he is better prepared for either a bike accident or being put in a hospital bed.

But whatever the reason, I have to say he was a breath of fresh air to the kale-consuming Mr and Ms Perfect’s in the store and I was kinda disappointed he didn’t serve me.

Or I was until I saw he was wearing a ‘please notice me’ red iWatch strap, had tattoos and walked around the store like he was Mick Jagger on stage and then realised he wasn’t a victim of circumstance, but one of those people you meet all the time in LA … a ‘slash’ person.

Waitress/Model.

Barman/Actor.

Apple Retail Store Representative/Rockstar.



May The Forth Be With you …

I know this is late but then everything on this blog is late, but I absolutely love what Heathrow Airport did on 4th May.

I love it for many reasons.

But the main one is they did it right.

Sure, you could argue what they did was to hijack the day and gain some extra publicity … and I’m sure that was part of their motivation … but what I really like about it is how they went for the highest common denominator, not the lowest.

While the board features names most people will understand – R2D2, Wookie, Death Star, Han Solo, Leia – they have also used elements that only the true Star Wars nerd will get … like the name of the planets, the measurement of time and the weather conditions.

What this means is that not only will they get ‘mass appeal and coverage’, they will also make the hardcore nerds feel good about it … feel they’re dealing with an organisation that really gets them rather than just pretends to.

In a World where marketing is too often expressed as a constant stream of generalised noise … those who show their authenticity through actions and behaviour will win big every time, because as we saw in our America In The Raw study, the future of brand differentiation is going to be less about unique product attributes and more about demonstrating how you truly understand your audience.

Or said another way, resonance not [pretend] relevance.

So well done Heathrow, you deserve to be in a galaxy far far ahead of your competitors.