Left…Right…I’m their leader. Which way did they go?

Has the time come to get rid of the Left and Right labels in politics?  Given the recent actions on the part of Nova Scotia’s NDP government…it appears maybe.

To misquote The Who; “and the Party on the left is now the Party on the right.”

It’s supposed to be right-of-centre governments which give grants and tax breaks to private business, but things work differently these days in Nova Scotia.  In recent weeks we have saved a paper mill in Cape Breton,  “stolen” engineering jobs from Calgary, outsourced government IT jobs to IBM, and are now looking at buying back forests from bankrupt Bowater.

And the Irving shipbuilding contract hasn’t even started yet!

Public opinion seems divided as to the benefits of these moves, but it does make for exciting times in the province which, at the time of Confederation, was once the richest corner of the nation.

It’s actually refreshing to see a government sticking their neck out to try and create an atmosphere of sustainable success.  Not all of these scenarios will work out to everyone’s satisfaction, but that’s business!

Here’s to Nova Scotia…land of opportunity!

If Only You Understood your Customers Like Kate and William Do

We admit it. We got up at 5 am local time to watch the big-t-the-big-r-royal-big-w-wedding. Despite a few marketing faux pas (one of the best, shared by tweeter Laurie Dillon-Schalk, pointed out the wasted money for #RoyalWedding to be a promoted tweet).

The event was full of pomp and circumstance. The uniforms were flashy. The bride was dressed like a princess, but a modern-day one, clearly maintaining her personal brand throughout the day. Every opportunity, save for a twitter ban in the Abbey, was taken to make it accessible. Finally, at around 8:25 a.m., it was time for the part the raving fans had waited for (some since last night). The kiss. William and Kate knew what their customers wanted. And they did the easy thing. They gave it to them. Not once, but twice.

Old advice, for sure. But still valid no matter how modern the delivery system – understand your customers, and give them what they want. Need is about logic and reason. But want? Want is about an emotional connection.

Toasting the Cambridges,

Megann and Steve

Things will just spring up when you’re not looking!

People who know us well also know that we like to keep an urban farm in the backyard. Oh, we’re not raising livestock like some folks. But we do like the idea of doing some of the work of feeding ourselves, instead of just leaving it to the real farmers.

The interesting thing about combining our food-growing habits with a travelling lifestyle is that things will just spring up when we’re not looking. Suddenly, that lettuce that we planted from seed is up, and it’s already a couple of inches high, big enough to use in a baby-greens salad. Or the seeds from tomatoes that didn’t quite break down in the compost have pioneered in some sunny spot in the corner.  In the work world, this can happen too.  Are there some areas of your work that you’ve been ignoring, because you’re too busy on a project, trying to land the next big assignment, or fighting another fire? Take a look in those corners…something might be growing there. And if you’re lucky, it might even be something you’ll be able to use to feed yourself (metaphorically speaking, at least).

Happy harvesting,

Megann & Steve

In our book, Nice Guys finish first

We just returned from a whirlwind trip to Miami and other hotspots (Boca Raton, Delray…you get the idea) in South Florida. After a three-hour flight to Miami, we tried to reconnect with the world, only to discover that our new cellphone provider has a policy of not extending international roaming privileges to business customers in the first three months of their contract. That’s right; they believe that you should just put your business dealings on hold for three months as your reward for switching from their largest competitor. What was strangest was that they don’t tell the customer about this (we checked to make sure there would be no problems travelling with the new mobiles). They also don’t tell most of their customer service staff, or their account reps. However after several long-distance calls over two days, and much discussion, the problem was finally resolved. The weather was typical South Florida Spring (cloudy-rainy-iffy with occasional sun). At that point, our hopes that four days would be enough to relax and rejuvenate us were becoming a bit tarnished. Maybe dinner would make the difference.

We stumbled upon a restaurant called D. Rodriguez Cuba. Their ad in a guidebook sounded interesting, but what we liked best was their motto, “Who lives better than us?” Maybe they could take the sting out of a less than stellar beginning to our trip. We arrived, and were greeted by friendly, warm staff, who provided us with a comfortable table and made us feel right at home. Things seemed to be headed in the right direction.

Outside, the skies opened up and it started to pour. The hosts and wait staff ran around, helping all the various patio diners to relocate to spots inside the restaurant. A group was seated next to us, and unfortunately they were rude, ungrateful, boorish, and demanding. Two of them spent time making loud calls on their mobile phones, in between bouts of bossing the staff around in an obnoxious tone. Despite this treatment and the negative impression it created for other diners (including us) the folks at D. Rodriguez maintained a calm attitude, and did their best to keep things pleasant. Eventually, they were kind enough to move us to another table, where we were encouraged to quietly linger over the end of our meal.  What could have been a bitter end to a delicious evening, was the sort of rescue manoeuvre that deserves recognition. The unsung heroes at D. Rodriguez made our day. If you’re in Miami and you’re looking for a new take on Cuban cuisine, combined with the friendliest service you can imagine, we’re sure they won’t let you down.

Here’s to happy endings,

Megann and Steve

Customer Service Doesn’t Mean Playing by the Rules

I can be quite negative about my experiences with Customer Service.  It seems that most people in Service Industries get by doing the bare minimum; smile, look directly at the person you are serving, be polite, etc., followed by inevitable “Have a Nice Day”.

Last Friday I had a great day!  Here’s the story:

A couple of days earlier my Blackberry had somehow slipped out of my jacket and found its way under a chair in the Maple Leaf Lounge (MLL) at Montreal airport.  I notice it missing when I got to the gate for my flight, quickly ran back up looking for it, but could not see it.  I asked the employee working the desk, who asked the cleaners….but no luck.

I dutifully notified Bell that it was missing, and they suspended the service, I notified Air Canada’s Lost Baggage service, who seemed to have trouble understanding how to record this occurrence, and started researching my replacement device.  I was sure it was gone forever.

Two days later there was a message on my home phone from Barbara in the MLL.  She had been checking around the lounge during a quiet time and had spotted my phone.  She found my contact information on it and called to tell me she had it.  At this point, I suspect the standard Customer Service Handbook would have instructed her to turn the phone over to the lost baggage office for them to follow up.  Perfectly understandable and acceptable.

But Barbara realised that these days your “mobile device” is often your lifeline to the world.  So she offered to courier the phone back to me so that I wouldn’t have to go through any more trouble.   I was suitably appreciative, I hope.  In fact I was stunned that this person who didn’t know me, worked for an organization that we Canadians love to dismiss as “Customer Phobic” would take her personal time to make my life easier.

Thank you Barbara for continuing to enhance my respect for the human touch in Customer Relations.

Keeping on focusing on the customer,

Steve and Megann

P.S. By the way Barbara, I sent a note to Air Canada praising you for your help.  I hope it helps them continue to focus on letting their employees solve their customer’s problem.

Marketing Lessons from Earth Day

Earth Day grew out of the germ of an idea held by US Senator Gaylord Nelson. But Nelson pointed to the secret of Earth Day’s success: “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”

 

As Marketers, we’re often viewed as the antithesis of what Earth Day stands for. We’re seen as drivers of consumption. At our worst, Marketers focus on push marketing, inventing stuff and trying to figure out a way to make customers take it. Yet look again at the marketing lessons in Senator Nelson’s quote:

 

  1. Promote something that people have clearly shown you that they want and need.
  2. Plant seeds of inspiration.
  3. Encourage communication and let the people who want your idea, product, or cause, organize themselves.

 

Nelson also pointed out that this single day was years in the making. So today, listen carefully to your customers and ask:

 

  1. What do they really want my product, service, or cause to be?
  2. How can I make it available to them where, when, and as they want it?
  3. Am I willing to accept that my customers are the ones who position my product, not me?

 

Finally, one last thought. Earth Day wasn’t built in a day. According to Nelson, it was years in the making. That means that if we really want to be customer-centric, we need to be willing to wait until customers are ready to buy, not find ways to make them take what they don’t want, or need.

 

Patiently yours,

 

Megann & Steve

Just Say Yes!

This week, have you talked yourself out of any opportunities?  If you’re like us, over the years, you’ve been bombarded with business and personal messages about how to prioritize, to organize, to simply say “no”.  This is a valuable skill.  It can keep us from becoming over-committed or over-subscribed.  On the other hand, it can also become a habit that leads to us forgetting to ask, when confronted with a possible new project, an opportunity to participate in a spontaneous activity, or a request to volunteer our time and talent, whether we should be saying “yes”. We’ve had a reminder of that, just this week.  We, and a colleague and new friend we met last December, have collectively been watching for an opportunity to do business together. For nearly a year, the right prospect hasn’t presented itself. This week, she emailed us to ask if we were interested in cooperating on a project. We thought, “Oh, we’re awfully busy”.  There’s time and travel involved, and like everyone as the holidays approach, we’re not ready (and we’re tired).  But then we realized, “What if this is the opening we’ve all been waiting for?  What if this is our chance to start collaborating with another group of fun and interesting partners?”  So we said “Yes”, and as a consequence, have an exciting new project to round out our schedules, and a chance to visit three great cities.  Who knows, we might even fit in some holiday shopping as we travel. So if you find yourself defaulting to “No” when the next request comes in, ask yourself: 

  1. What’s the opportunity cost of not saying “yes”?
  2. Can I think of a possible positive consequence of asking myself, “why not do it?”
  3. Is there some element of this chance that I’ve been thinking of or hoping for, and I didn’t see the signs?

 Eliminating the negative, 

Megann & Steve