Friday 23 October 2015

Piggy in the middle

I do wish that all those companies that rabbit on about being customer-centric would realise that it's not enough as a way of thinking, or a philosophy. It's an outcome: the proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating.

In the last week, I've had two instances of large service companies demonstrating a lack of customer-centricity in practice. In one instance, I did at least receive a satisfying resolution, which made me feel more pre-disposed to that company. But the other case still remains unresolved. In both cases, I had that well-known feeling that they were playing 'pass the parcel' with me to the tune of call-centre music that rarely stopped.

With Lloyds Bank, I made the mistake of trying to correct an error (on the bank's side) at my branch involving paper, stamps, letters, paying-in slips and human beings. The call centre system eventually realised that this could only be resolved through people from my branch picking up the phone and calling me. I also took the opportunity when I was in the UK to go into the branch and talk to a very helpful and friendly woman who offered me recompense for my time and trouble. But that's a rare opportunity.

With T-online, I wasn't so happy. I have a couple of email addresses. One is a simple t-online one, while others are associated with my Homepage (which is one of T-online's products and services). Now, get this. When something is amiss with my email, I have to go to completely separate departments to deal with the two addresses - which both come into my inbox - as that's how T-online is set up. I won't bore you with the details of different phone numbers, waiting times, passings around and all the rest. It wasn't just pass the parcel this time, it was piggy in the middle. And I never caught the ball.

There it is. Lack of customer-centricity in action. It shouldn't be so difficult in this day and age, I say to these companies. You have the technology. You have the people. Now, put the two together and get it right!

Monday 19 October 2015

Great Minds

60 years of TV advertising have recently been celebrated back in Blighty, with the first ever TV commercial - for Gibbs SR toothpaste - airing in September, 1955.

To celebrate, Marketing magazine has run a vote to find out the public's favourite ad from the last 60 years, and the marketing and advertising industry's choice. The results can be seen here.

No huge surprises, maybe, with Cadbury's 'Gorilla' carrying off the top slot for the public, Guinness' 'Surfer' from 1999 being voted No. 1 by Marketing readers, and 'Compare the Market' bagging second place for both groups.

What I find most interesting, as you scroll down the lists for both groups, vision bouncing off the usual suspects, old favourites and happy memories, is the similarity between the two lists. To some extent, this is inevitable, given the methodology (the public chose from a list, which had been generated via suggestions made on social media). But, apart from Smash 'Martians' on the public list and BT 'Maureen Lipman' on the marketeers', the same ads crop up in both.

What all these ads have in common is that they evoke a reaction in the viewer - you laugh, smile, giggle, think, wonder, maybe even cry. None of them are purely about pushing information into your brain or moving you along the attention-interest-desire-action customer decision journey.

They are all made by humans, for humans. And maybe that's the best pre-test of all - we probably know better than we think, through instinct, what makes for good advertising.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Slow Fashion

Image: Richard Pflaume for Manufactum

The fashion industry and sustainability is not exactly a marriage made in heaven, and the juxtaposition of 'fashion' and 'responsibility' is one that throws up a mass of contradictions. There's the whole ethos of the fashion world, with its ever-changing collections, trends, fads and must-haves. There are the horror stories from Asia associated with the cheap mass-production of fashion items. And then the throwaway mentality and problem of landfill - where does yesterday's fashion end up?  

I was delighted to attend an evening event last week put on by Manufactum in Frankfurt. One of my favourite retailers, Manufactum is known for quality household and garden products produced as they were in the good old days - 'the good things in life still exist.' Manufactum has always offered clothing, too, but it has to be said that this has had little to do with fashion. Rather, it's been the epitome of the high quality and sensible - the kind of thing Miss Marple would wear.

That has all changed now as Manufactum introduces a number of new designers to their range of women's clothing. The question posed is:

How can fashion and sustainability work in harmony, rather than at odds?

Last Thursday evening, we took part in a journey to meet 5 different designers, who have answered that question in different ways with their collections, available at Manufactum. From the Goodsociety  jeans, produced with minimum use of water and chemicals, to the striking Japanese-inspired designs of twins Anja and Sandra Umann (Umasan) to the beautiful silks of Johanna Riplinger, dyed using flower petals left over from Indian temples, there were fashions that not just look good, but feel good in every way, too.

Image: Richard Pflaume for Manufactum

Sunday 4 October 2015

Fortunate Happenstance

For all the Buzzfeed-esque headlines that claim 'You will be amazed...' I find that digitalisation has brought with it, in some ways, a lack of surprise. I have blogged about this before, here and here. Thinking about my behaviour as a shopper, I find the only area where I am frequently surprised and try new products and brands is in the supermarket, as I don't order anything in the way of food, drink, personal care or household products online.

It's been a long time since I have browsed in a bookshop, or - yikes - a record shop, and even with clothes, a lot of stuff is ordered online from retailers and brands I'm already familiar with.

The same goes for information and news, to some extent. Facebook is increasingly becoming an echo chamber where views and angles on stories are homogenous, exacerbated by an annoying recent development of inserting 'posts they think I may like' into my news feed. I presume this is the way Facebook want to cheat the ad blocker.

It goes back to the change in the way we use the internet. In the 90s, a few intrepid souls were surfing - adventurous, dangerous, even, and not for everyone. By the early 2000s, the pace had slowed down somewhat, from surfing to stumbling. The internet had become a giant, but rather jolly, obstacle course with people good-naturedly bumbling around and occasionally tripping up on something interesting.

These days we're fed. News feed. Titbits 'curated' by someone or something who thinks they know what we like - and certainly thinks they know best. I referenced a super article on this tendency here.

The Three Princes of Serendip were described by Horace Walpole as 'always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things that they were not in quest of.'

I'm not sure how much sagacity goes into my discovery of new food items in REWE, but surely there is more that can be done by brands to point people in the right direction to discover new products and innovations for themselves?