Cheap At Half the Price

By: Coffee CircleCC BY 2.0

A couple of days ago, I walked into an outlet of a well known chain of Irish sandwich shops and ordered my lunch. As I am wont to do after my lunch, I ordered a single espresso to go.
The lady behind the counter promptly setup the coffee machine and soon enough it started to whirr and grind. After a few seconds it started to pour.

I find coffee machines fascinating – I think it is part of the culture of coffee.  This was a beautiful red Gaggia – the best machines always seem to be Italian.

Anyway, as my coffee is pouring, I notice that the liquid is coming out of a twin spout attached to the brass filter – quite similar to the picture. Except, one spout is emptying into my take-away cup and the other spout is simply draining into the waste.  I called the lady’s attention to this and she says ‘Ah yeah, but you only paid for a single’.

Well, I was gobsmacked to say the least. So I asked again and the exchange was no less astounding. Not only was this waste acceptable, it was justifiable.

Me: “So for every single espresso you sell, you pour a single espresso’s worth down the drain? Is that correct?”

Barista: “Yes, but you get a great espresso”

Me: “Erm, how so? It is the same coffee, except the stuff you are wasting is coming out of the other spout”

Barista: “Yes but the double has too much water, we let the single really get the good coffee taste, it’s better”

I have never in all the years I have been drinking coffee seen this. But first off let’s clear something up.

There is no way the coffee that was in my cup was any different from the coffee being wasted.

So a couple of possibilities might be happening – or both at the same time:

  • Every purchaser of a single espresso is paying for a double espresso, but only getting a single (at €2.60 – that might be right!)
  • The coffee beans are dirt cheap and so the business can afford to throw it away – might be the case in conjunction with the earlier point. That said, its coffee must just be grossly overpriced.

I know that restaurants and bars make their most profit from cups of coffee. The costs are miniscule compared to the prices they get away with charging for them. Nonetheless the level of waste is still not justified in my books.

Ultimately the way I see it is that this espresso was cheap at half the price but actually will cost the business €10/day in my lost custom, as I shan’t ever go to this sandwich shop again.



@Morrisons Customer Service: Fluke or Designed to Delight?

As I was sifting through the data that Bizbuzz was providing about potential ServiceChat customers,  I came across Morrisons – a British grocery and supermarket business that has about 12% of the UK grocery market (source: Economics Help)

I was looking at their ‘apology’ buzz – a tracking of how many apologies they are making to customers and that would lead me to who they were apologising to – an unhappy customer with some feedback dressed as a complaint.

Morrisons Apology buzz page on Bizbuzz

The date was May 27th and as I scanned the apologies, I picked one at random to see the details of the apology – what triggered it and perhaps, any further conversations in the thread. The apology I picked related to Ian Golding’s tweet.

I read Ian’s profile and reached out to him to seek more context about the events that led to his experience. Learning more about Ian revealed that he is an active blogger and a passionate customer experience specialist, striving to help businesses delight their customers – my kind of guy!

Ian had written fairly extensively about his Morrisons’ experience and after I read it I wondered whether Morrisons’ level of engagement and the resolution they demonstrated in Ian’s experience was typical and part of a designed approach to delighting customers, or was it simply a fluke. After all, I knew from my data that on May 27th – the day of Ian’s experience – there were 12 other  customers who sent Morrisons  a variety of feedback via Twitter.

What were their experiences of Morrisons’ engagement with them about their feedback?
How many felt they got a satisfactory resolution from calling Morrisons’ attention to something they perceived needed improvement in a store, with pricing, product quality and/or staff behaviour?

Some Immediate Observations

Morrisons uses auto-responders

As I was looking through the content it became obvious that Morrisons’ responses are a template and most likely a template used by an auto-responder. They appear to be semi-customised templates where they try and get the first name of the account that sent the tweet they are responding to and use it to personalise the reply.
They clearly also have responses they either cycle through so they are no so obviously simply auto responding.

All responses are redirection

All the responses I saw for this date (May 27th) and the other 180 apologies in Morrisons’ buzz are all asking the other person to DM their phone number and email to the Morrison account. I imagine this is to put it on a queue for their customer service desk to deal with.

I did not observe any attempt to address the feedback directly online. The DM leads potentially to some further engagement offline – via a phone call or email. This was borne out in Ian’s case and caused me to wonder – What do Morrisons’ customer think of this lack of readiness to engage completely online.

Morrisons is not being social on social media

A quick snapshot of Morrisons’ activities on Twitter show an account that is not about engagement (contrast this with @Waitrose). It is almost exclusively about pushing offers, tips and other canned responses out there (pardon the pun!). There is no seeking engagement nor responding to any tweets coming back in. They are missing a great opportunity to build rapport with their customers and do the other canned stuff in a way that would improve their their brand perception.


@Morrisons vs @Waitrose – who is more engaging on Twitter?

What About the Other Customers?

I approached the other twelve customers to whom Morrisons had auto-apologised on May 27th on Twitter, asking for their input in answering the above questions.

The responses were mixed. Five of the 12 other customers responded to my invitation. Their experiences were sometimes quite starkly different. Some didn’t get any further contact despite sending a DM replying and others got a mixed resolution from the extended engagement.

@missySimps replied to the auto-apology as a DM. She didn’t have any further engagement from Morrisons nor any resolution to the situation.


@tracySmith2k, @jakimccarthy, @pauldavid28 and @captainratall got a reply to their DM and a call. But their experience were also fairly different:

@tracySmith2k was uncomfortable with the call she received from the store manager – she felt it was confrontational- and would have preferred it was handled by an objective intermediary.


@jakimccarthy got to speak with the store manager who explained the situation to her and apologised again. She doesn’t know if they did anything to rectify the dirty fridges she complained about, but she felt heard and the experience has not put her off from shopping at Morrisons.


@pauldavid28 – was pretty pleased with how it was handled, how Morrisons engaged with him and how his query was finally resolved. Awesome!


@captainrat – got a call, had the issue resolved and even got a token of their apology. Great outcome!


What Does It All Mean?

Let’s do the math. We now know how 6 of the apologies that Morrisons made on May 27th turned out.

75% were happy with the level of engagement

50% had a resolution they were satisfied with

10% had no further engagement beyond the auto-apology.

I think Morrisons do have a desire to engage with their customers on social media. I also think there is a strategy to genuinely engage and resolve customers queries that are received from social media platforms, in this case Twitter. From the interactions I have had with their customers, they seem to understand the value of engagement, even if currently it is mostly about handling it offline.

They may be being a little cautious online and currently don’t do anymore than auto-respond. For example, their activity on twitter smacks of auto-everything. There don’t seem to be any humans at home, which is very strange for a social platform.

Clearly, in the instances where they engage with customers, they try and get the ‘right’ person to engage with the customer. In the cases I explored, it was almost always the store manager.
This is good – let the person who can do something about the issue deal with it.  In only one instance did I find that this wasn’t satisfactory.

I must confess, I am disappointed with the whole auto-responding aspect of Morrisons’ social media operation – at least on Twitter (I didn’t do any Facebook exploration).
I am especially disappointed with their auto-apologising. An apology is supposed to be sincere and human. I think automating an apology – especially one in response to a complaint – cheapens it. Not such an issue if you almost immediately follow it with human engagement – like a phone call –  where you can have the conversation.
But if, as in the case of @missySimps, all that was experienced was a nondescript, auto-reply  – even one faked out with personalisation – it can feel insincere.

Making people think they got contacted by a human when it was just a program is pretty ‘Matrix’. Difference is ‘Matrix’ was cool and this isn’t.

Auto-responding communicates to me that they don’t really understand the power of social media or are being advised by people who don’t really understand the power of social media!

3 Things Morrisons Can Do To Improve

I’m all about improving and this post is primarily about giving Morrisons some feedback to sweeten its social media operation and let it complement the great work they are already designed to do with store manager calls etc.

So here goes, my top 3 things Morrisons can do better at:

  1. Lose the auto-responders and put humans on the social media desk. With the low volumes of social interaction you currently have, you might not even have to hire more people right now. You can get software to route tweets to your customer service folk.  But you must make sure they know how to use social media. Social is entirely about being human.
    Something you can do right now, Morrisons, might be to completely de-personalise the auto replies, make them authentically robotic. For example, ditch the first name thing and reply with  ‘We aren’t here right now, we auto followed you, so please DM us…’, then route them to the store manager and work your magic. First names are for humans to speak to humans.
  2. Get tools that promote and facilitate online engagement. People chose to engage with you online, redirecting them to some offline mechanism might suit you but it usually just frustrates them. Oh, and shun those tools that promise to help you deal with scale. The scaling problem comes later. Focus on getting great with online engagement then fix the scaling problem. From a quick search on Twitter, @Morrisons gets about 10 mentions a day, most are not about them per se. And their bizbuzz page shows they are apologising an average of 3 times a day. This is the time to get in and get good with this exciting world of social media.
  3. Be open about your journey in trying to delight your customers on social media. There is a growing generation that will love you for it. You might be thinking “we sell groceries, we don’t need social media”. Everyone is going to need social media. Your competitors are embracing it and once they are fully established in it, it will be almost impossible to wean customers off them.


I am deeply grateful to @missySimps, @tracysmith2k, @jakimmcarthy, @captainrat and @pauldavid28 for responding to my tweet and being so generous with their time to listen and engage with me on this topic. It helps to continually renew my faith that people want to be connected, be heard and to engage. Thank you.

This post is also guest posted on Ian Golding’s very informative blog. Go check it out.

Musing on Citizenship-as-a-Service.


I have a tax bill due. It is ‘tax on profits’ and while I have the money set aside to pay it, there is still a deep sense of hesitation to hand the money over.

Hold up, here comes the science bit. Long ago humans became collectives to live and hunt together, socialise and defend themselves against their common threats. Living together brings its benefits and its own unique complications and so they evolved their communities norms or codes of conduct to address those complications. Laws and taboos emerged, carried in the carrier oil of the day – usually fear of some super powerful deity (or deities). Later these became commandments, religious law and in some communities – constitutions and legal code. Living together also came with additional cost. The cost in time, effort and materials to do the common things and to maintain them. As money evolved, these costs were rolled eventually up into a tax.

Money made things simpler, but it also made some things more complicated – it changed and changes the relationship people have with their community. It is important – in my view – that the people in a community contribute time and effort to the community work and not simply pay for it.

Fundamentally I am socialist. I deeply believe we are better together. I believe our collective should work for the good of all, especially the least able of us. This costs money – I get that. I’m not against funding our collective. I’m pro-fair taxes and anti-waste.

Basically I’m pissed off about taxes

My current beef with taxes is around a fundamental thing – how it is spent. Not just my taxes but all government revenue.

I deeply disagree with how my taxes are spent in the UK. I did with the previous Labour government and even more so with the current LibCon artists. I don’t want to fund wars dressed up as collective defense. I don’t want to fund insidious espionage on me and my compatriots in the name of the bogeyman. I want better outcomes for the poorest in my community – this takes money and care that money cannot buy. I want an efficient administration, not one in the clutches of greedy corporations that spend the pot I contribute to as though it were free.

Without choice, proportional taxation is malignant.

I don’t get to choose how my taxes are spent – I mean real choice – that is heard and acted on. That leads me to deeply resent proportional taxation – the idea those who have more, pay more. In theory, I am happy to pay more, if I have more. But the dysfunction on how those taxes are spent has turned that dream into a nightmare. The more I make, the more guns are bought, the more waste there is. The more spying there is. The more bankers are bailed out. The more money is diverted away from the things I want to see improve and the more money that is channeled to the things I definitely do not. The more of my taxes go to make the greedy rich, richer. This is not what I want.

So as I was in the shower contemplating handing over a not insignificant sum of corporation taxes I wondered how to pay for our shared interests without screwing over the people that pay it.

What if there was a flat subscription to be British (or American or any other nationality)?

You sign up, get a welcome pack and a token that gives access all the services that are available. Services are provided and maintained by the collective administration. It won’t be run for profit. Clearly sometimes we have to buy in things we are incapable of producing ourselves and that is rolled into the subscriptions.

This would, of course, be a no contract subscription model. You can cancel anytime. You might still access the same services, but at full cost or you might not access any at all. If there was a better provider of citizenship, you had the choice to sign up to them. If fact, you could sign up to as many as you could afford – but remember at any one time, you are probably going to just use one set of services, mostly.


The subscription model is a little different from online apps. We can figure out what the basic subscription is and people can pay that. We can also figure out what it is worth and people can contribute their skills to realise that worth. For example, a doctor might choose to provide 200 hours of medical cover to a community clinic in exchange for their subscription. They might do it to pay the subscription for their child too. Streets need cleaning, gardens need tending, meals need serving and the lonely need company – all are aspects of collective needs that are overlooked.

What really helps this is understand what collective needs are to be met to keep our collective thriving. It is not only money that makes the world go round!

The essentials

Everyone gets the essential services – wellness (include healthcare and basic nutrition), collective security, transportation, access to essential infrastructure and maintenance. Education is also essential, although a little different from other things. Any citizen can access learning to any level they choose, with a payback option if they decide to take go become filthy rich instead of contributing their expertise back into the community!

But what of national resources? They belong to everyone, some generate revenue and that goes into the pot along with the subs. We pay out of the pot to maintain them and provide open access to everyone to things like parks and spas etc.

We never borrow money our revenue can’t cover. Scratch that, we never borrow. Period.
In the end this might mean we grow at a pace that is sustainable. If necessity is indeed the mother of invention, we would invent lots!

There is still a market

The non essential stuff is provided by the market (yes there is still one). Basically it is everything that is not considered essential. Education is another funny one. You might buy specialised education on the market (with money from the collective pot). That, like all education, is an investment.

Sometime the lines are blurry , especially with spending our collective pot on things in the market. The distinction here is that the essential stuff is run not-for-profit – by whoever delivers it. This distinction is protected by the most binding of oaths. There is absolutely no screwing with that. By anyone. We might add to the list of essentials but almost never remove from it and even then only by referendum.

Administration is essential. The popular perception is that it is waste – after all it does not contribute to the services nor to the pot. My view is that it is not waste, but it is one of the areas that could be really wasteful.

What of corporate taxes? Well participants in the market who are not citizens would pay a fee to participate in the market. How much they pay would be linked to their level of participation in the market. Not yet sure this is based on profit. Nonetheless, but they would be bound by our laws on how they operate within our market including labor practices and protections.


There is entitlement. If you pay your subs or you contribute it’s equivalent in community work, you are entitled to use the services. Simple.
There are exceptions, to the ‘pay/contribute and be entitled’ rule. For those who cannot pay and who cannot contribute in other ways , for example the severely disabled or chronically ill. Our collective will subsidise them. Clearly there is a limit to how much subsidy (how many can be subsidised and/or subsidy per person) but I am currently not sure how that would work. Though I suspect there are some services that do not cost more, the more people who use them and so in real terms, the subsidy may not be substantial. There are exceptions.

Children could be subscribed by their parents. There would be no automatic citizenship and you can change whenever you want. If you want choice, then it applies across the board.

Transparency, absolute transparency

For this to work, we need absolute transparency. Everything that needs doing is public so that the others in the collective can contribute. We already know what we all pay (the same rate subs). We’ll also need to know the the size of the pot – including other revenue that feeds it – it needs to be constantly accessible and perpetually accurate. We need to see and know every penny spent and to whom and for what. The actual cost of our administration is available to scrutiny by anyone. It is the accountability that transparency engenders that will help check the waste. Transparency does not come for free, it has to be paid for also – in money and in vigilance.

Transparency takes away some of issues we are currently stuck at. For example being transparent with entitlement means that the decision on identity cards – the usual form the token that provides access to services take – would be a no-brainer. If you access services, you need a token. This token, incidentally, is also your travel card. It shows you are a paid up member of that collective and can travel under its flag.


One area of contention for me is pensions. With this model, your subs pay for what you use now. The current public pensions crisis , in my opinion, is borne out of the shortsightedness of its creators. Basically they started with noble intentions and then they found, almost immediately, it didn’t work. So they lied. They took money they were supposed to save for ‘future’ and used it to fund the now and took the ‘now’ money of taxpayers (in the future) to pay the pensioners whose money they had already spent. It is an elaborate ‘robbing Peter to pay Grandpa Paul’ scam.

So in this model , I do not consider pensions an essential service covered by subs. If you want one, you contribute separately and you buy one that suits your circumstances from the market. We can agree that you must have one, but where you get it from is up to you. To make things easy, we might collect it as part of subs, but it doesn’t go into the pot. It goes directly to the pension provider you bough it from. That way the mandatory aspect is enforced.

Clearly in the future you can use that revenue to continue to be a subscribed member of the collective.

Explore with me

This is an evolving idea. Though it might make you feel uneasy – ideas can do that – please help me explore it. As I wrote this, I thought we are pretty close in some aspects.

What might be the gaps and how might we close them. What would you consider to be our collective needs. Which are essential and which are not. Would you pay for a monarchy for example?

How might the administration be created without the drunkenness that power inspires? I’m open to ideas!

Are we better off remodeling our current system or starting from scratch?

What are your thoughts? I’d love to know and share.

July 23: A Change to Regular Programming

When I set out to build my startup in January, we moved to Spain to immerse in the culture, learn the language and extend my startup runway by 4 month. I knew I would have to revisit how I would fund our continued stay in Spain and how I might continue to explore my startup. Quite fortuitously, one of my close consulting partners offered me a coaching engagement in my old haunt – Galway.

So here I am, in Galway Ireland , doing something I am very comfortable doing (and arguably pretty good at it too). I shall be here for 5 weeks working with people who are very good at what they do and trying to help them harness that goodness and focus it on greatness.

Here is my check in:

  • Sad that I’m not in Spain. I’m in Galway, on my own, far from my loves.
  • Glad that I will focus on startup tasks as my night job – once the initial chaos of training and fatigue wear out.
  • Sad that there do not appear to be any Spanish language meetups over the summer in Galway.
  • Glad that I have 50mb/sec internet in my accommodation.
  • Glad that I reached out to a few people about reviewing my blog post on Customer Service and Social Media – why it sucks. Thank you @joneversett and @joshkehn for taking the time to read the early draft and offer such rich and considered feedback which helped me improve the post.
  • I’m grateful for the abundance of learning all around and the capacity to learn from it.

I’m in.

Improve On…

  • Writing this blog in a timely fashion


  • Write the next customer service related post
  • Buffer up some of of my twumps and Bizbuzz tweets /li>

The Trello board



Everything becomes clearer in time. Though you might not live long enough to see it. Seek clarity now.

Why Current Ideas of Social Media Customer Service Suck

Reach, responsiveness, engagement, resolution, impact, journey – these are all buzzwords in the brave new world of customer service meets social media.
Undoubtedly, it has all the excitement of a first date – all that uncertainty of how to behave and what to say.  Despite being a new platform, the same rules  apply – being authentic, demonstrating genuine interest and representing something beyond profit.

My ABCs of Customer Service

Great customer service for any business on any platform consists of 3 things in different measure – responsiveness, engagement and resolution.  Let me break it down:

Responsiveness: How quickly is the business responding to enquiries? How long does a customer have to wait for some attention at the till, on the phone , via email and even a reply from a tweet!

Engagement: When they do respond, how well are they at listening, asking relevant questions, being helpful and demonstrating empathy? Do they make the customer feel like they genuinely care about their enquiry?

Resolution: How well do they successfully address the enquiry?  For example, refunds, exchanges, apologies. What are they prepared to do to keep their customers happy.

It is a growing practice to think of customer service as applicable not simply after sales, but at every part of the the customers’ interaction with the business. This is great and I want to see more of it. However it is a long way from being customer-driven which is far more about culture than it is about senior management pronouncements and marketing flim flam.

Imagine you ordered some tickets for a concert and they didn’t arrive. A day before the concert, you are panicking. You call the ticket vendor but, because they are slow to respond, it takes ages for your call to be answered.

Someone finally picks up the phone and you carefully explain you haven’t received your tickets, which incidentally were a birthday present for your partner, whose birthday is on the same day as her favorite band’s concert date – so an extremely special occasion!

After carefully listening – they have pretty good engagement – they explain that their policy is not to offer refunds or exchanges of tickets this close to the event. Never mind about the importance of the occasion.  They apologise but there is nothing they can do. You end the call feeling deeply frustrated, angry and dissatisfied  because their resolution is poor.

On what basis do you think you might ever buy another ticket from this vendor again? The fact that they listened?  Or the fact that, despite good engagement, they didn’t help you out in this most important of situations. Most importantly you thought they ought to be able to help.

I have and continue to interview end customers of businesses like these, in unofficial surveys triggered by data I find on bizbuzzapp.  The stories are interesting and the emotions generated by resolution are big and typically extreme. Successful resolution – where the customer is happy with what the business is going to do to address their enquiry – generates feelings of delight, satisfaction and increased loyalty. Unsuccessful resolution often generates feelings of anger, hopelessness, dissatisfaction, aggression and betrayal.

Clearly, resolution is a huge thing. It is full of promise and opportunity for the businesses that can consistently be great at it. It is also the hardest to achieve. Not because of some divine unchangeable rule – although there are truly unavoidable things like death or natural disasters – but mostly because of a problem of value assessment.

When I was 17, I went from Nigeria to St Kitts with my sister and my dad. Whilst we were there, my Dad took ill and  died.

We had never been to St Kitts before and, even though it is where Dad was born, we were in an unfamiliar place. We had to rely entirely on the kindness of friends to get through. With no idea how we would pay for his funeral, it was an extremely stressful time. Then we discovered that my Dad had a bank account in the UK with NatWest.

My mum contacted them and spoke with the manager (in the days you could still speak to the manager) and although he didn’t know my dad personally – he saw he was a long standing account holder and had either had funds in his account that could be used to bury him or had some kind of life insurance policy.  The manager asked for the contact details of the Funeral director in St Kitts and between them, they sorted everything out.

To this day I have a NatWest account and hold them in high regard. When I first set out as a consultant I opened my business account with them and put over £250K in revenue through their bank. That is the power of resolution.

This bank manager could have made things very difficult. He could have cited some policy that would have made a sad situation desperate. But he didn’t, he valued my Dad’s established custom over all those things and he had the authority to resolve it successfully.  In reality I don’t think it cost them very much because they were covered by insurance or by what was in Dad’s account – but it was hugely valuable to us.

It should come as no surprise that satisfaction increases the further you go down my ABCs.

In the early 1990s, I walked into a Richer Sounds store to enquire about upgrading my entertainment equipment for my new apartment.
As soon as I walked in, a really friendly sales person named Simon walked up and asked how he might assist me. I explained I had just moved into a new apartment and that I wanted to upgrade my equipment.

Simon listened intently, asking relevant questions about my current entertainment kit, how much I wanted to spend and what I wanted to experience from my entertainment unit. We talked through the options and I finally went with his recommendation which was both surprising and delightful.  Simon recommended that I not buy any more equipment, instead to invest in some better cabling. I had a few hundred to spend and I left that store with perhaps £50 worth of gold plated chunky audio cable.

He was absolutely right – it made a huge difference to my enjoyment.

On the face of it, Simon cost Richer Sounds a few hundred pounds by losing them a bigger sale. But in reality, he gained Richer Sounds a lifelong customer by demonstrating excellence at each of my ABCs. I was satisfied at how quickly Simon responded to my presence in his store, happier still that he engaged with me intently, asking relevant questions and collaborating with me through the options. Finally I was totally satisfied by his help in getting me the experience I wanted from my entertainment equipment and unexpectedly saving me money.

When I did finally upgrade my equipment a few years later, I spent a couple of thousand pounds at the same Richer Sounds store!

The Elephant In the Room

Many companies, perhaps through ineffective leadership, policies and/or a culture of disempowerment consistently undervalue the ongoing satisfaction of their customers. They do so whilst playing lip service to the ‘highest levels of customer service’.  What is this thing that always seems to be considered more important than satisfying customers?

Cost. There, I said it. Time and again, businesses choose to not do things that would satisfy their customers because they think it costs more than they are prepared to accept. I say ‘think’ because actually what they are basing this decision on is a short term perceived cost. When the few companies that even consciously do any kind of cost/benefit assessment of what it might take to satisfy the customer, they almost always undervalue the benefit.

Resolution challenges the business with the fundamental question of “what are you prepared to do to keep a customer happy?”. This question bumps straight up against the elephant in the room – that which no one likes to talk about because it feels ‘dirty’ to say you didn’t do the ‘decent’ thing because it would have cost more than you are permitted to spend.

Most companies I know and know of,  at least those with run-of-the-mill typical MBA educated executives, believe they should track cost. Keeping it low is paramount. Unfortunately, this focus on keeping costs low is often at the expense of other things -namely value!.

A vast industry has grownup around cost-driven customer service. There are experts in offshore call centers, IVR software focuses on ‘intelligent’ routing and queuing. Passionate employees are replaced by cheaper outsourced agencies – who might know the product catalog by heart and may be great at the script, but can hardly talk passionately about the business, the products or the vision. I am sad at how cost driven customer service is so prevalent as to seem like the only way customers can be supported.

Customer Service is Fundamentally Simple

Bizarrely all this is rather simple. Humans desire attention, many crave it. We want to connect with other people – even for information that is readily available in non-human form, humans generally choose to receive the information from another human.  We desire attention for many different reasons – to feel less alone, to have our anxieties reassured, to feel heard, to connect with another human being.  Whatever the reasons (and they can be quite complex), we mostly value human to human interaction over other forms.

The trouble is, in the world of business, attention costs money.  To have people on standby to talk to other people (customers and potential customers) is costly.  Businesses have tried to mitigate this with all kinds of strategies. Great examples are contact centers. First they started onshore, but as pressure mounted to reduce costs, the jobs were moved offshore to where labor was cheaper. This was done at the expense of the customer experience – language and cultural misunderstanding.

Another example is IVR  – that annoying ‘interactive voice routing’ that exploded in the late 80s and 90s. Routing customers through a maze of options with the intention of ‘getting them to the right department’, in practice all it mostly succeeded in doing was to frustrate customers even further.  Again, an attempt at appearing to be responsive and feign engagement. With IVR, every customer call was answered in three or four rings and you were kept busy trying to navigate the maze until you either gave up in frustration or had spent a sufficient amount of time to have made it to the top of the queue.

Each one of these strategies focuses on one or two aspects of my ABCs – ignoring that you really need all three (of course , in different measures) to be consistently successful.

I don’t mean to trivialise the challenge of keeping customers happy. In some industries – like the Funeral Services or health sector – it is tremendously hard workand emotionally wearing. But the customers’ needs are fundamentally the same, albeit more amplified. Also, I recognise that there are some customers who expect and often demand what appears to be an unreasonable amount of attention, but without the skills to really understand the needs that are driving such customer ‘demand’ and a more effective way of valuing both satisfied customers and the opportunity cost of dissatisfaction, I don’t know how a business can truly understand what ‘unreasonable’ means.

The Bottom Line

Current ideas of Social Media Customer Service suck because they are leading businesses to measure ineffective things and simultaneously directing investment and focus away from the more effective things. Too much focus is placed on responsiveness (incidentally because it is, in terms of cost and effort, the cheapest and easiest to fix) and relatively very little is done to improve engagement and resolution.

What does it all mean? Well for one thing, it strongly establishes ‘Customer Service’ as one of the last great frontiers of competitiveness. What value you place on having happy and satisfied customers and how your entire operation – people, products and processes – demonstrate that value, is increasingly becoming the biggest business differentiator.

Once there is parity of production, costs, pricing, logistics and content – the last thing we have left to differentiate businesses is how they make us feel when we do business with them.

Now it’s your turn

What aspects of this post resonate with you? What did you find challenging or disagreeable?
I would really love your feedback and experiences and look forward to your comments on how I might improve on this.
Thanks for reading!

Wickedly witty caption seeks hilarious illustration for fun times.


I recently saw ‘Tangled’ – an animated movie of the Rapunzel story. Very enjoyable.

As it often happens, a funny visual came to mind and an even funnier caption that I would love to match with an illustration to make a single panel comic.

To have maximum effect,  I don’t want to reveal the caption until it is paired with just the right illustration.

As a starting point – I had a Larson-esque style comic in mind, but I’m open to other styles.

Have you got illustrative skills or do you know someone who does and who might be willing to do this for free?  Drop me a comment or tweet me.

What is in it for the artist?

Well,  you get to collaborate on something fairly hilarious.
Lots of people will see it (well, a few really cool people at least)
Also, you get to co-own its copyright (if that floats your boat – although I’m happy to make it CC with attribution)

And if it works out we could make it a regular thing. Who knows where it might lead and who doubts it will be fun getting there?

To Blog or Not To Blog


As I explore the social media customer service space – trying to discover and connect, I am learning quite a bit.

Should I join the fray and blog about what I am learning in order to share and establish some sort of profile or authority? I’m concerned that there is so much of the same crap out there that what I have to add – which I consider to be quite disruptive/provocative ideas – will simply get drowned out.

Also, each new blogger is making the problem of finding the useful stuff even harder – a self defeating act. There is a need for some really intelligent curation that helps people find useful and actionable content.

For these reasons, I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of blogging. For each of the most successful, most widely read blogs out there , there are hundreds of thousands that are churning out content that either no one cares about or no one can find. And blogging is deceptive – it feels good to express your ideas (for me , most of the time , this is all I want – pah! who needs readers) – but with my startup, I want people to consider these disruptive ideas and collaborate with me to bring them to fruition, test them and help everyone.

But if I don’t blog – what shall I do instead? I’m open to ideas.

July 18: A Mixed Bag

Not sure what to make of this week. It’s a bit like being in  the Tom Hanks movie ‘The Terminal’. I’m stuck but actually while I’m in this state of suspension there are really interesting things happening, but mostly I’m still stuck. Unlike Tom Hanks, my becoming unstuck is in my hands, I just don’t know how or I’m currently too scared to try – perhaps a bit of both. The former I can learn and the latter I will outgrow in time and by taking small risks.

Here is my check in:

  • Glad that my Spanish language exchange is really going well.  Duolingo is great, but it is no substitute for actually getting into really interesting conversations with a native speaker.
  • Sad that I will be away from my family for 5 weeks while go do some coaching work.
  • Glad that there are Spanish language meetups where I’ll be, so I can keep up
  • Mad that I have not cracked this sales thing. I think I need to get a mentor/coach. That will be my task today – understand what I want help with!
  • Glad that I will have 5 weeks of doing something else primarily and some focused time in a different location to put into overcoming what is currently got me stuck.
  • I’m grateful for being able to reflect on things, sometimes too deeply – but that is a small price to pay for being able to reflect and learn.

I’m confused and stuck and in.

Improve On…

  • Completing blog posts I have started
  • Being more patient with this journey. Overnight successes take a long time to make.


  • Blog. I’m trying to do 3 a day (this one, a personal one and one for ServiceChat about customer service).
  • Talk to more customers
  • Continue with the promo work for Twumps and BizBuzz. Not quite 20 hits/day but getting there (easier on Bizbuzz than Twumps).

The Trello board



There are many things I could do, do something or do nothing, but whatever I do will be deliberate.

Why I am Cancelling My 10+ year Skype Account


This is a notice to my Skype contacts: 
Skype (and others) have been spying on their users on behalf of the United States security apparatus for a long time. I do not want to be spied on any longer, so I’m closing my account, it will remain dormant and unused from today (15/July/2013) and cancelled on 01/August/2013.

I am currently researching alternatives, however you may contact me on Twitter or by email in the meantime and we can arrange a voice call (all of which are also compromised, I’m sure!).

My privacy is mine

The longer version

Coming soon…