Blogging for Charity

BreakthroughToday I have launched a new blog entitled Breakthrough Charity Challenge which will follow my preparation over the coming ten and a half months for a sky dive in May 2010 in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

It details a number of challenges that I will face during this time and also the activity that will hopefully ensure I achieve more that the minimum £20,000 donations I need to raise in order to complete the challenge.

Do support me by following the blog. Anyone who knows me will realise it’s a pretty tall order to throw myself off a garden wall, let alone out of a plane!

July 4, 2009 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

Bloggers v Journalists – what is the difference?

MediaBloggers or journalists…are they one and the same? ‘Media’ defined by the New Collins English Dictionary as ‘means for communicating information or news to the public’ implies that any platform that supports the art of communication, be it newspaper, TV or blog is classified as media.

All bloggers, just as all journalists were not created equal. Likewise all media are not equally valuable.

But blogs are another way in which people can consume content…an addition to the array of media available and one which may be the sole medium or one of a range of media a person wishes to consume. All this depends on the individual and their preferred method of content consumption.

Valuable, well researched content is not the sole remit of the blogger or the journalist. But blogs that deliver this value can certainly be referred to as ‘media’ in the context of this post.

And what about the ‘press badge’ question? Do bloggers merit a press badge to events? Just as with any effective outreach strategy, you need to evaluate that the voice is relevant and well read. Those appropriate to the exhibition or conference audience should be viewed as press. They are equally as valuable to the organisers, exhibitors or industry concerned.

Why do some people treat them any differently?

June 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm 1 comment

A ‘can do’ attitude goes a long way

okIn marketing, sales, customer service…in fact any area of a business that has interaction in any way with the customer, a ‘can do’ attitude is half the battle.
If a customer calls and asks for something specific, for example ‘can you source me a product that is not in your core range?’, ‘how can I market your products better to the end user?’, or ‘I don’t understand how to get this service to work for me and support my business growth’, a ‘can do’ attitude will often keep the customer loyal…even if the problem can’t be solved!
All too often, the response can vary from not returning a call to a slightly abrupt ‘it’s not something we do’. There are always things which are just not feasible, but a ‘can do’ attitude around service often makes up for this and adds a great deal of value to your product or service offer.
So before you say ‘I can’t’, think ‘How can I…?’. It often makes your job more rewarding too!

May 3, 2009 at 10:25 am 1 comment

Customer Service at its Best

hotel-chocolatNot so long ago, I wrote about “Customer Service…at its Worst”, and an experience with the Simple brand of skincare products. Today, I experienced some of the best customer service I’ve seen for many years at Hotel Chocolat, a specialist chain of chocolate shops, at their outlet in Cambridge, UK.

This experience not only reassured me that the company cared about the quality of its products, but cared about their customer and their ongoing loyalty to the brand. Creating that level of reassurance with a customer is something every brand should strive for.

It started about 3 weeks ago when we purchased a box of Hotel Chocolat Turkish Delight as a small gift for a relative on her 89th birthday. The box cost over £12 but was beautifully presented. Visiting her last week she told us that when she opened it and tried a small piece, it tasted dreadful. She then noticed mould growth on the product. Checking the sell-by date, it was well within the date given. We said that we would return the item.

On visiting the shop today, the assistant we spoke to immediately inspected the product and called the store manager. With no questions they refunded the cost of the product and gave us, in addition to this, a large box of their best selling chocolates. They took our details and said the product would be sent away for analysis and their head office would be in touch with us as soon as this was complete.

This action stood out in a world of average service because:

  • The priority was to maintain¬†customer loyalty
  • They went out of their way to ensure we knew that the complaint was being taken seriously
  • They ensured that we were satisfied with the refund but also would try their best selling line to reassure us of their normal high quality standards
  • We felt that the business as a whole supported this attitude and that they were not only satisfying the initial complaint but wanted to find out why it happened so that it didn’t happen again.

This is what word-of-mouth-marketing is all about. A great customer experience as a result of an initial complaint that not only retains the loyalty of that customer but is shared with others – marketing can’t get any better.

Well done Hotel Chocolat!

April 10, 2009 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Taking Responsibility

talkIt’s good to see people want to engage in making a business better. But all too often it is easier to criticise or complain than to act.

One of the all time ‘greats’ is the area of internal communications. It’s an subject about which people in organisations, large and small, often like to vent their frustrations…and often rightly so. How frequently do you hear comments such as ‘no one communicates’, ‘how are we expected to be able to know that if no one tells us’, etc, etc?

But what is stopping the employees taking more responsibility for communications, setting the standard, asking for what they want?

So before you next get together over a coffee or stop for a chat in the car park to discuss what’s wrong, think what’s right and what you could do to help change things. Not everything has to come from the top down.

March 15, 2009 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Who is on Twitter?

twitter2In the Office Products industry, Twitter is very much in the ‘early adopter’ stages of its life cycle. But initial signs are good, with an increasing number of people setting up accounts daily.

A great article in The Times recently entitled ‘Twitter: all we need to be in the loop’ gives some hints and tips in addition to a brief beginners guide as well as some fascinating commentary on how people are using the micro-blogging platform.

But one thing I was asked recently was ‘How do we know who is out there, who to talk to and who has an account?’.

One way is to look at Twitter Search and put a relevant search term in the ‘Search’ box, such as ‘office products’ or a brand or product such as ‘Papershow’. You can then identify who is talking about it and see if you want to link to them.

Some office products dealers already have Twitter accounts to link with their customers. Office Essentials, Euroffice and UOE Limited are all UK dealers on Twitter. Some are literally getting the feel of it whilst others are starting to be more proactive.

In addition, other than myself, you’ll find people like Phil Jones, Sales & Marketing Director for Brother in the UK, Steve Hilleard of Office Products International fame and Dealer Support magazine on there.

If you’re in the office products market and on Twitter, attach a comment below with your Twitter identity and maybe we can work it out together!

February 28, 2009 at 4:34 pm 1 comment

Is a ‘code of ethics’ required?

codeThere have been many stories over recent months about the practice of ‘Astroturfing’ or generating fake recommendations or enthusiasm for a company or its products on the web. A recent article in the Financial Times entitled ‘Blogs that spin a web of deception’ discussed the case of Belkin and an employee who arranged to pay people for posting positive reviews of Belkin products on Amazon. The article goes on to look at other instances where the web is abused and the associated potential impact on businesses.

It is not, however, just ‘Astroturfing’ that has an impact. The anonymity of any post, whether appealing for fake positive feedback or denigrating the very company that pays their wages, can have a huge PR impact on a business.

But can you impose a code of ethics, and is it the right thing to do?

In my view the issue which tops the charts is that of ‘fraudulent’ posting, or posting anonymously claiming to work for a different company…maybe a competitor. This is both unprofessional and hugely damaging…remembering, of course, who pays your wages. I do have serious issues with people who do this as they are both cowardly and are potentially putting other peoples’ jobs at risk.

There is another group, however, of people who post anonymously about their own business, just to be heard. This is a tricky one, as it is often a result of poor management, not allowing people to have a ‘voice’ in the organisation and have their views heard and considered, that results in such behaviour. It may be down to fear of retribution that prompts them to post anonymously to see if they are, maybe, not alone in their views.

So should their be a code of ethics? Many companies and organisations believe so. IBM developed their first social media policy back in 2005, insisting that employees write under their own names, use the first person and ensure that it is clear that it is their own view, not that of the company.

It is, however, difficult to police who is complying with the code if they post from outside a network. But I believe it could alert people to the potential impact of their post and make them think twice. It could also suggest that they address issues off-line with someone in their business (beyond their line manager if they are uncomfortable doing this) before they express their views to a much wider audience.

The internet has ensured that there is now no longer any control over a company message. But a responsible business that is open and engages in conversation both internally and with the broader customer base online, and offers guidance to employees without totally restricting engagement online, will ultimately be the one ultimately viewed in a more positive light.

February 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment

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