Category Archives: Customer Experience

Do something good for one customer, they’ll tell 100 others

Thanks Nik for the heads up to this article about looking after your customers. The founder of Amazon.com has always had a love affair with his customers, despite customer love not being a general metric of business success.

The example was of a xmas present gone astray in the post and the absolute non-hesitation of an Amazon staff member to send out a new one immediately at no cost. They made a customer for life and have now sparked a bunch of people to spread the news (I am wondering if maybe the old 1 tells 100 customers is incorrect these days – people can tell thousands of others!). So what if Amazon lost a couple of hundred bucks on a missing item, they will have made that back in the five minutes it took for the guy who got another one to tell his first five friends.

When people talk about creating customers who love you, it always sounds a little contrived, like you only want them to love you so they spend more… But I find that it’s more than that. I got an email this morning from a customer who simply wrote to thank us and say how proud he was of his new website. It made my day. Other customers who ring to ask about something, then stick around chatting for a bit are also cool. I’m fascinated by the business who we help and the people who build them and feel like I’ve made some good friends out from the initial customer/supplier relationships.

Having customers you enjoy working with is one of the reasons we come to work in the morning and the key reason to keep us inspired and excited about the work we do. This means it’s in our interests to keep our customers really happy. I suspect people like Jeff Bezos from Amazon approach their business in much the same way and because their key aim is to have fun and make friends while working, they’ve been mighty successful.

I think what some business forget (and so do we in the bad times) is that, like the movie stars say, ‘without your fans, you’re nothing’. on those days when you’re rushing around, everything is falling down around you and you can’t quite see how you’re going to fix everything, I think the key lesson the likes of Amazon teach us is to prioritse keeping your customers happy, then go from there.

Don’t watch the clock when you’re with clients

I went to a meeting today with a branding company and a customer. The branding company didn’t look at their clock once. I’m not sure if they are charging by the hour, but the lack of watching the clock really stood out.

In amongst checking cellphones and running late, I notice that generally people blatantly watch their clocks when you have a one hour meeting, the not-so-subtle ‘well that’s done’ at often entirely inappropriate times REALLY gets on my nerves.

So what if you run 10 minutes late. Seriously, your not that important that ten minutes will kill you. And I understand all those ten minutes add up, but they reward you over and over again with happy, satisfied customers… And anyway meetings finish early sometimes too.

Working long distance

We get a fair bit of work from the other side of the world. For most of these customers, this is the first time they have worked with someone they aren’t able to catch up with face to face and I think the idea is initially quite frightening. I find, it works BETTER than when you are in the same place, and here is why.

Meetings are short and to the point

Long distance projects have limited forms of communication, i.e phone and email. When you have to specify a time for a phone call to the other side of the world, you tend to stick to that time, not arrive 10 minutes late, and you come with an agenda, because it may be a week before you get a chance to talk again.

These may seem like pitfalls but actually they are benefits. What is missing in a lot of tech projects these days is a sense of organisation. Everyone wants to pitch their ideas in the melting pot and have endless discussions over features and ideas. When you work from a distance, there is simple no place for mucking around with this and very quickly people work out where their capabilities are best suited.

Meetings are organised and always less than an hour. You go in with specific talking points and you come out with new targets. It’s really simple.

Stuff gets done all the time

I send a screenshot to the US at the end of my day, and by the beginning of my next day, someone has had a chance to look over it and give me some feedback so I can immediately launch back into design mode. This cuts out immense amounts of waiting around and means that the project is being worked on literally around the clock.

There is a lot more trust

It sounds a bit weird, but when you have to rely on someone you have never met to get a very important project finished on time, you simply have to trust them. Sometimes I find working with local customers is hard because everyone thinks they are a web designer and therefore want to tell you how it should be done. International customers still pitch in, but they respect that you are there for a reason and you know what you are doing. It seems like the opposite would happen, but it doesn’t.

You get to the point

I’m a fairly blunt person about design, I love it when customers say either ‘I love it’ or ‘I hate it’. When you work face to face with people, they seem to find it harder to tell you the flaws they see and it often gets to the end of the project before they bring them up or they give vague descriptions of the problem. When you email someone, it’s easier to cut to the point and list points of disagreement which can then quickly be overcome.

I am yet to find a downside to working from afar and I suspect our customers can’t find too many either. The entire process is more efficient, less complicated and so much faster. And those midnight wakeup calls are awesome too ;)

How much one person can change

I caught the bus yesterday. I’m not sure what it’s like in the rest of the world, but busses in Wellington are notorious for their angry, mean drivers.

I’ve had drivers who gleefully pass people waiting at the bus stop, or who drive up so close behind the person stopped in front of them, I swear I’ve witness heart attacks… But this guy was different.

He LOVES driving a bus and at 5.30pm when everyone is tired and grump and dreading the 30 minute trip home before they can settle in for the night, he was a breath of fresh air. He greeted everyone with a cheerful hello, he waited to see if the person running down the street was doing so because they wanted to catch his bus, he called out the next stop, he made jokes about flowers and sparked conversations. He was polite and funny and friendly.

I heard about 3 separate conversations (between strangers) around me where people discussed whether or not they could nominate him for bus driver of the year, for the first time ever, the person who sat next to me actually smiled as she asked if it was ok if she sat next to me. As everyone boarded the bus, within seconds they cottoned onto this new happy atmosphere and visibly relaxed.

I’m not over-dramatising this, it was incredible how this one guy completely changed the culture of the bus. He made people happy and chatty. I was in shock.

As we all disembarked at various stops, instead of the usual ‘thanks driver’, people actually stopped and said ‘thanks, you made my day’, or something else they really felt.

It just reminded me of those days when you feel like ‘what can one person do?’ that actually you can do a lot. This guy proved how important his job is – in a typical day he impacts thousands of peoples lives, by being one happy bus driver, he makes a visible dent in creating a city full of happy productive people. He reminded me of the important role that each of us could play in creating better company culture or happier customers or a better life.

I’m going to try to be more like him.

How to create a successful website

I went to Victoria university. Their website was a well known example among students of a black hole of information – you knew it was all in there somewhere, it was just virtually impossible to get to it. It was begging for an update, so I was happy to discover that very recently it had undergone a re-design.

The new site looks nice, but I feel like the point of the redesign was missed a little. It’s not actually much easier to find stuff. I realised quickly that I had ‘learned’ the old site – I knew where that random link to the graduation information was off by heart so had taught myself how to get to it. The new site, I had no idea.

VUW new website

Looking quickly through the site to try to understand who and what they were catering for, I started jotting a quick list of what I think are the building blocks of a successful website. It is by no means complete, but based on the things I think the new VUW site does well and not so well.

  • Use menus to break the areas of your website up into large chunks. People use navigation only when necessary so keep your main menu small (only a few links) and prominent. I can then quickly get to the broad area I need to.
  • If you have a big site (with more than 2-3 layers of content), have a search box. I can avoid a long path to my goal page, if I can quickly search for it.
  • Too much small text in small chunks is confusing, especially when it looks the same – I ignore it. Maybe I assume they are ads? Clearly separate different content and give it some space and size!
  • I think 4 columns may be a bit much. It’s too busy and hard to separate the content out, so makes me head back to the menus. Keep it simple, 2-3 columns maximum and keep the main content area a lot larger than the ‘module’ bars so I know where I’m meant to be getting my information from.
  • Completely understand the REASON why someone is there. What are the things most people are trying to get to? Make sure it is as easy as possible to people to achieve their most common tasks. All information was not created equal. Do visitor requirements change over time? (i.e with a graduation ceremony coming up, make graduation prominent, at other times, leave it more ‘hidden’

Is David Beckham worth it?

If you live in Wellington or have ever been here, chances are, you’ll have heard of the Chocolate Fish Cafe. I wrote about The Chocolate Fish Cafe a while ago, and often hear stories about lazy Saturdays spent eating delicious breakfasts and downing coffees in the sun, just around the bays.

The Chocolate Fish Cafe is a Wellington icon. We LOVE it. When Wellingtonians and lovers of Wellington heard that the council is raising their rates to compensate for the extra seating the cafe requires, to a point that The Chocolate Fish will have to charge $7 for a coffee to keep going… they were outraged. The fact of the matter is, we think the owners SHOULD be making a fortune out of us, we love their place, we love taking guests from out of town there, we love it how people come to Wellington and head directly to The Chocolate Fish.

How often do you come across a business that we’re all willing to ‘subsidise’ through allowing reduced council rates? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.

In the meantime, the council is shelling out a ‘modest’ contribution to the $1.5 million cost of bringing David Beckham over to play 55 minutes of football.

I abandoned my emotional side and looked at this situation from an economic point of view:

Despite the councils unwillingness to divulge how much they have actually paid for Bavid Beckham, lets say it’s $100,000, which, I believe is roughly the increase in rates they are demanding from the Chocolate Fish Cafe. Let’s examine two scenarios where the council ‘spends’ roughly the same cash:

David Beckham comes.

David BeckhamWellington is hit with football fever for a day, they attractive a massive one off crowd to watch the game and are gambling (I assume) that many people who go to watch David, will fall madly in love with the game and continue to support the Wellington team, thus earning Wellington some good coin.

The council leaves the Chocolate Fish Cafes rates where they are

The Chocolate Fish CafeThe hugely successful Wellington icon will stay open. For the next 5, 10, 15 years… The Chocolate Fish will continue to enhance Wellington’s image as a vibrant and quirky city, will continue to inspire visitors to drive or bike around the bays and take in Wellington beautiful scenery, will continue to pay significant rates and benefit the council.

I don’t get it.

If you make it (easy), they will come

I have been a web designer long enough to know that behind even the ugliest of sites lies some very successful companies. A lot of people just don’t see the web as a marketing channel and have an ugly looking, amateur website as their only online representation. That’s like sending your five year old along to a sales meeting. Not only does it look unprofessional, it actively puts customers off!

I realised this fact with a bang when i was looking for a company to print tshirts for PlanHQ. I looked at quite a few websites and to be frank, they all looked like they were run out of some 12 year old’s garage and I had absolutely no faith that I would actually get anything for my money.

In the end, I actually went and visited the premises of a business BEFORE committing to purchase – this is someone who’s normally happy buying anything online. It struck me that t-shirt printing sites all had several things in common:

  • They didn’t understand google. It is very hard to search for a t-shirt printing company, I had the nagging feeling there were a lot more out there but I would never be able to find them.
  • T-shirt printing companies didn’t simplify their product. I just wanted a few t-shirts printed, I didn’t want it to feel like a very complicated, high risk task! I wanted an easy process (choose a t-shirt, submit your image in this format at this resolution, pay your money, wait 2 days, get your t-shirt couriered). That was, in the end how the process worked where I went, but honestly, you would never have guessed (the place I went to didn’t even have a website)
  • T-shirt companies don’t understand the importance of beauty This is pretty frightening as I trust them to make my clothes look cool. Ugly sites put me off! Even though I know it’s psychological and a website is often no reflection on a company (!), I still was put off even calling most of the places I found.

T-shirt companies are not alone

A lot of other companies are in the same boat, but t-shirt companies are such an easy example of businesses that could totally take advantage of the web. If I was a t-shirt company that printed corporate tees, I’d ensure people could do it all online. Otherwise, every time someone wants a batch done it takes hours out of their day. They simply cannot afford to do it!

T-shirt companies could easily make my life easier by embracing the web. If I could find one half-decent site I would switch my business to them in a flash. Seriously.

A slug in your dinner

I recently went out to dinner with my parents to a restaurant that we quite like. Unfortunately, just as we polished off the last bit, I found a slug in my dinner.

Luckily it was a whole slug. In fact it was a happy slug. Quite cute too, had it not been in my dinner.

I got that weird, squirmy feeling about what exactly I had just eaten. Then the waiter came past and was shown the slug. He said ‘oh dear… Umm, would you like me to take it away?’ and kind of wiped it off my plate with a towel.

I think we looked a little shocked because he then offered a free dessert. Funnily enough, I wasn’t too interested, so got my dinner for free.

I’d give him about a B- for his dealings with me.

When we went to pay, the owner/manager happened to be standing there. He wondered why we were getting a free meal. When he was told, his face went a little pale and he ordered everyone into the kitchen to look at the salad. He wasn’t thinking ‘oh dear a slug’ he was thinking ‘potentially these people could do significant damage to my restaurant’. I mean, imagine if I’d been a restaurant reviewer?

It made me think… Shouldn’t every one working in a restaurant be equally concerned about slugs?