Icon Marketing Communications

Perception is deception…

What’s in a name?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet “said Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But what really is in a name? Well in Wilmslow the difference between an apartment and a flat could start at £100k.

That’s the thing as I was once told “perception is deception” it was on the first proper date with my now husband. This always sounded peculiar to me but as I’ve got older this saying really has gained huge significance.

You can gain a lot of wisdom from speaking to people young, old, black, white any creed or religion, footballers, hairdressers etc. everyone has a piece of wisdom which is useful. That was why I loved working at Gusto in Alderley Edge and Knutsford.

East Cheshire Hospice Fundraiser. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

Meeting and mixing with people from lots of different backgrounds gave me a significant insight into life. This was a time pre-recession (and before the smoking ban) where people were much happier and relaxed. I’m yet to find any significant data on the effects of e-cigarettes but anecdotally I was told that doctors are saying they’re 95% less damaging to your health than a cigarette.

When you walk the streets many people do smoke them but I suspect there is some reluctance to smoking them until the full facts are presented. We don’t want to be told that things are safe and further down the line find out that they’re not, we’ve been there before.

The government’s policy of raising taxes on cigarettes has worked as people have started to look for cheaper alternatives.  So back to Gusto;

When I worked as a Business Development Manager for Living Ventures I once turned George Osbourne away for a table. There was a massive queue of people waiting and there was physically no tables free anywhere. The way he approached me suggested that he was in a rush so I thought there was no point lying as he’d get more agitated than he already was.  It was just before the General Election and I’ll never forget a customer approached me afterwards and asked me;

Suzanne Neville dresses. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

“Do you know who that is? It’s the future Chancellor of the Exchequer!”

I knew exactly who he was, that was my job to be well informed but that didn’t mean I could magic up a table. That’s the thing even though I was only on the face of it a host there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make things happen as Tim Bacon (former Living Ventures Managing Director) always used to say it’s the ‘swan theory’.  Tim was great at making celebrities feel special and he built his empire up from exactly that. I’ll never forget the time that the 50% sale was on and Wayne Rooney came in for a meal. He used a 50% voucher and people didn’t stop talking about it there was even an article in a national paper (we got sent some fan-mail from his biggest fan!) But why should he pay more when everyone else is paying half price?

Many restaurants have cottoned on to the same idea and in January everyone expects to eat half price. It used to be busier than Christmas which is insane when you think about it.

Nowadays, lots of restaurants allow dogs in but at this time Tim always said “no dogs allowed”. Funny really one day Roberto Mancini former Man City manager came in with his whole family including his family dog. I spoke to them and apologised that they wouldn’t be able to have a table but they refused to leave the dog outside and so I set up a giant table outside for them and put the outside heaters on. It was a cold evening in fact I think it was winter if I remember rightly.

 The whole family ate happily outside including the dog, who I did some lamb chops for. Hilarious really when you think about it. As Orange once said in their marketing campaign “It’s good to talk”. “A problem shared is a problem halved”.  I could rattle out hundreds of other clichés but they are true. It was nice to make people feel they could talk sometimes that's all we need to feel better.

When did we stop being so caring? The pressure we put ourselves under now to succeed is unbearable. You want to do better than the generation previous but there is a whole generation of young people that this country has failed. It’s time we got back to basics. Walking our children to school rather than rushing around in expensive cars congesting the roads. Tim always used to say if you’re running late pull over make a phone call and carry on your journey. That’s the thing there’s nothing wrong with being late sometimes, safety should always come first.

I read in the Guardian on Friday that “The NHS prescribed a record number of antidepressants last year, fuelling an upward trend that has seen the number of pills given to patients more than double over the past decade” (Guardian, Friday 30 June 2017). The headline was “Antidepressant prescriptions on NHS at a record high” the whole country is stressed out and looking for someone to blame. Minimum wage staff having to deal with an irate customer who forgot to bring a carrier bag. I was told by a member of staff at a national supermarket that a woman left her entire weekly shop because she was so annoyed she had to pay for her carrier bags. It feels as though the whole country is angry and agitated but who do you blame?

This is when pack mentality kicks in and you pick someone different to yourself of course. It’s no good blaming one of your own kind that would be far too difficult. By blaming someone else we have failed to embrace our multi-culturalism in this country. People always thought I was the host “the hostess with the most-ess" but what they called me didn’t matter so long as I got the job done.

If you want to talk about your Business Development opportunities feel free to get in touch 01625 533102.

 

 

Good Customer Service

Not so long ago I spent 4 years working for the late Tim Bacon the founder of Living Ventures a group of restaurants and bars including Gusto and the Living Room. I learnt a great deal, his Core Manual is one of his greatest legacies almost biblical!

In it Tim teaches you how to give excellent customer service and at the root of his teaching is that the customer is always right. Many people couldn’t understand why a degree educated person would want to work in a restaurant with the long unsociable hours and relatively low pay. I never explained to customers that I was a Business Development Manager and that there was much more going on behind the scenes, they just viewed me as a host (well what’s in a name?). Those 4 years taught me so much about providing good service, dealing with difficult customers (sometimes drunk) as well as creating a welcoming environment. A fellow hospitality worker once said that ‘hospitality should be made a national service’. I really couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, this has made my expectations very high and I find it quite frustrating when I don’t receive the same good customer service from other business to consumer enterprises it’s not hard to get it right just put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re dealing with and ask yourself what would you expect? In many other countries i.e. America hospitality is viewed as a career whereas over here many view it as a stop gap.

If I have to call a business and get good customer service I’m actually amazed. Almost shocked if I get through directly to the person I need to speak to. Lansinoh are one such business I needed some replacement valves for my breast pump the lady who answered the call was able to deal with my query straightaway without having to pass me to another department. It made me think it doesn’t matter what communication method you use as long as you do it well. I recently had to speak to a large business who provide a wide range of electrical items let’s just say their name began with Sam and ended in ung. I was appalled by how poor their customer service was. Firstly, the line was very poor so it was difficult to hear them, they took me through their troubleshooting (basically) switch it off and on. When this didn’t resolve the issue they put me on hold for roughly 15 minutes until eventually my call was dropped. I called back only to have to go through the same process again and once again was put on hold for a further 10 minutes whilst the individual reviewed my notes. Finally, they deducted that my equipment (a sound bar) was faulty. I had called about the same issue a year ago and was made to feel quite foolish because my husband had removed the battery (I hadn’t checked before I called). On this occasion I was transferred to the supervisor who asked me over and over again if my problem was resolved, even though they knew it wasn’t.

As a parent you’re told to ‘praise good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour’ (not entirely sure which guru came up with this theory). I don’t agree with this theory. I do agree with praising good behaviour something I do loud and proud however, but bad behaviour should also be acknowledged. We shouldn’t insult the intelligence of our children by assuming they can’t understand right from wrong and this is why they should be punished. In the world of consumerism people don’t follow this rule (I’m as guilty as the next person). Giving feedback to a company is the only way to help them improve. Posting a negative review can be very damaging for a small businesses. So back to the electronics company there is an email address on their site where you can directly contact the CEO of the company surely he would care about the poor customer service I received? But I’ve received no response as of yet. I also tweeted their official twitter handle yet again no response.

You can be sympathetic to small companies not having the resource to be across all communication channels but a global business should be able to provide brilliant customer service. I am a big Gin fan and for Christmas I received a beautifully packaged bottle of Gin from the Gin Parlour with complementary bottles of tonic and beer matts it was a real treat. On their website they state in their FAQs

“WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A TELEPHONE NUMBER?

We are a small, 2.5 person, online company. We made the decision not to have a public phone number and instead embrace the various online methods of communication - email, live chat, Twitter and Facebook - because these enable us to provide a better, more reliable, level of customer service. We could put a phone number up but 9 times out of 10 you would have to leave a message for us to get back in touch with you. In our experience that frustrates people even more.

We know that some people see a phone number as a sign of a company’s validity and will not want to shop with us however we have been independently verified by our website security certificate provider and our independent review provider.”

This is a prime example of smart communications, you don’t need to be across every method of communication to give good customer service just pick a few and ensure you do them well.

kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk 01625 533102

Credit: Jonathan Farber

Credit: Jonathan Farber