Posted in Marketing, Personal Development, Words of Wisdom

Unashamed self-promotion

Just back from a short break to New Zealand. (If you have never been, you haven’t lived…)

Not quite ready to start posting, but got a lovely email this morning:

I greatly appreciate your support and I hope to have your involvement in Retail 2012 (which conveniently will be in Sydney 24-26 Sept).

 There was some fantastic feedback regarding your presentation from delegates on the online survey and I have copied their comments for you below – congratulations.

  • Great
  • Awesome.
  • Good
  • Enthusiasm, very endearing
  • Clear and concise

I look forward to working with you again.



Whilst only 5 people specifically commented, and it is probably a biased sample, I thought that in the absence of anything worthwhile to say, I will just take that and share it ๐Ÿ™‚ in an act of unashamed self-promotion.

But there is a ‘lesson’ in all of this. 



The presentation at Melbourne Retail Expo and Conference 2011 came about because someone found my blog, hooked up via twitter (and vice versa) and eventually ended up recommending me to the conference organisers.

From this conference further enquiries have already flowed, so it just goes to show the exponential power of using social media.



PS: Of course credit is due to Moonyeen for helping to make a good presentation great. And that is another lesson. Don’t be too proud to take advice and don’t think you know it all.



Posted in Customer Service

Customer Service: A new definition for a new era

I have an admission to make: Just like you, I am sick of hearing about customer service. And to make matters worse, we are retail trainers, and yes, customer service trainers.

Delivering great customer service is hard – possibly the hardest thing to achieve in an organisation. Great customer service is therefore also one of the best differentiators a retailer can have because it is so hard to copy. Great customer service is therefore still the holy grail of a retail organisation. You can copy someone’s marketing. You can copy their range and assortment. You can even open up right next door. But you can’t copy a service culture.

Ready for the big insight?

You don’t TRAIN for customer service, you BREED it.

If you consider that key difference carefully, then quite a few differences emerge from the traditional view of customer service. Let’s consider what the process might be like if you thought about breeding customer service. (I will use plant breeding as the analogy here)


The first step in the process is to plant the seeds of customer service. A vision. A customer service charter. (Of course planting assumes planter – and it is a prerequisite that the planter is made of the right stuff.) It helps if the first seed is a strong seed that will eventually sprout the other seeds that will spread the culture.

Many employees will have been exposed to other customer service cultures and will have been trained in other organisations. Transplanting them is a dicey proposition. Sometimes it will take and sometimes not.


Water and fertisliser. Not everything is easy or pleasant to do. Nurturing is hard work – ask any farmer. And it is relentless.

The fuel that will deliver your success (maybe this is the fertiliser) is your passion. You have to absolutely stir your passion into the soil and spread it around generously.


Make heroes of the people who deliver. When it comes to cutting staff, are your frontline people first to go and the hierarchy in management the last? Or does it always boil down to managers looking after themselves.

If the CEO does not take a pay cut when things are tight, you can be sure the soil for customer service is not fertile.

If someone makes a legitimate mistake, with the customers’ best interests at heart, and they are fired anyway; you can be sure that seeds of service will not grow. If punishment is the outcome, then making yourself small and invisible is the natural response.

Small and invisible people cannot do great things.


I have written elsewhere about what it takes to create happy workplaces. One of the hardest things you must do is to fire the people who don’t fit in. Those who are unhappy and those who mock customers or serve with a heavy heart must be let go. 

A novice who observes an experienced gardener will sometimes wonder why the best-looking, healthy branches seem to be the ones that are cut. But the experienced I can see which shoots are growing in the wrong direction and sapping the energy of the whole plant.


Not much to say here of course. This is why we do it: to reap the fruits. And as the biblical analogy goes (and I paraphrase) we all know that bad trees don’t bear good fruit.


Put back. Re-invest. Use the best performers as your mentors for the new people coming through. To reap does not mean stripping the cupboard bare – it means you allow enough to reinvest in next year’s crop. Leaving some money on the table, the old gamblers knew, would allow you to walk away from the game alive.


Reward the ‘soil’ with a break. Plant a different plant. Don’t train in customer service only. Add some variety. Allow people to develop themselves and their other interests too.

So much for the process of ‘breeding’a customer service culture.

There are other dynamics at play too, and it is worth considering a few other salient facts and facets before rushing out to start the process.


You can never stop. If you lose focus because you want to implement something else (another buzzword platform) and you lose sight of this process, it will wither on the vine.


You are working with people some results may surprise you – and not always in a bad way. You are bound to experience and gain some delightful interactions and outcomes. And you are bound to come across a customer that is hard to please no matter what.

In conclusion, we should then consider what the role of customer service training is, if there is one.

Breeding your customer service culture is not something that can be outsourced to a trainer. Consultants and trainers have a role to play, and the role WE play is:


We have adopted a structured approach to help our clients step through the whole customer experience. It is easy to SAY that we should walk in the shoes of the customers; and it is easy to TALK about Moments of Truth. But institutionalising those the experience is another matter altogether. Customer Experience Design (CXD in our shorthand) in corporate several frameworks that constitute a comprehensive


The skills employees need to have to deliver great customer service are either communication based: How to ask questions. Listening with intent. Responding with empathy. Solving problems efficiently.

And great customer service also needs product- and organisational knowledge. Product knowledge supports the sales process and is rather obvious. But organisational knowledge in is equally (if not more) important. And by this I don’t only mean knowledge of policies and procedures, but:

  • What are the limits of authority? (And when is it OK to break it.)
  • What is our vision and what is my role in growing towards that vision?

The caveat, going back full circle, is of course that these skills are only viable in the right culture. And creating the ‘right’ culture can be done, and you can even use consultants to get it right, but change management is not a simple skills training exercise that is sold to the cheapest bidder.


PS: I programmed this post some time ago before some R&R in New Zealand. Upon my return I will work on the next newsletter – and the topic will be customer experience (which is not customer service).

  Subscribe to the newsletter now… and be sure not miss out.


Posted in General

Easier said than done, but done it must…

As part of the presentation that I am doing at the Retail Expo and Conference (13-15 Sep) I have spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking and researching the difference between online and offline retail.

There is quite a bit of hysteria from every angle you care to look, but the reality is that this can and should be treated as a normal competitive threat:

I have come up with the following 6 reasons why people buy online:

  1. Convenience (time)
  2. Control (being in control – consumers think they are not being influenced)
  3. Community (share other consumers’ experiences)
  4. Cost – (and associated price transparency and flexibility)
  5. Choice – (is almost unlimited)
  6. Curiosity (the novelty value)

If you want to join them, then those are the things you must deliver.

Whether you want to compete with your offline offer, or simply ensure your offline store prospers anyway as you go multi-channel, then the normal rules of competition apply:

MATCH ALL OF THE ABOVE, plus raise the stakes…

  1. Convenience (location)
  2. Instant Gratification

And I will give away the not-so-secret, secret: the H-Factor is the Human Factor. 

The key challenge (and what you will gain from attending the conference) is to understand exactly what it is (clue: it is not customer service) and how to construct your strategy to execute the H-Factor.

Easier said than done – but that is the challenge offline retailers face.

After the conference I leave for NZ to experience the RWC. I will miss a week or two blogging here, but will be sure to come back and check the comments and respond to questions or suggestions.

Kia ora



PS: Not too late to attend I am sure. Get your VIP invitation here, and use the codeword to extract a good discount on an already affordable rate. You can’t afford NOT to go ๐Ÿ˜‰ OR CLICK BELOW

Posted in Marketing, Words of Wisdom

10 things I wonder about social media and the internet…

  1. I wonder why some people accumulate connections on LinkedIn like notches on the doorpost?
  2. I wonder why some people upload photos to a photo-sharing site and then set the setting so that you can’t share it?
  3. I wonder why some people feel that every tweet they post is so important that it has to be broadcast on LinkedIn and Facebook?
  4. I wonder if people don’t know that it is obvious that it is too late start connecting on LinkedIn when you lose your job?
  5. I wonder why people cannot anticipate that it is a bit naff to hop on a social media site as a Johnny-come-lately and start dishing out ‘how-to’ advice?
  6. I wonder if the people who brag how many gazillion people are on Facebook or whatever, also realise that a gazillion plus one people are not?
  7. I wonder if people realise that nobody seriously thinks they are ‘successful’ if they spend 8 hours a day on Twitter?
  8. I wonder if internet gurus understand that because a lot of people repeat what they said or believe what they what they said or agree with what they said merely means they are popular or common or both – but not influential.
  9. I wonder why people still send money to Nigeria?
  10. I wonder if people seriously believe that posting a motivational quote motivates someone?


I wonder, I really do…


Posted in General, Management

Do you really, really know? Or just think so…

Do you also notice how people often say they know the difference between this and that, but they don’t really, really know? Then there is also a difference between knowing the difference and practising the difference.

Do you (a) know and (b) practise the difference, between:

  • Visual Merchandising vs. Interior Decorating
  • Profit vs. Cash Flow
  • Margin vs. Mark-Up
  • Talking vs. Communicating
  • Listening vs. Waiting for someone to stop talking
  • Customer Service vs. Customer Experience
  • Human Resources vs. People
  • Features vs. Benefits
  • System vs. Process
  • Training vs. Instruction

It may appear to be playing around with semantics, but as I wander through the corridors of retail business, I am astounded by the discrepancy between what people know and what they think they know. (Despite my vigilance, I am sure the same applies to me.)


I was wondering if you can add your favourite to the list above?

Posted in Future, General, Productivity, Strategy

Just get out my $%#ng# way

The Wollongong and Shellharbour councils had been disbanded a few years ago due to gross incompetence and the first elections in some time to create newly elected councils are in the ‘promise-the-world-until-you-are-in-power’ phase. Occasionally I catch a bit of this dribble on the local ABC radio and the papers.

Coincidentally, BlueScope has recently announced the retrenchment of 1000 workers.

The result is predictable. Every candidate is promising job-creation for the Illawarra. There is plenty of rhetoric about how every candidate will lobby, cajole, convince, and empower the AAA, the BBB, the ZYX Federation, Council, Association, Alliance et al to create jobs in the Illawarra.

I never swear (badly) on this blog. But if there is anything that would make me break that rule then it is this topic.

The ONLY people who can actually create jobs are ENTREPRENEURS.

All of the aforementioned and most other organisations know how to spend money researching and talking about it, but they cannot ACTUALLY create jobs.

Just entrepreneurs can.

(On a side note: It is this kind of delusional thinking that led Governments to bail out failing companies by transferring their debt to the citizens. They are playing God in the economic sphere instead of just getting out of the way.)

Whilst the BlueScope retrenchments will create heartbreak on the individual level, and I do not want to diminish their pain, there are a few other perspectives to consider:

  • I do wonder if the unions, who have insisted on 5% increases year on year on year on year take any responsibility for making BlueSope internationally uncompetitive?
  • I wonder if the proponents of a minimum wage accept any responsibility for making Australia uncompetitive?
  • I wonder if the ‘workers’ who seem to focus on their ‘entitlements’ have thought about their obligations?
  • I wonder if politicians and workers have ever thought about the PAIN and the RESPONSIBILITY that the entrepreneur feels when they go about creating those jobs that everyone seems to demand – until they have them; only to then complain how it is not good enough.

In the business climate that exists in Australia, I certainly don’t want to be an employer. I find it hard to stomach the culture of entitlement from workers and the oppressive legislative regime.

The argument that we won’t allow slave labour in Australia is a furphy rolled out by anti-capitalist, anti-entrepreneurial sorts as a scare tactic. I am willing to put a lot of money on the fact that the market-rate for wages would be not very dissimilar to what it is now. The difference is that the current regime adds additional responsibilities of the employer that significantly increases the cost of employment. And in addition, the death kiss is the concomitant, increasing inflexibility that becomes part of your business with every additional employee.

I realise it may hard for people to imagine the alternative if you are raised in the current regime, but consider a few examples:

  • What is the rationale for a government legislate that the EMPLOYER (in my case the individual ME) should pay a nominated superannuation fee and NOT put that obligation on the individual? Why must the employer be responsible for the prudent financial management of your retirement – and not the employee?
  • Why must the employer pay the taxes and not the employee?
  • Why can’t the employee be expected to insure themselves against accidents?

I think the point is made.

FIXING this problem is important.

There are two considerations:

Firstly, climate change proponents are probably prone to exaggeration (who really knows) – but if they are even half-right, we will be living in a shit-hole in a few decades.

The bottom-line of the climate change debate is this: GROWTH as we know it is over. The world cannot support growth at the rate that it has grown in the past. (Jeff Jarvis wrote an interesting post on the “jobless future”.)

Secondly, I believe we are migrating to a new economic structure. I don’t (and no one really does) know what it will look like.

I think that will be an environment where only the nimble and flexible will survive.

I think companies will be smaller – with many more solo businesses.

But what I know is that Australian business environment is not future-proof. And THAT will be the single biggest factor limiting Australia’ survival and our place in the world economic-pecking order.

The culture we have harks back to an industrial era where ‘industrial relations’ were probably necessary. But in the world we live in now, the same principles don’t apply. Workers in that era were different. The modern era means:

  • Workers can communicate instantly with each other and establish what is fair and what is unfair.
  • Workers are mobile and can move their skills anywhere at anytime.
  • The balance of power (in the age of Intellectual Property) lies with the employee – not the employer.
  • Employees can and do take responsibility for their own training because the skills required for economic success are not dictated (or resourced and controlled) by employers.

It just does not make sense to punish entrepreneurs with a restrictive employment regime when exploitation is not viable or available anyway.

If wannabe councillors/ politicians want to really help, they should get out of the way. I am not advocating anarchy or that businesses or entrepreneur are above the law.

What I AM asking governments/councils to do is change their attitudes. The prevailing approach (apparently entrenched in the culture of these organisations) is to look at every business, at every attempt to develop or grow something from the perspective of ‘what is wrong with this proposal.’

If they could change their approach to ‘how can we help make it happen’ then the entrepreneurs have all the help they need. Real entrepreneurs can make anything happen (e.g. raising capital when rates are not favourable) but they can’t break the law and these politicians ARE the law.

Such an attitude shift would be a big challenge in itself, but that is all we require.

Thank you. Sorry for the rant. Let’s save Australia.

Posted in Selling & Persuasion

Old vs New way of selling – the complete list

๏ปฟWhat is the difference between the OLD and the NEW approach to selling. Or maybe the distinction is between the COMMON and the RARE approach to selling? Of course this ‘new’ approach is the one we advocate and train. (Learn more here.)

  • The OLD way (arguably the wrong, but still most common way) is to train and encourage your staff to SELL.
  • The NEW way (and, IMHO, the correct way) is to train your staff to help the customer to buy.

Moonyeen came up with a list of 23 distinctions between the old and the new – each of which will take careful consideration in order to be applied operationally. The list below is NOT just wordplay and semantics. It takes a complete mind shift to adopt this approach – and I will prove it to you…

I published a summary earlier, but rather than send you back to that, here is the complete list – let us know what you think?

(and thanks Dave P for reminding us…)




Sales person the focus

Customer the focal point


Ego, achievement, social, joy, fun





Present the choice

Make the choice

Price & Discounts


Talk to

Talk with

Product knowledge

Customer Foresight










Emotional benefit



Commitment to business

Commitment to customers









Data base

Social communication





Reasons provided





Tell and listen

Get your customer to trust you

Trust your customer

Say to your customer “can I help you”

Ask your customer to help you

Solve problem

Pre-empt solution

Maintenance of relationship

Growth of relationship

Outcome focussed

Process focussed (system thinking)

Manage expectations

Meet expectations


Authentic conversation