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Welcome to the June 2017 edition of ‘Terrific Tips’ delivered to your desktop free almost/nearly/just about every month.

There’s a reason you haven’t received an April or May edition of my Terrific Tips…

I haven’t written them. This is the first time in 20 continuous years of putting out a newsletter that I’ve missed two months in a row. I’ve plenty of observations and examples to share but haven’t yet finalised most of them in written form. Since early February, I’ve spent 11 weeks on the road working with businesses around regional and outback Australia preparing Customer Experience Reports for them, after conducting 37 on-site Customer Experience Audits. This has consumed my thinking time and prevented me from finalising any other writing.

Now, at a more relaxed pace as I holiday in the UK and Europe I’ll get back to sharing some ideas, examples and inspiration which you in turn can share with your colleagues and customers.

Travel Matters

Loved this Mark Twain quote in an article by Becky McCray on how travel and tourism can bring urban and rural people together:

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime."

It’s alright it’s only a customer

They say a picture paints a thousand words and someone has done this well with the mock-up of a Lego set following the United Airlines customer controversy a couple of months ago.

You do remember the event, don’t you? It related to what United Airlines’ spokesperson called an “involuntary de-boarding situation.” To add insult to injury (quite literally) United’s CEO apologised “for having to reaccommodate these customers.”

It came about after United Airlines asked passengers to give up their seats involuntarily for compensation. Apparently four crew members needed to get on a flight “in order to work another one in Louisville or else that flight would be cancelled,” an airline spokesperson said.  

It seems that by law in the US, and I assume elsewhere, the system allows airlines to involuntarily turf passengers off flights. After all, they are only paying customers!

Even though the system permits this, forcibly removing a paying passenger is what I call a Crime Against Customers.

When no-one volunteered, the airline selected four passengers. When one of these passengers refused to give up his allocated seat, they followed US Gestapo protocol and had security staff forcibly remove him from the plane.

I read that the passenger, a doctor, suffered concussion, a broken nose and damaged teeth.

How can an organisation have systems and procedures in place that are so totally focussed on putting their organisational needs first and the customer experience last? 

Further proof that big is incredibly stupid.

Lesson: Develop your systems and procedures with the health and well-being of your customers uppermost in your mind.

Travel is educational

As mentioned in my introductory comments I’ve been doing an amazing amount of travel in Australia’s outback in recent months. Some of the experiences have been quite educational for a city dweller like me. For example, 

I learned in Kununurra that when you get up during the night to go to the loo and find a green tree frog staring up at you from the toilet pan, this is a good thing. It means there are no snakes in your loo.

I also learned that if you flush the loo, there’s no need to feel guilty because the frog doesn’t drown. A couple of hours later it will be back there again smiling at you when you take a peek under the toilet lid.

In the Kimberley they have gecko lizards at least four times the size of the ones we have in Perth that somehow find their way into your bathroom at night and scuttle round the ceiling at a frantic pace when you put the bathroom light on. This I learned is also a good thing. It means your room won’t be invaded by ants because the gecko lizards eat the ants.

My concern was that if something the size of these lizards can somehow get through the cracks into my bathroom, what else can get in?

I also learned that some fierce creatures can live in harmony as can be seen from the amazing photo shared at Kununurra Visitor Centre’s Facebook page by Martina Page, a chef with the Great Escape Charter Company. Fortunately, none found their way into my bathroom.

Quiz question 

Talking of fierce creatures, what animal is responsible for the most human deaths in Australia?

Scroll down to check the answer.

How to overcome negativity and spread the good news

Small outback towns can suffer from negativity from locals who forget the acres of diamonds they have in their own backyard and moan to everyone within hearing distance that, “there is nothing to do around here”; and also from the media and people with unreasonable expectations writing in social media.

The dedicated people in one of the towns I’ve been working with were particularly concerned about some unfortunate publicity that seemed to have tainted the town. They were quite rightly concerned that this could influence the perception that visitors have about their town and even decide whether or not they will stop there.

So, I shared with them two examples. 

The first is from Halls Creek when in 2013, Scoop Traveller in their coffee table reference publication with a life of 12 months included a 2-sentence demolition of Halls Creek saying:

“Unfortunately, with its social problems and derelict buildings, Halls Creek doesn’t paint a pretty picture. If you are looking for somewhere to stay the night it’s best to drive on to Kununurra, four hours northeast.”

You can read this case study and the lessons from it on how to handle negativity by clicking on Scoop Poops on Halls Creek.

The other example I shared with them is the wonderful strategy adopted by Deb Brown in the North American Small Biz Survival e-newsletter that focusses on revitalising small towns. Here’s how she explains her deceptively simple strategy:

“Every time I saw something negative about our town, I wrote a rebuttal and shared the good news. Every single time. I set up my Google alerts to inform me when someone was talking about Webster City, and I responded with what was good and going on in our town.”

She goes on to say, “We didn’t tell the good news only outside of town; we repeated it all over town. People need to be reminded of the good news.”

Here is the link to the article: Combatting negative views about your town 

If negativity is a concern in your small town or in a community that is important to you, adapt and adopt the strategies used in these examples. They will make a difference.

Say one thing at a time

The best way to get your message listened to is to keep it brief and ensure it isn’t mixed in with other messages. Seth Godin explains this well when he says:

“I know, you want to make sure everyone understands precisely what went into your thinking. Not to mention your desire to make sure that everyone who hears you hears something that they'd like to hear.

“But if you try to say three things, we will hear nothing. Because most of the time, we're hardly listening. Ads, instructions, industrial design—they all work better when they try to say one thing at a time.” 

Keep it simple

Just as we should work at saying one thing at a time, so we should try to reduce our product or service offering. Rarely is more better, especially for small businesses, Remember the Pareto Principle – 80% of your income is likely to come from 20% of your products or services.

In 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he cut their products from 350 down to 10. He believed that customers wanted 10 remarkable products more than they wanted 350 average ones. Yet another lesson from Apple.

Apples 5 steps to service

While on the topic of Apple, I think I’ve shared their 5 Steps to Service before. Anyway, they are worth another look. Based on the acronym APPLE these are:

A: Approach customers with a personalised warm welcome

P: Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs

P: Present a solution for the customer to take home today

L: Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns

E: End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

Are you sorry?

The way that we say things makes a difference.  

For example how do you say sorry to a customer, colleague or supplier? This is a good topic for a short focussed discussion with your team.  

You could start by posing a couple of questions – 

  1. When do we need to say sorry? 
  2. How do you feel about saying sorry in these situations?

If anyone has difficulty saying sorry in certain situations, point out that by apologising you are not necessarily admitting liability or accepting blame. You are just genuinely letting the other person know that you are sorry that they are distressed or unhappy. For example, "I'm sorry to hear that" or "I'm sorry you've had such a difficult time getting in touch with us."

When saying sorry to someone face-to-face, do ensure that you make eye contact with the person. An apology without eye contact rarely comes across as being genuine.

And say it in a full sentence. There are a lot of people who say, ‘sorry’ without really meaning it. Whereas, if you give it context, for example by saying, "I'm sorry you didn't get a phone call back on that", it will come across as being far more genuine, especially when combined with eye contact.

When you're not face-to-face, the tone of voice becomes particularly important.  How do you ensure you have the correct tone of voice?  This comes down to your beliefs and your intention.

If your belief is that people deserve an apology when they feel let down by the organisation and your intention is to show the customer that you care, your tone of voice will come out in the right way.

Please don’t lecture your team on these points. It will have far more effect if you treat it as a focussed discussion session. Raise the issue, pose the questions and keep the conversation on the topic. Allow everyone to have their say and summarise the discussion, highlighting the key points and offering guidance when required.

If you do, you won't be sorry.

Answer to quiz question 

Horses are the most deadly animal in Australia. Of the 254 confirmed and reported animal-related deaths between July 2000 and November 2010, horses caused 77 deaths, mostly related to falls. 

Cows were second and dogs third.

Amazingly kangaroos caused more deaths than sharks, snakes or crocodiles.


We can get way to serious about business at times. So, we need to stop for a minute and look at the funny side of things. As Winston Marsh has done here in sharing Grandma’s favourite magic trick in this video clip:

Grandma’s favourite magic trip

Terrific quotes

“You can’t look at employee and customer experience separately. They are two sides of the same coin.” Michel Hogan   

“Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that's not true. Some smaller countries are neutral.”  Robert Orben

“The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does.” Anon

Thank you

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