How not to design your Reception, the vital first point of contact…..

Continuing my theme of business Reception areas, one test I try is to sit in the chairs and see what you can see, it is quite nice to be able to see the Receptionist, that human face who might even smile at you at some point and for them to see that they still have people waiting.

The pictures below are an example of the triumph of design over experience, I am sure the desk looked great on the plans but I suspect that they didn’t get a sense of the height  – or at least I hope they didn’t!  So the Receptionist actually has to stand up and emerge from her bunker to engage a customer. At all other times it looks like the desk is unmanned and you are sitting in an empty space which in this case was a little disconcerting and not at all welcoming 🙁

The direct business consequence, as this was in fact the Reception for some shared office space to rent that I was looking at using, was they did not get the business as I could not imagine my clients being welcomed in this way.

So this is like a magic trick now you see me now you don’t!


Now you don't

Now you see me..

First impressions count how is your reception area looking…

Popular leaflets run out..

Whenever I visit a new company it is always fascinating to see how the whole Reception process happens, how much thought has gone in to how someone is able to find the offices, park, be welcomed and greeted.  This extent to the whole look and feel of the Reception it can say so much about the tone and feel of the Company and certainly creates an early impression whether positive or negative.  I remember the Reception of a high tech laboratory equipment manufacturer where the whole look and feel reminded me of funeral parlour….

In the case of this European telco featured in the picture the Reception was quite funky, look at the chair design and colour, there was a lot of concrete in a ‘brutalist’ feel in terms of the architecture, it was big, airy but where the human component entered it fell over.

Look at the leaflet stand by the pillar…yes it is empty the Reception staff are sitting  a few feet away but seem not to have noticed, how many other members of staff and Directors have walked on by, that is the cultural point.

As with a lot of my blog posts this may seem a small detail but it is the cumulative impact of these that creates a view of what the company is actually like, what would it take to either remove the empty stand or fill it up, yep you guessed it no cost just the ‘eyes on’ of staff to do something about it….attention to detail!

# thinkdifferently

Thinking differently on the ski slopes…

Ski Sign

Whilst this is a slightly tenuous link in terms of customer experience what I loved was the thinking that had gone into this sign, not the content but the attachment ….it’s own ski’s to simplify and make moving the sign as easy as possible – I can imagine that carrying a sign that big on icy ground could be a touch dangerous!!

So hats off to the cafe owner at the top of the mountain in Morzine who was definitely thinking differently about a familiar thing! 😉


Train and equip your people to understand that attention to detail counts

Two of my persistent themes are that it is about details in customer experience and that it doesn’t need to cost you money it is about consistent execution.

I remember having a conversation in Singapore with a contact who had worked for Tiger Beer – she was talking about the investment they made in supplying bars with branded materials including glasses and beer mats and how they then incentivise the bar owners to use the Tiger materials whenever they served the beer.  As we sat there the barman delivered two Tiger beers both in Tiger glasses and put them on Tiger beer mats BUT the branding on the beer mat and the glass was not facing the customer.  Given that so much of what we see and hear is absorbed sub-consciously she recognised that these small reinforcing prompts are important – she was not impressed!!

Training and incentives go hand in hand so yes it is ok to incentivise but you also have to equip the delivery team and this was we agreed a gap in the investment.

I was reminded of this in a pub in London recently when two drinks were ordered and they were put on the bar with the right beer in the right glass and facing the customer, it’s only a detail I know but get all of those right and you are a long way to delivering an on brand experience and the  cost at the executional level is zero 🙂



Break with convention…

I always applaud innovative thinking when it comes to taking on the status quo – this is a slightly left field example but is an illustration of what I mean.

Why are kitchen towels square, think about what shape for example most pans are – yep circular!  So the inventors of this product have created a new way by thinking differently – and they work brilliantly, look great and provoke conversation (who would ever have thought someone would want to talk about a kitchen towel!!!), it has green credentials and one stack has more than two conventional rolls, the story goes on…

Kitchen towels KItchen Towels 2

#thinkdifferently to make an impact even in the world of kitchen towels :0

Experience is about taste too!!

Mustard and sweet tooth

I have experienced some quite interesting tastes around the world and companies that try their hardest to accommodate different tastes but this one took even me by surprise, there I was looking forward to my breakfast in my hotel in South Africa – some cereal and then toast and jam was what was ordered.

Now for those of you familiar with South Africa you may be aware that they do like their hot sauces mainly Tabasco with anything and everything but mustard and not just any mustard but HOT mustard with my toast maybe not!!  I have a feeling that the evening meal trays might have got a little muddled up with the breakfasts,,,mmm I wonder 🙂

#thinkdifferently (but not that differently!!)

Experience is about all the senses……



When it comes to experiences we need to consider all of the senses, in order to have a positive experience you may need to consider more than what you say and what a customer hears or smells or sees.

Let’s think about seats for a minute, anyone with children will probably have ‘enjoyed’ Primary School parents evening when they have you sitting on chairs made for 5 year olds – it is certainly something I remember which just reinforces that physical and visual elements of experiences are powerful drivers of memories, whether good, bad or just amusing!

Chairs can be significant in many different ways and not only how they feel but how they look, anyone who has spent time with their Bank Manager will have seen the lovely large, often leather chair they occupy whilst you sit on a clearly cheap, often uncomfortable stock chair (mirroring how you feel at that moment).  You may also have noticed or perhaps not that they tend to have their seats raised a couple of inches higher than yours  – giving them and reinforcing the position of power over you.  The same thing often applies in job interviews where another piece of furniture ‘a desk’ is used to reinforce the barrier between the employed and the hopeful would-be employee.

If your customer needs to sit down during the experience think about how comfortable they will be….and importantly you need them to be…

Just think about it when you have sat on an uncomfortable chair, squirming, readjusting, how is your state of mind…are you relaxed, engaged or do you want this experience to hurry up and end 🙂 #thinkdifferently

A revolutionary idea on mobile tariffs just by thinking differently…..

This story plays to the heart of my campaign to get companies to think differently and to truly focus on customers to drive commercial success.

Ok having had the problems that I had with my O2 renewal described in my previous post, let’s build on that as it got me thinking about the world of tariffs and how they are so out of touch with the reality of today, yet all mobile companies are ‘in the club’ so nothing changes.

When I was sorting a new SIM only contract for my teenage son I asked the company to tell me his usage over the last 2 years so that we could get the best bundle offer for his needs, what emerged was that he had used

….2 minutes of voice calls in 2 years

..and not much more in terms of texts as everything is done through Skype and Instant Messaging, so biggest usage data.  Ok I would like the minimum number of call minutes and lots of data – ok they said “that’s 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB data” – “what 500 minutes per year” “erm no per month” “hang on so the minimum is 600 times his proven annual usage what use is that” “well that is the best bundle available”.  Now, to check this out I then went on to a comparison web site and sure enough the best ‘deal’ I could get with the data he needs is a staggering 200 minutes per month and all those unused texts.

Clearly the marketing people think it sounds good to be offering these big numbers BUT the reality is they are about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike and are just a legacy of a previous world where these things mattered.

I don’t claim to fully understand the pricing and cost model behind all this BUT let’s get real kids/teenagers and older do not use the three elements of calls, texts and data this way anymore and are not fooled by this simplistic and lazy marketing.

So lets introduce a “Teenage Tariff” and if you think the name is excluding us older people create a variant (personally I quite like the idea of having a teenage tariff ;)), it has 60 minutes of calls a year, it has 250 texts a month and either 2-4Gb or unlimited data.  Now you marketeers see if that lands well with your audience I know I would buy it for my kids in a flash, because it reflects THEIR NEEDS, I might even expect to pay a small premium.

So mobile companies who is going to be first to break ranks and prove that you can #thinkdifferently and meet your customers needs not your own and win new customers ????


Mobile companies persist in ignoring experience in pursuit of short term profits….

mobile o2

It was only last week that I once again had the impression that mobile telephone businesses are happy to rip you off fully reinforced.  My son’s 2 year contract with O2 ended and given he now needed a SIM only deal we should have seen the bill fall.  I waited to be contacted by O2 to say that contract was over and what I assumed would be review of the usage and an offer of a different much cheaper deal.  Well I could have waited all year as they did not contact me and instead chose to charge me the old contract fee of £22 at the end of the month – in my view this is tantamount to fraud.

So I called the team and asked why they had not called me to provide a new contract – the answer was “you ticked the box saying that you did not want to be contacted about marketing and other services, so we did not call you” unbelievable, so apparently they construe a legal end to a contract  as “marketing” I don’t think so just an excuse to let the old charge roll forward and for them to make bad profits.  So I said what is the new tariff, £8 but we will, now charge you for the proportion of this month that you have already ‘used’ at the old rate!!!  So now having accepted that the were wrong verbally there is no effort to make me feel any better in fact lets grab another few pounds…..

When will these companies realise that these practices are totally unacceptable, the truly sad part is I left Vodafone to join O2 because they were equally appalling, oh for a mobile company that actually cares about its customers and their experience 🙁