Friday, 12 December 2008

Apology for absence

I made my last post on Monday - and that evening I had a frantic phone call from my dad to say my mum had had a heart attack and wasn't expected to live.

Thankfully Mum has not only pulled through but made a remarkable recovery. She's now sitting up, eating and drinking, reading, and talking away - and getting bored with being in hospital!

She has to have a pacemaker fitted and then hopefully we'll have her home for Christmas. As a neighbour said, that'll be the best Christmas present our family could have.

So my apologies if this blog is not as active as it could be over the next few weeks, as I'll be spending a lot of time with Mum and Dad. But quite honestly, I'm just so glad I can still be with both of them.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Is that what you really want?

My dad is a semi-retired pharmacist.

One of his favourite stories is of customers who used to come into Boots in [a city somewhere in Yorkshire] and say "I want to buy a bottle of cough mixture to cure my cold please".

Much to his supervisor's disgust, Dad would refuse to sell the customer anything unless they really insisted.

Instead, he would say, "Go home, take a spoonful of honey to soothe your sore throat, inhale steam to clear your tubes, but don't waste your money on cough mixture. It won't cure your cold."

And if they asked why the mixture wouldn't cure their cold, he would say, "Because a cold is a virus and antibiotics and medicines can't cure it. You've just got to let it run its course."

This is a classic case of what the customer thinks they want not equating to what they really want.

What they thought they wanted was a bottle of cough mixture.

What they actually wanted was a cure for the common cold.

But, as Dad used to say, if he knew a cure for the common cold, he'd hardly be working on the shop floor in Boots. He'd be off shooting in Scotland.

So this is a classic case of what Dr Paddi Lund is talking about when he stresses the importance of educating customers.

Sometimes you need to modify your product to suit the customer. But sometimes that's just not possible and you need to explain clearly to the customer why not - and make sure it's a really cast iron reason, like "there is no cure for the common cold". If Dad had said "The bottles are all in the stockroom at the back, come back tomorrow" then he would have sounded just plain lazy.

When is "the extra mile" a bridge too far?

I've read some books by Dr Paddi Lund, an Australian dentist whose surgery has:
  • A locked front door
  • No advertising
  • No new patients unless Paddi invites one of his existing customers to make a referral

One of Paddi's recommendations to other business owners is to educate your customers BEFORE they buy from you. He believes that "customers are just waiting to be led".

But that has to be tempered with "going the extra mile" for your customers. If the product can be modified just a little bit, without deviating from the business's core aims, to make a customer a Raving Fan rather than a Satisfied Customer (hat tip to Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles) isn't that a good thing?

Because, in these hard times, Satisfied Customers will go elsewhere even more readily than usual. Raving Fans will stay.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Back in the blogosphere

Well, after just over a year of silence while I was in the employment world, I've got my own blog again - because very soon I will have my own business again.

That business is going to make bespoke screen-capture videos for training, marketing or sales. And also simulations for training which let users practise what they've just seen.

Pretty soon I'll have a website too and link it up to this blog, so that you can see what videos I make.

Because I'm an accountant, I'm going to focus mainly on videos for the accounting and financial industries. But I'd like to make other videos too. The accounting world does sometimes seem like it's full of stuffed shirts.

And I'm also going to keep my accounting hand in by doing freelance sub-contract accounting work.

That's a brief introduction but I'll be blogging regularly now. All comments are welcome but any spam or malicious comments will of course be deleted.