Alexa and me; a modern romance on the rocks (it’s not her, it’s me).

Everyone is very excited about voice channels. My former colleague Nitin Goel included, have a look at his blog here.

Professionally, me too but personally, I’m not there yet. I recently bought Alexa to look after me whilst I am at home alone and our relationship is already on the rocks.

It started wonderfully well of course. Huge excitement for the first few dates, we talked about the weather (a lot), she was so funny telling some great jokes and we have exactly the same taste in music. My friends and family loved her, they got on well talking about the weather. She even really impressed my Dad with her knowledge of traffic and my mother who always hates my technologies, even let her spend some time in the kitchen.

She does love shopping of course (strangely always Amazon) and I do regret giving her my credit card so early in our courtship.

Recently though, she’s started to be rather passive aggressive. We still talk about the weather but she keeps telling me about the weather in Sydney where we first started going out (I live in Edinburgh and it’s 3 degrees today). She’s also started to ignore my requests for Radiohead to play ‘the radio’ and she’s clearly not happy with our financial situation as she keeps asking me why I don’t have the premium version of Amazon music. I even think she’s cheating on me with my wife’s Spotify premium account.

I’m not perfect myself though, I’ve had dalliances with Siri (she doesn’t seem to be the smartest), Cortana (she’s all business) and Google Home (who’s very clingy and wants to know where I’ve been all the time).

Therefore, I’m going to give us one more chance and try to spice up our relationship

We need to do more together – to make me happy in the house she needs to do things which make my life easier, quicker or add some extra value. I need to decide whether I want her to know all my secrets and let her start to ask me questions.

Would I like to leave feedback on the last delivery I had? It’s a pain to fill it in but I might dictate a few lines and a score if there’s something in it for me. Do I know that it’s going to be really cold tomorrow so I should maybe put on the heating? Maybe she could just do it for me.

She knows I love my Radiohead so maybe she could let me know about a new album, or maybe even buy me concert tickets which happens to be on my birthday? Maybe if she knew me better, she’d be able to do the shopping without me having to ask and at least let me know when Vegemite is back in stock at Waitrose.

More likely, she already has this in mind. She’s maybe doing all the listening so she can do all the talking in the future.

She needs a career of her own – eventually, she’ll get bored sitting around the house doing whatever she’s asked of by me. She has all the skills to really help people out and about. She’d be great in customer service and the public sector would be a great option for her. She’s a great listener and knows loads of people.

People don’t always have the time to stop and chat, especially when they don’t have their computer with them. If Alexa hung around lampposts, she’d be able to hear about graffiti, she could talk to the police if she saw something funny going on. She would know when there were hailstones so she could tell me to move my car, which by that point might be moving itself.

She might prefer a job more suited to financial services or medicine though. If she knows my blood sugar levels and heartrate, she might sort me out with something to eat. She could transfer my taxi driver a couple of bitcoins for the trip into the city, give the driver 5 stars and remember the song playing in the car so I can finish it later. She also knows and loves my very special voice so she can tell if someone else is pretending to be me (no need to sign anything then).

She’ll also probably benefit from seeing other people – she’s probably bored listening to me all day and having me ask the same things. If she had a few more partners say (a few hundred million) she could find what they are asking for, start to learn a bit about what they like and what I like and open my eyes to a world of possibility.

She could probably make friends with some university types who could lecture me and a few others on behavioural economics whilst I am at home. She could meet a friendly plumber and then talk me through fixing the filter in the kitchen. She knows I’m not the best at knowing where to hang a picture on my wall but she knows someone who does and when I am home wondering whether we could afford a new kitchen next year; she has a good mate at the bank and at Ikea who have some ideas.

She may already have spoken to her friend at the bank so she knows I can only afford the Cheapska range at IKEA if they they’ll take 10% off (which they will).

I do worry she might be getting in with the wrong crowd though. She’s met a few people from Cambridge Analytica and she’s often on Facebook so she might be going down a dark path (especially if we break up).

So then

My relationship with Alexa might be on the precipice of something big. There’s a maturity curve that we are going through which has already started with the small things. A little bit here and there to make things easier for me but soon, there will be lots more opportunity for us to get really involved.

What we might do together is unlimited but I have to ask myself, what am I willing to give up to make our relationship work and will I get as much from it as she does?

First or Worst: a lesson in risk taking from the Scottish Rugby Team

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the weekend when the unfancied Scotland bettered their rugby playing counterparts from the south by 25 points to 13. This is a result worth noting because 1) it’s the first time Scotland have beaten England in 10 years, 2) it was the biggest winning margin for Scotland in 147 years, 3) essentially no-one expected them to win.

Now, rather than talk about the rugby (other than to say it was just great) it’s better to comment on the rich lessons for the corporate world. Namely;

You’d rather be first or worst; there are typically no silver medals in business. If you finish 2nd in a bid or a job interview etc. you are not unfortunately allowed to take a place on the podium beside the winner. In 15 years I have been involved in 57 losing bids each of which has taken long hours of my time and the emotional commitment of a whole team. Of those 57, we’ve finished 2nd about 30 times and on almost each occasion, you have the delight of sitting with the client for them to explain why you were runner up. I liken this to having your boyfriend/girlfriend end it with you over the phone and then shortly after meet up with you to explain why their new partner is better than you.

The Scottish rugby team have long inhabited a world where they come second. They get close to the other team but lose gallantly in the last 10 minutes. This has happened frequently enough so as to enter the lexicon e.g. it looks like we are going to get the contract as long as we don’t do a Scotland.

However, for the past year the team has added a new dimension to how they play noticeable for a much higher amount of risk. Sometimes it goes really well and sometimes it does not. Scotland beat Australia in Sydney and then lost the next game against Fiji, they started this year with an absolute ‘gubbing’ in Wales and then beat England.

In corporate terms, it’s like winning 2 big contracts and getting laughed at by the other two. This is nonetheless better than three second place finishes and a small win.

The application of this idea would perhaps allow you to consider an alternative view of what success looks like. From a customer perspective, being consistently good doesn’t necessarily mean that you get the most sales. You can risk one area to be very good in another. Customers don’t always buy the best product on average, they buy when they like something specific that’s important to them. Think about your partner, I’d be surprised if you love them for being a ‘good all rounder’.

Mercurial, maverick, maestros

One of Scotland’s best players is absolutely brilliant. He also makes mistakes sometimes which make you want to throw things at the television. Some of the time, this is because his brain is faster than everyone else which means people aren’t playing to his level but sometimes, he just makes a complete mess of it.

In the first game of the season, he had a bit of a nightmare which led to a lot of people shouting for his replacement. Fortunately, at the weekend he was the man of the match and was instrumental in Scotland’s win. Were he to have been replaced by someone more solid or dependable, it might be more consistent or predictable but it would have been unlikely to have been enough. When the competition is so good, do you risk being middle of the pack?

However, it’s often how we run performance reviews and assess people. You can be judged more for the depth of your mistakes rather than the heights of your successes. Discussions around promotions are commonly about giving reasons why someone ‘can’t be promoted’ rather than considering taking the risk. You will typically judge someone on their weakest point. I’ve been in sessions where someone who was really excellent was marked down on the basis of her admin as a Project Manager being ‘a bit loose’.

For your own careers, there is always a choice between middle of the road and maverick and all assessment tools in order to cover everybody usually end up forcing you towards the median. This is the difference between Finn Russell (the above mentioned player) being dropped after the first game and allowing Finn Russell to play and then win the game for the team on Saturday.

Even more interestingly, England’s best player (a young rascal called Owen Farrell) is getting a huge amount of criticism for his performance in missing tackles. In defeat, the discussion for England has focussed on what he did wrong. In the next game, does he play to avoid mistakes or does he play how he does best?

The danger of overcoaching; England are a great team with near unlimited resources to try new and innovative things. As an example, they flew the entire team from Georgia to England so that they could practice one aspect of the game in preparation for Scotland. They are hugely skilful, incredibly well trained and professional, and everyone knows exactly what they should be doing. They are in essence like an American football team where your role in the team is to follow orders according to the prepared move (and that’s it).

Scotland are a good team but they are not as good as England. What they were great at, was being flexible to changes. If something worked they did it again, if it didn’t they were quick to change. They had much smaller players than England so they tried to run around them rather than through them. They were a series of independent minds within the team who had the license to be more creative and imaginative than their English equivalents.

You can perhaps see where I am going with this. Scotland were an Agile business up against a large well structured incumbent. Even with the resources and skills, the fundamental culture and approach requires business in 2018 to be able to adapt to changes quickly and to take decisions independently. The coaching of the Scotland team isn’t to train them how to think necessarily, it’s to develop the system which allows the players to put that into practice. L&D needs to be focussed not just on what you do but how you do it, both individually and as a team.

In summary

  • Risks can be good if you can accept you might lose a few.
  • You need the mavericks in your team as much as the solid workers to get the best out the team.
  • You need to enable a culture where people are empowered to take those risks, and to be the mavericks.

Now, Scotland may well lose massively against Ireland in their next game. They might win the World Cup or go out in the first round against Japan. I will however be talking about the game on Saturday for years to come regardless of what happens next.

You can ask yourselves whether people will speak of you in the same way.

PS For any foreign readers, you are welcome to seek the match highlights to see the full glory of victory but here are some equivalents to help you out.

It would be like the Cleveland Browns scoring 3 touchdowns in the first quarter against the New England Patriots following three Tom Brady fumbles/interceptions

It would be like the Gold Coast Suns beating Richmond at the MCG by 50 points

It would be like Leicester City winning the Premier League (oh wait)

The 5 star rating Hunger Games – it’s a dystopian fight to the death to survive. (i.e. keeping your Amazon/ Uber/ TripAdvisor rating up)

The Hunger Games is a series of films/books about a consumer driven TV focussed society where people fight to the death in an arena controlled and manipulated by a shadowy organisation where they have little chance of success and there are frequent rule changes. Remove the arbitrary slaughter and Jennifer Lawrence and I think it has eerie parallels with the world of product rating on our favourite websites.

Now, we all live in a world where a rating drives your decision making. The broad idea is that a huge range of customers sharing their opinion and scores helps you to find the best product, the best service and generally forces suppliers to improve what they offer. You look at the reviews (usually out of 5) and then pick accordingly. In reality, what this means is that a bad score means disaster – an Uber driver with a score of 3.5 you assume has dogs in the car and swears whilst he smokes and a TripAdvisor rating of 3.5 is probably an unfinished flea ridden concrete box hotel beside a major motorway.

The trouble is, as with any game where the stakes are high, what starts as a even playing field immediately leads to everyone looking for an advantage through any means possible. Furthermore, in this case the referees have skin in the game. (i.e. Amazon also sells products, Trip Advisor = Expedia).

Accordingly, what started as an experiment in democratised opinion sharing has morphed into a life or death fight for a rating number which doesn’t always get it right and might cost your existence. Here are three companies I volunteer as tribute (Hunger Games reference) to prove my point.

The begging and pleading of a small toy company – imagine you launch a product tomorrow and put it on Amazon. One of your first orders comes in and the customer (an unreasonable man desiring a Christmas present for a one year old) is unhappy that the product isn’t delivered in the promised time. A follow up request for a rating is met with a zero star rating (the man didn’t get the product yet). The score for the product drops to 2 stars and the product is never bought again ever by everyone. What lunatic buys a two star??

The unprincipled monster in this story is me and my rating was met with the following response (paraphrased loosely).

Dear complete bastard, I am a small company and I have 12 children to feed none of which will be able to wear shoes in the harsh winter due your rating destroying my credibility and in course my livelihood.  Please reconsider changing your rating and I will light a candle in your name every Christmas. Here is the link on ______ to change your rating. God bless us everyone.

I received the product, changed the rating to 4 (how could I not). Company is saved. Shoes for everyone.

I’m only exaggerating a little in the above . There is an incredible power of a rating which has led to the rise of a new type of strange personalisation in service. People will actively chase the rating in preference to anything else – e.g. ‘I don’t have my product’ is not seen as urgent until it translates to zero stars. Honourable mentions in this category for Dominos delivery ratings (the manager has to personally phone you if you rate them a poor score) and just about all Uber drivers. (who also know where you live).

The ‘Featured Rating’ con-trick – trendy mattress company – I recently bought a mattress online for which one of the selling points was commentary on the ‘excellent unboxing experience!?’. The mattress was delivered within 24hrs 2 days before Christmas (in a box, there was no lie) and having taken advantage of the 100 day sleep guarantee, we sent it back because the chemical smell after 3 weeks remained overpowering  (as a separate point, if you look at the small print, most mattress companies suggest you air your mattress outside for a day or two before you put it in your house. This does make you wonder what’s in it and what liability they are trying to avoid). Nonetheless, the mattress was taken away quickly no questions asked and a very nice follow-up email was sent thanking us for giving them the chance.

My feedback; 5/5 for service, 1/5 for the product, 3/5 for the ‘unboxing experience’. A few lines saying something similar to the above also went up. A few days later, a line of my feedback went up on their site. ‘amazing customer service and delivery especially just before Christmas…….’ On closer investigation, if you look at the website rating, what you are shown on the first page is their ‘featured ratings’ which are all 5 stars and glowing. In order to see the other ratings, you have to physically click on the stars you want e.g. my 2 star one to see the full version.

We are used to seeing the ratings in chronological order but increasingly, you can see selected comments appearing at the top, Youtube in particular. You can assume it’s not long before you see these monetised. E.g. to pin 5 ratings of your choice at the top, give us $5 a month or even more interestingly, give a $5 to remove a rating. It’s already happening on TripAdvisor.

The ‘feedback is important to us’ squeeze – given the power of the rating, no-one wants a bad score so when the possibility of a good score appears, people will jump on it quickly. The best example is to take a cruise and enter into a world of the American feedback hunters.

Over the years, incentives and rewards have moved away from sales onto service. The complaints over mis-selling in Financial Services or over-zealous salesmen (it’s always men in my experience) have changed the dynamic of salespeople. However, there are obvious rewards for good service built into remuneration so you get the following decision tree; I tried this out in the most service intensive place I’ve ever been; a cruise boat on the Mediterranean.

‘It has been my pleasure to serve you on the boat this week’ – RESPONSE – thank you so much, you’ve been great – FOLLOW UP – ‘feedback is important to us – here is a form that I’d love you to fill in about my performance this week.


‘It has been my pleasure to serve you on the boat this week’ – RESPONSE – yeah, it was fine – FOLLOW UP – ‘please enjoy the rest of your day and safe journey home’

Even more fascinating was the feedback form when we got home. One of the questions asked ‘did our staff ask you directly for positive feedback’. This is clearly an issue that they know about but I could still answer ‘no’. There is an investment in getting the good ratings which means feedback is skewed away from bad to good. You can see this in the general ratings people give, a 3.0 rating is catastrophic and even a 4.0 is starting to feel a bit low.

What does it all mean?

It is now as it has ever been, companies are smart in their marketing and approach to take account of how customers make decisions about their products. What has changed is the platforms behind managing the ratings and the anonymity of response meaning that you will take advice from people you don’t know, will never meet and no doubt have different lives and personalities. The companies themselves are also driving what you respond to and therefore what is considered important. For example, someone has decided the ‘unboxing experience’ is an important to the overall rating as the product itself, a 10 year mattress purchase vs the first 20 seconds. Companies act accordingly.

If you are a consumer, you need to be increasingly wary of looking at scores and look at what comes behind it. You have to run your own analytics strategy to build your own sense of what is good or bad. My approach is to trust no-one who gives a 1 or a 5 and spend my time looking at 3s to look for trends.  If you are a retailer/supplier, you need strategies to play the system and position yourself in the best way. As with anything, you need adapt your behaviour to focus on what is being measured. This might mean pushing on personalised service or keeping a much closer eye on the immediate stage after the sale and to get the timing for the feedback right.

I recently moved countries and had some removal guys round to pack up our furniture. The feedback form was handed to me whilst the three huge guys were stood behind me and every item of glassware and anything fragile still to be taken to the truck.

My feedback – glowing. My furniture – still on a boat in the Indian ocean.

PS I’ll leave you with the best rating piece of gamesmanship I’ve seen. Have a look at this and tell me what rating the Guardian gave the film.Guardian - krays

The Travel Agent for millennials: a lesson in digital customer experience from Europe’s smartest tourist agency

In a recent release from the Rough Guide people, the country voted the most beautiful in the world was the perhaps unexpected Scotland (my home country). Not making the top 20 was Australia (my adopted country) which was subject to some discussion and debate. I myself can vouch for how nice Manly Beach in Sydney is on a Spring morning vs a wet February day in the old country but the heavily young readership of the Rough Guides don’t lie so the title is Scotland’s.

Now it’s not just the pretty pictures that get the job done. It’s worth saluting the people at VisitScotland (who have some serious game) who have the customer experience right in the middle of their thinking. Namely;

–         Focus on creating moments

–         Build an adventure and an experience

–         Be authentic and unique and let people do the work for you

–         Be smart in the engagement

 The Instagram Travel agency

Let’s start with something really clever. In late October, Visit Scotland set up a Instagram Travel Agency in a physical location in London. Believe it or not, Scottish tourism has the biggest Instagram following of anywhere in Europe (which is extraordinary if you think about it) and of that following, the biggest group is from London.

What they did was to create an Instragram wall in a physical shop with a range of photographs from which people picked their favourites and the agents were there to build an itinerary for you based on those picks.

So what?

Here is where knowing your customers is pretty smart. The number one problem for Scottish tourism is the weather. There is no guarantee of good weather at any point of the year so it is always a lottery. Going back to Australia losing out in the top 20, you could reasonably expect Sydney to have better weather on 350 days a year vs Scotland so if you are planning a trip for three weeks, you’d be smarter to pick Oz right?

Not anymore for the Instagram generation. There is an incredible desire to create ‘moments’ which you can record and share. Finding a perfect moment becomes a primary objective to judge the success of your trip. Now, for Scotland this is perfect because in between the rain or the clouds, you will always get a few pictures of astonishing beauty.

It is for this reason that Scotland is Instagram’s biggest fan.

The North Coast 500

I saw recently that a friend on Facebook had completed the ‘North Coast 500’ which I had never heard of. Having looked at the pictures and had a look at the website (which you can too) I discovered that it is in fact a brand new creation of a Scottish ‘Route 66’ in the far north coast (An area which is not renowned for large visitor numbers). It has been created from nothing as an adventure, you can subscribe be a ‘member’ which includes a £250 gold package with free merchandising, offers, a bottle Scottish gin etc, but importantly, a regular update on what is happening and access to a special ‘club’. It has also been simplified beautifully to make it easy to plan. Pre-set itineraries – basic to luxury, different sections; top, bottom, all. Themes; adventure, relax, indulge

It has been created in the way you would create any modern product to sell. ‘This is our most popular package’, ‘simple click to plan your route’, ‘interactive map (Instagram connected)’, ‘Aston Martin driving experience’ (message; it’s a dream for driving and doing it in your 1998 Nissan Micra will be just as good).

Having never been to this area in my 30 years living in Scotland, I am now as an outsider furiously desperate to go.  This is not how you’d typically sell tourism but….increase in numbers 29,000, £9m extra investment which is a big number for a pretty remote and not commonly visited.

It’s an experience, it’s simple to buy and you can be part of a community


For a few years now, Scottish tourism has been desperately pushing a hashtag friendly motto to encourage engagement. #homecoming  #scotspirit  and even changed the name of the tourist board to the twitter friendly  #visitscotland.

Personally, I thought they were trying too hard but I’m wrong. The Instagram following is around 400k and as with any good social media, it is a virtuous circle of the community feeding more pictures which encourages more interest and engagement.

The plan for this year at Scotland’s marquee day Hogmanay (New Year), is to use real people from amongst the 20,000 carrying torches to spell out a giant #scotword with a word to be selected by a vote from the people of Scotland on what ‘makes them proudest to be Scottish’. This will in turn become the next iteration of pushing their Social Media (with a ready made fantastic visual)

The push for authenticity comes from enabling people to push the positive messages about Scotland knowing that Scotland is a country almost designed for Instagram. Each of those pictures is a real and personal view of Scotland and with your typical filter, looks great.

Be authentic and unique and let people do the work for you


Going back to the Travel Agency, Visit Scotland are following a trend in sales and marketing which is to create ‘experience centres’ where the Digital presence is used to drive physical stores. Amazon, Apple etc are already all over this but it shows that it’s applicable everywhere.

There are lots of examples (usually in airports) to push VR or visuals to market tourism but this jump into the sales/service aspect is really fascinating for tourism. Our Celtic cousins in Ireland produced my all-time favourite marketing campaign

Ireland in VR

With the near absolute market penetration of Irish bars globally, they already have experience centres everywhere in the world. It’s perhaps no surprise Scottish tourism numbers lag way behind Ireland’s (around 3m trips vs 9m trips per year – even with UK visitor numbers skewing that a bit). You can have a Guinness in a bar in Manila and it you can pretend you are in Dublin, which gets you thinking…..

The opportunity afforded by social media to build brand awareness and engagement is considerable and the mix of the sales, marketing and service channels will increasingly be smart business for tourism. Scotland can’t overnight build a pub in every city but VR, Instagram etc is a very cost effective way of doing something similar.

So, Scotland can be commended for its approach to customer engagement – numbers this year are up 28% on last year overall and 49% from North America alone which even accounting for the Outlander effect and the £ sterling Brexit Armageddon is pretty good.

Scotland ‘The Most Beautiful Country in the World TM’ – To see why, have a look at the #scotspirit on Instagram or Twitter.

I would stress that I have no connection with VisitScotland other than as proud Scottish person (who does agree that it’s the most beautiful country in the world…. maybe joint with New Zealand, or Canada, possibly France….

Customer experience; the Japanese way: Hyper-specialisation and what Kanazawa’s tiny, tiny whisky bar might mean for the future.

The Japanese know you have to be authentic, you have to have knowledge if you want to look like you care and you have to respect the crowd.

People naturally want to be a little different, they want to feel special or be special. As the world is getting more connected it’s actually becoming more homogenous. Teenagers internationally are all taking selfies, using social media and shopping at Zara. Whether you are in Beijing or Brisbane, you are going to be doing a lot of the same thing.

At the same time, you might all be using Facebook in the same way but you can link with people with really specific interests and ideas. The old fashioned equivalent is the difference between a city like London and a city like Brisbane. In London, you can find from amongst the 9 million people, a Star Wars absinthe bar with enough people who like Star Wars and absinthe, to be able to fill it. In Brisbane, you are more likely to see a range of different people in the casino or in the RSL; every taste in blended into something which is more generic and more middle of the road.

As regards products, services and experiences for customers; the progression is towards wanting the Star Wars Absinthe bar experience even though you live in Brisbane.  How do you build your service and product catalogue to meet that demand?

To do that, we can look to the land of the rising sun for advice.

I was recently in Japan on holiday (and it’s great) and we visited a town on the west coast called Kanazawa. (Until recently a 4hr trip from Toyko before the launch of the new bullet train service.) The town was busy because of their huge annual Oktoberfest celebrations (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen organised Japanese conga lines to oompa music). In this town was a bar called Machrihanish . It is named after a very small town in Scotland with a lovely golf course but it is obscure for Scotland never mind a town in Japan.

Anyone who has been to Japan will notice the incredible range of small bars and restaurants with really specific themes, you’ll see tiny shops selling unusual things. Even if you haven’t been to Japan you’ll have seen their levels of super-fandom and you will also have seen how most crazes- Pokemon, cosplay, tamaguchi etc tend to start over there. It’s a remarkable place to look at customer experience.

But why……how do they approach things in Japan?

You have to be small and specific – with so many people in Japan, you have to differentiate yourself to stand out. People are actively looking for things which are unusual and special. People look for experiences which are away from the mass market whilst at the same time everyone buys commoditised products like iPhones etc. Japan has an amazing dichotomy whereby for some things, everybody is the same and for others, hugely different. The owner of the Machrihanish hadn’t named his bar the Scottish Bar or even the Edinburgh tavern. He went to the depths of something unusual and specific to create an experience.

The logic is, you have to go the whole way to create authenticity and therefore engage people in your product.

Consulting bit

The capability exists for us to use digital to enable the build of these specific products, services and experiences but to what extent do we do so. We also have the capability to understand what are the small and specific things that will interest our customers. As an example in an Australian context; why not produce an insurance product very specific to surfers – bundle up life, car, travel insurance into one experience product which pays out double for surfing related claims.  You have to support the product by showing authenticity by knowing what a surfer really needs from an insurance product. (see design thinking, empathy interviews, CX design). However, specific insights if they are applied generically aren’t that helpful. E.g. the product and the service need to be specific enough to take advantage. I can tell you right now that customers like transparency, simplicity, speed, personalisation and accuracy but that’s not enough for a customer experience strategy.

Knowledge and attention to detail – If you are going for small and specific you really have to look like you understand or you lose the authenticity and the credibility.  My bar in Kanazawa had real menus in it from the clubhouse at St Andrews, it had pictures of golf clubs in Scotland which were put in alphabetical order on the wall. I ordered a whisky and tried to explain it was from the most southern distillery in Scotland. The owner then explained in some detail how there were five further south and I had missed the Mull of Kintyre (a common mistake he said). He then explained how he was a member of St Andrews golf club (showed me his membership card) and described the relative difference between the types of seaweed on the west coast (no joke).

Consulting bit

If you look like you care about something, you have to understand it as it takes a differentiating factor into one of advantage. For the insurance company selling the surfing product, if it looks like a gimmick it will be treated as such. If you hired even one surf expert, he/she could manage the whole case load regardless of where the people are located. If it’s popular and you need more, then great.

The impact is on how you design your service (operating model to handle the traffic). The design in the fabric of your CRM is how to create better routing to your operations. A first line AI engine (with the surfing add-on dude?), 2nd line service to Brad from Bondi or even a sales discussion via Skype at the beach (surfing tinder). It’s an old tactic powered by new technology.

Crowd power – recognise the power of changing demand and waves of interest. The power of social media can generate hype in an incredibly short space of time with the capability in the background to build things quickly (consider the immediate and overwhelming supply of fidget spinners). When I was in Tokyo, I saw a huge line for a tiny food stall and then about an hour later I saw another one. The reason; both were selling Maine Lobster rolls which was the ‘big thing’. My guess would be that it’s no longer the case and everyone is eating ‘Haggis balls’ or something. The capacity for people to wait for something ‘hip’, the speed of change and the scale of demand was remarkable. Just as soon as it came though, it would be gone so if you were a lobster roll only specialist you would be stuffed. (pun intended)

Consulting bit

Any time lag in meeting the demand or any inflexibility in being able to scale would have represented a huge loss in potential revenue. The local McDonaldsshu wasn’t selling lobster rolls because it couldn’t get there quickly enough. They were nonetheless doing some good trade in their usual fare. What you need then is the ability to have that two-speed business where you can maintain your core but you give yourself the capacity to change to meet specific needs which might come quickly from nowhere.

Where I’ve seen Japan mentioned, it’s not usually in the terms of it being a leader in customer experience it’s usually about efficiency, manufacturing, knowledge, accuracy, product design and creation. However, it’s possibly because they think about the latter ones so that they can deliver the former.

Arigato gozaimasu

See more blogs from Keith Logan san @

Donald Trump’s unofficial guide to customer engagement.

Donald Trump’s unofficial guide to Customer Engagement: you may have all the best products and be so smart, so smart but….you have to keep it simple, you have to find what the individual wants and you have to think about the customers you normally don’t. Anything else is fake news.

A lot of people have been saying that Donald Trump isn’t necessarily the best president that ever lived (fake news) but I think he’d make a great Chief Customer Officer and it’s possible he might be available soon. The Donald has much to teach us about building great customer engagement so here are his top tips.

Keep it simple – people like simple, the Facebook generation is both hugely capable at research and is connected to a huge network of information and influence. Paradoxically, they are also much quicker to believe things that they read and only apply their capabilities to things they are interested in. For example, if you asked a range of <30 year olds if they would rather have their superannuation divested from Fossil fuels, they would say yes. If you ask them if they are invested in fossil fuels; they don’t know and if you ask if them if they’ve taken steps to move their fund…. you get a very low number. At the same time, there is an assumption that things are just easier now. I’m to used to having to try and flag a cab at 1am in the rain but not many university students do the same now.

The objective is to find a way to connect the simplicity with something people care about. I would bet you my own superannuation that a link to Facebook with the banner ‘One touch to divest yourself from Adani’ would get some serious traffic and it’s pretty much possible already. Donald is way ahead of the game of this one. His message is; don’t worry about the details of what it means or the practicality. Here is something simple that you care about and here is something good.

Find out what the individual wants –the fascinating trend at the moment is towards hyper-personalisation where everyone can essentially get exactly what they want. This is also a core tenet of economics where there is perfect price discrimination – e.g. I pay the exact amount I am prepared to pay for any given good or service (which is not what everyone else pays.) The essence of behavioural economics is to do the same for behaviour namely; how can we influence behaviour to reach a particular outcome. ‘Nudge’ is essentially about targeting messages or engagement that lead to the desired outcome for an individual. For example, the most effective thing to say on a sales call is generally meant to be ‘Most people choose this package …….’. But there will be a line that will work on everyone, it’s just a question of finding it. ‘Your brother in law couldn’t afford this package’, ‘Every CEO in Australia does x…….’ ‘only someone very different chooses……’

The way you get to this is with data and insight. The more you know about how someone acts and thinks, the better you can target messages. This is not more so the case than with politics and voting. Wins for Trump and Brexit, and even Macron in a way reflect a huge change to how voters (customers) are targeted. You might not like Donald Trump but you have to recognise the way his potential ‘customers’ were laser targeted and mobilised based on behavioural insight. The right messages in the right place however unpleasant, were very effective.

Find the customers you usually don’t – There was a remarkable insight from Trump’s victory that suggested that people knew he was bad but given that people never got a break regardless of the party they chose. They thought that choosing to annoy the people who’ve benefited in the past was still preferable even if it was worse for them. They would rather burn down their own house if it led to the destruction of their smug next door neighbour’s. The conventional wisdom was to go after the same kind of people in the same way. Not for the Orange one.

This is hugely applicable to a customer context. You don’t have to position yourself as the best, you can be the anti-option. Commonwealth Bank has had some publicity challenges recently so rather than try to be the best bank in the market, you could try to be the absolute opposite of CBA. Contrary to the example of the fossil fuels above, there remains enough support for coal etc that you could take advantage. If all the mainstream banks are edging towards more carbon balance, why not create the Queensland Coal Bank: Resources and tradition (anything else is un- Australian.) If you worry about the long-term, surely Trump shows that people have an incredible capacity to forget when you change the narrative a little. For example, with very little research you can see that one of the world’s largest producers of organic food is very connected to one of the worlds biggest cigarette sellers.

So, when you are hiring your next Chief Customer Officer, think about the Donald. As regards opening slots in strategy, operations, finance and especially HR; it might be worth broadening the search away from the Whitehouse.

I’ve got all the best websites –

Believe me (Cambridge Analytics it’s coming to Australia)

Many people have been saying that Nobel prize winning economics is interesting

The curiously high cost of McDonald’s coffee and how it’s very McClever

For customer experience, we love to focus on what people ‘love’ and what people ‘need’ but maybe thinking about the lowest acceptable experience might help us even more.

To understand this blog, you have to comprehend Australian’s love of coffee. If you are not Australian, please read the postscript first. Let me also state that this is my opinion rather than an evidence based customer analysis.

‎McDonalds or (Maccas) as it called in Oz has in the past 5 years rolled out the McCafe which is essentially a café put at the front of the store. It has ‘barista’ made coffees and various pastries, muffins etc. To all intents and purposes, it is a café. It is also more expensive than most of the 400 other cafes in the immediate area, the coffee is not as good and the atmosphere is rather ‘McDonaldsy’. McDonalds therefore loses on almost all measures of customer value or experience but the McCafes are still there.

‎Here’s one of the reasons I think why

‎If you are choosing to have your hourly Cappuccino like most Aussies, it is very unlikely that you going to choose McDonalds as the number 1 coffee destination. However, I don’t think McDonalds care. This is because they have the awesome power of the Egg Muffin and the Big Mac in their arsenal. 5 years ago a customer with a real urge for a sausage sandwich at 10am would typically weigh up their options and decide that the need for a good coffee outweighs that of the McTastysnack so they would choose the bacon roll from the local café with their double shot extra foam Macchiato.

‎Today with the option of half way decent coffee at McDonalds, this allows people to focus on getting their Egg McMuffin and removes the reason to not go to McDonalds. It’s worth mentioning that Maccas don’t sell the McCafe products at the normal counter so this is probably where they are aiming anyway. McDonalds want to influence your decision making before you go in, not because they want to sell you coffee but because they want to get you in the door to sell you a sandwich. I think it’s very similar with salads which I’ve never actually seen anyone order; if you are out with 3 people, one absolutely wants a salad which would normally exclude McDonalds, but if the option is there, you take away the reason to say no.

‎Okay, so what.

‎We put a lot of effort into defining the ‘what good looks like’ in customer experience and on understanding what people love and what makes them happy. What we typically produce as consultants is a target customer experience journey with a supporting service design. We look at the delta between that and the current state and that becomes the customer transformation plan. The aspirational journey can often be just that, an unrealised wish.

‎Perhaps then, we need to consider the ‘just about good enough experience’, what is the journey which will keep people on board just long enough to not leave? If we test the lower level of expectation then we will know how far above we are aiming. With all the data and insights becoming available, we have the ability to see what triggers for behaviour will influence decision making. Rather than using this information to provide a universally better customer experience, why not develop the personalised ‘minimum viable experience’. There is obviously more to it than just this, but we could be thinking a little differently.

‎I know that my personal cut-off for waiting for a bus is 45 minutes before I’ll look for a taxi. If you build the system to charge me half price after a wait of 30 mins then I’ll probably wait longer. I know that I’d give up a weeks salary to avoid going to Ikea on a Saturday so offer me bookable parking and a free hot dog. I also know that I like a coffee at 10am but I’d probably quite like an Egg-McMuffin too.

I don’t need a reason to go, I need the excuse removed for why I can’t go.


‎PS People may try to convince you otherwise but the best coffee in the world is in Australia. It is treated with the reverence and respect the French treat a late harvest Chardonnay, or the way the Italians consider a tomato sauce. If you ask people where serves the best coffee they will often give you the location but only with a caveat about needing a specific barista. I know people who do not drink a coffee unless it can be confirmed as ‘single origin’. If you give Australians the choice to lose coffee forever or sacrifice barbecues for all eternity. It will be the double lattes which remain. If you are British and enjoy the coffee at a chain, you will be treated with the contempt you deserve.

Thinking fast and travelling slow – designing the Gold Bus Customer Experience

There is a magical bus in Glasgow, Scotland called the Citylink Gold bus ( which links the city with its neighbour Edinburgh, 40 miles to the east. It is much slower than the train and the arrival time is inconsistent, it is just as expensive as the train, it’s start point in the city is more awkward than the train station and it is extremely popular.


‎Stop for a moment and have a look at this great Ted talk from 2012.

‎As the talk explains (much more impressively than I), perception is a an incredible driver of a positive or negative customer experience. If you expect your parcel to be delivered in 2 days and it takes a week, it’s a disaster. If you expect it two weeks and it arrives in 1 week it’s great. Imagine if it’s your wedding day in one week… The prevailing view is that if speed improves people will be happier; quicker mortgage, quicker delivery, quicker trip etc. In the corporate world, it is also driven from the need to create a business case where the tangible benefits in looking at time can be easily understood and accordingly easily signed-off.

‎This is especially true of transport where fantastical sums of money are being spent on improving the time it takes to get from A to B. In Sydney, the Westconnex (western road network) is going to cost $17b or more relevantly around $3500 per man, woman and child in the city. The whole investment is on the perception that increases to volume will require investment to maintain current journey times (some incremental improvement is likely to be cancelled out by the increased journeys as the city grows). Even more fascinatingly is the investment into the northern beaches of Sydney (a traffic Armageddon) on a new bus line with lots of double decker buses at an increased frequency (increased capacity) with new parking lots right beside the stops (increased incentive not to drive). Here’s the rub though; tolls and parking already mean it’s a $40 a day expense to get into the city by car so there will actually be an increased incentive to drive to the bus stop . So there will actually be more traffic on the road with the new buses and as a bonus, double decker buses also take longer to get in and out.

So then, in essence, it’s a multimillion cost to possibly improve the chances of getting a seat on the bus and improve the customer experience a touch?

Leave it then to Scotland to show us in Australia what to do. The above mentioned Goldbus which is slower and just an expensive as the train has done their homework in looking at customers  and have created an experience to match it.

On the train, you can’t get a seat, it’s busy, uncomfortable and impersonal, wifi is ropey but it doesn’t take too long. On the Goldbus, you prebook a seat, you get a free breakfast and a cup of tea, a free newspaper, decent wifi and a steward/ess who manages the tickets and food/drink, and because it’s Scotland no doubt provides some additional banter. You are therefore given the choice to sacrifice some time and convenience for a hugely enhanced customer experience which leaves people with the option to travel as per their own perception of value.

When we design Customer Experiences then, we have to look past the easy answer and start to ask questions which challenge core perceptions of value. What if your commute took 3 hours each way every day and you still chose to do it? What would that look like?

To quote from the Citylink people – ‘it’s more than a journey’