Tag Archives: Amazon

How does your company culture stack up?

A great article from Mashable – by Lauren Drell on improving your company culture.  All the tips make perfect sense and are not too difficult to do – but they may require change in your thought process.

Take a read… 9 Tips for a Better Company Culture.

Google company culture

Your company culture is the killer differentiator between you and the competition – it’s why guys want to work for you in the first place, and why they will in many cases go out of their ways to secure a position with you.  They like what you do, your vision and the opportunities with you and want to be part of your journey.  Take Apple, Google and Amazon as prime examples of well known companies with great cultures where people want to work.

Apple company culture

Lauren suggests a number of different tips on how you can change your company culture for the better.  I’ll summarise these below:

  1. Hiring should be a continuous process and not just when you have specific vacancies.
  2. Encourage entrepreneurial thinking.  What would people do if it was their company.
  3. Hire fantastic people, remember people are your business.
  4. Lead by example – culture starts with you.  Show passion for the company and vision.
  5. Character counts – hire people for attitude and positivity.
  6. Don’t forget the freelancers or recent graduates.
  7. Your gut reaction is more often than not right – listen to it more.
  8. Encourage ownership and flexibility – we want happy people.
  9. Continue to build your company culture.

Lauren sums it up very well in one sentence…

“Hire in tech, product or business, but only take people that really wow you.”

A great culture, means an even better team, resulting in better productivity from the guys, improved services, better relationships with your customers and a great vibe in the market about you.

Culture word cloud

Have you been caught in a service bubble?

Bubbles everywhere

Service bubbles?  So what are they?  They’re the places you are when you’re being looked after and experiencing a brand’s great and amazing service – and caught in their bubble.  You may have never thought about it before, but we’ve all been there.

You’re shopping and having a great experience in the shop, or in a hotel and being looked after by their team – and getting great service.  The service is personalised to you, it is provided by service professionals whose job it is is to understand what delivering great service means and what makes it special, and it’s specific to that brand.

Apple Store

Take Apple – yes one of my favourite service brands:  you step into their Apple stores and are greeted by their Geniuses – easily recognisable, all smiling and friendly and all there to make sure you are helped in the way that you need.  And they’re proactive in providing good service.

Shangri-La Hotels

Another great example – is good hotel chains, like Shangri-La (well known in the Far East but with some great hotels now in Europe as well).  You arrive at the airport in a different country, quite often tired from a long journey.  You’re met after security by a hotel representative to take you to the hotel and you’re then in their bubble.  Again, friendly staff, personalised service (often greeting you by name) and with a smile.  Whilst you’re staying with them – as their guest – and being looked after, you’re in their care and their bubble.

The usual result of the bubbles?  You go away a happy customer, you remain loyal to the brand and come back for more, and you tell people about it.

Bubble

So what makes them bubbles?  They’re normally temporary for you – you step into them when you start an experience or journey and step out when you’ve done (a good example being when you leave a hotel, are taken to the airport and dropped off – everyone knows that feeling that it’s back to normality), the bubbles normally grow whilst you’re in them – with the service getting better as you complete your purchase or transaction and there is a only a thin line between the bubble and the outside world.

Many bubbles

You can imagine different service bubbles coexisting for different businesses and organisations, and moving from one to another and receiving different experiences in each – some good, some great, some maybe not so good.  Businesses that work well together as partners can even have bubbles that join together and your journey from one to the other, is seamless and there’s no need to step outside of them.

Airlines (and other forms of transport – e.g. trains) are another great example of service bubbles and they differ widely from good old economy, business class and first class!

How do different companies bubbles differ from each other?  How can you rate and compare them?  Quality and size?  Does and should good service demand a premium price tag?  Stay tuned for more on this in a future blog post.

Whose service bubbles have you be in and what were they like?  Do let me know…

High street shops are fighting back

The emporium strikes back

Nothing like a Star Wars-esq headline to catch my eye…

“The emporium strikes back”

Following very neatly on from my last post – way back in April – I found a great article this week, talking about the growing “threat” from online retailers and what the more traditional high street shops (our bricks and mortar friends) are doing to come back.

Things like bundle deals, profiling great accessories, personalised high street shopping and shopping as an experience much like Apple do now are all coming.

The one thing that’s sure, is that for the customer and consumer, the shopping experience of the future is going to be very different from today!

Is this the future of shopping? Showrooming and paying to browse.

My first blog for a few months – this article caught my eye and is on a similar vein to some of my previous ones about the future of shopping.

A very interesting article from the BBC on “showrooming”.  Something you may have never heard of but like me something you do lots.  So what is it?

The peril of showrooming - BBC

You’re out shopping with the family and browsing a high street bookshop (for example) and find something that takes your fancy – your normal reaction now is to scan the barcode and check the price on Amazon (pretty much the de facto online shop for us all) and no surprise it’s cheaper.  You then order online and a couple of days later it arrives, backed up by the great service that Amazon provides.  The high street bookshop clearly loses out here and there isn’t much it can do – they have more physical shop space to pay for and staff to help customers.  Or is there?

Showrooming

 

We all do it.  And it saves us money as online is normally (much) cheaper.  But it doesn’t help the high streets stores.  Charging for browsing is an idea to tackle this growing problem and it only needs to be a small charge, that you get knocked off your bill in the shop if you buy anything from them.  I like it – it makes sense and it’s easy to do.  But unless the prices come down in the shops, it’s not going to help long term get us back on the high street buying, which is what’s needed.

Another interesting article over on Euromonitor talks about other ways retailers are looking to address this problem – in-store discounts, store loyalty schemes, online price matching and more.  Some I can’t see working – loyalty schemes can apply online and the likes of Amazon have their own loyalty scheme (attached to their credit card); online price matching hasn’t caught on – any price matching that is done now is very restricted and never includes online as it’s more often than not too big a difference to match.

Euromonitor - showrooming prevention

Jessops, HMW and Waterstones in the UK have all had this problem and in some cases suffered massively as a result – and gone out of business.

Is it too late for the rest of the high street to change?

 

Do digital and online mean the end of the high street?

I’ve long been a big fan of digital content – in all its forms – and how it’s changing our lives for the better.  More choice, more variety, better (read cheaper) prices and convenience.  It’s all about the anytime, anywhere and anyhow philosophy – with us consumers far more in control of when, where and how we consume.  But, this clearly has an impact on the more traditional world of content in its physical form.  And also drives our retail experiences – beyond simple content.

Digital media and content

Some interesting questions come up…

  1. Can digital/online and physical/traditional retail co-exist peacefully?  Yes they can.
  2. What about our traditional high street shops?  We need them but they need to change.
  3. Should we all buy online?  A good question!

It’s not just about digital content – going online for content ultimately impacts my other retail experiences and drives me to the same retail channels, online, for other products.

It’s number 3 that right now is the big one.  In the UK we’ve seen some major high street shops go under recently – or change hands and scale down.  Including – Game, Jessops, Comet and HMV.  Some with years and years of history going right back to when consumers started listening to and consuming content (and buying products).

Consumers

So why are they struggling?  I think it’s quite simple – a reluctance to change and move with what consumers want (all of the above in the introductory paragraph).  Cheaper prices, more choice and one not mentioned above better service.

This last one is important and maybe something not considered as much as it should be.  Good service – or even excellent service (of which I’m a huge fan) – is crucial to build relationships with your customers and get them back and get the all important repeat business going.  Just look at how Amazon do customer service.  No quibbles when taking items back – fantastic return policies – and people to help when you need it, however you want to contact them (not waiting round for someone who might not be the right person to help).

Customer service

Another big plus online is the whole idea of reviews – from consumers just like you, telling you exactly what they think of the item, good or bad.  This helps you make your decisions.

Your typical high street shops now are used more for browsing – and people then compare prices with online retailers, go away and order online for it to be delivered a couple of days later.  Sure there are some purchases that don’t make sense to do this way but more people are going this way.  And yes I’m one of them.  How can I justify a book in one of the few remaining high street shops, when online (and by online I mean Amazon) it’s half price (with great service and quick delivery) – there just isn’t any competition.

Traditional UK high street

I can shop when I want and even when mobile.  It’s all so convenient.

Everyone talks about how much of their Christmas shopping these days is done online and typically this means Amazon.

It’s another post about whether Amazon’s business models (pricing) are sustainable or not for them – but so far it’s working and their bottom line is healthy (now)!

So now to the crunch question – is there still a place for the traditional high street?  I think there is.  A lot of change is needed and retailers need to embrace online and digital as well as their traditional retail arms.  This is critical.  If they don’t – and don’t do it quickly, they’ll sadly go the same way as others.

For us consumers, it’s an exciting time but will be a sad one as well if we lose well known names from the high street.

It’s time to change!

It's time for change

Good service counts even when you’re running

So how to mix a blog post on running and customer service…

I ran the London Marathon last week with the orthotics I had from the physio back in December last year in my shoes.  They gave more support in the Adizero shoes than without and by all accounts corrected the way my feet hit the ground.  They’re made by a company called Vectorthotics and clearly say on the package that if you are planning at doing any strenuous or endurance activities, the block bits should be glued on with more solid cement glue stuff.  Mine weren’t but they had held through all (or most) of the training runs and I’d had one pair already glued again by our local Timpson shop in Twickenham.

When it (the small blue block in the middle) has come loose before, you know it has as it clicks in the shoe a bit and you can hear it.  But I guess the noise of the other runners and crowd last weekend and total concentration on getting round, meant I had no chance to hear it, as it came off (and ended up towards the toes – maybe that’s why I didn’t run as fast as I had hoped… LOL).

So I needed to visit the shoe shop again and get them to glue it back on.  When I did this last time, they just did it, with a big smile and said don’t worry about paying, just put some money in the charity box they had in the shop.  Fantastic.  I’ll come back with service like this – we’d come back anyway as we’ve used them lots over the years and they’re good.  I ran in last Saturday early afternoon and the same guy was in and I asked the same question, if he could glue it on.  No questions asked he just did it.  And again no charge – just money in the box for charity.  It happened to be a rugby day on Saturday with a big Army and Navy game on at Twickenham Stadium and I got chatting to another customer in the shop (whilst we waited).  As I was chatting and waiting I noticed some signs on the walls in the shop.  One fine example below…

With a sign up like this from the company chairman, you know the service is going to be very good.  There are other similar signs up around the store, all saying it’s all about service and making sure they do right by you the customer.  And the same in all their stores.  I popped back today to take the photo and asked the guy before I did and explained why – and he smiled!

For me this is a huge statement, the guys in the shop are totally empowered to do what they need to to make it right.  And have the ok from the top to do so – no need to phone head office to check.  Make a decision there and then, to make sure the customer is happy.

This is unlike many other companies I know of who give the front line staff no empowerment and need everything run by the next level or two up.  Even for small things.  This does my head in – such a waste of time and effort on everyone’s part and 9 times out of 10, you get annoyed customers all the same.  Do we really need to check with HQ or the bosses boss if someone wants to bring a small item back for a few pounds or dollars and doesn’t have the receipt, it’s unopened and clearly from that shop?  No.  Think of the cost of checking and delays.  And the experience the customer is having.  Not good and as the customer you think twice about using them again.

Apple and Amazon are both great at customer service, and shining beacons for others to follow, and everyone knows they are good which is a huge huge part of what makes them so successful.  They are big and yes they have the money to do it properly but it’s not all about that, so it’s nice to see the little shops doing as good here.  Sure Timpson are a global chain but the shops are small and typically with one member of staff in – and ones you might not think of as leaders in customer service and customer experience – but Timpson do it very very well.  Thanks for the great service, we will be back.  And I’ve just discovered they even do a mystery shopper programme and you can sign up on the front page on the web site.  Nothing to hide.  Nice one!

Pace running

What a fine start to the week.  Swimming with little Mr. Noble in the morning and then a 50 minute run home at marathon pace – 8 minutes per mile.  And a massage planned for this afternoon.

Managed to do 7 minute 50 second average pace for the run and it felt good.  More runs needed at that pace for longer distance.  Want to get used to running at that speed, so I know what it feels like and it becomes almost second nature.

More reading last night and a new book on order from Amazon – Run Less Run Faster.  After reading an article in Runners World this month, where a guy around my age, subscribed to this new training plan and got his marathon time below what he’d done some 20 years or so ago.  Sure his times was around 2 hours 20 minutes (that’s a sprint for me) but the theory is the same.  4 or 5 runs a week and 2 sessions of hard cross training.  The runs being one long one (but never more than 16 miles), one a speed work, one at marathon pace and then one medium distance one.

The theory is to get used to running the last 16 miles – so you know what it feels like.  The first 10, you know you can do.  The last 16 will be hard (very hard if my memory serves me right from 2009), so need to train to be able to do those well.  And run slow to start with and then slow down some more.  This last bit is the biggest challenge, and even more so when there are 35,000 or so other people running and everyone’s raring to go at the start.  In the last half marathon I did in September, I started way way too fast and ran into problems at around 8 miles – crazy!

And if you’ve never the London Marathon this is what it looks like at the start …

And this is the official video of start for the 2011 London Marathon – courtesy of the BBC News website.