You can have this one for free…

Over my 12 or so years working in market research I have come across the odd brief that aims to understand key drivers of customer loyalty, or conversely how to halt customer churn.

Here’s my answer; and you can have this one for free…

Don’t piss your customers off…

Respect their time…

Create a culture that is about helping them with their issues, not make them worse

It’s not rocket science.

Here is my story…

This morning I received a text from Virgin Mobile Australia saying that I am coming close to my agreed credit limit. Weird. So I went on-line and discovered my account was at some ridiculously high amount. Checked my data charges and they were all good. So it must be something in my call charges. I have never reached my limit, so I wanted to find out what was going on. At this stage I am still open to the fact this could be my problem. I am on a new plan so I’m not sure how it’s all working out. Maybe I have made more calls than I normally have, although I am not sure I have.

So I call the customer service team. My experience with the Virgin Mobile customer service team in the past has been frankly terrible. Appalling. Hair-pulling-frustratingly crap. You get the picture. But there has always been light at the end of the tunnel via their very responsive and most-excellent social media team. The person (or people?) who handles their twitter account has helped me out on more than one occasion, or at least been a sympathetic ear to my issue.

But just once I’d like to call their “customer service” team and not be frustrated enough with their handling of my issue. To not be forecd into asking their social media guys for help. Just for once for them to listen to what I need, and be able to deliver it.

I’m not sure why I had any basic expectations with this call, as they’ve never been able to help me, but yes – I have a 20 minute plus phone call that instead of just answering my question (“is it actually me who has made all these calls or is something gone awry in the system”, “Am I on the wrong plan?”) I get to talk to two members of their team who have not been enabled in any way to help me.  In fact, they get me so angry and frustrated that if I could walk away from Virgin Mobile right now I would.

It’s all good and well to have a great social media team to monitor what is being said about your brand and help customers out if needed, but hey, here’s a radical idea – why not create a service culture that means that things don’t have to be “escalated”?

I am singling out Virgin Mobile Australia here as I am a customer – an unhappy one, and my experience is still a fresh and ugly wound . But I have these same experiences with a whole lot of other service businesses and I’m sure you do too.   Frustrating and annoying.

So I sit and wait for someone to call me and tell me why my bill is so high this month – who knows? Maybe it is my calls? Maybe it’s not. But the fact that no one can tell me until my bill is created in four days time seems a bit stupid. Especially as they send out a message telling me it’s high. If you don’t want me to ask why it’s so high or you can’t tell me, don’t send the flipping message! Is the message designed to hep alleviate what they call “bill shock”?  Trust me, I am already shocked but also now frustrated and really, really angry!

So yes – a simple story to help stop churn.

So service businesses of Australia. If you want to stop churn…Get your service culture right. Offer us a great product. Don’t piss us off. Be great to us instead. If all that fails, your sexy new marketing campaign won’t turn me around. In fact, whenever I see it it will just remind me how disappointed and cross with you I am.  There, I just saved you about $200,000 in research costs, and god knows how many squillions in a fluffy new ad campaign to try and make me feel good about you.

(Right now I am looking at a box from Zappos that says “powered by service”. I’d like a little bit of that culture right now. It’s a great line and from what I hear they deliver to that.)

No amount of free pies will make me happy right now Virgin...



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I think this was on Orwell Street in the Cross, but I love how they have made it look like a Chinese Shophouse with the lovely laquer like shutters. It sits very comfortably with it’s Victorian terraced neighbours.  And walking past on a particularly steamy Sydney day, it was like a little bit of Malacca in our city. All I needed was a little nonya cooking.

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Just say no

I’ve been freelancing now for a month or so and I am loving it.

The best part of it is feeling OK about saying no.

Saying no to a projects I think I’d be no good for

Saying no to something I’m not intersted in

Saying no because I want to spend more time with Fin

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not turning down stuff left, right and centre. But the power of being able to turn something down is one of the most attractive aspects of this gig.  And hopefully it will free me up for the fun stuff and the fun people – and there is a lot of that about.


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It’s been really interesting listening to the responses kicking around about the flood levy proposed by the government. There is another debate to be had as to whether we need a permanent disaster fund, but it’s pretty clear the flood devastation across QLD, Northern NSW and Victoria has resulted in significant infrastructure devastation. Not the devastation that is covered (hopefully) by a home insurance policy, but the type to hit roads, rail lines, and other public facilities we take for granted like parks, pools, public spaces…

Another debate needs to be had about whether there should be anyone living in the low lying, flood prone areas, but agagin – that’s another debate to be had. What is clear is that people need help now.

It appears though that Tony Abbot has been campaigning off the back of the levy. And thanks to that piece by John Birmingham, I have been alerted to the stingingly funny post by Girl Clumsy.   If you object to paying the levy, she will pay it for you. But there is a catch. Read about it here.

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Double Local

It’s been open a long time, but I feel I should mention how nice Bloodwod is. mm and I went out on our first real night out since having Fin. I’ve been a few times since for a pre-show /pre-party drink. Sometimes I’m not sure what to make of the food. It’s always good, but maybe it’s what I choose and how it sits together. It worked well this Sunday night. Met my friend Chris and I shared a great cuttlefish salad and a walnut and beetroot tart. Best so far.

What often cannot be faulted is the service. Lovely, personable, professional service. Such nice staff. There is one girl there who is so on the ball – a laugh, great suggestions, a smile. She is great. But they are all great.

It’s nice to have somewhere local that is a bit special, but still warm and friendly. And places like this can be very rare. We need to be kind to this place so it doesn’t go away.

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Sometimes you forget how great Sydney is. Festival time really smacks you over the head how great this city can be. This weekend I was lucky to see two shows in the Concert Hall at the Opera House.  It’s beautiful.

The last time I saw Sufjan Stevens it was one of my highlights of 2008. He did it again. Such an uplifting, fantastic show.

and on Sunday night we went to see Cat Power, who staged a haunting, melodic show that was very sweet indeed.

And then there’s the house itself. Wow. What a building. As Sufjan said – our spaceship.

We even had a little trip to Opera in the Park on Saturday  night as a family. It was a magic evening and a great production of Carmen.

Ah Sydney – you can be a magical place.



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Quite Bonkers

In 2008 and 2009 I did quite a fair bit of travel for work. In 2008 I was away for probably about three months all up on biz.  And on those trips I stayed in lots of hotels and brought back all the soap and other bathroom bits. I used to like to use them as hand soaps in the bathroom. The body wash and shampoo was great to take to the pool or away for the weekend. After a while I realised I had collected quite a bit of bathroom bits. Like A LOT of bathroom bits. They ended up all in an overnight bag and since 2008 mm and I have been rummaging the bag and not once have we had to buy soap, body wash or shampoo.  Over two years.

That’s a bit bonkers isn’t it? I mean, I did a lot of travel, but should there be enough soap and other bits to provide ‘bathroom care’ for over two years? For two people and their guests?   We are starting to reach the end of our bag of bathroom bits. The end of a bag of lots of small plastic bottles. The plastic bottles that maybe are tossed away as they are half empty when left in a shower, or a cake of soap tossed after one wash of the hands.

More hotels need to do what the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto does. They have small hand crafted cakes of soap, shampoo and body moisturiser. All of them are cakes, and they are sparingly wrapped in a simple paper strip.

So while this last two years have been great – no soap buying, no body wash, no shampoo (I guess I don’t wash my hair much but that’s for another post…) but I can’t help thinking that the whole little bottles of bathroom bits in hotels is just a bit bonkers. They go on and on about “saving water” and reusing your towels, but still fill their showers with millions and millions of tiny plastic bottles. Silly stuff indeed.


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