You Know What Really Grinds My Gears? The condescending customer service rep.
You know who I’m talking about. That person at a place you frequent that just doesn’t understand customer service. They need to be right, they seem to dislike human interactions, they make you feel bad for simple things. Usually a customer representative at a front desk or a place that interacts with people a lot. It’s sad really. Read more
The 20 mile march
In Jim Collins’ Great By Choice he tells the story of the famous discovery of the South Pole. Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott were both vying to be the first explorer to plant their country flag at the South pole. Amundsen did a lot of prep work. He learned about extreme cold, he lived with Eskimos to see how they deal with the cold, he researched the trip, he stashes much more supplies than he needed, just in case something happened along the way. Read more
I’ve never been to Mexico until two weeks ago. I noticed something peculiar about the restaurants we ate at. They always gave you something to start with. Be it bread, oil, and vinegar, or nachos and salsa or chips and guacamole. We rarely ate a meal where we we’re “given” something to start with. I’m a foody, a fatty at heart, I LOVE that stuff! Making people happy through food, I love it.
Even breakfast at our hotel they would give you toast to start. It was like every place knew how to treat people and they new how to make your experience just a little bit better. I don’t like great service, I LOVE great service!
We hear this a lot; “Our image is our brand!” “Our logo is our brand!” “That ad is our brand!” “Our name is our brand!”
Wait, so what the hell IS your brand?
I like Bill Leider’s definition in his amazing book Brand Delusions:
Your brand is a widely held set of beliefs and expectations of what you deliver and how you deliver it, validated by customer experiences.
Until communication was put on steroids thanks to the creation of this little thing called the Internet, “your brand” was just a set of beliefs and expectation of what you deliver and how you deliver it. Customers for the most part never talked. There was no Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon or Yelp. Back then your expectations of a product or service could be influenced by commercials, billboards, and other advertisements.
Companies (Brands) could change the way you thought of them based simply on a catchy tune played before a movie or during your favourite sitcom….
“My baloney has a first name…”.
“Everyone loves Marine land!”
“Don’t cha put it in your mouth…”
“Let’s go out to the kitchen…”.
Have you heard an amazingly catchy jingle as of late? Possibly the Charlie Bit My Finger kid or Susan Boyle would be the closest.
Back then it was much easier to get your message out to the masses. You really could create major awareness for your brand or product, and it worked. The problem now is we don’t have one channel we always watch, there’s several hundred. Also, because we’ve been seeing these ads since we entered the world it’s hard to differ the signal from the noise.
Back to the definition of a “brand”.
You no longer are in control of your brand.
Everyone else is. Your brand is what people say about you behind your back. Your brand is what I find when I Google you. Your brand is what your customers say about you once they’ve left your store. Your brand is what people think of you whether you like it or not.
You can’t control it. You can only influence it. Customer service can help it (think Westjet), advertising can grow it (think Tim Horton’s), a smart HR policy will enhance it (think Whole Foods), but it’s the combination of every tiny little thing you do. Every time you come in contact with a customer or potential customer they either like you a little bit more or a little bit less. If you still think people can be indifferent to your brand, they probably can, but that’s a recipe for a competitor to come in and steal those customers away from your mediocre organization.
You’re better off creating remarkable experiences with every touch point you have with customers. From answering the phone and e-mailing, to your business cards and promotional items. Everything communication tactic is a chance to show the world what your brand is made of. Hopefully, after coming across your innovative brand several times over, your potential customer says:
“aww shucks, who is this amazing company that keeps making me smile?”. Now you don’t have to sell to them, they already are sold.
There is always a smarter way.
You just have to come to grips that it’s not going to be your idea at the centre of it. The number one thing that holds most organizations back is ego, the attitude at the top, leadership believing they are the smartest in the room. When you finally realize that the people connected around you are much, MUCH smarter at solving problems, finishing projects, and finding new solutions, that’s when you can start actually running your business. The trick is to assume your connected team is smarter than any individual on the team, then start getting ideas from everyone.
Yes I mean everyone.
We communicate to quickly for mob rule not to work. You can’t tell people how to feel, just like you can’t tell them to work. You can only inspire them with a challenge and put the best people you can find around them. If your employees don’t like you, all the policy in the world isn’t going to help, you can’t force people to feel different, you can only treat them different.
Even when you have the best plan in mind, after you’ve tested it in your head a hundred times, you know the weak points and you’ve mitigated them perfectly. It’ll still fail. The greatest plans in the world are always foiled by chance and rare occurrences.
From the book The Improbability Principle, incredibly rare impossible situations occur all the time. It’s your job to plan for them.
So how do you prepare for the unexpected? How do you make sure all your bases are covered?
Counterintuitively it’s not the man with the best plan that will come out on top, it’s the women with the most flexible plan that will come out the victor.
1. Learn to be a better listener.
We all must learn to be a better listener, no one is born a great listener, people learn how to just like we learn how to play sports, with practice.
So how can you actively practice listening? Ask for feedback. Even if you completely disagree with the feedback you don’t have to let the other person know. Bite your tounge and listen.
2. Put yourself in situations that will force you to be a better team player.
Join a team, a board, a group, a cult (ok probably not a cult), an organization, join something that will force you to work as a team. As we get older our vision gets very tainted with experience. Just because you think you’re a great team player doesn’t make it so. Every day you can be a better team mate, you just need to make it a priority.
3. Try to understand kids better.
Kids see the world through a different lens. They enjoy life more, are more judgemental, but forgive much easier than most adults. When a kid approaches a problem, they do whatever it takes to overcome it. The try and try and try. Like a baby learning to crawl, failure is not an option.
We learn what failure is later on in life. We find out we can make excuses for not continuing with the learning process. Could you image if a child learning to walk gave up one day and said, “you know, I just don’t have time for this” like many of us do on the road to learning something new. We’re great at making excuses
Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Character is about treating people like a friend of family even when they are a complete stranger. To me, few things in life are more important than building your own personal character.
10 years ago I was at my first conference (I attended 13) in University, it was at the DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, Ontario. 100+ students were at a pub in Hamilton and they shut down the bar because the guest speaker was about to take the stage.
I was a second year University student, you don’t close the bar on a second year University student! I was raising my voice and being a jerk to the bartender when an angel appeared (well that’s an exaggeration but Cam gave me a beer). Cam Heaps was our guest speaker that night and I got to talk to him before he talked to the group. He was one of the original partners in Steam Whistle, he was down to earth and just a fun guy who you’d think came from Saskatchewan.
In his talk he made me standup and introduce myself to the audience and then we exchanged belt buckles for some odd reason. After the talk the group from Regina was talking to him and he offered to give a personal tour on Sunday if we were interested. We were very interested!
The tour was amazing, when you tour a brewery with an owner it has it’s perks. 😉 We received Steam Whistle clothing and some collectibles and beer to bring home of course. After the tour was over we still had time to kill before our cross Canada flight. He opened up his house to go hot-tubbing before our flight, we went, it was awesome, and I learned a very important lesson.
Be overly kind to other people, especially if they are strangers.
Cam did not know us and by all accounts we were nobody’s from a little ol’ place called Regina. I think Steam Whistle grew to be an international beer sensation because of their attitude towards people. They acted like a little guy while growing into being one of the big guys.
During the spring and summer of 2014 I was commissioned to do a drinking and driving research project. Over the past few years, Saskatchewan can’t seem to reduce the number of drinking and driving incidents. In a country where almost everywhere the drinking and driving numbers are decreasing, here in Saskatchewan that’s just not the case.
We were going to tour the province and talk to teens about “why” they drink and drive.
The wrong way to approach a problem; ask the person with the problem “why they do it” and they are most certainly going to lie. Ask students about similar problems and how they approach them and now you may be getting somewhere!
Drinking and driving is a perplexing issue. One of those social issues that people’s attitudes and actions don’t match up. The think and do gap if you will. We all know it’s a bad idea to drink and drive but how many of those people still get behind the wheel and drive after having a few pints.
We picked six different locations all over Saskatchewan. From a high school in Regina, to a day-time program in Prince Albert. We talked to an inner-city high school in Saskatoon, and a Narcotics Anonymous summer camp on a First Nations Reserve. We visited rural high schools and mid-sized city high schools all over Saskatchewan. We had a diverse student population and share information is one thing they loved to do.
We had a set of questions we’d ask once the students were comfortable with sharing their opinions. We knew we could just come right out and say, “hey, so really, why is it that students every now and then think it’s ok to drink and drive?” We had to be much smarter than that.
Some of the questions we’d ask would be:
Which do you watch more of, YouTube, Netflix, Cable?
Who do you look up to more, Celebrities, Athletes or Musicians? (Why?)
What do you use your phone for, top three things?
Which one do you like more?
Facebook or Twitter? Instagram or Vine? Snapchap or Instagram?
What’s the easiest way to communicate a message to a pre-determined audience?
What do you think of these ads? (drinking and driving ads)
What do you think of anti texting and driving ads?
How would you stop drinking and driving if you absolutely had to?
The Three Things we learned:
Get to them younger, you can’t tell kids anything, if you have to ‘tell’ kids, don’t, ‘show’ them instead.
1. Get to them younger
Highschool students (especially grade 12s) have already made up their minds. You may inform them about a potential fatal decision that they’re going to make but actually changing their behaviour? Not likely. By grade 12 you’ve made up your world view, you’re not a fan of authority in your life, and the last thing you want to do is listen to “what’s good for you”. As soon as we realize that at this stage in life (grade 12 in particular) is a relatively bad time to convince anyone of behavioural change. We need to get to them first, before the social norms of high school get them.
If you don’t believe me, try to remember what you were like in grade 12. Were you open to other people’s ideas? Did you listen to authority? Did you always do what was right for you? If you answered yes to any of those questions you’re either lying to yourself or you didn’t have much fun in highschool. We don’t need to convince the students who aren’t a problem, we need to convince the hardest to reach.
2. You can’t ‘tell’ me anything
Well if you want me to listen. “Telling” people to do something or the perception of “telling” people never goes over well. This remains true throughout life, adults generally don’t like to be told what to do either.
Create behavioural change by educating early on and allowing kids to make their own decisions (even if they’re wrong), helps learn life lessons in a much more surreal and memorable way.
The problem with drinking and driving is you can’t let kids make even one mistake, because all it takes is once behind the wheel and it could be fatal. Making younger kids more aware of the situations they are going to face when they get older, and the difficult decisions they’re going to have to make will only help in preparing them. You’ll never eliminate it completely, but you can attach a stigma to it at a young age that deters kids from even trying it.
This is precisely what happened to smoking. Advertising and propaganda around smoking used to be “cool”. Many governments (including Canada) passed laws (http://www.smoke-free.ca/filtertips04/tobacco%20act%20provisions.htm limiting tobacco companies the amount of advertising they were allowed to do and where they were allowed to do it. Making a much better chance a kid doesn’t see James Dean on a billboard in downtown smoking a dart. Present day (Sept 2014) smoking is on the decline (obviously not for all populations of society, I’m making an over simplification). But there is an argument that once something isn’t deemed “cool” society has a lovely way of reducing the “uncool” behavior.
They younger they are when they realize that “drinking and driving is not cool” the odds that they do it when they are older go down.
Every grade 9 class should have to put a campaign together on how to stop drinking and driving. Putting the messaging up in the school, implementing the best ideas that come up, throughout the year the students in grade 9 become the Champions of reducing drinking and driving incidents. They grade 12s vote on the best campaign and a cash prize is awarded for the best project and the most influential school. (I’m completely offering my services if you want to get this off the ground, I think it could work great helping students educate students on drinking and driving).
3. Don’t tell kids, show kids…
When it comes down to major decisions that we make in life, whenever we’re on the fence, we’ll generally look to people similar to us and see what they did in the same situation before we make our decision. The psychological term is social proof. I first read about social proof in Robert Cialdini’s Influence The Psychology of Persuasion.
Social proof is gaining in popularity as our world gets more confusing, more going on, demanding more of your attention, you have to make better decisions faster. For years we’ve used social proof. Before we take a look at a new car we ask a neighbor about theirs and what they like about it. If we look up to that neighbor we’re even more likely to take their opinion as the truth.
Social proof is a powerful influencer. In a world where it’s very simple to see where people live, what they drive, who they interact with, what they wear and what they do for fun, we don’t need to look far to get ideas on what to buy. A simple stroll through Instagram will show me a lot of information on what you care about, what you spend your money on and where you spend your time. I don’t have the answer on how to use social proof to curb drinking and driving, I do however have a couple ideas.
You need the students that other students look up to to be the ones making it very uncool to drink and drive. I say I don’t have the answer because I think I’d rather ask the students what would work, and get ideas from them.
A project at the grade 12 level creating a campaign or project answering the question: “how do you reduce drinking and driving?” again offering up a cash prize for the winner. Make it a part of a class; make it a major part of the curriculum. If you get students creating amazing campaigns addressing the negatives of drinking and driving in a new creative or different or interactive way, in time they will convince themselves it’s a bad idea.
Think about it, the more research you do in a subject area the more the information you’re uncovering will affect you. This happens all the time. Why couldn’t it work for kids and drinking and driving?
Lets get to them younger, stop telling people to change their behaviour and start using social proof to influence people in a smarter, more effective manner. In the future, the status quo is going to be easy to seek out. Why change? In the future you’re going to come to this question more and more often. The smartest organizations know that change has to be a part of the plan. Try new things, try new ideas, as long as you’re sticking with the status quo, you’re never going to know what you’re missing. You’re never going to see the future of your product or service.
Business is change, and how we communicate with our younger generation is something we’re all going to need to get better at. Yes yes, try something new, who knows, you might just prove yourself wrong.
You can download the PDF here: Why do they drink and drive, a Strategy Lab Research Project
You pick what you want to be known for.
Do you think the University of Florida cares about their academic performance? No, they don’t because they don’t need to. Their sports following for Basketball and Football is incredible and enough to give students a great reason to go there.
Do you want to go to the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School of Business)? Do you want to play on their Basketball team? They haven’t won their division since 1979 and have never won the NCAA tournament. But that doesn’t matter, the only reason you’re going to Wharton is to get the best financial education money can buy.
“Standing out” is an underrated strategy when it comes to Universities and how to compete. That’s because it’s only up until now that they’ve never had to compete. The barrier to entry in to most higher level jobs in the past 20 years was a University degree or a comparable education. If you wanted a better job, you had to go to a post-secondary institution. Up until only 5-10 years ago, you didn’t have many choices of where to go to University. If you were from Regina you either went to the University of Saskatchewan or University of Regina, OK maybe Calgary or Edmonton (maybe Leftbridge, who knows). But why travel when you can go to your home town University?
But now you have to look across Canada and around the world because taking University from an institution away from home is going to be expensive either way. If your options are to move to Saskatoon or Dubai now you have an honest chance of attending the University of Dubai. (and next year it will be even easier)
Today your choices for post-secondary education have never been more abundant.
Education is free online. Want to learn about Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing from Copenhagen Business School? Click the link and sign up for free. Or how about What Managers Can Learn From Philosophers from the University in Châtenay-Malabry, France. Yup, that ones free as well. Or how about What a Plant Knows (and other things you didn’t know about plants) from Telaviv University.
You can make the argument that the quality of online education can’t compete with in person lectures at any of the bricks and mortar degree granting institutions. Combine that with not being able to verify “who” wrote your final exam and the traditionalists may have a reason why we shouldn’t trust an online degree. Even if the quality isn’t there yet, it won’t be long before it is. Why wouldn’t you go online to get a more interesting lecture about a topic you care about more, taught by someone who’s more passionate about their craft?
What changed? Why is it getting more difficult for universities to compete?
1. More universities means more options for students
Today enough people are convocating and not finding the job they’re were promised, so why did we go to school, to get “smart” or to get a job?
Today, I can take almost any course I want online with an assortment of Universities to choose from. So why would I pick yours?
2. More graduates means more options to choose from: a degree doesn’t guarantee a job.
A lot of people go to post-secondary to get an “education”. That means something different to everyone so don’t start trying to define what “education” means, someone can argue the opposite point. Besides getting an “education” school in the past was very good at getting people jobs.
Did you get a job because you had the education? Or did you get the education because you had to get a job? How we approach the degree vs job debate really changes the way we approach how post-secondary should be administered and in the end how institutions will compete in the future.
3. Transparency is making it hard for people to hide behind the letters that come after their name.
If you convocated from a post-secondary institution in the past 10 years I bet you could recall at least one to two professors that well, to put it politely, were completely incompetent. Ten years ago you could fill out the form at the end of the semester and hopefully the administration and the professor read the feedback. Most likely they didn’t.
Even if you disagree with the student the fact of the matter is you can’t control what they say about you. Education will be held accountable.
Today, a Tweet, a Facebook post and a review on RateMyProfessor.com are the standard now. If you really good OR bad people will tell their friends, they will tell their friends, and alas, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful marketing tactic few organizations want admit to. The truth (or perceived truth) about a professor, program, or institution will spread like wildfire online.
Do you know what graduates are saying about your institution?
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