Monthly Archives: January 2014

2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work please!


2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work – this was my brief to local estate agents in Lichfield recently. Home is in Norwich now, but work is in Lichfield during the week. 

I think that’s makes it fairly clear what I am looking for, let me know if you disagree, but I am fairly confident that is a clear brief.

I work with data every day and I try and make sure that at a simple level I am talking to customers about things they are interested in, sadly that has not been my experience of buying the flat. The service had been ‘patchy’ at best as well.

Now I used to be a surveyor and work in an Estate agents, so I know it can be a tough job but I have been completely amazed by the lack of attention to the following simple tenet: that you are likely to get a better response from people if you talk to them about things they want to know about and do so in a friendly helpful manner. 

My story starts when I actually walked around the estate agents in town – a bit old school I know – but I enjoy thumbing through sales particulars, usually in a pub with a pint of lovely lager beer and a sandwich and a big map. I’ve moved a lot more than the average person over the years, I guess, so it’s become a bit of a ritual.  

But I hadn’t moved for 8 years and the world has changed – a lot – it would seem !

Mortgages – this seems to be the priority – getting you in front of a mortgage broker ASAP before someone else does.  This is not just to organise a mortgage it’s also prioritising your insurance needs as well. And they don’t mind at all if you buy from someone else of course, the service is independent of the actual flat buying I was reassured on many occasions. 
Legal services – this is a clear second priority it would seem, why? Well again it’s a fee earner for the estate agent that actually does not rely on you buying from them. 
Tyre kickers – evidence I was a credible buyer with the necessary means to buy a flat was a clear priority – this is a poor feeling, buying a new home should be exciting  and not a drudge to prove who you are and how much money you have in your account – yes, I get that I will need to do that, but up front, almost before appointments are made? It weakend, in many ways what for me, is still a 121 experience. 
Data collection – I was surprised by the level of this, in part due to the tyre kicking problem I realise, but the detail was significant. Which makes the details of the wrong type of houses in the wrong location sent to me, even more irritating. Kirstie & Phil are strangers to Lichfield I suspect !
The internet – I have been, on occasion, heard to repeat the phrase, I live in the cloud, and I tweet, I Facebook, I link in and I write 2 blogs.  So clearly I like the internet but the lack of personal interest vs the referral to the excellent Right Move app and website belies the desire to organise my mortgage, insurance and legal services for me.  Nor does it build an all important trusted relationship. 
Social media – I am glad you have Twitter and Facebook pages, but that’s not helping me greatly to be honest, unless you can highlight for me the two bed flat that has off road parking  and is walking distance to work !

So all in all I am a little disappointed, as it happens I did find one good estate agent – and luckily they listened and they had a 2 bed flat with off street parking that is a 10 minute walk to my office. 

But …
– to the estate agents that sent me details of 4 bed properties over my budget 
– to the single estate agent that said just log on to our website every week
– to the estate agent that still just sends me a list of everything they advertise each week
– and to the estate agent that keeps inviting me to show home openings the other side of Birmingham … 

I implore you to follow some simple guiding notes from one of your potential customers;

– listen to my needs, I will accept that errors will occur every now and again but please try and get it right
– explain in greater detail why you need to collect so much personal data – and then reassure me how you will use it, because if you get the type of property wrong I will suspect you will get other things wrong too
– remember how exciting buying a house is … please … It’s a ‘biggy‘ and being pushed off to the web is no way to deliver a service that is so important to the buyer, and, you know what? when I sell the flat in the future I will remember you !
– keep in touch proactively – email is fine but I had no proactive contact from most estate agents at all – again when I want to sell my home I will remember that too
– don’t just prioritise your fee earning – think about this as a move of a home not buying and selling a house, and to quote my favourite film (Roadhouse) “be nice”.

The poor use of so much rich data has really surprised me in the last few months, I like to think the firm I used to work for would have had a better stab at the relationship with its potential clients. I know when I was negotiating a sale I tried to develop a relationship first … that way I stood a chance of getting a purchase this time and a sale and possible purchase the next time round and that meant more money in my pocket and that of the company. Very simple CRM. 

As the market is seeming to pick up the success stories will come from the companies that develop relationships I feel, rather than those directing you to self service. I don’t mind that when buying beans, but a 2 bed flat, with off street parking that is walking distance to my office is a different matter altogether!

28 January 2014

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A tale of three tweets


I’m very fortunate to have been asked, a fair few times, to speak to other marketers about how to make social media work for brands … tough in my case as financial services can be a) a tad dull if I’m honest and b) generate strong views.  

My first piece of sage advice is always to listen to what your members or customers are saying and then, and only then, chose to respond or not. My explicit advice is to do so knowingly.  It takes less than a second to retweet and each ‘Twitterer’ has an average of 208 followers. You can do the impact mathematics quite easily ! 

I will lay my cards clearly on the table – I love twitter personally, but intellectually I know it is a danger zone for brands – just ask Waitrose or Ryanair about those impact stats – I know it from personal experience now as well ( that’s a cue to read on by the way…)

This post is about three tweets, that’s all, just three little tweets.  Approximately 500 million tweets are sent each day and the record appears to stand at 143,199 per second (2013 stats – source twitter)  

So this is a tiny fraction of the traffic – but all affected me personally so they are very important – well to me at least and I hope they prove interesting to you.

They all relate to customer service, and I could easily have called this post “The good the bad and the ugly'” by the way … Just to set expectations !

But let’s step backwards first: I have found myself defaulting to using twitter for customer service matters. The simple reason – brands are listening and they understand the impact mathematics all too well … (They must have been listening to me !). I bet you do the same – leave me a comment or two and give me your views if you have a moment to spare.

The Ugly
A well known supermarket messed up a pre-Christmas online food order of a, top drawer slap up dinner, delivery for my stepson who was unable to be with us on the day and so would be alone. Clearly to my Partner and I this was hugely important. They messed up the delivery time and then would not deliver until after Christmas. I won’t go into the details but needless to say the phone experience was not great at all and despite them clearly being in the wrong they did not resolve the matter to our satisfaction – despite their paying us compensation. So we tweeted our disappointment. 

The retailer did all the right things initially via twitter – took us off line into direct messages … but crucially did not do anything of substance including not following up what they said they would do. 

The outcome – we have told all of our friends and stopped using that retailer – ok, that is unlikely to hurt their profits in isolation … But it will not help if they keep doing it ! 

The Bad
Actually this started out as a good ! But tailed off badly !  I have moved house and dutifully told my energy provider. First of all I told them their website was not working as I was unable to register and so I could not give my meter readings over the Web.  I tried the app – same issue. I used the email form on line and I was promised a reply in two days … not great … but crucially I have still had no email reply other than that auto message in mid November 2013 ! That is just plain poor.

So I rang up and gave the reading. Then I managed to get the web working and repeated the task as requested by the phone handler. 

Then I got a bill and a nasty reminder threatening credit reference action – I was well in credit and on the phone they had told me to cancel my direct debit. I called again, 4 times, my last call took 50 minutes to get through and I was quickly put on hold – and finally they cut me off. My irritation led me to tweet. 

Great response initially, as before I was taken off line and handled very well by a named representative. Friendly and apologetic. I was impressed. However – I am no longer ! The first tweet was 29 November 2013 – I still await my refund 2 months later !

The result – I have told all my friends again  and will never use that energy supplier again. I am in regular contact with the tweet handler … daily in fact!

The Good
This was easily the slickest and best experience … probably in no small part by being the most human and friendly.  GREATER ANGLIA TRAINS please take a bow ! 

It started with a bit of a moan by me – on the early train from Diss to London and no coffee car … but what happened next was delightful – I was taken off line again and what a difference – I actually had a conversation with a human using no more than 140 characters. Clearly all they could do was apologise, but they checked my train time and service and got back to me with why … and another apology. They were now following me of course, so when I tweeted that evening what a nice journey I was having on the way home – including a free coffee in first class – you can imagine my surprise when they entered into a very good natured chat with me. No selling, no serious stuff, but the tweeter clearly had read my earlier messages. It was another conversation and an enjoyable one at that.

So what have I done? you guessed it  … told all my friends ! 

There is a few simple lessons to learn here for me :

– Twitter like most social media should be a conversation – being nice is a much under rated trait in my view and it generates a great word of mouth result. Check out my favourite film Roadhouse for inspiration !
– if you are going to respond to service issues – listen and then take the customer off line to reduce that impact math equation
– but just like any other channel you must do what you say you are going to do – it’s all lost if you don’t ! 

Simple lessons to remember, personally I see twitter as a way finding tool primarily in business, but as people use it more and more for complaints then these simple givens will become more important than ever.  Just ask me when I’m not in the office !!

24 January 2014

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Double the fun at the DMA

Which is your DMA?

In work mine is the Direct Marketing Association in the UK.

But my passion is art, so to me it’s also the Dallas Museum of Art, ok, I live near Norwich so it’s an academic interest!


The connection goes beyond the initials DMA though. I’m a marketer, you know that, you know I love, and live, data in my day job – especially if you are a regular reader of my blog.

I sit on the Data Governance board in the company where I work.

The last business book I read was “In data we trust” by Bjorn Blöching. A good read I might add.

You get the picture …

I think the DIrect Marketing Association do a great job in the UK in promoting the positive use of data in direct marketing – they are a voice of reason in so many ways when the tabloids and Middle Britain get upset about the ‘secrecy’ of data and when the ‘big brother’ words are thrown about.

I believe that data is becoming ( in fact already has become) a new currency which means that in order for businesses to ask for, and receive, useful data there needs to be clear value and a clear transaction. My CEO said recently in regard to an only slightly disconnected topic, “imagine if we did that without asking” a good thought to hold in this regard as he didn’t mean it in a good way !

So why am I posting about the Dallas Museum of Art in this context. Simply because they are treating data as a currency really clearly, really openly and getting their members/customers to embrace that fact.

Exactly a year ago today the Dallas Museum of Art made 2 significant moves, bold ones; they stopped charging admission and created a membership scheme called DMA Friends. Check out the scheme from this link.

The numbers tell a story;

  • Admission fees were only a relatively small percentage of annual revenue – 2.5% in fact
  •  In 9 months 33,000 friends were recruited
  •  $9m of philanthropic donations have been received to support the programme since it’s launch

It works really simply – visitors get ‘greeted’ on entry and directed to a bank of iPads. There they are asked for some data about themselves and to become a member of the DMA Friends scheme. The key data is a mobile phone number, email address and zip code. The mobile number proxies as a member number – which is a really clever idea I thought ! Crucially the system is completely based on opt in.

And the transaction? Or currency? …

… Ok its points, not rocket science I grant you, but they build up into experiences such as free admission to paid exhibitions, sleep-overs in the museum ( very groovy) etc. So a combination of random acts of kindness – which I like: see my last post – which you cannot buy, and things that generate repeat visits like discounts off big exhibitions. More visits = more purchases in the shop, more visits to the restaurant and so on – clear simple economic pay off.

It’s really straightforward and is a very clear trade-off for the member and the DMA.

The museum has been very clear that it will use the data it collects and I like the fact that on the anniversary it plans to publish the anonymised data learning it has from the past 12 months. Amongst it’s trailed plans are a desire to advertise the museum in zip codes in which it under-indexes. There is a clear parallel learning here for other industries. If you have an objective, in this case to have broad appeal, collect and then use data that supports that objective. Simples as the Meerkats might say.

The software it uses is being made available free to other museums and galleries and that is a measure of its success as a transactional tool I think.

I will continue to like and admire the DMA in regard to my direct marketing …both of them !

I am indebted to and Modern Painters magazine for the fascinating insight into the Dallas Museum of Art initiative. It has certainly made me think about how simple openness and clarity can assist in asking members to trade some rich data about themselves.

21 January 2014
PS: The Dallas museum is a lovely concrete building as well, always a bonus for me !

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