By Leigh Andrews
Booth then introduced keynote speaker, Peter Cheales of Hellopeter.com. Cheales spoke of his book I was your customer, which went to the number two bestseller position in South Africa – he missed out on the top position as Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom was released at the same time. Cheales stated that he has long written and spoken about topics of service and would not give any lengthy definitions as we’ve all been victims of both diabolical and remarkable service. The debate therefore centres on the difference between these – as a consumer, how good are you at providing feedback? Cheales states that if service providers don’t have a specific strategy to receive feedback from their consumers, their competitors are likely to come in and steal us away as products on the market become more identical, with level of service as the only differentiating factor. Cheales says that far too many people looking for a new strategy rather speak of the result than of the relationship and suggests holding onto the five key bullets of success. Added value is the first of these, not necessarily in terms of value for money, but rather in the differentiating features from your competitors. He says, “I want to buy from you the person, not you the organisation,” so individuals need to think, “I will be an army of one and sort it out for you,” and replace ‘we’ with ‘I’ in your business vocabulary.
Cheales explained that the places we return to repeatedly are the ones that offer added value, not necessarily the cheapest price. Think of being recognised and greeted by name when you walk into a restaurant, being taken to your favourite table, which makes you feel welcome, important and part of the family. Cheales spoke of the importance of this ‘club membership’ mentality, and for businesses to position themselves as ‘a leader of the club’. He says the more ‘clubbish’ you can make your business, the more successful you can be, as we hate being customers of a business and would rather be a member of a club. We become members of clubs as we are social and like interaction based on common interest, so use the tricks of clubs – send out newsletters and hold informal get-togethers to make consumers feel part of it.
Cheales’ second point rested on providing an overall quality experience, based on customer delight; adding that “boardrooms only serve to make people bored” so formal meetings should be banned. He spoke of the frustration of never being able to get hold of anybody as they are always in meetings, and recommends not having meetings during office hours “as it’s rude”, adding that those who are always late are also rude, recommending that they simply leave earlier so as to never be late again.
As a business, Cheales says you should ask how you can make your customers smile as this has a direct correlation with making money, so you should give your customers something, no matter how small, to create a quality threshold and make them smile. Ask them what they think of when they make contact with you. He says, “To hell with ‘cubicle slavery’ and ‘zero defects’, go radical.” This is all based on the ‘what do I think of when doing business with you?’ question. Cheales also recommends that businesses share their experiences, not just about the service and product, adding that consumers want to contact someone and for someone to get back to them if they make a query. He explains, “You give me that, I will be your customer for life.”
His third point centres around providing superior service by over-delivering and under-promising, which is an inverse of the norm. He recommends that we deliver the truth and “ban the same old, lame old stories”. Rather speak of what you have done recently that is remarkable and accumulate ‘gold nuggets of delight’ for your customers by emphasising the intangibles as we are all sick of over-promise and under delivery. As an example, Cheales said that pilots now talk to us when we take a flight, using a proactive rather than reactive approach. He adds that customers should only have to tell you something once, thereafter the communication is in your hands. Customers want the information, but remember that how you deliver it is sometimes ‘not great’.
Cheales’ fourth bullet of success is ‘lightning response’ – be specific and make use of self-imposed penalties (SIP), which are becoming all the rage worldwide, as well as making use of a ‘joint task force’ approach. Your most powerful marketing weapon is the SIP, which works by telling people ‘I will do it for you by ...’ and then exceeding expectations by delivering early, as that’s what we are buying into today, if you think of the amount of pizza delivery chains that offer a certain time limit to deliver your order hot. He also spoke of a restaurant in Budapest that used an hourglass – if the salts run to the bottom and you haven’t received the food you have ordered, it is free. Cheales also recommends taking responsibility: you handle it, don’t transfer to another department (this is the ‘joint task force’ he spoke of). Think to yourself how you can wake your consumers up and get them to say ‘wow’.
His last point is that of comfort. Make your customer feel comfortable that you will deliver what you promise. He explains that we have all been invited to thousands of social functions where we have to wait around; some we hate, while some we love and have a great time at. Cheales feels the reason for this lies not in the event itself, but rather in the ‘rudeness’ of the host/hostess if they haven’t taken the time to introduce us to other guests and make us feel at home. The same thing happens in business, where we walk into shops and are ignored or the salespeople keep on talking. We wait while they do their ‘VIW’ (very important work). He recommends that we never do business with someone who won’t give out their cellphone number or anyone with a great big mission statement hanging from the wall littered with phrases such as ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’, stating “if you see it, get out of there as soon as you can.” We are not interested in arrogance, we want to buy the fun, the passion that drips from every pore when interacting as you love your work. Cheales sums up that enthusiasm and determination to make a difference really do, as highly successful people want to leave behind a legacy of excellence.
His final words of advice were: “Don’t mess around; start now; do something; the most powerful, significant brand for you to work on is ‘brand me’.” We have had it with people who don’t read or do research, you need to constantly update your brand and think about the footprint you are leaving behind right now and what are people saying about you. He ended by playing the title song from Cheers where ‘everybody knows your name’, saying “have fun to get me back for more.”