Customer Service Hangover

I just returned from a long weekend in Bali, Indonesia. The place is a tropical paradise – it’s devastatingly beautiful there, and the people, equally so. I spent just four days and three nights there and during my brief sojourn I was blown away by the level of customer service I experienced.

From the moment I stepped foot off the plane and into Ngurah Rai airport I was greeted by smiling friendly faces directing me where to go. Upon leaving the airport, I was met by my hotel driver, Jumbo. He welcomed me to his beautiful country, put a lei around my neck and cracked a few jokes. He showed genuine interest in where I was from, what I wanted to do while in Bali and offered a myriad of suggestions of things to do during my stay.hotel-staff

He noted that my hotel room would not be ready until 2pm – two hours from when I arrived. Rather than leaving me to languish in the lobby, he offered to drive me around Bali and show me some of the sights. The most notable venue was the home of Luwak Coffee – a coffee that has been eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet. For the record, it’s very smooth and delicious. Take a moment to pause and think: when was the last time you received this level of service in Australia?

Another customer service triumph was in a local restaurant. The waitress had just finished serving another patron when I caught her attention. She walked over and I asked her if I could place an order. She said “Certainly, just let me grab my order pad”. Now in Australia, I probably wouldn’t see the waitress for another 10-15 minutes. Before I could roll my eyes, she had returned ready to take my order. It sounds small, but this kind of on-the-ball service is a rarity.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: my hotel’s ‘breakfast box’. Staying in Santi Mandala in Ubud, I was a good hour away from the airport. My departing flight to Perth was due to leave at 7am, so I had to be up and out the door at 5am. One of the reception staff noticed this when I checked in and arranged a small box filled with breakfast goods for me to eat on my way to the airport as the restaurant would not be open this early. I was blown away. I didn’t have to ask for it or even hint at it. It was simply provided. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression and here I am telling you about it.

Bali is a beautiful place and it’s made more beautiful by its kind, giving people. They’re always smiling and always so happy to have you in their country. The pride they have in their country, their work and their culture is what lifts the experience into the upper echelons of customer service mastery. They give more but with so much less, which begs the question: what can you do to bring this sort of attentive service into your business?

– Lachy

Life Through The Lens

What started out as a hobby has become a full blown passion for our Managing Director Kym Illman.

“I like art but can’t paint, so I chose photography” says Kym. “Just the sheer diversity of what can be produced via a camera – you could wait four hours for a shot.”

He’s good too. Real good. He had several photographs make it into the West Australian Newspaper, including the one pictured here and another showing the moon in great detail resting atop Perth’s highest skyscraper. Cats

You could say this is a natural progression for a man who’s notorious for getting in front of the camera with his ambush marketing stunts.

“I love the reaction of the viewer to a breathtaking shot”

His shots are available for purchase on a choice of media and start from as little as US$250. Head over to Kym Illman Photography and browse his portfolio of stunning images, which range from the majesty of Africa to the beachside lifestyle of Lancelin, WA.

– Lachy

Customer Service is Alive, Well and in Ginza

On a recent trip to Japan I was flabbergasted by the quality of customer service. I knew Japan’s great reputation, and I had high expectations, yet they were exceeded every single day. And boy did my credit card feel the full front of this effect.

Search the internet and you’ll find millions of people sharing their anecdotes of the unprecedented kindness they received from strangers in Tokyo, and I have my fair share of these stories too. A business man in the lobby of my hotel helped me purchase a stamp and then took it upon himself to post the card. Outside the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall after a sumo wrestling tournament I was singled out of a crowd of thousands and given a traditional bag of souvenirs by a fellow spectator. The woman explained to me that she had two and handed me a beautifully gift-wrapped bag of sumo chocolates, snacks and china bowls. Talk about a random act of kindness.

This is what generosity looks like

This is what generosity looks like

But what really charmed me was the Tokyo shopping experience… and how much of my savings I was willing to part with in the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

I am still embarrassed by the amount of money I spent on a designer hand-knitted jumper. But I don’t feel any of the usual buyer’s remorse or guilt. Why? Because the whole shopping experience was so beautiful I have nothing but happy memories of the day. From the staff who wrapped our umbrellas in plastic covers as we walked in, to being greeted by everyone as we walked around, and the actual purchase; everyone made me feel special and looked after. The woman who helped me took the clothes I had selected, placed them in the changing rooms, took them off the hanger and handed them to me. She stayed nearby to help with sizing, complimented me and then kept my selection behind the counter until I was ready to purchase.

At one point during that fruitful-shopping day, I went to make a call and came across a message I had sent a friend a month ago after being frustrated with Perth’s department store alternative to Ginza; “Customer service is dead, this is why everyone shops online.” Yes it was a little dramatic but after spending 15 minutes trying to find someone to take my money for the suitcase I had chosen without any help, I was a little disheartened. Reading this text message while standing the stunning department store I was struck with how different I had felt a month ago standing in Perth. A mere 30 days ago I was determined that everything I wanted I would just buy online because the in-store shopping experience left a lot to be desired.

Sure online shopping is convenient and cheap, but this trip to Ginza opened my eyes to a new level of customer service that’s the future of retail. Was my jumper available online? Yes. Was it convenient getting to Ginza? Well there was a snow storm in Tokyo that day, but I was determined.

And here’s the simple, probably unsurprising moral of the story: if my experience is anything to go by, people will be willing to walk through a blizzard and spend %*$&!# yen on a jumper, if staff are courteous, helpful, and kind to you. And it’s as simple as that.

– Emily

The Election 2010 News Report That’s All About YOU!

In late May I started work on an Australian Election viral video that’s just gone live at I was delighted when ex-A Current Affair reporter John Mort agreed to front the mock news report and I was doubly delighted that 6PR talkback host Howard Sattler and celebrity agent Max Markson agreed to appear.

Initially, we sent it to a select group of media followed shortly after by 90,000 Messages On Hold clients and opt-in recipients who’d enjoyed our previous offerings e.g.

This project involved more than 20 people and 400 man hours with all production carried out in-house. Luckily we recorded a Rudd and Gillard version. In fact, we had the Rudd version ready to go and had to re-edit when he was ousted. We did however miss one thing in this regard – maybe you can pick up the oversight. We also had our original domain rescinded by the government without explanation, bastards!

So, what do we at Messages On Hold get out of this type of project? Firstly, good will. People just love seeing their name on screen and anything we can give people that they deem worthy of sharing with others is just fantastic by all accounts. Secondly, brand awareness. World’s Greatest Business Mind has been viewed by millions to date and with your help I think this election video will go equally viral. And thirdly it generates business. Already a significant number of people have clicked through to our infomercial on the right of the replay screen, many of whom request a free demo after viewing the infomercial before going on to say YES to Messages On Hold for their business.

Thanks for your interest in reading this far. The only thing that’s left now is to see it for yourself!

Flashing For A Good Cause

It’s that time of year again… Christmas lights time of year that is! This is my second most favourite time of the year; there’s cheer in the air, everyone’s spirits are high, cricket is on the telly and I get to dress the house up like a Las Vegas casino.

For the last two years I’ve doused the front yard with thousands of LEDs to create a little bit of magic in my neighbourhood. It’s no cake walk either, when you consider that last year’s effort comprised more than 5kms of cabling, 40,000 environmentally-friendly LEDs, 176 channels of synchronised music and Australias largest privately-owned illuminated Christmas tree.

So why do I do it? The simple answer is because its fun. The complex answer is its a creative outlet that provides funds for a good cause. It’s not just our place that gets into the spirit either, our neighbours join in too. And in the true spirit of Christmas, we were able to give something back to people who need it most. In 2007 we raised $12,000 for the Princess Margaret Childrens Foundation, and then in 2008 we doubled that figure!

If you’ve not seen the footage from last year, view it here. Over the past 2 years, these videos have been viewed more than 400,000 times. It’s even better when you drive past and tune your car radio in to our special FM frequency.

Sure, it would be easier not to spend 500 hours on the Christmas Lights. But when I step back and view the light show and watch the endless stream of neighbours, young and old, wander down to our home, I forget about the effort required. Oh, and I reckon the Perth’s Children’s Hopsital can bank on $30k from those to drop by this year.

The Spin King and I

As the owner of a marketing company I attend a range of conferences, seminars, social and client functions every year. If you were to pick any one of those events, I can guarantee that after the formalities, one of the first question asked of me is “What made you pick Shane Warne as your company’s ambassador?”

Shane Warne is arguably the most recognised sports personality in Australia, but he’s also been one of the most controversial. So why would any company choose to sponsor a sporting personality/renegade/rule-breaker to raise brand awareness? It’s simple really, when Warnie talks, people listen.

It was 2005 when I began searching for a prominent sporting personality to sponsor and by the end of my search I had narrowed it down to two: Ben Cousins and Shane Warne. Shane was embroiled in controversy at the time and a number of marketing people told me to go with the safe choice – Ben Cousins. I approached Ben and asked him what he’d want to be the face and voice of Messages On Hold, but never heard back from him. A few weeks later I attended a Test Match dinner at Perth’s Hyatt Hotel where I collared Shane on the way to the men’s toilets and gave him a note offering him some cash to do some voice recordings.

I knew we’d put some people off-side by sponsoring Shane, but I figured I’m never going to do business with every organisation or person in the country, so what’s the point in trying to please everyone? This is where, I believe, most businesses fall short – they’re simply too frightened to try things that might alienate people.

We secured $1.8m of media exposure the day we launched with Warnie. It was like winning the “marketing lottery”. Since then we’ve used Shane in numerous unorthodox and creative ways – e.g. “Warnie’s Words of Wisdom“. Messages On Hold clients and prospects sometimes receive a personalised voicemail message from the great man. They hear Shane greet them by name and play the entire message to their friends and associates, at the same time promoting our brand – bless them for that!