In The Spotlight

At Messages On Hold, each department has its specialty, whether that be writing, sales, voicing productions or keeping the finances in check. But when it comes to customer interaction, everyone is responsible for controlling the variables that make the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. The same principle applies at restaurants.

I love pizza, and I was understandably excited when I got the chance to eat at one of Perth’s most exciting and hyped new eateries, which happens to specialise in this particularly delicious genre of comfort food.

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior...

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior…

It exceeded my expectations. The pizza was beautiful – wood-fired and topped with fresh ingredients, along with a herby sauce that provided a welcome twist in what is traditionally a by-the-book dish. Even the non-pizza items and desserts were impressive.  What’s more, service was friendly, knowledgeable and casual. In a nutshell, it was all perfect… except for one thing: the lighting.

A single light illuminated our table – and I’m talking a football stadium-esque spotlight, not the ambient mood lighting you might expect from most restaurants.  Bizarrely, the spotlight was angled in such a way that it shone both directly into my eyes and onto my cutlery before reflecting back up into my face.

The restaurant is a casual place, so perhaps high-end ambient lighting would be inappropriate. However, while it might be unreasonable to expect the team in charge of a casual restaurant to be experts in interior design, all eateries should be aiming to deliver excellent food with top service in an environment that’s comfortable to eat in, and it should be easy to do!

If I was in charge, I’d simply think about how I’d want to be treated. I can safely say that “having a bright light shone in my eyes for the duration of a meal” would not be on the list.

I’m a copywriter – I primarily write scripts. But I’m also well aware of the fact that I’m responsible for creating a superb overall customer experience on behalf of my company, which involves far more than writing a quality script… kind of like running a successful restaurant is about more than quality food.

Have you ever thought about the accidental spotlights you might be shining in your clients’ eyes that are dimming an otherwise bright customer experience? What can you do to ensure your customers see your company in the best possible light?

– Magnus

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

Say “Hai” To Customer Service

What an eye-opening trip! I’ve just returned from Japan again and, as always, I’m in awe of their customer service culture. It’s not just businesses practicing great customer service either; their entire culture is built upon respect. Almost everyone I came into contact understood “polite”. They were all well presented and had a genuine desire to want to help.

The presentation of the cab drivers was immaculate; collared shirts, ties, gloves and in some case a jacket! You rarely see that in Australia.

The second ‘ah-ha’ moment came one morning while I was in the lobby of theConrad Hotel. While I was standing there, I observed the front office manager watching the check-out procedure. After speaking with him, he offered me this pearl of wisdom “the check out procedure is just as important as the check in.” Now how many businesses can you think of that place an equal amount of importance on the final stages of a transaction as they do on the early stages of a sale?

What’s more, how many managers or business owners do you think take the time to just observe their processes? It’s this unwavering attention to detail that sets customer service in Japan eons ahead of the world.

Here’s another example. I’d paid for my purchase at a boutique when the team member emerged from behind the counter and handed me my bag with a bow. The whole process wasn’t rushed or strained – at that moment I was her only focus. I remember Deb at the Nautica store on the Gold Coast presenting my purchases by stepping out from behind the counter and it had a profound impact purely because nobody does it! Brilliant.

Hours after touching down in Perth I was back in the office to share my experiences with my team, finding ways we can further integrate this kind of attentive service into Messages On Hold’s culture. So the question I put to you is: what’s your ‘come out from behind the counter’ moment? What do you do in your business that leaves your customers thinking “wow, that was different”?

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.

Time Trials – Marketing Tribulations

Targa West is a three-and-a-half day tarmac rally around Perth. I entered my Mitsubishi Evo 9 in the event and was delighted to finish 21st out of 53 competitors. The reason I bring this up is because something marvellous happened as a result of me entering the rally.

You see, I installed 5 cameras in the car and recorded the 30 special stages. Each day my team would edit the vision and upload it to (check out all the videos here)

The marvellous bit? Well, along the top I ran a web address – a link to a viral video that explains Messages On Hold in a fun way. Within hours of posting the first video, I started to see motoring people going to the “donaldtrump” site after spotting the address on the racing video. It’s impossible not to see it. As a result, we saw increased web traffic and additional sales.

It would have been easier for me to just stick some logos on the car (which I had) and leave it at that. But by investing money and time in producing high-quality, multi-camera racing footage and getting it out to the masses quickly, I reaped a reward.

The quirky site name was a definite attention grabber. I know this because all weekend people involved in the rally would ask me what it’s all about and in marketing terms, you know you’re on a winner when people ask you to tell them about what you’re selling.