Monthly Archives: February 2011

Customer Experience Heroes: Mr Collins the one legged baker

As a poor student I would visit our local baker, Mr Collins, to buy bread.  He was a kindly soul who’d lost a leg doing battle in the desert and remarkably had a wooden prosthetic. This would clunk on the floor as he walked around his bakery like a flour-covered pirate, carrying trays of hot bread, pies and buns whilst engaging in friendly banter with his regular customers. I’d always try to arrive just before closing time because that was when he reduced prices in order to sell the last of his stock for the day.  We’d have a brief chat and if there were any buns left he’d slip one into the bag for good measure.  How good I’d feel tucking into an iced finger bun on my walk home. 

Even though I have no doubt Mr Collins had never heard the phrase ‘customer experience’, he was a natural. 
  1. I was able to buy a great product at a great price.  Collins’ Bakery identified the needs of his student customer and offered products and prices to match (often personalised to how much money I had left in my pocket).
  2. He always took time to engage with me… note I say ‘me’!  We had a fleeting but personal relationship which he valued, as I did.  There was always an acknowledgement as I entered his shop. When it was my turn to be served we would have a chat.  It never inconvenienced anyone else in the queue; in fact each conversation amused the other customers while they waited.
  3. Mr Collins was remarkable, different, someone you could talk about to your mates.  This meant everyone knew him and made an effort to buy from Collins’ Bakery rather than the supermarket across the road.  Which raises the question; do we make the experience we give our customers ‘remarkable’?  Something they might comment upon.  Much has been talked about the importance of recommendation in recent years but in order to help people recommend your product or service it has to be remarkable, people need something to talk about, otherwise why would they bring it up in conversation?
  4. I got free buns, not every time but sometimes, which made me feel special.

Why not do something ‘remarkable’ today for your customer?  Give them buns.


Great inspiration from ‘Bad Birdwatching’

When Simon Barnes wrote ‘How to be a Bad Birdwatcher’ he produced an excellent introduction to bird watching.  It has also become one of my all time inspirational books.  No, no, bear with me here, let me explain.

As usual I was an hour early for a meeting and was therefore killing time in a bookshop. As I perused the titles, occasionally skimming their contents, I came across an unassuming book with a line drawing of a bird on the front; its title ‘How to be a Bad Birdwatcher’.  I had no interest in birdwatching so only gave it a cursory glance. As I continued to browse, for some reason this dismissive act bothered me and I went back and took it off the shelf for a second time.

A moment of epiphany?  Not quite! I rationalised that having no interest whatsoever in birdwatching I couldn’t justify spending the cover price and left the shop. But, it continued bothering me.

In fact it bothered me for two weeks until one Saturday I made a special trip to a bookshop and purposefully sought out this mysterious tome.  As I left with my copy I couldn’t understand why I felt so compelled to buy this book. 

The upshot is that it is a great book about birdwatching and as I sit here typing this blog I keep glancing out of the window, looking for unusual ornithological passers-by.  This hasn’t changed my life… honestly!

The tenet of the book is that all around us are birds.  How often do we notice them? They’re always there and easy to spot.  The point is how often we fail to notice them.  Most people will go through their day without noticing the birds around them.  This created one of those great analogies. 

Ideas are the same. We are often blind to that great idea which can make our lives, nay, everyone’s lives better.  How often do they flit into view but we don’t notice them? What if like me, you walked with your head up looking for ideas to come into view.  You became like the bad birdwatcher – someone who enjoys observing whatever comes your way.  You never know what inspiration that might bring.

I’ve told this story at many conferences, but it comes with a warning.  For those of you who now rush to buy this life-changing book, it is about birdwatching, that in itself can distract you from spotting ideas.  Hey, a lesser-spotted woodpecker on my bird feeder… sorry, got to go