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Boring businesses are boring because they’ve chosen to be. All the businesses we know are run by really nice people. Fun people. Funny people, even. So why is it that when the word ‘business’ enters the room, things can all too often get a little stuffy and dull? Well, business doesn’t have to be boring. Everything changes when you ‘think further’. And instead of asking ‘why?’ – you ask, ‘why not’?
There’s a strong business case for having fun. Being open. Relaxing. And perhaps even being funny. People like fun, open, relaxed and funny-minded people. So does it not follow that they’ll like fun, open, relaxed and funny-minded businesses too? So long as they deliver on their brand a business promise of course.
Out of order.
Here’s an example.
The vending machine in your reception is broken. So Peter in reception makes a sign as soon as he notices. That’s excellent of course because it’s informing your visitors of what’s what. The sign is informing them that, unfortunately, there’s a wait for their next Snickers Bar or packet of Wotsits.
So Peter grabs his Sharpie, a sheet of trusty (soon-to-be-curly-cornered) 80gsm paper, one of those heavy Sellotape holders that you can just about lift with one hand – and away he goes:
“OUT OF ORDER”
One strip of Sellotape across the top. One across the bottom. Job done. Except all Peter has achieved with his ugly, lazy, scrawled and – let’s face it – downright bad-mannered sign is to shout in big, black block capitals, “OUT OF ORDER!” - into the frowning faces of today’s snack-seeking visitors. And that’s rubbish.
Alternatively, receptionist Peter could take an extra five minutes to pick up a sheet of company letterhead and type the following. Neatly and in the house style and font:
“Aargh. I’m broken!
(Not emotionally. I’m a vending machine. I’m just not working today).
If you simply must have one of those Snickers you’re staring at through the glass right now.
Please see Peter at reception.
(And hey. Pssst!
Peter’s authorised by Phil to give the first 10 Snickers away.
No money. For free. But you didn’t hear it from me, OK?)
Maintenance advised at: 10.30am, 12/03/20. Our apologies. ‘Not be long.”
Now, I don’t know about you.
But if I saw a sign like that, a strange thing would happen.
“Hang on. They just told me something that should be working is not working. And I don’t mind a bit. I’m smiling. And I like them for telling me. Nice!”
And all because Peter didn’t do what was expected. Peter thought further. Peter wasn’t being boring.
Here is a real case in point of this kind of non-boring, thinking-further approach to business. Paddy Power has grown from a standing start in 1988 to become one of the top five gambling sites in the UK. And sometimes, when you phone them, they’re too busy to speak to you. This happens to a lot of busy brands I suppose.
But not many of them do what Paddy Power do. And you can experience it for yourself.
Call Paddy Power’s Customer Support line on 0800 056 5275. And hope that they are too busy to speak to you. Because if they are busy, there’s a lovely (recorded) Irish guy that chats on about what you can do whilst you’re waiting.
“Eat a slice of toast.”
“Make a cup of tea.”
“Listen to your favourite tune.”
“Except if it’s Bohemian Rhapsody.”
He quips in his fine Irish drawl.
“Because we’d hope to be here to help you much quicker ‘dan dat.”
(And he really does stress the ‘dan dat’ bit).
Boring, Boring Business.
Even though the Irish fellow at Paddy Power is just a recording.
And even though he’s telling me that everyone at Paddy Power is too busy to speak to me.
I just like the thought they’ve put into it.
Because even though a business cannot always give everyone what they want.
They can make the effort to help them to understand why and to try their best to make them feel OK about it.
So in summary, don’t be a boring, boring business.
All you have to remember is what Peter the receptionist (the second version) and the recorded Irish chap at Paddy Power already know. That if you want to build a trusted, enduring, thoughtful, consistent and thoroughly likeable business and brand. Then the only thing that matters – is everything.