New Year, New Challenge – Keeping your Customers Loyal

I love this post from the, written by Joe Callaway, 10 Steps to Keeping your Customers Loyal. As we’re starting 2010 after a difficult 2009, I’m sure most businesses out there are thinking and planning on how to make this year a bit better and more profitable than last.

My favourite of the 10 Steps is Number 6:

Make it the first six weeks again. The first six weeks of any relationship are magical.  Everyone loves everyone. Gestures of appreciation are made on a regular basis. Then it starts to get old. We don’t try as hard anymore to make a great impression. Go back to that first six weeks. Make it magical again.

Pretty apt for the New Year, don’t you think?

I particularly like this because it has been my opinion that many Irish businesses are stuck in a dangerous loop where once they’ve captured a customers money, they instantly forget about that customer and move on to attract another different customer. They engage in “week 1” activities to get the customer in and get their money, but then don’t even move on to trying to retain the customer.

These businesses are forgoing trying to build any customer loyalty whatsoever. It strikes me that businesses are damaging their prospects by treating all their customers as “once off transactions” rather than potential loyal (and profitable) customers.

I can safely say that there are very few places in Dublin where I give return business because of the efforts of the business itself and not just because it’s handy.

How about you? Do you have “regular” places that you go – say for your shopping, or your lunch – where you’re made feel welcome every time you go back?


Setting 2010 Financial Priorities – Hierarchy of Needs (and Spending)

I wrote yesterday about setting a financial priority for yourself for 2010, and how your spending during the coming year should be focused on how you can meet that financial requirement in 12 months time. I’m going to expand on my thinking on that topic in this post.

Hierarchy of Needs

Before I go on, please remember though, that this purely relates to how you’re spending (or not spending) your money – your other personal aims and ambitions, wants and desires, are not within my considerations here.

However, we could get some inspiration in how to manage our 2010 spending from the psychology of Abraham Maslows Hierarchy of Needs.

You can read more about the Hierarchy of Needs here, but for my purposes here’s a brief explanation:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.

ValueIrelands Hierarchy of Spending

Extrapolating from Maslows Hierarchy when it comes to our financial outgoings and priorities, we could see our hierarchy of spending as follows:

Here, once we have spent a proportion of our earnings on meeting our physiological and safety needs (food, accommodation, health and education), we are left with a balance of money that can be spent on discretionary items – that is, we have a choice on where to spend that money.

I appreciate that for many people, the proportions of money spent on physiological and safety expenses versus that available for discretionary spending may differ from the diagram above, but I hope you understand the principle.

Discretionary Spend

And for 2010 then, if you’ve decided upon a Financial Target for the year, how will you manage your discretionary spend to help meet that target?

If you decide that you need €10,000 to pay for a childs day care or education in 2011, will spending €1,000 on a new TV in the January sales help you towards that target, or would that €1,000 in the bank bring you 10% closer in one fell swoop?

Would €45 per month on Sky Sports help, or would that money being paid into a regular savers account help get you 5.5% closer to your target by the years end? Every little helps remember.

Keeping Track

Project managers will always tell you that targets and objectives must always be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Deciding on a financial target for yourself for 2010 is a very SMART, and smart, objective.

  • Specific – save money during the year to pay for (your chosen) objective
  • Measurable – I need (your monetary amount) of money to do this
  • Achievable / Realistic – whatever your target is for the year must be something that you can actually do – no point planning on buying a house in the south of France if you’re just about covering your regular mortgage payments at the moment
  • Timely – you have a year, all 365 days and 12 or 24 or 52 pay checks of 2010, to do this

If you’re saving money to meet your target for 2010, it would be a good idea to set yourself up some sort of savings account specifically for this purpose.

This account should be where you send all your saved money for the year, and ideally it should be quite difficult to make withdrawals – reduces the temptation to dip into any pot of money you may gather during the year.

Inspiration will everywhere at the moment

From this point on, you can take inspiration from all the tips, techniques and suggestions that we’ll see published in the coming days and weeks across many media formats.

All of those articles will give you inspiration for the many different small things (reduce mobile phone bill, save money by switching electricity providers, save money by bringing sandwiches to work, and so on and on) that you can do to help you go about meeting your ultimate target for the year 2010.


New Year, New Priorities – Welcome to 2010

Firstly, I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all readers. I very much appreciate you visiting this site, commenting and e-mailing in suggestions.

Now that we’re in the first days of a new year, 2010, you’re going to be bombarded everywhere you turn – radio, television, newspapers, magazines, websites, and so on – with financial and consumer tips for the coming year.

In fairness, I did that myself last year, and to be fair there is a lot of merit in many of the articles produced (copied and pasted) at this time of year.

However, for 2010, I’m going to take a slightly different approach with a simple message and theme that you may, or may not, appreciate when it comes to your personal finances and how you behave as a consumer for the year ahead.

Message for 2010 – Set a Financial Target

And the key to having a financial target is that you don’t spend any money on anything during 2010 unless it’s going to help you achieve exactly what it is that you want by the end of the year.

So, whether you want to move house, or buy a new car, or go on a big long holiday, or carry out some home improvements, or pay for your childrens education, or more crucially for some, to pay off credit cards, loans or mortgage arrears, or to simply to build up a savings nest egg or pension, you should only spend your money in a way that will bring you closer to achieving that specific aim.

Check back here tomorrow where I’ll expand on this a little more. In the meantime, if you haven’t any definitive financial target for 2010, maybe you could start thinking about one.


Make your Manky nominations for shoddy Irish products and services

Recently, I wrote about the Australian Consumer Choice Shonky awards. In the absence of anything similar here in Ireland, I thought we could come up with our own Manky Awards.

You can click here to read the rest of yesterdays post.

Is there any product or service that you had the misfortune of encountering during 2009 which you think deserves a Manky award?

Post comments below and we’ll see where this goes.


Make your Manky nominations for shoddy Irish products and services

Yesterday, I wrote about the Australian Consumer Choice Shonky awards. In the absence of anything similar here in Ireland, I thought we could come up with our own Manky Awards.

You can click here to read the rest of yesterdays post.

Is there any product or service that you had the misfortune of encountering during 2009 which you think deserves a Manky award?

Post comments below and we’ll see where this goes.


Australian Consumer Organisation awards “Shonkys” for substandard products

Every year, the Australian consumer organisation, Consumer Choice, awards what they call their Shonky Awards. A Shonky is awarded to companies who provide Australian consumers with substandard products and services throughout the year.

You can see a report on the 2009 Shonkys Awards in this newspaper article, If it’s shonky, then it’s a worthy lemon. The article is worth checking out, if only for the video at the start. The full Consumer Choice report on the awards and the winners is available here.

The awards handed out were as follows:

  • Plugging Stuff and Nonsense goes to Reegen Micro-Plug
  • Cheese-Fearing Surrender Monkey goes to Tiffany FP807 Food processor
  • Water at What Price? goes to Chef’s Cupboard and Massel liquid stocks
  • Honey (Oat crisp), I shrunk the groceries goes to Uncle Toby Oat Crisp Honey cereal
  • Blinding us with dodgy science goes to L’Oréal Elvive
  • Profit Protection Insurance goes to the Credit protection insurance industry
  • Sky high surcharges goes to Qantas and Tiger Airways
  • Teleconfusication goes to Tel.pacific phone cards

I think this is a fantastic scheme. It’d be great if we could have something similar here in Ireland. You wouldn’t have to think hard over many of those categories to come up with some Irish nominees.

We could call them the Mankys. Anyone like to have a go with their nominations? Or maybe we should have our own particularly Irish nominations?

Post a comment below.


A-Wear – more sterling to euro exchange rate rip-offs

I just want to air my grievances at the price difference between stg and euro with A-Wear stores. For example I see “military gold button day dress” is £30stg but €40 in this store to buy in ireland? This is charge 67p to €1? How can they justify in recessionary times to charge that much extra to buy in ireland vs uk?

The current exchange rate is 87p to €1.

I would be grateful if you would publish this on your website to highlight this to as many people as possible. I have written to their head office also but would like to advise ppl in ireland of this so they can vote with their feet until Awear reduce their prices !


Management Company Issues – ODCE might have to act for once

Lately, I received a few e-mails from a reader who was having problems with their management company. Have a read through:

I just wanted to ask you about what you said on the site about MA’s – “The Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement – nope, as I’ve personally found, they won’t do anything.”

I’m having a problem with my MA currently, are the ODCE really as useless as you say and do you know any official route to report problems with a MA with?

This was my first response. There wasn’t really enough information – plus, as sometimes happens, there seems to have been some confusion between the management agent and the management company.

Without knowing the details, if your problem is specifically with a managing agent, then the ODCE do not have any responsibilities at all.

They claim to only have responsibilities with regards to the specific legalities if jow a management company is run – though that’s where I found them unwilling to act and therefore ultimately useless.

There is unfortunately no regulator in place to oversee the running of a managing agent.

The only way to try to address any issues is to work with them directly.

The reader followed up with a further e-mail indicating that they actually did have a problem with the management company, and that, even though this should fall within the remit of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, they again said that it wasn’t their problem.

Thanks for your response. I contacted the ODCE and they told me the same.

However, what happened in our development is a few residents, who were runnning the residents committee, became directors of the management company (nominated themselves, and then seconded), fired the previous management agent and appointed themselves the management agent – I have very sketchy info about how they did this. Indeed, only a few months previous to this, they had put themselves up in front of members to be voted as the new MA and were rejected, but seemed to have found some way (legal or not) to take over.

These residents who are now in charge are themselves employed in the property industry, which I also find is a conflict of interest (they let apartments in the development and seem to prioritise the needs of renters).

Again, there is a little blurring of the lines here between the management agents and the management company. A management agent is normally a company appointed by the management company who would carry out all the maintenance and repairs on an estate.

It is possible for a management company to take on these responsibilities themselves – they can hire the gardeners, arrange for the bins to be collected, and so on – without the need for a management agent company. So, there’s nothing wrong with this.

Nor, given how Ireland operates in general, would there be anything wrong with the directors of the management company being involved otherwise in the property industry – as long as they are entitled to be members of the management company in the first place – i.e. they own properties in the development.

Where I would follow up in this situation is to get clarity from the management company as to how these particular individuals took over and became directors of the management company- i.e. how was the estate handed over by the developers to these individuals.

All information on this takeover of the management company will need to have been minuted at management company board meetings – including any terms of the handover.

If this information isn’t readily available from the current management company directors, then this is definitely something that the ODCE would be responsibility to assist the rest of the members (shareholders) of the management company i.e. the rest of the residents.


O2 Grafton Street – 60 minutes for a 10 minute transaction

Recently, I spent nearly an hour in one of the infamous O2 stores on Grafton Street in Dublin. My Nokia E51 had lost its mind, and I needed to get it repaired, or preferably a straight replacement.

After waiting in the queue they now get their customers to form for about 30mins, Derek finally nodded his head my way and asked what he could do for me.

The phone would need to be sent off for repair, he said. Fair enough, but I’d need a replacement. No problems, he said, while asking for a proof of purchase for the phone.

Don’t have one, I said. Oh, but you need one, he said, or else the O2 repair people will just send the phone back without doing anything to it.

Well, I don’t have one, but if you check your computer under my phone number, you’ll see that I bought the phone from an O2 store in January of this year. Chancing my arm, I said that since it was in warranty and if the repair people were going to be so pernickety, then maybe he could just get me a replacement.

Derek went off to his computer and 10 minutes later he came back acknowledging that he had the information, the proof of purchase, in his computer.

After going away into their little back room, he came back with the replacement phone, and after another 15 minutes of trying to register the loan phone to me in their computer system, it was all sorted.

A whole hour just for me to go in to leave in a phone to be repaired.

Moral of the story: you don’t have to have a proof of purchase when you go into the O2 store (assuming you did actually buy phone from O2 and not somewhere else), no matter what they say to you. Their computer system (albeit very slowly) will have the information linking your phone number to the IMEI of the phone, and then to the time and date when you bought the phone.

You don’t even have to have bought the phone in that same O2 store as the information is held centrally so the employees in one store can work out what’s been bought in another.


Readers E-mail – Irish Attitudes

This e-mail came through from a reader of some time ago. What do you think? Agree, disagree?

I am very concerned with the growing attitude that seems to be gripping the country. I have had numerous discussions with consumers over the past month regarding the growing imports from the UK within the grocery sector. It appears many consumers do not understand the importance of supporting Irish companies and Irish products. In fact some of the consumers I have spoken to think only about the price and not as to where the product came from or whether it was supplied by an Irish supplier. They simply do not care about the jobs being lost in Ireland as a result of goods being imported that were previously sourced through Irish companies.

My obvious concerns are for the financial stability of the local and Irish economy. Job losses appear to be accepted as part and parcel of this recession. Why should this be the case? Every person in Ireland has the ability to change this trend. It is as simple as supporting Irish companies and products. Yes I accept Irish products tend to be more expensive. This is due to the higher costs incurred in producing the product. If the Irish consumer wishes to retain the ability to buy Irish goods then it is vital to ensure the consumer is educated as to the benefits of buying and supporting Irish goods and companies.

Irish companies are lifeblood of each and every community. They provide the majority of funding for social welfare payments, public sector pay etc. etc.

The upcoming budget will provide a tough test for this government. One that will cause much upheaval in many households throughout Ireland. The government predict it will take 4 years to balance the spending between expenditure and tax revenue. With the help of each and every person in Ireland by supporting Irish businesses and products we can shorten this time span and make Ireland a much better and profitable place to live.

Ireland pre 2000 was a country built with great pride in the quality of Irish products and great support was given to Irish products. Unfortunately times have changed for the worse and the focus on lower prices has now encouraged UK and other companies in Ireland to source their goods from the UK and mainland Europe. This money is going out of the Irish economy and benefiting foreign economies. the loss of these funds are causing job losses, pay cuts, and what could be poorer public services.

The latter is a very sensitive subject at present. Many public sector workers are aggrieved with how they feel they are being singled out for the position the country is in at present. This is very unfair on the frontline staff. The lower paid if you will. They do not deserve to be treated with disrespect. Although any position of employment within the public sector is a much more favorable position than that being experienced within the private sector. Every position of employment, without exception, within the private sector is under incredible pressure due to cutbacks in spending throughout the Irish economy.

The consumer in Ireland is constantly told to demand lower prices by the National Consumer Agency (NCA). Although this seems to make sense, we must be aware of the repercussions of these actions. The drive for lower prices thus far has resulted in lower prices and higher unemployment, the risk of reduced social welfare payments and considerable reduction in vital public services such as health care, education and gardai. From the outset Ireland will not look like a very safe or healthy place to live for the next few years.

As I stated earlier it is possible to prevent or at least reduce the damage incurred upon the Irish economy by simply educating each and every person living in Ireland to support Irish businesses and Products. It is important to demand Irish produced goods or if the goods you seek are not produced in Ireland ensure they are distributed by Irish suppliers. This will encourage employment and with the correct approach from suppliers keep prices low.

One final point I must make is with reference to fresh fruit & vegetables being sold by Lidl. Four weeks previous to this letter my daughter while at college bought some vegetables in Lidl. She purchased tomatoes, peppers and lettuce on a Monday. She cut one tomato and one pepper in half and a small portion of lettuce. She used this and placed the rest in the fridge. As a typical student she forgot about them until the following Friday. She opened the fridge expecting the goods to be rotten and much to her surprise she found them to be in the exact same condition as the first day she purchased them. She was very concerned as to how this could be and decided to see how long it would take for them to go off. Four weeks later and the same goods are still in perfect condition. The question is how? I would like to think every Irish person understands fresh goods will only stay fresh for a couple of days before going bad. So why are these goods still in such good condition?

For those whom may read this email, I suggest you look at the possibility of educating the consumer to support Irish businesses and Irish products. This will help to generate the much needed funds for the exchequer and re-circulate the profits in the Irish economy and not foreign economies.


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