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September 2011

30 September 2011Lions led by Donkeys

Matthew de Lange

by Matthew de Lange

A great piece in last week’s Economist (The view from the top, and bottom) really caught my eye.  It’s based around a recent report by BRG into corporate culture in the US which flags massive differences in perception about the business between bosses and staff.

For example, 41% of managers think their firm rewards performance based on values rather than merely financial rewards.  Only 14% of staff do.

This has huge relevance for Metafore’s work on Employee Engagement.  It certainly helps explain why it is often harder to sell the need for what we offer to the senior buyers than the more junior contacts we sometimes start with.

It also bears directly on why we think it is so important to “do” engagement more bottom up than top down. Sometimes this can be because senior management need to be helped to understand the reality within their organisation. But it can also be the other way round.

Those 41% of senior managers are not necessarily wrong and the 14% right. For most of us there is a deep-seated belief that the view from the trenches is truer than the view from above; we are lions led by donkeys!

So starting the Engagement process within the trenches forces the “troops” to articulate some of these assumptions and let’s some light and air in for all to explore what the reality is. That leaves senior management in the more constructive role of supporting or challenging the more considered views which emerge rather than merely offering more well-intentioned grist to the “what-do-they-know-about-it” mill in the trenches.

Economist article can be viewed at

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22 September 2011Faking it

Matthew de Lange

by Matthew de Lange

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made. (Jean Giraudoux)

Sincerity or authenticity ought to be at the heart of customer relations as for employee engagement. Shortly after reading Martin's blog about his restaurant experience I was renewing my breakdown cover ( for the car that is!) with a well known company. I'd been offered free introductory cover by a rival which had sent me scurrying to my current details to see what I was actually paying. I then compared that with what my company was quoting on its website and, despite having been with them for 11 years, my current membership was nearly twice the price, so I rang them.

A very competent agent explained that this was indeed the case and she actually did a very proficient job of explaining that it was only the introductory price (which i would have got 11 years ago (hmm!)) and that after that they would be paying much what I was paying. I explained (very politely) how that made me feel – that they appeared to love new customers and hate loyal customers. At which she said " Oh no. We don't hate our customers. In fact because you're such a nice customer and haven't shouted at me I'll give you a 25% reduction when you renew." Of course, she knows and I now know that she has the discretion to reduce rates by (at least!) 25%.

The authentic answer of course could not be spoken. " We rely on most of our customers just paying the renewal subs quoted and that's where we make most of our profit." But she couldn't tell the truth so she's forced into further insincerity to try and keep my custom. This is the insidious cost to the culture of such business models which seem ubiquitous now in insurance and banking. Not only are they teaching their customers to abandon loyalty but they are teaching their staff that they have to fake sincerity.

How sad

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21 September 2011For your convenience

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

On holiday we were in a restaurant in a place called Huntsville in Ontario, about 3 hours north of Toronto and I noticed on the menu the phrase "For your convenience a 15% service charge will be added to your bill". We speculated why this was for our convenience. One friend suggested that it was to save us the trouble of working out a difficult percentage of the bill to add as a tip (as it happens the service was appalling and had I been paying it would not have been difficult to work out 0% of the total). After this incident, the expression "For your convenience" has become part of the family lexicon. So when one of the kids ate the last chocolate their confession was prefixed by, you guessed it, FYC...

I encountered the same expression this last week when I contacted one of the major providers of security software. My software licence was due to finish late September and the company had renewed it and debited my credit card for the sum of £65.99 for a one year subscription. When it came through on my statement I thought that was a lot of money for one year and so I went to the company's website and checked that for £29.99 I could get not just one but three one year licences. So I called them up, negotiated successfully about 4 levels of the dreaded IVR as I think it is called (the wretched press 1 for xxx, press 2 for yyy) and spoke to a real person. I explained what had happened and she checked the website and confirmed I was correct. Her explanation was that for my convenience the company had renewed the subscription to avoid the problem of my laptop being unprotected. To be fair I probably ticked the box (or maybe failed to untick it) to say that I was happy to renew automatically. Why was paying a lot more for less, "for my convenience" especially when these companies always send out reminders (I know this because on our various machines I think we have the full set of security providers).

Generalising from this... most companies state customer service at the heart of their values and I am sure they mean it but it seems to me that many businesses fall at the first hurdle. How about the bank that gives great interest rates to new customers but as an existing customer they forget to contact you to suggest you transfer your deposits from the low interest account to this new higher one. Or the telecomms business that again seems more interested in acquiring new customers with attractive tariffs than genuinely keeping existing ones satisfied. I long for the day when my bank sends me a letter to say that "we have automatically transferred your money to this better account". Now that would be FMC.

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3 September 2011Capello v Johnson

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

Interesting to read that Martin Johnson,the England rugby coach has said that during the World Cup in New Zealand there will be no bans on alcohol or Twitter, no curfews and that WAGs are welcome. This is in stark contrast to Fabio Capello's strict rules about early bed times, no WAGs etc during last year's unsuccessful football World Cup campaign. The England team seemed to lack cohesion, got bored and didn't seem to enjoy the experience of the World Cup and I would say that was all reflected in their performance on the field. I am much more with Martin Johnson's view – “You’ve got to trust them to make decisions on the field so you’ve got to do the same off it as well."

Treat them like adults and they are likely to take responsibility. Treat them like children and expect to behave like that. We were once discussing with a retailer implementing their strategy by giving responsibility to the store managers. The initial response was "But could we trust them to do that?" My comment back was "well presumably you trust them to run your stores, so why not to implement the new strategy. That way they are more likely to take responsibility for it being done properly.

This is not a prediction for the rugby World Cup winners, although I do quite fancy England.

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