It’s not what you do it’s the way that you DEAL with it!

iStock_000018389351XSmallEven with the best business, there will come a time when you make a mistake.  This might be a small one or a big one, but trust me, even with the best of intentions, a mistake will eventually happen.

You might break something, or lose something (as a certain delivery company did for one of my postal orders in the last week).  You might accidentally hit someone’s car when reversing, or you might misspack an order as we did the other week.

Mistakes happen.  After all, we’re only human and everyone knows that everyone makes mistakes; but I’m always surprised by companies who fail to hold their hand up to their mistakes and handle complaints well – after all, they should KNOW it’s going to happen eventually – so why don’t they train their staff to handle the issue when it arises?

How your company handles a mistake will mean more for your company then the actual complaint itself.  You deal with it correctly and customers will actually spread more good word about your business then they would do if the order had been correct in the first place.

I know that sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it’s true.  You get good service from someone, you expect it, you get exceptional service from someone following a problem – you tell EVERYONE.

So when you set up in business, don’t forget to have a system in place for dealing with problems.  Decide in advance what it will be.

Good customer service is paramount for my company and we have a robust system in place to deal with any mistakes. I know this system works as we had this response posted on facebook from a customer recently following an incident:

I would like say a Big Thankyou to Red Herring Games..a mistake was made with our Murder mystery game which Red Herring games held thier hands up to and couldn’t have been nicer about how they dealt with it…A very good company indeed and I look forward to giving it another go 🙂

So hold your hand up to any mistakes you might make in business.  It’s not WHAT you’ve done – it’s HOW you deal with it that will be remembered by everyone concerned.

#SBS winners inaugural meeting

Yesterday saw Fiona, Sherlock, Dr Whiting and I driving down to Birmingham for Theo Paphitis’s inaugural #SBS meeting.  Sherlock has his own take on the day… but you can find that on his blog.

I think he has designs on Theo’s car… fortunately he didn’t set off the car alarm!  We might have had some explaining to do if so…

It was a great afternoon, and as it was totally sponsored by Ryman Stationery everything was free, including the bar!  (I hate to think what the bar bill was at the end of the afternoon!)

We even got a goodie bag to take home at the end which included all sorts of useful things including a business account with £50 pre-paid on the card!  Thanks Ryman!

There must have been over 400 people there, at least… and it was wonderful meeting all the tweeps I’ve been tweeting with face to face at last.  Sadly I couldn’t get around everyone, but thankfully my trademark “Knife through head” prop meant that even if I didn’t find the people I wanted to see – most of them found me!!  (Next time perhaps I’ll invest in one of those Think Bike signs with “Jo Smedley Red Herring Games” flashing above my head!)

This is Fiona, Sherlock and I with Jacqui Thompson who was the tweeter who told me all about how to enter #SBS and thanks to her RTs during the week to Theo probably gave me the leg up I needed to win!

The big announcement, and the most exciting part of the day was that Ryman Stationery and Theo Paphitis are launching a new #SBS winners website designed by @MetalFrogstudios one of the early #SBS winners – which will contain all the information the press need to know when they run articles on winners, and also the facility for the winners to upload all their information onto the website so that they are easily searched.

The site will provide back links to winners websites and also there is a separate members only section which provides useful business tips and also networks winners and their special offers.  We’re also all going to have access to new badges which will be great!

The #SBS website will be getting populated over the next few weeks as the #SBS winners are sent out their user log in details.  In the meantime you can find the website here:

It also has some tips on how to enter and what Theo is looking for.

Again the website is free to #SBS winners and we’re all really looking forward to using it!

Theo ran a question and answer session during the meeting.  There were a LOT of questions and I have to say, Theo came across as really sincere and “down to earth” with his answers.  How he can think on his feet that fast, I don’t know, as he fielded questions from things like “What is the future of the highstreet?” through to “Will you run for prime minister?”

Thanks to waving Sherlock around in the air we actually got to ask the one question I know everyone keeps asking me.  Namely:

 “How does Theo Paphitis pick his #SBS winners each week?”

The answer:  Well, it isn’t random chance (Which is really nice to know if you’ve been picked).  Instead he uses the following criteria:

1)      The tweet must catch his eye.

This means it could be cheeky, interesting, or it might just be related to something he’s been doing that week so it attracts his attention.

It has to be a good tweet.  And the avatar can’t be an EGG! Theo also checks out your bio on twitter when he does his research – so ensure the Bio is up to date and friendly.  Theo values the personal touch.

As there are so many tweets week to week Theo also has help from his wife and Tina at Ryman when it comes to selecting #SBS winners – as he has so many to look through of an evening he needs help to do a proper job.  So even if you miss Theo’s attention you might still be noticed by Tina or Mrs P and forwarded onto his shortlist.

2)      The tweet must have a website link – and the link you post with the tweet must work!

Once Theo has his shortlist (and he does create a shortlist) he then clicks through to the website link posted.  The website must be functioning, clear and appropriate.  It doesn’t need to be all singing all dancing – and can just be a “gallery website” for those who understand that term (one page website for those that don’t), but it does need to be working!

If he feels your business has the “basics” in place, that your website is effective and that you will make the most of the RT then he’ll RT you.

3)      Catching Theo’s eye might be something you do during the week.

Theo looks for tweeters he recognises in the #SBS line up.  He looks for regular tweeters, not people who ONLY post each Sunday or who have very little to do with twitter week to week.  If you are going to make the most of your #SBS win, then you need to be making the post of your marketing on Twitter already.

To catch his eye, might mean that you might have tweeted him during the week, or that you’ve been regularly tweeting with someone he follows on twitter so he’s seen your posts regularly throughout the week.

He doesn’t like people repeating tweets during #SBS – that is more likely to put him off RTing someone.

So are there any “hot tips”?

I think so… given that you need to be catching Theo’s eye to get that RT then I’d suggest the following techniques.

1)      Follow everyone Theo is following and speak to them on twitter.  Theo only follows a select group which means he does actually follow what they are saying.

2)      Reply to Theo’s tweets during the week.  There were a few winners he called “Stalkers” at the meeting in jest – but clearly stalking got them their RT.

3)      If you think you’re doing something interesting then include @Theopaphitis in your tweet during the week so he sees what you’re up to.

4)      Write a really “eye catching” tweet.  Say something unusual and something that will get you noticed.

5)      Have an eye catching avatar so it stands out amongst the rest – NO EGGS!  It doesn’t have to be pink, but it needs to be clear.

6)      Make sure your Bio on twitter is accurate and has a friendly, personal feel.

7)      Make sure your website is top-notch.  It WILL be looked at.

8)      Be persistent in your entries and adjust your tweets week to week.  If it didn’t catch his eye the first week, it probably won’t next time around either.

And that’s my hot tips.  Good luck with your own #SBS entries.  With the new website launching this week and all the benefits that’s going to bring – Theo is expecting increased traffic to #SBS and as a result there is talk of him changing the time he RT’s to Monday evening to give him a chance to look through the entries properly.  So get those entries in and then just wait and see!  Next week it could be you!

What next?

Well, Theo recognises that small businesses need leverage to obtain attention, so he kindly posed with all the #SBS winners for a formal photo at the end of the meeting in the hope that beeing seen with a TV personality will provide some leverage we can use to obtain further media attention.

We also have a nice certificate which we’ll be framing for the office…

Also – given that the #SBS winners website has a “county” winners area – we in Lincolnshire are hoping to arrange a regional lincolnshire #SBS  meet up of our own.  so watch this space!

#SBS win!

This weekend, which the christmas rush over – I took the plunge and sent my primary computer in to get serviced with SMEIT services locally.  Nothing was likely to happen… I’d done the post run for Saturday and I was promised it back on Monday morning.  As I don’t work Sunday’s anyway… what would I need the computer for?

Well…  THIS!

Red Herring Games only went and won Small Business Sunday!

What is Small Business Sunday – or #SBS?

Firstly – it’ s a twitter competition.  For those of you who don’t know what twitter is… well, it’ll probably mean very little to you – so check out this first:  What is Twitter

Small Business Sunday (#SBS) is the brain child of  Theo Paphitis one of the Dragons from BBC Dragons Den.  (If you don’ t know who Theo is… pull your head out of the sand and click on his name – I’ve hyperlinked it to his website!)

Theo runs the #SBS competition on twitter every weekend to help raise the profiles of entrepreneurial small business owners.

Each sunday between 5.00pm and 7.30pm (GMT)- small business tweeters (that’s people who tweet) from all over the world send Theo a short 140 character message to promote their business.

There are a few rules for entry.

1) The tweet MUST be between those times

2) the tweet MUST include the hash tag #SBS

3) The tweet MUST be directed to @TheoPaphitis

Of the hundreds he receives Theo then reviews them and selects 6 to Retweet (thats repeat to non twitter users) to his followers.

This week he has 215,560 in total – which means my business has just had a mention in front of over 200 THOUSAND people!

This lovely badge came as courtesy of Aqua Design Group Who won #SBS themselves last year.  They now help other #SBS winners by generating a badge of their very own.



From what I’ve seen so far membership of the #SBSwinners group is very elite and everyone is there to try and help other businesses get ahead.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to a great 2012!


Well… as promised… there is a list of people to thank for this #SBS win as without these people I would NEVER have got Red Herring Games off the ground let alone winning #SBS… and there’s a LOT of people to thank… so sorry if I miss anyone out – email me if you feel omitted and the chances are you were overlooked by accident and I’ll add you on!

Website Thanks:

As ever – The first thanks have to go to Mark and Gill Hardy for their continued support from the inception right through to the creation and sustension (is that a word) of the website Red Herring Games!

Alison Clynes of Kinetic Marketing and Design – for intial help Marketting the business and then rebranding the logo!

Paul Fairhall for his tireless editing and voice over work!

Julia from East Coast Pictures for her fabulous You Tube work recently on our behalf!

Fiona and Sharon – the hard working “behind the scenes” girls who do most of the packing day to day! (and Fiona’s mum who’s just started rolling tape for us too!)

My team of authors: Mark and Kathy Pitchford, Kathy Roberson, Michelle Crowther, Tracey Latham, Kit Walkham, Paul Fairhall, Gordon Thorburn, John Waterhouse, Lissa Gibbons, Tony Brown,  Julieta Mitnik and Debbie Gooseman.

BNI members (past and present) who’ve supported me in business these last few years (In no particular order): Steve Thickett, Steve Sherwood, Mel and Ben Chase, Dan Reeves, Alison and Steve Clynes, Mark and Gill Hardy, Chris Waud, Mel Sharpe, Fiona, John Tucker, Heath Johnson, Jeremy and Jude Bass, Malcolm Cooke, Simon May, Andy Inch, Jon Ashley, Michael Leadley, Victoria Hearsey, John Booth, Geoff Christie, Alan Young, Mark Jones, Emma and Paul Fairhall, Helen Spauls, Emma Faulkner and Phil Hewson.

Friends and family (I’ve been told I can’t mention names as some of these are teachers – so I won’t mention any – that way I can’t offend anyone – but you all know who you are!!

My acting friends who’ve supported me in the arrival of the events side of Red Herring Games:  I don’t know you all by name ( and I’m sure to miss some people off – just ping me an email so I can correct it)!  But Bill Jellyman and team from Sale, Marie Shirley Lewis and Phil Armstrong from Durham, Steve Brennan/Bellamy (whatever you’re going by at the moment), Nick Adams, Craig Thurlow, Sara Beasley, Staurt Owen-Howard, Gareth Arthurs, Mike Wilson, Stephen Rayner, Helen Slater, Helen Kent, Jeanine Ridha, David Phillips, Johnny Allbones, Dean Wright, Dean Wilding, John Litchfield, Derek Hodges, Susan Everatt, Alison Bottomley, Matt Storey, Kelly Meacock, Kerry Buckley, Lorraine Laird, Tim Rutherford, Jeff Riley, Tom Wright, Joanne Abbon, Penny and Bob Seymour and many more!

Efactor and Jacqui from PulseCSI who told me all about #SBS!

Finally my customers – of which there are over 12,000 already – and so I can’t name you all one by one!

Thank you ALL for your support to make this possible!




5 Simple Customer Service tips

I would have thought customer service would have been really easy for most people to do well.  After all, it’s all about treating people how you’d like to be treated!  However given some recent contacts I’ve had – both with disgruntled customers from other websites, and also people I’ve personally shopped with – it seems that customer service is something that is VERY easy to fail at.  And so… here are some quick pointers:

1) Smile when you answer the phone.

People can tell when you’re smiling even if they CAN’T see you.  Express how you feel on your face and they will hear it in your voice.  So when answering a call – smile, and it goes without saying… if handling a complaint look sad.  They’ll hear the sincerity.

And please don’t whisper to other people, fail to cover the mouthpiece / put people on hold when you’re talking about them… or – have a customer service patter that everyone is using and that customers can overhear being churned out to another customer on another phone in the background.  These “once in a life time deals” don’t sound quite so hot when the person on another phone line is being offered exactly the same deal!!

2) The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong!

It’s an old adage but it’s a good one.  Empathise with your customers.  Listen to their complaints, say “I’m sorry to hear you feel that way…” and all the rest of the stuff you’re supposed to say in response.

It’s hard to give a good example of good practise… however, take for example a customer who is struggling to use the website.  Not because it’s unclear, but because they just aren’t reading things properly , or their software is outdated –  don’t just turn around (as I’ve seen one website do) and say to them “Well 10,000 other people have managed this – it must be you.”  Email them with an offer of calling them to iron it out… find out where they are experiening the problem, try to make things easier for them, offer to email them information  / post it instead of allowing them to struggle on the website. We always go the extra mile with our customers – and if they have a problem (even if it’s at their end not ours) we will try do do everything we can to make it easier for them or fix it for them.

And… bonus… if you listen to them, who knows – they might be able to offer some suggestions that WOULD make things clearer for everyone – after all not all of us are super techno-geek geniouses !

3) If the package doesn’t arrive – and it isn’t your fault – offer them a replacement or a refund anyway!

If you’re an on-line company and you ship (as we do) then despite the cock-up being in the Royal Mail – legally it’s YOUR responsibility to ensure the parcel gets to the customer on time.  Believe me… I’ve spoken to trading standards recently about this as I’ve had a bad experience with a firm who refused to refund me for some items I purchased.  After several exceedingly RUDE emails from them, saying that I should have contacted them earlier and that it was my fault – I spoke to trading standards and they assured me that I was right – they should either refund or repost the item.

At Red Herring Games our policy has always been to refund or resend items that go missing in the mail.  I thought that was common decency – but apparently we’re fairly unsual, and this isn’t standard practise across the board.

The quickest way to irritate your customers and get a bad reputation is to fail to deliver the items they’ve ordered.  Yes it might not be your fault… but it is YOUR responsibility to get them there!  Claim any mistakes made back from your postal company if they’ve lost the item and DON’T take it out on your customers!!

4) Do something extra they aren’t expecting.

We all like freebies and free gifts.  When we post out our printed kits we always toss in a packet of sweets.  It’s only pence, but we’ve had so many people come back to us to say thank you – just because of that.  Sweets are a simple, cheap way of giving something extra back to your customers.

If you go wrong… send out something as an apology.  Mistakes happen in any business, but if you apologise on the phone and then send out something as a sorry as well – your customers are really going to appreciate your sincerity – and trust me… they’ll be back.

5) Thank them for the business

Sounds like a simple thing to do, but few companies do it.  Pop in a compliments slip with a “Thank you for the business” in with anything you post.  If you have the time to handwrite one then all the better.  If you don’t – many printers will print you up one that looks like you’ve handwritten it.

If it’s a big order – then why not follow it up with a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers?  A big gift will give your company a second mention – and it promotes loyalty to a brand too.