I visited The Grenadier pub in Belgravia recently with a group of industry analysts who were visiting Teleperformance UK from all over the world. Of course, when people visit London, one of the places they always want to visit is an English pub and it’s no hardship to indulge them in this pleasure.
During that trip to The Grenadier, I noticed something interesting and a little quirky. The pub owner encouraged visitors to attach money – from their own country – to the ceiling, with a message to future visitors. As you can see from the photo below, the entire ceiling – and some of the walls – were decorated with cash from all over the world and almost every note featured a friendly message to future pub customers.
It may seem trivial, but this struck a chord with the people I was talking to. After all, every person around my table was from a different country and right here on the walls and ceiling were international messages of goodwill from other foreign visitors. It was like a physical social network with wall postings that were quite literally messages posted on a wall!
Many retailers – such as pubs – are using social media to interact with their customers in a much more sophisticated way than pasting notes on the wall, but this return to pen and paper strikes at the heart of a need to communicate with other people, and also a desire to sometimes just simplify our lives.
The sociologist Manuel Castells – famous for writing about the ‘network society’ back in the nineties when we were all getting used to web browsers – has recently launched an academic project called Aftermath. It is exploring how jobs, culture, art, business, banking, and attitudes to the environment are all fundamentally changing as a result of the 2008 financial crash. Society is changing.
Castells believes that many people are reviewing their own priorities in life because of the economic slowdown creating a change in the way our lives function – from work and jobs right though to the music we listen to. Our personal global networks now influence every decision we make – in all aspects of our life.
I still see enormous opportunities for growth in our business, even if the way we work with customers changes over time, and I’m sure the analysts I was talking to in the pub would agree. But sometimes it is worth remembering that you can’t just embrace the new and discard the old. Now and again, a customer just wants to write a note on a piece of paper to say thanks.
Even if The Grenadier pub has a Facebook fan page, or reviews section on Tripadvisor, long may the hand-written notes continue! It’s great to see that some customers are so satisfied they will send greetings to the customers of tomorrow by writing on their own hard cash.