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Preaching to the Choir

With looks more Bon Jovi than Beethoven, and legions of devoted fans, Eric Whitaker is not a traditional classical composer.

It was one of these fans in 2009 who contacted him to announce she’d videoed herself singing one of his compositions and uploaded it to YouTube. This gave Eric an idea. What happened next is Internet folklore.

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Recently I met with the manager from a local business – the type of firm an economist would call an ‘SME’ – a small and medium sized enterprise. Over the years, no matter how tough the trading conditions, his firm has somehow managed not only to hold on to its customer base, but to grow it.

Given my fascination with organisations that provide great customer service, I pressed him to tell me how they’d done it.

What he told me has changed the way I think about customer engagement.

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“You may now turn over the paper.”

Not exactly the most memorable phrase, but it did the trick. With the sound of a wave crashing on to a pebbled beach, all at once, in perfect unison, three hundred and fifty students turned over their question papers and began the exam.

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Bored? You should be!

When was the last time you were bored? I mean, seriously bored. Watching paint dry bored. Three-toed sloth bored. Can’t remember, can you? That’s because the minute you got your hands on your first mobile phone you squandered forever the capacity to be bored. With its constant chatter and ego affirmation, digital technology has rendered boredom redundant. How can you be bored when in your pocket is all the world’s learning, all the world’s music library, all the world’s TV channels?

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Because happiness isn’t the truth

Had he been alive today, the Greek philosopher Solon would have made a fortune from TV appearances. His off-beat way of telling it like was, particularly when the occasion didn’t call for it, would have gone down a storm on the Graham Norton Show.

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“Senator, we run ads.”

On 11 April, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, was summoned to Capitol Hill to be questioned by a panel of US senators. The Cambridge Analytica leak, in which it was claimed millions of people had had their personal data shared without permission, had led to concerns about the social media giant’s security policies. Then there was the issue of Facebook itself. What sort of Lex Luther-like powers was it packing? What secret strings was it pulling? And with its global reach and soft power, who was calling the shots – Facebook or the Fed? There was only one way to find out. Bring out The Zuck!

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When Brains met Brawn

On the face of it, universities don’t appear to have much in common with the glamorous, dangerous, star-studded world of Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton doesn’t exactly look or behave like your average don. And no academic would waste excellent champagne by spraying it over the vice chancellor – gold TEF or no gold TEF.

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