I have been privileged to visit the beautiful country of Canada recently, in particular Nova Scotia. From being a cultural and historical ignoramus (that’s ok, I can confess these things) I am getting to grips with this place. On this journey I have observed some striking social and behavioural comparators with living in UK and New Zealand, as is my lineage over the past 43 years.

The road etiquette is to die for, well, actually, to die less for

The road etiquette and respect displayed to pedestrians in Nova Scotia is stunning. Stunningly courteous. Jay walking is out, of course, however this is extended and underpinned with a code of compliant behaviour like I have never seen. I have travelled a wee bit and nothing comes close. For me this is all about respect, patience and discipline, key behaviours and values to live to in the business environment as well.

This morning on my jog I did a wee traverse across an urban road with no oncoming vehicles, or so I thought. Mid scuttle a van fully 40 metres away tooted. Wow. He or she was saying ‘we don’t do that, don’t do it’. Understood. Vehicles slow to let you cross, it’s uncanny and after living in New Zealand for 10 years takes some adjusting to. I love my kiwi brethren however the general driving behaviour is not the finest. There I said it.

Compare this, say, with the melee of Papanui Road in Christchurch come a working day at 3-4 pm. At this time the area is awash with school youths, shoppers and other urban wildlife. Some people wander in to the central reservation facing oncoming traffic and stand there waiting for a break whereby tonnes of metal brush past inches from their tomato bodies. Which one is right? Neither. They are both behavioural cultures however you will live longer in one of them.

No plastic salesyness thanks, I’m just looking

In the shopping malls and retail shops of Halifax (Nova Scotia) you are typically greeted with ‘Hi how are you’. Nothing too startling there but hang on wait till what follows. You are actually left to engage your own brain to make purchasing decisions without repeated touches. Yes I am generalizing somewhat however one of my Room 101 bugbears is multiple touches in the retails sales environment. Not necessary, annoying, damaging. Don’t do it, please.

My other half’s comment is that there is an overwhelming sense of genuineness in the retail space i.e. when looking to add to her shoe collection (I call her the young Imelda Marcos). You can’t mimic that. Everyone says ‘You are welcome’. Just lovely, refreshing. Need to stop now getting gooey.

Reverse that risk to bind loyalty, two examples in two hemispheres

A couple of recent real examples of risk reversal in Canada and New Zealand. Risk reversal is where your sales proposition entails zero risk on the purchaser. Further, they feel and understand this (very important). Jay Abraham describes this to a tee in Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got.

Firstly in Christchurch I was out with the kids and a friend and we stopped by a sushi bar for lunch. A swarm of busy folk were preparing the sushi for the day alas their EFTBOS (auto banking device) went on holiday at short notice. Bugger (not sure what the mandarin translation would be). We had selected our food and were waiting at the till. Upon the sixth attempt to make the transaction, the lovely chap said slightly forlornly through furrowed brow ‘Don’t worry, you can pay for it another time’. Wow. I stood there thinking to myself this guy has got it. I accepted his offer with thanks. My investment in food pleasure was $21.80. I went back the following week and gave him $25.00. I will go back again. Here the law of reciprocity was engaged and I was hooked:

  • He had nothing to lose and everything to gain in his faith of making the offer. My deep moral obligation to repay him was triggered from his spirit and kindness. Coupled with the fantastic sushi, he now has my loyalty.

Secondly, in Canada my other half loves her coffee and boy the coffee culture is alive and kicking here. Her favourite outlet is 2 mins walk from her apartment and last week she forgot her Visa card. They said ‘Don’t worry. It’s on the house’. They have it too. She was stoked (kiwiism translation = very happy).

Now I’m not saying others do or don’t do this but the law of reciprocity is powerful and nonnegotiable to 99% of morally balanced consumers. See Robert Cialdini’s Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbw after the next paragraph.

And finally (drum roll), the Wi-Fi thing, no analysis paralysis, just three little words

The vast majority of eateries and coffee houses here have free Wi-Fi, the saturation must be 90%+. It’s the norm. If you do not have it in your café or coffee bar you are just a bit weird. New Zealand businesses, in fact wherever you are on our wondrous globe : just do it.