The old adage goes – If you do the same things expect the same answer.

By involving different channels in heritage matters in Cornwall we were able to use the core principles of EUX to actually speed up progress.

Using insights and intelligence that underlined the importance of the narrative, we were able to deliver break through requirements that shaped an agreement and moved the plans and scheme forward.

Hayle Harbour closed in 1977, and over a period of 40 years developers argued over the future direction of the regeneration.

We were asked by ING, the Dutch bank, to look if there might be a way to move forward emerging plans, which were proving extremely difficult to progress.

We used our deeper engagement ux approach to research and gather intelligence breaking down the channels into different engagements streams

One of the recurring themes, we were able to recognise coming back from at least 4 of the channels we were engaging with, were tags that related to a lack of trust in developers unwillingness and inability to understand the commercial operation of a small port.

Whilst other developers brushed off these suggestions due to the low level of shipping traffic. But we recognised the importance of this, and the message it sent about Hayle Harbour, being open for business going forward and not just being a landside regeneration project.

We were able to develop this stream, engaging much deeper and further into how these aspirations could be balanced. If you would like to know we can explain in detail.

Plans to build 700 new homes to the north of Scone, were probably always going to be high profile. A significant voluntary consultation was always going to be required, and even if developers expected a weight of views opposing the scheme, they should have looked carefully at the responses to see if the respondents had merit with their comments.

Consultation is always about feedback, debate and discussion, something opposing groups must accept as well as pro development stakeholders.

Things went terribly wrong in Scone, when it is alleged that representatives for the developers used employees to submit over 100 pro development letters and emails to council officers.

Developers defended this action suggesting it was understandable as employees livelihoods depended on the site coming forward as soon as possible.

Starting Over Again (title)

This pressure did not go down well with local politicians who’ve asked the managing director of the development company, to publicly apologise for the way they had gone about their consultation.

Politicians also suggested that certain specific households were missed out when delivering questionnaires. The response was this was an administration error and was not to do with their proximity to the site or their previously recorded comments.

Looking at wider issues relating to engagement and consultation, whilst it might be tempting for developers to use friends and family to create a surge of positive voices, it rarely influences the officers and politicians.

We were recently working in Chester where a particular coffee chain wishing to expand their site offered discounted coffee in return for a signed feedback form. Planning Officers thought this was most amusing and immediately struck off the feedback.


Opposing groups must be willing to engage and listen to alternative views. The practice of photocopied forms with template objections is equally objectionable, and rarely creates any traction.

It may leverage a local press headline, but it will deliver little in the long run.

We have always preferred the option of workshops and Focus groups to give the disparaging voices a platform whist opening up the issues to wider debate.

It’s a pretty basic question, but one that probably is not discussed enough. The most obvious reason is that they bring skills that are required in short bursts and to employ an experienced professional on a full time basis would impact significantly on the HR budget.

But there is more to it than that. The old phrase is you are only as good as your last job rings true with most consultants. They have to keep up to date with all new emerging guidelines and technologies. You tend to find the ambitious ones succeed and prosper, and those are the individuals you want on your team.

Today it’s easy to believe you can short circuit the system by using technology. As we all know there is an IPhone app or Google page for everything, but does anyone really believe that if you can use a Google teeth-whitening app on your photographs, you can call yourself a photo editor?

Its very simple yes the architect can put in the planning application forms and yes the Planning Consultant can brief local politicians. But what happens when it goes wrong?

Case in point when a well-known planning consultancy from the south-east was briefing a strategic planning committee and announced to all concerned that they had the support of the local community for their plans. To say the meeting fell flat is an understatement. Politicians were quick to point out that after limited consultation the statement was ridiculous.

Furthermore politicians in front of officers then recounted all the issues and problems connected to the scheme which could have been discussed privately, but were now thrown into the spotlight for all to discuss. No self-respecting engagement professional would have made such a sweeping statement.

The application was put back six months for further consultation and engagement, which cost additional fees and hugely extended the budget required.

Most organisations look to bring in a consultant where there is an issue of sufficient complexity to require a person specifically to handle that issue.

The most obvious case are lawyers and accountants who are instructed and retained for specific legal and financial reasons

Putting aside the warranty and personal indemnity issues the most significant reason to use a consultant with specific skills is to engage and manage a situation.

If you chose to try it yourself first in a DIY Form and if the results are not positive to then introduce a professional advisor is fraught with danger and cost.

Mistakes will have already been made and the paths chosen which will be difficult to change. The skill of any entrepreneur or manger is to identify the potential professional team that is required and bring them together as early as possible. Identifying the budget available and managing the work as it undertaken, ensuring that the milestones are achieved. Too many times the Internet gives the appearance that everything can be executed from a laptop. This is simply not the case the work becomes overwhelming and goals are missed and opportunities lost.

Over the years we have undertaken a lot of research to understand what drives people to complain. It’s a complex subject and clearly one that has some common areas of understanding. MIT in Massachusetts did research on this as well and have come up with some interesting conclusions.

But lets look at what instigates a complaint and how the consumer chooses to articulate that complaint.

There are two areas, which have interested us the most. The first is the trigger, and then the trigger threshold. The second looks at how the consumer vents- do they raise that complaint in a store or do they look to possible anonymity online.

It would appear from the MIT work and our own focus group, that there are some primeval instincts at work here. Without question complaining is easier than ever before and the consumers ability to complain has been increased a hundred fold by the availability of the Internet.

In our focus groups we found that there is a basic belief amongst all respondents that underpins their views.

Yes despite focusing on their ability to complain, consumers and residents believe strongly in the concept of fairness and reasonable behavior.

But what really drives an individual to action is a perceived breach of trust. This trust threshold is somewhat like a thermometer in a pan of water as actions are taken which fail to resolve or cure the problem; the temperature of the thermometer goes up.

The boiling point is not always the same, and is determined by shared values with that brand or developer.

It could be that the consumer feels loyal to that brand, or possibly the personal relationships built with that brand through previous experiences – all allow a slower rise to boiling point.

Hence the boiling point is constantly on the move depending on actions taken to mitigate the situation. For example at a leisure attraction the action taken of closing a ride, whilst people are queuing to gain entrance pushes the thermometer upwards- “ Thanks folks sorry for your wait -we are closed, I am afraid” – the boiling point is getting closer.

It’s interesting because many professionals have a view that their customers or residents are serial complainers – in most cases this is just not the case. The same consumer for example may argue vociferously over the quality of a cappuccino, but may choose to ignore a below standard hotel room.

MIT substantiated this and found what triggered customers to go on line was not one single event but what they called a double deviation, a breakdown of a product or service, with either a low prospect of resolution or a failed attempt.

In our focus groups consumers put huge value on mutual trust and have lost total confidence in the age-old idiom that the customer is always right, but they do feel that there are acceptable parameters beyond which a response is required.

All those questioned in the focus group understood that by going on line and complaining on one of the review sites –a bad review could be potentially damaging to the business.

All those questioned understood how potentially disproportionate to the issue raised the reaction might be, but pointed to a lack of customer service policy and disengagement by the product or brand.

Many of those individuals in the focus group who admitted to posting negative reviews online and in traditional media pointed to amateurish responses, which exacerbated the situation.