Tuesday, December 28, 2010

YOU SHOULD LOVE TO HELP A CUSTOMER



For the maintenance of my car I am using a (very) small garage, which services cars from all brands. There are just three men working there.
The service is good and not expensive. I can even borrow a bike while my car is being serviced.

The best thing is when I have an unplanned visit. I just drive by and ask them to have a look at some problem. Even when they are very busy, the owner stops, laughs and asks me how he can help me. He immediately checks out my car and most of the time solves the problem. For him, the customer is not a nuisance, not at all. It even looks like he likes being interrupted.

He loves to help his customers! That is quite different from a lot of stores where customer service people don’t like to be interrupted at all.  It looks like they don’t want to be bothered at all.
But, hey, it is fun and fulfilling to help a customer! That attitude is a must for success.




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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MEANINGFUL OR MEANINGLESS



Last night I did watch TV and I was irritated by the commercials. 7 out of 10 were for perfumes (Chanel, Dior Dolce & Gabbana etc) and the rest was for deodorants.
So, what is the customer need there? Are you smelly? Not likely. Ohhh, I see you are looking for a new partner and you want to be attractive by using a quality perfume/deodorant. But, do you really believe that these odors will do the trick? No, I don’t think so.

The setup of all these commercials is the same. They show a beautiful man and a beautiful woman in a luxurious environment. And they are attracted to each other. The perfume is the key or ......is it?! Who really believes this? I would say that there is contempt for the consumer.
The deodorant (Axe) is even worse. If you spray it on the right places the girls will be flocking to your house.......

These products and their marketing is really meaningless. The money, which they spend on these commercials, could better be given to charity. And their marketing research should be focusing on detecting real and meaningful customer needs. The (collective) intelligence of customers is no longer supporting this humiliating process.

So, stop wasting your time and money and focus on real customer needs and provide meaning to your customers. Real meaning!



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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BE A DETACHED OBSERVER, REGULARLY


Mobile technologies have increased the speed of doing business. However, there is also a risk associated with the usage of them. That risk is that you are putting in much more hours in your work. The distinction between work and play is blurring.

How many of you read your messages/email when you are sitting on the couch at night? Are you immediately responding to requests, also in the weekend? Even while traveling we are constantly telephoning, reading or texting.

In business it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish yourself from the competition. But if you are vigorously playing the game, you don’t see everything that is happening on the playing field. You have to detach yourself to see properly. So, you have to make time for this on a regular basis. Blue Oceans don’t pop up by itself. You have to take some distance (in time and space) to see what is going on and to ‘see’ where you can be a real differentiator.

This timeslot will not appear by itself, you have to plan for it. So, start by having one hour ‘freedom time’ in your agenda, every week. This isn’t much, as you consider that the most innovative companies (Google, 3M) have reserved 20% of their time for this every week!



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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WALK THE TALK, LITERALLY, ALSO IN SERVICE.



Yesterday I did go to a DIY store to buy an extra heater (yes, winter has fully started here). There were several types available, e.g. Ceramic, halogen, oil. As I had no clue what was good for my situation, I went looking for some help. A couple of isles further I did find some employees and asked my question.
One of them did give me some very good advice on why I needed a heater based upon oil.

But........ they did not follow me back to show relevant alternatives. No, they stayed in their current isle. Clearly there were no oil heaters available; there was nothing in stock. So, I decided to visit another store. And yes, they had a good oil heater available, which I did buy.

What can be learned from this is that they should have accompanied me back to the heaters. And if they, for instance, told me that the new stock would be arriving in a day or so, I would have waited for that. But now I had no clue, so I did leave. They were not really interested in the sale.
Next time, please make sure that you really walk the talk!




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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WHAT IS WORKING WELL?



I would see that it is part of our cultural heritage that we focus on things, which are wrong, things, which are not working. This already starts in your upbringing and is strengthened in school. The teacher says: “you made 3 mistakes” and he didn’t tell you “ 7 answers were right”!
This attitude extrapolates into the workplace. The focus is on what is broken, defect and not working appropriately. This all creates a culture of fear and employees will be afraid to make any mistakes.

Let’s start one day a week in which you focus on what is working well. On your successes, on what the customer really appreciates. That will have two benefits.
  1. it will make you aware of opportunities to multiply successful services and
  2. it will boost the morale of your people.

It easy to implement, so what day of the week is your day of positive focus??




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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Most Important: The Ability To Learn, Fast



In these times of rapid changes it is crucial to look in front of you (instead of in the rearview mirror), to digest the relevant info, to learn and to (re)act. FAST!

However, many large corporations are still managing with a focus on data from the past. That is why they have installed all these huge ERP-systems. It is a management-style, which is dominated by control and an inward focus.

This is also the way they look at their (prospective) employees. The main driver whether you qualify for a job is your resume/cv. And this provides a view of and in the past.

This approach is no longer working. The market is changing so fast that ‘results from the past are no guarantee for the future’ anymore. This notification is even a legal requirement for financial services.
Market savviness and the ability to learn – fast - is much more crucial now.

With respect to learning there is a difference between the willingness to learn and the ‘should’ learning. Again the practice in most companies is that employees should/must learn. They send them to courses etc for this. But if there is no budget, the trainings are the first items that get cancelled. This entails a view on learning as something, which should happen occasionally.

Clearly this is no longer the way to go. One of the real differentiators is to learn, to learn fast and to learn ongoing. And of course act on what you have learned. Therefore you need a willingness to learn, an enthusiasm about learning particular topics. This can only be achieved when you work from your passion, only if you are passionate you will have this natural willingness and eagerness to learn.

So, do you already know what the passion is of your employees?



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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PERSONAL SERVICE PAYS


Last Saturday I did visit an optician (Bellavista in Baarn). I was curious as they offered a design service for glasses. I am interested in design and I am wearing glasses since I was a young child, so that is why I did go. I had never seen this ‘bespoke’ service from Tom Davies (the manufacturer) before.

I wanted to find out how it works. As I made no appointment I had to wait some time until the female owner approached me. She took all the time I needed and explained the concept very well. She even had me try on some of the glasses, even while there were other customers waiting.

Her partner overheard the conversation and told me about his experience with this bespoke service. What struck me was his honesty. He told me that most customers are hesitant because you don’t know the end result as you order. It will be a bit of a surprise, although you have defined the specifications yourself. He said that this ‘fear’ prohibits a large interest in the service.

Isn’t this great when you are honestly told what the risks are and why not many people are interested in the service? This personal and open communication certainly strengthened my interest.
The combination of a design product/service with personal service is really a differentiator!

How can you be more personal in your customer relationships?



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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A ME-TOO STRATEGY NEVER DIFFERENTIATES



The autumn has started and especially car dealers and tire providers are very active.

The car dealers are offering ‘free’ winter check-ups. You can come and they will check whether your car is winter-ready. And of course they hope to find something, which needs to be taken care of. Well, it could be beneficial for you, but mainly it is for them.
There are two ‘buts’:
  1. Most of the car dealers are offering the same type of winter check. So, customers perceive it as nothing special. This me-too strategy has as a consequence that customers just expect this service and don’t value it all.
  2. If I let my car have its regular, planned maintenance then why should I go to the garage an extra time? Did they miss something? Is there something, which they did not check there? This is confusing.

The tire providers are now offering to put some winter tires under your car. This means that you as a customer are supposed to have two sets of tires, one for the winter and one for the rest of the year.
There is also a ‘but’ here.
I have never heard tire manufacturers tell me that their regular set of tires is NOT suitable for driving in the winter. They always made me belief that these tires were a perfect choice for the entire year.
So, who is wrong? Are the winter tires not necessary or are the regular tires not suited for driving in the winter?
In any case they better give me the right information, because they just now confuse me. And this doesn’t increase my trust in their business practices.

So, before you start your marketing, consider whether you are addressing a real customer need. Also know that especially now honesty is still the best policy.



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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WHAT SPORTS TEAMS AND BUSINESS CAN LEARN



Here in The Netherlands, the football (soccer to some of you) competition is well under way. And of course some teams are performing better than expected and others perform worse than expected.
The first trainer has already been fired and more will soon follow. These trainers get the blame (from the owners and the spectators) for not winning their matches......... although they don’t play themselves.

In most businesses it is the other way around.  If the results are negative, then in most cases the employees are getting fired and the leaders remain in their position.

Both actions (firing respectively the trainer or the employees) bring rarely the required change. Most of the time the shock-effect is short lived and the downward trend continues. It only gives those in power the feeling that at least they have taken action. So, they cannot be blamed.

This blame-game creates a negative energy and it will increase fear. So, people and players are not encouraged to take risks, to be innovative or to be different. It creates a ‘gray’ culture, because everybody is afraid to be the exception.

All this communication is really in its essence top down communication and that never leads to people taking ownership or feeling engaged.

I would propose to have a real dialogue, with all the players involved. This means that owners, leaders, managers, employees/players and also the customers/spectators should be involved on an equal level.
And the main theme should be their strengths rather than the weaknesses. What can be done do increase these strengths? How can we become even better in those area’s?

This creates a constructive dialogue where everyone is encouraged to take ownership and to make sure that you grow, professionally as well as personally.

Are you feeling strong enough to be vulnerable as well?




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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SOCIAL NETWORKS



Obviously there is huge growth in the use of social networks. But there is still a large part of corporations, which don’t see the real added value yet.
They, these corporations, might not see it, but certainly their customers do!

The 2010 customer experience impact from RightNow has the following findings:

·     55% of the respondents became a customer of a company because of their reputation for great customer service.
·     58% of respondents expect a response to a comment on a social network site. Only 22% got a response.

This means two things. If you want to attract new customers than you better make sure that you provide great service and if you want to retain them than you better respond to their questions!

So, there is a new layer of communication (social media) that needs to be integrated into the main customer service processes. And this is not just an activity on which you want to spend as little as possible, because you view customer service as a cost-center only. No, this is a revenue generator; this is a crucial part of the sales and marketing effort!

This is your wake-up call!


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE


 In the May 2010 Survey from the Temkin Group they did ask this question:

‘How often do you delight customers when they get customer service in these channels?’

The result is quite shocking:

- In person            43%
- By phone            37%
- Online            17%

Well as our famous Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff says ‘every disadvantage has also an advantage’, so there is plenty of room for improvement here.
However, this is not a ‘nice to have’, it is a must. Why? In general it takes much more effort to attract a new customer than to retain an existing customer. But if you treat him or her badly they will leave and on the way out they will also inform all their friends about their negative experience.

That is why there is an urgent need to improve the performance of customer service. This should cover not only the department with that name, but basically everyone who interacts with the customer.

Customer service is a crucial factor in creating and maintaining a great customer experience.



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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR (CUSTOMER) SERVICE


 Many traditional, established companies still view social media as a fad, a fad especially for young people. That is the reason that they do not put a high priority on the application in their daily operations.

This can be a costly mistake.
The number of users in platforms like Facebook and Twitter is huge and it keeps on growing.
One of the major areas of discussion is (customer) service. People share their experiences online. Actually,  satisfied customers tell three friends and angry customers tell three thousand (source: Pete Blackshaw). Customer service is also the main reason people switch brands across every major industry (source: Accenture).

Key drivers of satisfaction (in customer service) are polite and friendly representatives, resolution of issues in a timely manner, whether customer service agents take responsibility for resolving issues, and the convenience of service representative’s availability.

So, social media becomes a sort of early warning system. Is something being discussed about my products or services of which I need to be aware and take action?! More and more people use social media BEFORE they are calling a helpdesk, or try to get on-site support.

Given the impact and speed of bad news, it is crucial for any customer service department to ongoing monitor social media and act decisively and maybe even pro-actively.

Social media is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it is a must for every organization that is serious about proving great service to their customers and prospects.



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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AMAZON + AMEX: AN UPDATE ON AREAS FOR SERVICES IMPROVEMENT



Here follows an overview of what happened since my article from last week.

American Express
Immediately the person who is responsible for social media reacted via Twitter. She put me in contact with their @askamex people to help me further.
She was very helpful and did find out that there was indeed a software problem (Safari and Chrome access didn’t work). That is what I told the Amazon people in the first place, but they wouldn’t listen.
Then she said that she could not assist me any further as my card was issued in the EU and she could only work with US issued cards.
As a global customer however I expect global, seamless service. But that is not the way they are currently organized. So, I would suggest renaming their account into @AskAmexUS.

Amazon
Via Twitter I did receive no reaction at all, although I copied them on my Tweets. Also there was no reaction to my negative ratings on their service performance.
So, why do you ask your customers about their satisfaction, when you take no action to follow up?
And why do you have a Twitter account if you do not react on issues?
This means that I had to be very creative in order to get my issue solved. I did mail a very valued Zappos contact and she introduced me to Amazon customer relations.
She was very helpful. After some time she confirmed that some browsers were not supported and that they are working on the issue.
Then she informed me later that the Membership Rewards Program was only eligible for in the US issued Amex cards.
Aha, this was not mentioned in the beginning and it is still suggested on my accounts page.
So, why are they making a difference between US customers and everybody else? Apparently I am good enough to order and pay with my (EU issued) card, but I don’t get the benefits for it.

Conclusion
If you are a global company then you have to make sure that you design your service in such a way that you can really support global customers.
If you provide service, then your goal is to help the customer to his or her satisfaction and not to get rid of them as fast as possible or pass on the responsibility.
If you ask for feedback, than follow up or don’t ask.
If you want to be a customer centric company than you have to make sure that the customers can reach you easily and effortlessly, by phone and by email.
If you use social media, than monitor what is being said about you and follow up.

And above all, if you make a mistake....... admit that you have done so!


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AMAZON’S Backlog in Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company



Last week I did read an article in TechCrunch that Amazon now accepts American Express membership rewards points for purchases on Amazon.com. Well this is good news, I thought, as I have quite some points to use. So, I logged into the specific page on Amazon to link both accounts. I just had to fill in a few details regarding my American Express account and then hit the last button ‘Link rewards account’. But........ nothing happened, I expected a confirmation page which tells me that everything is linked now, but no reaction at all. I could only see that my cursor was back at the place where I first provided my details. So, I tried again and again, but every time no result. Pff, this was frustrating. While I was so happy with the possibility of buying books from my points.

What to do next? I had to get in touch with customer service. This is where we get in an area where there is a huge opportunity for improvement.
It is very difficult to find a way to email/contact customer service. You need to spit tthrough a lot of FAQ pages and then somewhere at the end there is a link.
It is clear that Amazon prefers self-service and doesn’t really want you to contact their customer services. I now understand why.

First I used their mail facility and explained my problem. This was there reaction.
“I'm sorry you had problems using our website! I wasn't able to reproduce the problem you had, so I'd suggest you give us a call.  One of our colleague will assist you online in linking your card.”
In other words, dear Mr Customer you are wrong there is no problem!! This statement rules against the most crucial principle of services, namely the customer is always right. This made me angry, so I decided to make use of their call facility. They promoted  that I just had to provide my number and that I then would be called back. However, this functionality doesn’t work when you are living in the Netherlands. So, if  you really want to be a global company, than please include all countries where you are selling to.

What to do next? After some searching I did find a phone number, which I had to call at my own expense. Okay, I did it. The person who answered the call had never heard about the possibility of linking these accounts. So, I basically took him by the hand and explained the issue. The only answer he had (after consulting with his supervisor) was to call American Express instead. This is another major mistake in providing services; never pass the responsibility to someone else. So, I ended the thirty-minute international phone call and there I was. Still no solution and a lot of time and money wasted.
I decided to answer the first email and this is their response.
“We didn't receive the e-mail message below because it was directed to an e-mail address that can't accept incoming messages”
This again proves that they, Amazon, see services as a cost center, as an area in which they want a minimal amount of conversations, even better no conversations at all. They don’t want direct contact with me, the customer. On the contrarie. I, as a customer, want personalized and customized support. So, there is quite a gap here. But if you have this as a slogan in your signature “We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company” there is still hope…….

So, I did send a new email, again explaining my experiences. And this was the response.
“I'm sorry to hear you had trouble registering your rewards program to Shop with Points. Be sure to follow the instructions provided in the error message.”
Further in the mail, they explained the procedure. And this is it, nobody answered my question and nobody cared. Obviously it is my problem and not theirs! I feel that I am not wanted. I am just a nuisance and have to solve my own problems. Please don’t bother us, we just want to sell you stuff and provide as little personal service as possible.

As a last resort, I did check whether Amazon has a Twitter account, and they have. So I posted a message that I just had a terrible service experience. I hoped to get a reaction, but that was in vain. Also on all the emails there was this paragraph.
“Did I solve your problem?
If yes, please click here:
If no, please click here:
Every time I replied with no and gave the lowest possible ratings. Now, a week later, I have received no reaction at all.

What does this experience prove?
That services should not be only a cost center, that services require a specific approach and design, that service is a culture and an attitude and that a positive customer experience is crucial for retention.
Also, dear Mr Amazon you have to understand  that bad news travels fast. I am writing this blogpost as basically a cry for help. Maybe we can even help each other…..

I would also like to suggest that you  contact your partners from Zappos, as they really understand what it means to provide WOW-services!
Thanks.




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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OUTLIERS AND ICONOCLASTS




In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.
It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement.

The emerging picture from studies is that then thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a worldclass expert – in anything. So, you need to have parents who encourage and support you. You can’t be poor.
But before we can become an expert, someone has to give you the opportunity to learn hw to be an expert.

What truly distinguishes outliers is not their extraordinary talent, but their extraordinary opportunities. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up.

IQ is a measure, to some degree, of innate ability. But social savy is knowledge. It’s a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from your families. Did you have that opportunity?

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not jusr from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.

Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you were born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were. The traditions and attitudes we inherit from our forebears play the same role.

Sucess follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is sucess simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. Outliers are those who have been given opportunies – and who have had the strenght and presence of mind to seize them.

Outliers are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy.


In Iconoclast, Gregory Berns explains how the brain sabotages creative thinking for most ordinary people.

An iconoclast is a person who does something that others say can’t be done.
The iconoclastic brain differs in these three functions and the circuits that implement them:

  • Perception
  • Fear response
  • Social intelligence

PERCEPTION
Perception is heavily influenced by past experience and what other people say. To see things differently the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experience and forces the brain to make new judgments.

The iconoclast perceives things differently than everyone else.
The key to seeing like an iconoclast is to look at things that you have never seen before. Unfamiliarity forces the brain to discard its usual categories of perception and create new ones.

Only when you consciously confront your brain’s reliance on categories will you be able to imagine outside of its boundaries.

FEAR
Novelty triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear of uncertainty/the unknown (ambiguity), fear of failure and fear of public ridicule inhibit iconoclastic thinking. The true iconoclast. although he may still experience these fears, does not let them inhibit his actions.

Fear of the unknown, the other great inhibitor of innovation and iconoclasm, can also be managed through the same techniques of reappraisal (replace a negative reaction with a positive one) and extinction (any fear can be managed through practice). If individuals reappraise all sources of stress as an opportunity to discover something new or find a market niche that other people are afraid of, stress may itself decrease.

The truth is that many of our thoughts originate from other people. Conformity: we know what we see, and we know right from wrong, but with enough social pressure, we cave in to the fear of standing alone.
The most effective strategy for dealing with a group is to recruit one like-minded individual. Committees should not be required to arrive at a unanimous decision.


SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE
The individual must sell his ideas to other people. The modern iconoclast navigates a dynamic social network and elicits change that begins with altered perception and ends with effecting change in other people (or dying a failure).

Connecting with iconoclast depends on two key aspects of social intelligence: familiarity (face and name recognition) and reputation. Increase the world’s familiarity with you through productivity and exposure. And develop a reputation so that people are drawn to you and not repelled. To be successful, the iconoclast must foster networks. Iconoclasts need connectors. Without them, he stands no chance of achieving success.


So, what CAN you still do if you want to make a difference?

  • Practice makes perfect. Put in these ten thousand hours to become an expert.
  • Bombard your brain with new experiences
  • Team up with like-minded people
  • Improve your social skills
  • Continuously build your reputation
  • Provide meaningful work




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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

VALUE YOUR FRONTLINE EMPLOYEES



More than 80% of our  (Western) economies is based upon services. However, most tools, processes, research and business models are still based upon products and manufacturing know-how.
This creates tension, especially on the work floor. In the case of services, the person who delivers the service is in essence the service. Indeed, a human being and not a machine or a part. Human beings can and would like to think for themselves, they would like to grow, have meaningful work and feel engaged.

Who are these frontline employees in service jobs?
They are food service workers, nurses’ aides, janitors, home healthcare workers, waiters, cashiers, receptionists, rental-car agents etc. 45% of all jobs are these routine service jobs.
We have to make these service jobs even more innovative, more productive, and higher paying. This is beneficial for them as well as for the business.

Employees who are enthusiastic, engaged, and fulfilled are also happy. This lowers the use of the healthcare system (physical and mental) and positively impacts the customer relationship.

It is easy to get started.
A suggestion: Ask every frontline employee ONE aspect of their work which can be improved and how. They will thankfully respond to you and even expect this to be an ongoing process. This is great, let them feel this ownership and have them ongoing engaged in this process of continuous improvement.

When will you start?




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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SALES & SERVICE GO HAND IN HAND


Last week I had to buy a new TV, so I went to several stores for orientation. I am not up to date on the latest technologies in that industry, though. And that is what happened, I was bombarded with jargon out of that world (LED, LCD, HD, 50 Hz, 100 Hz, 32 inch, 40 inch, digital subscriptions etc).
In one shop they only explained about the TV, which was on sale, and where I was just standing as the salesrepr approached. He made no other suggestions or explanations.
In the second shop, I did get an excellent technical explanation of the possibilities. The best, however, was a demo of one 50Hz TV which was placed next to a 100 Hz TV. In that way I could really see the difference in quality.

What surprised me most is that no salesrepr actually asked what kind of a TV viewer I was. In other words what my needs were. So, no questions, as to how many hours I watch TV, whether I watch DVD’s with surround sound, how many people does my family consists of, whether I want to connect my stereo system, where the TV is placed etc. The basic questions in a sales call were not asked. Apparently they didn’t care. I am just a consumer and supposed to buy what they have to offer and figure it out myself what the best fit is.
I would say that a simple set of questions could highly improve my customer experience.

As I don’t want to spend hours and hours installing the device, I did ask who I could call in case I had difficulties. They gave me a name and telephone number. Fine.
But, hey guys, this can be much better, why not offer me to install the TV and offer me an extended warranty/service contract? Again they didn’t care.

When I installed the TV, there was a slight problem; there was no sound............ I used the remote as well as the tips on the TV itself, but no result. Well, maybe that is why they did give me a discount, there was no sound. Still, I called the number, but the person was free that day (which they hadn’t told me). I asked for another person, but they claimed to be very busy and that they will ask them to call me later. I don’t know their definition of later, but now 5 days have passed and nobody called me. Fortunately I figured out myself that they had put the sound off via the menu of the system (it was a demo TV).

So, how do I, the customer, perceive this? I was really surprised that in 2010 still the basics of sales and service were not in place (and this is a multinational!). Sales was not interested in my needs, sales didn’t offer me any service and (after sales) service was virtually non-existing.
The good news is that there is a lot of room for improvement and that is rather easy to accomplish.
That will only happen when the leadership takes customer service as well as after -sales service seriously. Part is also a cultural issue; it requires a shift in mindset. From box shifter to delighting customers that is quite a serious step. There is no other way if you want to survive in this highly competitive market.



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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

PUTTING INNOVATION IN PERSPECTIVE


That is what Richard Florida does in his latest book ‘The Great Reset’. I would say that this book is a must read for every innovator.

We know that for every creative process, the following steps are necessary:
  1. What is the end result?
  2. What is the current reality?
  3. What are the action steps?

Florida gives us a perspective on all these steps, both economically and from a society’s point of view.

Below I have listed some inspirational thoughts:

-       Great resets bring about shifts in consumption that fuel rising industries.
-       The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, and the highest rate of metabolism.
-       The jostling of many different professions and different types of people, all in a dense environment, is essential to the creation of things that are truly new.
-       Local cultural and social life determines who gets the talent.
-       It is that the old world will inevitably disappear, and that creating a new one is up to you, not someone else.
-       Innovation is no longer a national game but a global one
-       We need to spend less time and effort bailing out and stimulating the old economy and a lot more on building the new.
-       We have to make service jobs even more innovative, more productive, and higher paying.
-       The service economy offers a tremendous potential for tapping the creative contributions of frontline workers and turning them into improved productivity.
-       Further economic development requires the further harnessing of our human creative talents. <>.......of each and every worker.
-       We need a system of learning and human development that mobilizes and harnesses human creative talent en masse.

What does this mean?
Globally we have to bring together groups of talented, creative people from different backgrounds (business, art, science, government) that collaborate on new ideas for living and working together in a new system!

In essence we all have to learn (and unlearn) to be Creativists (http://bit.ly/cQ8kXR)!
Would you like to contribute?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SERVICES ARE HOT



In a great article from W.P. Carey’s Center for Services Leadership called “Making Services a  Science – new study finds great interest – and great confusion (http://bit.ly/dmdAgy)” the need for service innovation is being recognized.

‘......more companies than ever are interested in services innovation -- the creation of "transformative" services. More companies than ever are interested in smart services design. More companies than ever are interested in creating service-centric cultures, in leveraging technology to boost services and in creating consistency of service across geographies.’
I am inclined to say ‘finally’, but there is a right time for everything. It is good that more and more companies (and also governments) see the need to add services to their portfolio. And it is also very good that they understand that service business is fundamentally different from product business.
In essence, service business is people business, it is a human being who delivers the service. I always explain that if a product is out of stock you will order it from the factory. Because service business is all about human beings, the incubation time there is minimal 9 months…..
So, yes indeed there is a difference. The quicker you learn and understand this, the quicker you will be able to leapfrog your competition.
‘…….the challenge now is to create "the" model for services success -- a roadmap that can help service-inexperienced companies get started or allow services experts get even better at their craft.’
In my next post I would like to introduce my model, which I call ‘The Services Growth Ecosystem’.
Services are hot, but be aware that you don’t get burned. Take the time and the right resources to build a truly servicable organization!


GROW YOUR PEOPLE, GROW YOUR BUSINESS!


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FOCUS ON THE NEW WAY OF WORKING


Last week I attended a webinar with Gary Hamel. He mentioned the following challenges, which trigger the need for management innovation:

  1. Accelerating change
  2. Intensifying competition
  3. Diminishing differentiation
  4. Growing mistrust

I would like to add these observations:

  1. Increasing globalization
  2. Standardizing social media
  3. Integrating technology
  4. Collaboration between generations

Let’s have a quick look into each of them.

Ad 1. You could say that this is an open door. However we still have not learned to cope with change in an effective and efficient way. Many researches indicate that most change efforts do not bring the required results. Especially when it concerns personal change. Leaders and managers still do think that they are doing fine and that only the employees need to change.

Ad 2. The marketplace is becoming more and more crowded. And it will even become more crowded as many unemployed cannot find jobs and start their own business. Also the demographic growth means that there are more players , playing the same game. Blue ocean strategies are still an exception and this relates to the first point; we really are not good at structurally changing ourselves.

Ad 3. In the recent book Different by Youngme Moon she clearly shows that the practice of adding extra features to your product, will only have a very short (if any) lifetime. There is just too much choice and no real differences between most products.

Ad 4. Trust is one of the key factors for having an innovative culture. So, the increasing level of mistrust means that employees will not stick out their necks and they will keep radical ideas for themselves. I do think that the huge gap between pay (and bonus) levels is only stimulating this mistrust.

Ad 5. Through the air transport system as well as the communication system, the world has become one big village, with only a few hours time difference. This means that customers, competitors, employees and suppliers can and will be located just about anywhere in the world. Out of the traditional marketing P’s, the P of Place has a total different meaning now. At the same time we have to be aware of cultural and linguistic differences. Most of the time they are underestimated.

Ad 6. (Social) Media has fundamentally changed the communication landscape. This is no longer a fad, but a fact. Peer to peer communications has replaced the influence of top down communications. The customer has finally the means to be a king. Information has become instantly available to everyone. The dependence on old media has gone.

Ad 7. Convergence of data, voice, internet and video is now the reality with the availability of smart phones. Also look at the integration of computer technology in cars and other devices. Finally ICT has become the means to support work rather than the goal itself. We now should start to think how we want to work and how ICT can support that, rather than the other way around. E.g. ERP systems have dominated our way of working, but now we should turn that upside down: how do we want to work and how do systems support this.

Ad 7. In a short time there will be more Millenials in the workforce than Baby Boomers. Also there will be more than three generations working at the same time. Their wants and needs differ substantially, so we need to cater for that and no longer apply a ‘one size fits all ‘ flavor to it. Gary Hamel said that in the past obedience, diligence and intellect were important. But now there is a need for passion, creativity and initiative. The 2010 CEO study by IBM also highlights this urgent need for creativity. It is one thing to identify the need, but how to deal with it is another. It means that we structurally have to redesign our education and training systems.


If you have carefully digested (and please take the time to do this) these challenges, you can only come to the conclusion that you have to radically reconsider and redesign your business. And this is not something that can wait, NO the urgency is now. Also this is not only a task for you marketing or strategy guys, it should encompass all functions and all levels ( see the AQAL model from Ken Wilber). So, it is good that you are refreshed from your holidays and that you can start with this eminent task with an open mind.


GROW YOUR PEOPLE, GROW YOUR BUSINESS!




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CONNECT OR PERISH


 It looks like there is a dichotomy growing at many different levels (communities; business; society).
A dichotomy between:
·      Supporters of the old/current system  and supporters of a new system
·      Old generations and young people
·      Guardians of the establishment and radicals
·      Specialists and generalists
·      Hierarchies and networks
·      Bosses and employees
·      Governments and the masses

I can continue with this list, but the point is that it looks like the divide is broadening, rather that that we are busy building bridges to connect these ‘two worlds’. The more we try to convince the establishment that they have to change the more they will resists and the more it will frustrate the revolutionaries.

This is not a healthy trend. What is needed is an open attitude on both sides with the intention of creating solutions. And solutions are needed badly for many of today’s’ challenges, like the environment (see the gulf oil spill and the role BP plays), the financial system (trust is lacking in  banks),  unemployment, global warming (also experiencing a heat wave lately?) etc.
An ‘either –or’ approach is not working, so we need to focus on an ‘and-and approach. We have to come up with radical new solutions which are at the same time providing a migration path for the current way of doing business/governance.

Both worlds really do need each other. The establishment urgently needs new ideas (and implementations) and the radicals need support to roll out these solutions.

Recently a lot of research has confirmed this need for connections, for building bridges instead of focusing on a widening gap.

In the book Iconoclast, Gregory Burns emphasizes the need for social intelligence. The iconoclast needs someone to connect him or her to the ‘old’ world. Otherwise he will remain on a small island, whereas he needs scale to be successful. Iconoclasts need connectors. Without them, he stands no chance of achieving success.
Clay Shirky describes in Cognitive Surplus two main motivations of every human being:
1.intrinsic motivations for autonomy and competence
2. social motivations for connectedness/membership and sharing/generosity.
Again, here you see the fundamental need to be connected.
In Fast Company there was an interview with Paul Zak (dr. Love) who explains that social networking triggers the generosity-trust chemical in our brain. Tweeting for just ten minutes decreases stress with more than 10%!

This all means that we should be focusing on building connections and not focus on the differences. Both sides really need each other to solve the current and (future) challenges.

So, WE NEED YOU MR/MRS BRIDGEBUILDER!


GROW YOUR PEOPLE, GROW YOUR BUSINESS!


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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BUSINESS NEEDS A REFRESHER COURSE



In many professions (doctors, dentists, lawyers, judges, coaches) you need to follow, at least yearly, a refresher course. Otherwise you will loose your license or certificate. The goals of these refresher courses is to train on the new developments in the their respective field. These can be new methodologies, new laws, new procedures, and new ways of working. There is benefit for both the participants (they keep up to date with their knowledge) as well as the customers (they receive the latest, proven treatment).

So, wouldn’t it be a good idea to institutionalize this also for managers and leaders in business? Businesses have a huge influence in our society, often more than even governments. Leaders are co-responsible for the wellbeing of their people and their respective families. And I would say that the most changes happen in this area. There is ongoing newness in technology, regulations, standards, communications, employee relations, stakeholders, personal motivation, sustainability and many other area’s.

Most managers and leaders are very busy; their agenda’s are fully booked with meetings. When the meetings are finished they are supposed to handle many emails. Then they will travel home which takes more and more time due to the traffic jams. And then they have some time with their families. In essence there is no time available for acquiring new knowledge and experiences. You could argue that they then have set the wrong priorities, but the daily operational pressure is so high that they will and cannot change these priorities. The result is that when you (as an outsider) talk wit them about for instance social media they hardly know what it is – “oh, this is what my daughter uses, isn’t it”- or they are not aware what the latest mobile technologies, like geo-location services,  can do for their business.

The only way out of this is to have one, mandatory week each year where they will have these business refresher courses. These courses will take place in outside locations and business people from different industries will attend. In this way they can also learn from each other.



GROW YOUR PEOPLE, GROW YOUR BUSINESS!


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