Thursday, November 03, 2016

Good Service is Good Business

Having worked in service industries all my life I hold customers in the highest of esteem, yet many of the organisations that I am a customer of seem to treat me with near contempt.

During the past 12 months I have had clashes with a variety of large organisations. They all have very polite and caring staff but are unable to make a decision based on my predicament.

In most cases they could have solved my problem at virtually no cost to themselves by simply being flexible on tiny matters of policy.  If they had done so, not only would they have retained me as a customer but I would, most likely, have become an advocate.

On every occasion they retort with the response; "I can't do that".  The real answer is that they could, they are either not allowed or they don't know how.  But what kind of a policy is it that leaves your customer fuming?

As a result of my background I am well aware that the cost of acquiring new customers is many times that of retaining existing ones.  My frustration is therefore based on the fact that not only could they solve my problem easily by simply being a bit more flexible, but that it would also be good for their business!

If you work for a company that has a so-called 'customer services' department, ask yourself whether the staff who work there are empowered to provide customer service, or simply to answer questions on company policies.


You’re half way through the week yet you still have a To Do List that is longer than your Outlook tasks window. How about prioritising? What are your Red Star items? A signed order form? A great client meeting resulting in more business? The finished article that got approved? Go for them first! They are the ones that make you rich and famous. Red Stars are the stuff that brings the most prominent results.

After that think about your Blue Stars. Thes are actions that are essential to the schievement of Red Star actions, such as aranging an important client meeting, producing a brochure, sharing information with your team.  They are important but they can often be delegated.

This brings me to the most annoying bit – White Stars. These are e-mails, internal meetings, admin that can take 80% of your time. Reduce them! Delegate them and concentrate ruthlessly on your Red Stars. Use the language with your team. When being disturbed, ask them: Is this a Red Star? If the answer is no, send them away to solve it by themselves. Soon you'll have fewer questions and more time, and your staff will be learning how to do more things for themselves.

Harmony vs Diversity

When you're looking to engage someone new, often the most important consideration is the "fit." This is extremely important -- having someone who doesn't get along or share the same ideals with the rest of the group can cause havoc and tension and make life at work uncomfortable.

That said it doesn’t mean you should be aiming to recruit someone just like you and/or your friends.

We often choose our friends because they think like us, like the same things we do, and laugh at our jokes. (At this point, you may think that this is wrong as you have, for instance, many political debates with your friends. But this just means that you both like arguing about politics.)

This makes for great fun, but it's not what’s needed in business - if you and your team agree on everything, you're going to be looking at things from the same vantage point and you're more likely to miss something -- perhaps something important to your business.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints.

The most well-known example of Groupthink is the United States Bay of Pigs Invasion. The invasion plan was initiated by the Eisenhower administration, but when the Kennedy White House took over, it "uncritically accepted" the CIA's plan. When some people, such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Senator J. William Fulbright, attempted to present their objections to the plan, the Kennedy team as a whole ignored these objections and kept believing in the morality of their plan. Eventually Schlesinger minimized his own doubts, that is, he performed self-censorship. The Kennedy team stereotyped Castro and the Cubans by failing to question the CIA about its many assumptions, including the ineffectiveness of Castro's air force, the weakness of Castro's army, and the inability of Castro to quell internal uprisings.

Groupthink is more likely to occur in a highly homogenised team that lacks disparate views and challenge.

This doesn't mean you should take on someone just because she's different. Like any other contender, she also needs the qualities and experience and knowledge to do the actual job. And your new member does need to get along with everyone -- different doesn't mean disagreeable.

But if you normally recruit alumni from your school, or friends of current employees, you might want to expand your reach. Instead, try networking, social media, local job fairs to broaden your reach.

Otherwise, if you continue hiring people who think just like you do, you'll find yourself rapidly losing any type of outside perspective. And that box that you're not thinking outside of will become much, much smaller.