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Posts Tagged ‘Value’

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what-is-innovation

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Every interaction with a customer including complaints is an opportunity to build or strengthen our bridges with our customers.  Very often we find our customer-facing staff blowing away this opportunity that lands on our lap for free. To better understand this gift recall what we go through when we go out to engage a customer unsolicited.  

And how do we blow it away? Usually by keeping our interaction down to a crisp and a minimal response demanded by the context.  Technically flawless, business-wise not so wise.  Of course at the other extreme, we might have a loquacious rep overdoing it pushing the customer to annoyance.

What then do we do with this opportunity? Well, there are several avenues to be explored: we could gain useful insights into his decision making process (why or how did he settle on our product?), his experience with competitors, his post-purchase impressions, what else would he like to see as features, does he see enough of our brand publicity… If it is a complaint, information about events leading to the failure could be collected.  Did he have other issues/signals before the failure occurred?  Does he have thoughts on how this failure could have been possibly averted? Of course what would work depends on the temperature of the call.

All of these cannot happen without orienting our customer-facing staff adequately, constructing different possible scenarios and outlining avenues for enriching the interaction.  

Note outsourced call-centers are optimized to enhance calls handled in a day rather than quality engagement with the caller, at once totally eliminating this opportunity.

Incidentally all of the above apply to our interactions with prospects too.

Here’s a short well-written piece from Art Petty on this same theme exhorting us to have transformational interaction instead of transactional. A personal experience included. So why settle for less when its potential benefits could be dramatic?

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An earlier post on the subject here. 

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A recent segment on the CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood had an amazing customer service story. Krystal Payne, at a Starbucks in Leesburg, VA, noticed that one of her customers, Ibby Piracha, was deaf. One day Ibby came to get his usual coffee and Krystal handed him a handwritten note, which read: “I’ve been …

Source: An Amazing Customer Service and Leadership Story to Learn From

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As English is not our mother tongue, we do not always worry too much about what we say or write. That’s how we promise our prospects/customers solutions that are the cheapest, fastest, most easy-to-use…If for a moment we translate all that we say into our native tongue I’m sure we would never be so generous with the superlatives, hurting our credibility in the eyes of our audience.

Along these lines is also the abuse of clichés. In recent times I came across two such instances bordering on the ridiculous.

value-added1 pmtips.net

In Udaipur, a restaurant chain claiming to hold Guinness record for making largest dosa’s, proudly talked about value-addition in its mission statement prominently printed on the menu cards. I thought they’re in the business of delivering value to their customers in the first place which is far from being convincingly established. As for the ‘additions’ to the arguable value, of course there is no hint to where these may be found.

Value-addition rears its head once again at a least likely place – a IES school on the Jogeshwari link road near Seepz. A large billboard outside the school main-gate claims value-addition through education. Here again, I thought, schools are meant to create values in the first place in their students that become deep rooted over repeated reinforcement.

Of course, I may have completely missed the points they were making. If so, my apologies are due to them.

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Source: Image from pmtips.net

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Project-Management premium.wpmudev.org

There was a news item recently in the press about Tata Consultancy Organization (TCS) planning to lay off 30,000 professionals accompanied by words on the ‘big corporate for-profit exploiter’ from some of those impacted or to-be guys for the human element in the story. The guys, it seems, are largely managers with 8 to 10 plus years of experience.

The company has denied it saying the annual weeding out exercise would be only to the extent of 2% to 3% of total strength as it has done in preceding years.

Let us assume for a moment the company is true to its word and there are no compelling reasons of business downturn warranting a bigger-than-usual axing.

While the development is certainly unfortunate especially for the affected, it is hardly surprising. And I’m sure it is neither sudden.

Why does this happen?

When it comes to weeding out, the organization looks at the value an employee brings to the operations in a series of assessments. This is even more significant at senior levels as these guys are pricier and hence most vulnerable.

The avenues available to a senior (a project lead or a manager) to enhance his contribution are essentially in two directions: a) He contributes to the project he is managing/involved or b) He contributes to some corporate objectives not linked to his project. In many organizations seniors are mandated to wear both the hats to get more out of their strengths and maturity.

As far as direct contribution to the project goes, opportunities are many:

1. Of direct and high impact for the organization of curse is to mine the project/account to increase the billing incrementally/strategically. Or, to wow the customer on scope,cost, time, performance or quality parameters of the project.

There are a number of other ways to step up the value (not in any order):

2. Reduce income leakage by handling the lost hours.

3. Increase productivity by using tools, cutting waste, streamlining processes, etc.

4. Flatten the cost pyramid by substituting more junior resources in place of seniors

5. Get the customer to sponsor an incentive plan and other recognition schemes for the team. While the costs incurred in these schemes are low the returns are manifold.

6. Develop it as a reference account/project by putting together, solution stories, application/technical notes, and other marketing/sales assets.

7. Get the customer to agree to site visits by prospects.

8. Get the customer to speak in the organization’s promotional events.

9. Generate newer views of the project by formulating imaginatively metrics to address his pain areas. For example, mapping the change-requests to physical pieces of code would be useful in pointing out which modules are hit by poor articulation of requirements, lack of coding skills or sheer business volatility.

10. Reduce the hassles of dealing with the team in some perceptible manner. For example, cut back on the communication load.

11. Alter some service parameter to customer’s advantage like coverage/turnaround times.

12. Engage the customer to gain a business perspective and his plans, to support mining efforts.

13. Harvest reusable/training assets.

14. Validate and refine quality assurance/productivity/staffing/estimation/methodology models/norms.

15. Groom junior resources in technical and soft skills. In one project, juniors took turns to be present when the lead reviews with the customer to improve their reviewing, communicating and objection handling skills.

16. Stand by him by going beyond the letter during his crisis time.

I’m sure you have a few other ideas too. The opportunities are many limited only by imagination.

So what is holding you back, friend?

If the project is a dead-end kind offering no scope for any initiative at all over an extended period of time, it’s time to move on to another project or even organization.

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One of my recent experiences.

The_Table_Of_Shame

A few days ago, I was at the pharmacy/chemist, my Family Warrant holder for years now.

Stacks of baby-food tins, packs of sanitary napkins and crates of bottled water reduced the customer space to a single file in the small shop. The short guy spotted me patiently waiting behind a lady unhurriedly examining the label on a diet kakra pack. He is one of the guys – there are two or three of them – filling my orders regularly over the last three years. I shouted out my usual order for insulin cartridges and some OTC items. He pulled them out one by one from the fridge, shelves and cabinets and piled them up on the counter, punctuating regularly with a ‘What else, Sir?’

I wasn’t sure if he remembered. Disregarding the awkwardness, I asked him for the Senior Citizen’s discount on the bill. Transaction completed, I stepped out.

Gone for a few minutes on my next errand, I remembered. I returned to the pharmacy, got the attention of the short guy.

‘Hey, you did not give me needles for the insulin pens.’

‘Sir, I asked you ‘What else?’ and you didn’t tell me,’ he looked hurt at my unfair accusation.

He didn’t suspect I would need the needles to get the insulin into my blood.

If this is my pharmacy, it is the same with the appliances store where we’ve bought for last 25 years and all other businesses we transact with. My government does even better – it needs me to have my ration card (used more for identity proof than for buying provisions through government shops at subsidized rates), PAN card for income-tax, Election Card for voting, Know-Your-Customer for some financial transactions and of course, passport for travel, not to mention telephone bills, electricity bills, cooking-gas bills, rent receipts, etc., etc. for identity/residence proof. I’m sure I’ve overlooked a few.

On my part, I’ve been remiss of one thing – on my next visit, I’ll find out the name of the short guy.

While on the subject, there is an interesting post from Bernadette Jiwa’s blog at thestoryoftelling.com that succinctly captures the essence of personalized service – her posts are always short, easy-to-read and jogs one’s mind. Note she is talking about organization consciously basing its entire service model on what it knows about its customer – it’s a lot more than customizing web pages on browsing history or profile data entered/collected or even CRM.

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Credits: thestoryoftelling.com and hahastop.com

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