Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Ideas Can Come from Anyone…

I recently finished reading “Break the Pattern- The Science of Transformational Value Creation” by Dr Ahmad Rahman Songip.  I had heard Dr Songip speak at a business forum and his views on bringing about change struck a chord.  His examples range from Ford to Fernandes (think “Now Everyone Can Fly”) …

One of the main points Dr Songip makes is that ideas come from the people who deliver and use our products or services.  Customer Experience and Market Research are about tapping into these ideas, but the “usual” way of going about them sometimes leads organisations up the wrong path, mainly because they fail to listento what’s being said.   It was this that led to the undoing of the Ford Motor Company as America’s top carmaker from 1931 onwards, and Tony Fernandes’(still haven’t looked him up?) ability to tap into what others say that has propelled him  and his business to the top slot in his particular niche.

The ability to understand the true state of our organisation, for Dr Songip, is the starting point in moving forward.  Failing to understand results in changes not being achieved.  What, he asks, are your “pain points” and where do they impact the value chain?  

If our organisational culture discourages honest discussion on what’s wrong, is likely to result in a plan that in neither appropriate nor effective, based on management assumptions and wistful thinking.  

Added to this is the “silo” or “functional” division of organisations into areas of expertise, but which, often, have conflicting objectives which impede smooth service. Silos can (and indeed will) be necessary for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but to really move an organisation to the next level, they all need to understand how their individual activities impact the whole product or service delivery.  Silos make it easy to distribute goals and orders down the chain of command “top -down management”), but more than ever, exceptional customer experience requires a “bottom-up” approach.  

Our question as managers is how we instil this process without destroying the value already embedded in the organisation.  


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Service vs Expectations

I was talking with a manager of one of the world’s airlines some weeks ago. In the past, this manager had worked for a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC), but was now working for a “regular” (i.e. non-LCC) airline.  One of the comments the manager made was that the LCC’s customers seemed more prepared to accept delays and other incidents that we might consider “poor service”.

It made me realise: expectations aredriven partly by cost. How many times have I seen comments on a product on Amazon where the reviewer said words to the effect of “I shouldn’t have expected too much, seeing as I didn’t pay much…”, or “For the price I paid, I would have expected better…”

In 2014, I wrote about setting expectations, but never dreamt I’d come back to this four years later.  Perhaps not much has changed.  Price doesdictate how customers expect our product or service to turn out.  The more we pay, the more we expect.

Getting back to our airline manager, this person had clearly seen this lesson in action.  The expression, you get what you pay for” resonated with them and they were now working for an airline that had invested considerable time, effort and money into training, systems and the fleet of aircraft they had.  Speaking recently with someone at their home, they commented that the cabin service on this airline was unexpectedly high.  This was the result of that investment (and the higher prices that the airline was charging passengers as a result).

To say that people “aren't prepared to pay” for good service or products is to oversimplify the situation. None of us want to pay more than we have to, and we certainly don't want to pay for poor service or poor-quality products.  The only conclusion I can draw is that, if we feel we’re getting valuethen the service or product provider has done what we asked.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Best Gift for Your People

I overheard a conversation during which someone admitted that they never passed on all their knowledge to the person taking over from them so that they could always carry on looking like the “best” employee by supplying information that others clearly couldn’t.

Assuming that this attitude prevailed in the organisation for which that individual worked, it would take only 7-8 handovers before the body of knowledge required to perform that job competently was diluted by 50%.  After 10 handovers, the body of knowledge would be below 40%.

In reality, what happens is that the new person in the job “catches up” and performs at the required level.  However, this catch-up period would be longer than if a proper handover had taken place, with the result of reduced service levels, staff morale and general frustration all round.  

If 7-8 people were taking over new jobs, the body of knowledge would again suffer a temporary 50% drop until the new job holders were “up to speed”.

Not a recipe for productivity, job satisfaction or high team morale.

Our job as managers is to produce the best people we can, not to hold them back.  In an ideal world, everyone I train and coach should turn out better than me.  Yes, there’s a risk that they could overtake me and become my manager some years down the line, but I’d rather have them as an ally, remembering how I helped then, than an enemy who remembers how I made them look bad.  Karma can be tough…

Another result of failing to pass on knowledge, assuming one works in a larger team or function, is that overall performance in that function is impaired, making the team/function head look inadequate.  No one is likely to thank a colleague who causes all this to happen because they haven't understood their duty to pass on knowledge.

The best gift we can give our people is our knowledge, experience and lessons learnt (the hard way). 

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 26 October 2018

5 More Tips for Effective Email Management

I’ve recently written about the groundwork of organising oneself for receiving multiple emails from multiple sources.  What follows looks more at actually running the system.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll continue the numbering where I left off.

6.    Check email 2-3 times/day only:
Our natural tendency is to check email first thing on arriving in the office. Usually, we start checking emails from top to bottom.  This means we may miss important emails hidden below where our screen ends.  I find it’s better to settle in, plan my day, and then check email (following the suggestions in tip #3 in my previous article).  This may be up to 30 minutes after I arrive.  I then check before lunch and in the late afternoon.  This way, I can still catch anything urgent that requires a response before the day ends as well as scheduling other emails for response in the early part of the next day at work.  Include (if you can get away with it) the time(s) at which you check your email as part of your signature and also in an automatic response to all emails received.

7.    Use Unroll Me:
This is a great product that I came across which I use on the email account for online purchasing (every vendor wants an email address).  Sadly, it can only be linked to one email account, but it allows you to decide whether you want new emails to continue coming into your inbox, to be “rolled up” or to “unsubscribe”.  As at this point in time, I’ve got:
  • 32 addresses which I allow to come into the inbox
  • 177 email addresses “rolled up”; I get a daily report on who on that list emailed me with a “thumbnail” of the email.  If it looks interesting, I can open it.  
  • 363 “unsubscribed” email addresses. 

8.    Use “Junk”, unsubscribe and delete - be brutal:
A lot of our email may be “newsletters” that we haven't subscribed to, or are sent because we purchased something online six months earlier.  Whatever happens, unsubscribe immediately.  I also get a lot of emails from people offering SEO optimisation services which I just move to “Junk”.  Apple Mail gets to recognise these addresses and automatically moves them to “Junk”, giving me the option to delete all junk when I want.  Delete messages that don't look important – they should still appear in your “Trash” or “Deleted Box” and you can generally set the time period for which deleted messages are stored so you can still retrieve them. 

9.    Avoid using “Reply All”:
We’ve all experienced the person who hits “Reply All” when it really isn’t necessary.  If you’re in this position, establish a rule in your organisation that no one uses “Reply All” unless the sender of the email specifically requests it.

10.  Send emails received when on leave to a “Vacation” inbox:
Although this doesn't stop emails coming in, you can often get your email client to direct all email received between certain dates into a designated “vacation” or “leave” inbox.  This means that when you get back to work, you can start with the emails that came in after your vacation.  Also, use “Out of Office” to redirect emails that need urgent responses (you have the right to “disconnect”).

If you're a heavy user of Googlemail, check out this articlefor more tips



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, 13 October 2018

5 Tips for Effective Email Management

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from clients and others is about the amount of email they receive at work.  Email can come at any time and the expectation in our 24/7 connected world is that sending an email will result in an instantaneous reply. It’s far easier, cheaper and quicker to send an email and the same message can be copied to dozens of recipients with no additional effort on the part of the sender.  

Love it or hate it, email is part of our lives.  The problem is that many aren't taught how to handle it in the same way we’re taught to (say) organise our workspace, de-clutter a home or prioritise tasks.  Many tend to check email on getting into the office and to start responding immediately to each email one after the other.

I’m a person with friends and family, two companies I run, a business association of which I’m Chairman and I purchase goods regularly online.  As a result, I get emails from different sources for different reasons. I use Apple Mail as my email client as it allows me to see my personal, business and other email accounts at the same time.

Over the years, I’ve read a number of tips and tried different methods, so here’s what I’ve found useful:

1.    Separate “personal” and “corporate” email:
Some people who have all email sent to their business email address, with the result that they’re “drowning” in emails.  I have a personal email address which I give to a select few and use business email addresses for the two businesses I run.  I also have another email address for the business association mentioned above.  It doesn’t reduce the number of mails I receive, but it puts me in control by allowing me to decide which area of my life I want to prioritise.  Think of it like sorting the letters received in your home – you probably open the ones that look “interesting” first.

2.    Have an inbox folder for “The Boss”:
If you work for someone, they decide on your final performance rating and bonus.  Create an inbox titled “The Boss” and set up a rule in your email client that all email received from your manager should go directly there.  When you open your email client, you’ll see what’s come if from the boss and can decide immediately what to do with it.  An extra useful tip is to include your manager’s manager as well. You can then see at a glance any messages from “the boss’ boss” and warn yours of what’s there.  They’ll love you for “having their back”.

3.    Use the “4-Folder System”:
One tip I read suggested having 3 folders:
  • “Action” for messages that must be actioned NOW
  • “Read later” for those that you could read when you have quiet time (e.g. emails with complex instructions, updates on activities, etc)
  • “Maybe” for emails that you might read but don't think are vital.

I added “KIV” (Keep In View) for emails that I send out but want to keep track of (say because I need a response).  When I look at my inbox, I first sort emails into “Action”, “Read later”, “Maybe”.  The “Action items” then get handled first, followed by the rest.  The great thing is that this makes you prioritise your emails and also empties your inbox immediately.  The downside?  It needs disciplineto make it work.

4.    Create and use inboxes for specific projects:
Some suggest we use inboxes for specific projects.  As long as senders use the project name in the “Subject” field of their email (e.g. “Project Maximus”, “Project Aurora – Update”) you can instruct your email client to send email containing these words in the subject field direct to their designated inbox.

5.    Have an email address specifically for online purchases:
I’ve already mentioned this above as when vendors ask for your email address (usually so they can confirm your purchase and when it was sent).  The downside is that they may also send unwanted newsletters (unsubscribe – tip #6 above) or that someone my procure their customer database and send unsolicited email.  I can also close off this address any time I want and establish a new one.

The above describes setting up and personal organisation mostly, but I’ll follow up with five more tips on actually managing what has just been done. 

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.
  

Labels: ,

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

10 Tips for Keeping Customers Happy

Businesses rely on happy customers.  Happy customers buy more and more often, introduce new customers and are more forgiving of mistakes.

Makes sense to keep them happy, but some manage it better than others.  Both personal experience, experience of observing others and anecdotal evidence suggest, however, that organisations that follow these 10 tips generally do better.

1.     Make it easy for them to deal with you:
We’re all busy people and don't want to follow complex procedures for simple things. Especially when these procedures seem designed more to protect the business from the customer.

2.     Be honest:
Some organisations seem to hide what customers might consider “important information”.  Whilst the motto “Let the buyer beware” applies to an extent, withholding information that “reasonable” people would consider vital to purchase decisions can land us in trouble.  Ask yourself, if you think someone’s withholding information, will you trust them?

3.     Be fair:
How would we feel if we were treated the way our organisation treats its customers?  If we don't like or agree with it, it’s probably time to change…

4.     Listen… 
… especially to complaints.  What customers say or tell us is free feedbackwhich could help improve service or spot future trends or problems. 

5.     Communicate:
When something happens, we may have to explain why and what we're doing about it.  Hiding from customers’ questions and hoping they’ll give up is a non-starter nowadays. The internet will ensure that any reluctance to respond to what are seen as genuine problems will be publicised and the organisation will have to work harder to repair the damage.  

6.     Keep promises:
When we say we’ll do something, we create an expectation.  If we can’t fulfil promises, we shouldn’t make them.  For example, if we say we’ll call back, we must call them back.

7.     Don’t take it personally:
As customers, we get unhappy when things go wrong and want to express our anger – usually at the salesperson in front of us.  On the “other side” (as the salesperson, Customer Service Officer, etc), we hate taking complaints.  We tend to forget that the customer’s anger is directed at the organisation, not at us (although it can seem like it at times!). 

8.     Fix it!
If the organisation has caused the problem, the best thing we can do is fix it – fast.  Then take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again (but remember tips #1-4 above…).

9.     Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”:
Thanks to improving technology, increasing legislation and a generally more complex array of products with different features, it’s becoming more difficult to “keep up”.  It’s better to say that we’ll find the answer (as long as this doesn’t happen too often) and is in line with tip #2 above.  Customers appreciate people who don't “shine them on”.

10.  Smile:
At the right time, it makes such a difference!

The one common factor of all the tips above is that none of them involves spending any money.  They’re all linked to attitudewhich can be the hardest thing to instil in people who deal with customers.  The cost to an organisation is time spent in training and observing. To further drive the right attitude, we can rewardthe behaviours that display it.

Customers have more choice and (thanks to the internet) a louder voice now.  Don't give them a reason to choose your competitor over you and tell the world why they’re doing it.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.


Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

So Much For “Silos”

In a previous blog I commented on the advantages and disadvantages of “silos”.  I recently had two experiences that show the downside.

The first was when I wanted an update on a product I had ordered from a “kickstarter” project.  I had emailed their “support@...” email address a number of times to ask what was going on, with no success.  I then tried looking them up on Facebook and found they had a page.  I immediately messaged them to ask why I hadn't received a reply to my enquiries to “support@...” I did get a message back (three days later) saying they were “shipping none stop” and that I should email “inquiries@...” instead to get a “faster” reply.

The second episode concerns a government department where I had to renew the validity of a document, but was told that the team that handled this particular document wasn’t in on the day I called and that I would have to come back two days later.

Dividing responsibilities amongst different departments, assigning different email addresses for different purposes and enquiries all make sense if it means that customers get services or responses in a timely manner.  However, when it results in degradation of service or delays because “the other team/department/person” isn’t available, things need to change.  It may be a simple case of changing shift patterns, cross-training or opening earlier/closing later.



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , ,