Articles

Building a Customer-focused Organisation

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In an attempt to woo prospective customers, many organisations resort to fancy big-ticket marketing campaigns that seem to offer value one simply can't refuse. It is not uncommon for prospects to receive the royal "red-carpet", usually complimented with an elaborate sales pitch of benefits the customer will receive on signing the dotted-line.
Once the paperwork is administered, that's when all "good things come to an end", as the saying goes. The prospective customer, is now known as customer 1234567Z, becoming a mere statistic in the organisation's vast customer database. Customer 1234567Z threads along his busy daily routine until one fine day when he experiences some dissatisfaction with the product or service that he has paid for. Immediately he rings the organisation for help and clarification only to receive the standard "I'm sorry sir, our company policy does not allow …" or "your payment does not include …" response.

Imagine how one feels as he walks aimlessly in a pitch dark room and keeps knocking his head against the wall. Due to poor visibility, he does not know if he will ever find his way out of the room. Anxiety, frustration and disappointment are just some of the emotions a customer goes through when they are uninformed of an organisation's policy, procedures, rules and regulations. Worse still, if these emotions have resulted from systems or people that are not customer oriented.

Weaving service successfully into daily operations does not occur overnight. For an organisation to reach the "million dollar round table" in service, it needs to establish a customer-focussed culture that permeates the entire organisation where every employee lives and breathes service in everything they do. A useful acronym that paves the way for an organisation that endeavors in building a service culture is MINDSET.

Make Service a Strategy

Identify the value proposition that you wish to offer to your customers, then, weave it as part of the organisation's service strategy. For example, the value proposition that amazon.com puts forward to her customers is the hassle-free ordering process (you order the book and we'll do the rest). The key is to be unique and exclusive enough to make the customer notice.

Internalise the message of service

Everyone knows that providing good service to the customer is important. But, how many of your staff truly believe that they have to do what it takes to provide excellent, unbelievable, legendary, fabled service to each valuable customer that walks through door?

Internalizing the service message means that each and every key staff embraces service as a way of life. One strategy would be to align key employee processes to service quality. For example, the moment an employee joins the organisation, a customer-focused mindset should be instilled by emphasising service concepts during the induction, orientation, on-the-job coaching as well as through built-in rewards and recognition systems.

New way of working

Take a look at your processes from the customers' perspective ie walk the path of your customer. Identify any "irritating" processes that disgruntled customhicle owners are required to park their vehicle and wait patiently while the attendant attempts hurriedly to pump fuel. The owner then has to proceed to the cashier to make payment. Mobil's card minimises hassle. ers constantly complain about. Make it a point, to understand why they are unhappy and modify these processes to meet and exceed their expectations.

The new Mobil Fuel Card is an excellent example. Traditionally, veBy simply installing a device to the rear of the vehicle, the driver parks the vehicle, fills up petrol and drives off. He is billed at a later stage for the fill-up: No queues, no hassle, no unnecessary waits at the counter, not to mention improved efficiency at the petrol kiosk.

Delight customers everytime

Although it isn't guaranteed that a delighted customer will continue to patronise the organisation indefinitely, the likelihood that a delighted customer continues to support the organisation is indeed high. Seize every opportunity as a golden opportunity to display how much you care for your customer, and they will reciprocate by more ways than the organisation will ever know.

Seek to continually improve

Organisations that continue to remain in the forefront of service excellence look at change as an opportunity to "wow" customers. Identify redundancies and challenge the current way of performing present tasks. Winners in the service quality arena constantly strive to overcome new frontiers by constantly reviewing and revamping their service delivery function.

Empower staff

Ensure that your staff are empowered to make decisions. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than when he is told that he cannot be assisted him because the boss is unavailable and the employee does not have the authority to make such decisions. Rising customer expectations coupled with the need to get things done by "yesterday" makes it important for management to consider greater empowerment for their staff.

Train2 - Train & Train

Customer service training should begin with the top rung of the organisation, then cascaded down to the rest of the employees. Senior management must not only develop an appreciation for service at strategic and operational levels, but also fully support all efforts made in developing a service culture. There is no greater encouragement for an employee then to see the big bosses practicing what they preach.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, developing a service culture requires commitment, patience and a most importantly a service MINDSET.

Zack Bana, 2010
Copyright © Beacon Consulting Pte Ltd

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Building Customer Loyalty with Service Recovery

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The test of a good service recovery is in your ability to convert an angry customer into a LOYAL one.

Listen to the customer

Be an active listener - listen to his words, body and heart.

Listen to his words - Capture all the relevant information to find what went wrong. In case of uncertainty, ask questions to clarify. There is no room for making wild guesses.

Listen to his body - Observe his non-verbal for clues of his emotional state of mind. For example, when your customer shouts at you, understand that he is very angry. Never tell an angry customer "Sir, I'm trying to help.

Please stop shouting. It is not going to help." Listen to his heart - Put yourself in his shoes and understand that he is angry with the situation, but not with you. Empathise with him. Ask yourself, "If the same situation were to happen to me, what will I do?" Chances are you will probably react in a similar manner.

Options

Explore various options with the customer to resolve the issue. Usually, customers are not interested in knowing the reason for the service breakdown. They only want to know what is going to be done to "fix it".

Yes

Work hand-in-hand with the customer until he is satisfied with one of the options and says "yes". Be prepared to offer a few options.

Atonement

Apologise to the customer for the inconvenience caused. The apology should sound sincere and this can be achieved by saying it in 1st person. For example, say, "I am so sorry about what happened." instead "This is a an apology for what happened." Furthermore, it must be said on a timely basis. It should be made as soon as the customer highlights the service breakdown to you.

Lasting impression

Create a lasting impression through a swift recovery. One trap that some service providers fall into is "pass the bucket". When things go wrong, they may push the blame to other departments or even to their CUSTOMERS! Instead of "passing the bucket", you should take personal responsibility and resolve the issue immediately.

The extra mile

Go the extra mile for the customer to compensate for the inconvenience that he might have experienced. In the case where a car manufacturer had to recall all the cars due to a manufacturer's defect, the company went the extra mile to collect the cars personally from the buyers, lend them a brand new car, replace the defective parts and gave the cars a brand new paint and polish job. The cars were returned to the rightful owners in such a wonderful condition that many could not even recognise their own cars.

You are important

Demonstrate to the customer that he is important by showing care and concern.


Zack Bana, 2011
Copyright © Beacon Consulting Pte Ltd

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New Glasses for Everyone

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Imagine how you would feel if you were sailing in a ship that goes nowhere or walking through a terrain with low visibility. Chances are frustration, demotivation and anger may set in. This is a useful analogy for organisations that do not have a clear vision or mission statement or for that matter, a corporate statement that few, if any, truly believe in.

The value of a good vision or mission statement can probably be best described by the employees of world renowned organisations such as Hewlett-Packard or Johnson and Johnson who have for a long time been guided, motivated and inspired by their corporate statements.

For Hewlett-Packard employees have long known that radical change in operating practices, cultural norms, and business strategies does not mean losing the spirit of the HP Way - the company's core principles and HP Invent its philosophy.

Johnson & Johnson is an organisation that has continually renewed itself in various ways including revamping its structure and processes while at the same time preserving its ideals embodied in its credo which covers four key areas: customers, employees, communities and shareholders.

So what is a vision statement? A vision statement exemplifies what an organization wants to be. It focuses on the future; it is inspirational; it provides clear decision-making criteria; and it is timeless. Whereas a mission statement outlines what the company is now. It focuses on today; it identifies the customer(s); it identifies the critical process(es); and it states the level of performance.

Sadly enough, for most organisations, the vision and mission statements have become mere status symbols that have their importance placed on par with other decorative items in the office. The corporate statements have no direct linkage with the operations, employees have long forgotten about the statements, and the only time that conversation centers around the corporate statements is when there isn't enough wall space left to put up other things.

Why do organisations fall into this trap? Firstly, chances are that the creation of the corporate statements was not a shared effort - it could have very well been created by an individual who has positional power - or worse still, by a consultant who has no knowledge of the business. For the corporate statement to have lasting power, its creation must be a joint effort of key stakeholders within the organisation. Failing which, buy-in from stakeholders will be limited and the behaviors or actions may not be in congruence with the intent of the statements.

When an organisation collaboratively decides to express its corporate statements, it gives direction to everyone in the company. By involving stakeholders and giving them a chance to indicate how they perceive the company and to identify what is important to them, "living" the corporate statements becomes much easier as people see the company using their views in the decision process and there is a stronger commitment towards a shared future of the organisation.

Vision statements have no "deadline" - no "by when"; in other words, it aims to answer the question "If we could develop exactly the kind of company we wanted, what would it be like?"

Mission statements, on the other hand, beg the answer to "Why are we doing this?" Also, the mission statement is the motivational component of the vision statement and defines what is important to the individual, department and the organisation.

In setting mission statements, some key questions to ask?:

  • Why are we doing this?

  • What is our purpose?

  • Why does this work matter?

  • What is most important about this work?

  • What will it do for us to fulfill our vision?

  • How will we benefit?

  • Who else will benefit?

The benefits of a clear vision and mission statement will be realised if they speak the organisation's present condition and how the desired state will look like, if they are written in a way that is clear and aids retention, and if they can bring intentions to life. On a final note, although the wordings for the vision and mission statements vary from one organisation to the next, the key is that these statements explain what the company is today; what it wants to be in the future, and the critical factors that guide its decision-making - it is not another decorative item for the wall!

Zack Bana, 2011
Copyright © Beacon Consulting Pte Ltd

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Train IMPACTfully

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When was the last time you walked out from a training session feeling enthused, motivated, enlightened and simply delighted by the trainer's delivery and methodology? Well, if you can't recall, you are not alone. Most trainers typically fall into the trap of simply downloading the required information without much regard to the extent to which participants are absorbing this information. What's more, participants leave the session with newly acquired knowledge that miraculously disappears as soon as they walk through the main door.

The role of a trainer goes beyond content sharing. Today, trainers are expected to be facilitators, agents of learning, performance consultants and entertainers, in order to make the training session IMPACTful and to maximise retention rate. A useful acronym for trainers who wish to make their next training session memorable, is IMPACT.

Intent

An impactful programme starts with the trainer's mindset towards a programme. If the trainer walks into the training session thinking that it will be just another programme, guess what, it WILL be just another programme. Before the training session, ask yourself what you hope to achieve from the training session, then ask yourself how you are you going to make it memorable for participants. For all the programmes that I conduct, before the programme commences, I take time to mentally visualise the smiling faces of participants as they walk out from the training session saying, "WOW! That was a great programme!" Then, I make it a reality.

Methodology

Recall the last training session that you have attended. How frequent did the trainer use different learning methodologies such as buzz groups or role-play to make the training session interesting and learning meaningful? Once, twice, thrice? Research has proven over and over again, a combination of different learning methodologies aids retention up to 95%. I remember attending a two-day training session where the trainer used only one methodology - lecturing. Not surprisingly, at the end of the second day, participants couldn't recall what was shared on the first day, not to mention the trainer's name!

Personal style

As much as we'd like to think that our training style is well received by participants, we need to be conscious of our style because it may not be well received by everyone in the audience. Although there are several instruments available in the marketplace to identify one's instructional style, very often, trainer's need to adapt their style based on the audience's composition, background, culture, and the trainer's personal comfort zone. The best way of finding out if the audience is responding well is by checking your blindspot. Ask your colleagues for their feedback or videotape yourself during a training session. Watch the non-verbals of your participants as you share key information during the training session. Then, modify your style for best results. It is easier for one trainer to adapt to 20 participants than vice-versa.

Audience

Individuals absorb information through a variety of ways. The kinesthetics love to "feel", while the visuals prefer to "see" and the auditory are inclined towards information that they can "listen" to. While most of us use a combination of the different senses to absorb this information, trainers typically impact participants on only one sense - sight. Making things worse is that most trainers speak at the rate of 100-160 words-per-minute while participants can absorb information at 400 words-per-minute. So what happens in-between? Day dreaming, of course! In order to narrow this gap, trainers need to make a conscious effort to appeal to the other senses by getting the audience involved by providing greater visual stimulation.

Coach

The intent of most training sessions tend to be behaviour modification, hence, it would seem natural for the trainer to provide guidance and coaching to individuals who have difficulty in applying the newly acquired information. However, for most of the training sessions that I have attended, trainers typically are too pre-occupied doing "other stuff" such as making phone calls or working on their laptops during the training sessions while their poor participants are grappling with the instructions provided. Training with an IMPACT requires more than the trainer's physical presence during training programmes, it requires coaching and guiding participants throughout the entire session.

Think differently

If you would like participants to rave about the training programmes you conduct, be it hard-skills or soft-skills, it is key that you make it memorable for them. Incorporate the "fun" element into training by using music, experiential methodologies, story-telling and metaphors in every single programme that you conduct. Adults are just like babies with big bodies - the greater their attention, the higher their retention. Make it Fun!

The next time you are required to deliver a training session, don't make it just another training session, make it an IMPACTful one!

Zack Bana, 2010
Copyright © Beacon Consulting Pte Ltd

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Understanding Behavioural Styles

What is your favourite colour? Is it blue, white, black or orange?  Some people believe that your choice of colour reflects your personality.  Those who choose “blue” tend to be people who are cautious and prefer life that is peaceful.  “White” tends to be chosen by those who have a strong need for perfection. The task-focused ones would prefer “black” while the sociable ones prefer “orange”.  

I wish that life could be so simple … If we could tell the personality based on one’s chosen colours, conflicts would greatly be reduced.  Having said that, fret not as we can still get down to the CORE of a person.  Then, we would be able to work with their likes and dislikes and thus manage conflict.  Before finding out more about the CORE, let’s look at the premise for handling different personalities and relationships – Aware-Accept-Adapt.

First of all, we need to be AWARE that everyone is different.  Let’s listen to what one manager has to say - “Why can’t Peter be like the rest?  He always questions me in everything that I do.  Whenever I share with him one bright idea, he will tear the idea apart and ‘shoot’ me with millions of questions.  I wish that he would do as per my instructions.”  As a result of the differences in personality and viewpoints, conflict is a norm when working with people.  In life, we cannot expect any two people to be exactly the same.  Everyone has a unique “thumb print” and personality. 

Since everyone is different, this would mean that we should ACCEPT people for who they are.  Often, we would have heard of comments like “I wish that he has a heart.” or “I wish I could make him less of a perfectionist.”   Ask any married couple, they will probably tell you that they’ve given up the hope of being able to change their spouse.  They may even tell you that the next best alternative to changing their spouse, is to literally find another spouse.  Let’s face reality.  No one can change anyone.  The only way for anyone to change is if he wants to change himself, ie. if he sees the need to change.  Therefore, we should accept people for who they are.  Lest, we will feel very disappointed when we expect people to “change for the better” but they don’t.

What should we do when we cannot change the personality of others but we don’t like what we see?  If that person is a stranger, it would be easy.  All that we need to do is walk away.  However, we cannot walk away from our family members, loved ones, colleagues, bosses, etc as they are important people in our lives.  On occasions, we may find ourselves walking out on these people only to walk right back to them later.  We can do this once, twice or even thrice.  However, in the long run, we will end up asking ourselves the question “How long can I do this for?”  If we want to survive through the relationship without walking out, we need to ADAPT to their styles.  This is because people like people who are like themselves.  When we adapt to their styles, it means that we speak and act in a manner that is similar to them – ie, speak their language.  Soon, they’ll feel that you’re on their side, they will begin to like you and soon adapt to your style as well. 

Now that we know the importance of adapting, let’s move on to learn how to adapt to the 4 different personalities – Conventional Christine, Observant Oliver, Resolute Rebecca, Expressive Elvis.  

Conventional

CONVENTIONAL Christine loves it when things are left as they are. When put in a situation where change is required, she tends to resist the change especially when it is last-minute or drastic. However, as she is peace-loving, she will give in to anyone just to avoid conflict.

How do you handle her?

- Give her ample notice when introducing change. Avoid statements like “I want it now.” or “I need it yesterday.”
- Ensure a harmonious relationship / environment.

Observant

OBSERVANT Oliver is very detailed and analytical in everything that he does and says. As a result, he tends to be a perfectionist as well. He maintains high standards, and will check, check and check his work.

How do you handle him?

- Give him lots of details
- Ensure that information or work done is error-free.

Resolute

RESOLUTE Rebecca is task-oriented, and believes that anything and everything is possible. She tends to have a strong need to take charge and make quick decisions. As a result, she might be perceived as one who has no ‘feeling’. In reality, she has ‘feelings’ within her but she is able to manage her emotions to achieve results.

How do you handle her?

- Be task-focused. Avoid small talk on personal matters.
- Give her the goals / objectives and trust that she will get the job done.

Expressive

EXPRESSIVE Elvis generally has a positive outlook in life. He is usually described as friendly and sociable. In addition, he generally demonstrates enthusiasm and is animated while interacting with others.

How do you handle him?

- Focus on building relationship. Instead of talking about work only, spend time to find out about him on a personal basis.
- Compliment him and be sensitive when giving him feedback.

Have fun discovering more about the people around you.  Good luck in building a wonderful relationship with them!


Dolly Leong, 2011
Copyright © Beacon Consulting Pte Ltd



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