Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Carnegie Mellon University presents the first lecture from the Human-Computer Interaction course "Developing iPad Applications for Visualization and Insight."
Watch all of the course lectures and access course materials on iTunesU or on any iOS device with the free iTunesU app - https://itunesu.itunes.apple.com/audit/499050344
OUTSOURCING - 3PL VERSUS 4PL
By THOMAS CRAIG
Outsourcing is a viable option for companies. Businesses outsource for many and varied reasons-increase shareholder value, reduce costs, business transformation, improve operations, overcome lack of internal capabilities, keep up with competitors, gain competitive advantage, improve capabilities, increase sales, improve service, reduce inventory, increase inventory velocity and turns, mitigate capital investment, improve cash flow, turn fixed costs into variable costs and other benefits, both tangible and intangible. To the maximum, and if done correctly, outsourcing and business process outsourcing can be used to create a viable virtual corporation.
3PLs. 3PLs have led the way in logistics outsourcing. Drawing on its core business, whether it be forwarding, trucking or warehousing, they moved into providing other services for customers. Creation of a 3PL presented a way for a commodity-service logistics provider to move into higher margin, bundled services.
Customers, anxious to reduce costs, want what 3PLs have to offer. The potential market opportunity for outsourced logistics service providers, whether domestic, international and/or global is huge.
But something has happened on the yellow-brick road. The reasons are varied, but the bottom line is many have failed at their own business transformation. Some 3PLs have not moved past their core commodity service to become true multi-service providers. Or international 3PLs have not understood how to provide domestic services; or domestic ones have not succeeded at venturing into international logistics services.
Others have failed to differentiate themselves against the competition. Certain 3PLs have not done a good job positioning and defining themselves in the marketplace. Or the parent company has not given them the resources, especially sales and sales leads, to penetrate even their existing customers. And, sundry have commoditized their 3PL service, as a result undoing the very purpose of their 3PL. These setbacks have slowed down the growth of some 3PLs in terms of both customer retention, especially, and new customers. Fragmentation of the 3PL sector reflects both the uncertainty of how 3PLs view themselves and the diversity of customer needs.
As a result, customers have had to compare apples and oranges in their RFP replies. Shippers share some accountability with an overemphasis on cost reduction as the key metric and without a clear definition of their requirements for services they need and how it will all work within their company. They looked for silver bullets and quick answers to complex needs.
4PLs. Into the service vacuum created by 3PLs, the 4PL has emerged. Using a 4PL, fourth party logistics service provider, is different than the traditional 3PL. Much on 4PLs discusses technology. Technology is not THE answer; it is part of the answer. It is one element of success of process, people and technology. 4PLs see the process and what is required to make it succeed.
4PL's combine process, technology and process to manage. The 4PL is a Business Process Outsourcing, BPO, provider. This lead logistics provider will bring value and a reengineered approach to the customer's need. A 4PL is neutral and will manage the logistics process, regardless of what carriers, forwarders or warehouses are used. The 4PL can and will even manage 3PLs that a customer uses.
Business process outsourcing is traditional outsourcing and more. Outsourcing is often taking a set of work, tasks, responsibilities or functions and transferring them to an outside service provider. Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) involves that and more. A BPO service provider brings a different perspective, knowledge, experience and technology to the existing function and can and will work with the firm to reengineer it into an improved or new process. It is an outcome-based result, not just a pure cost reduction issue. The new process will interact or be integrated into the company in a way that can bring value, even bottom line and shareholder benefits, to the client.
A good 4PL will have the shipper perspective and experience in what he does and offers to prospective customers. That means a better understanding of the complexity of the customer's requirements, present viable solutions and to have customer satisfaction and retention.
The firm sees the relationship, not a chunk of freight. Instead the BPO provider seeks incentives and metrics to define the relationship and collaborates with each customer as to goals and outcomes. A 4PL wants to position itself as an extension of and part of its customer. This BPO provider recognizes the role of and need for information technology in managing the process.
A successful 4PL should have both the strategic and tactical capabilities. He should have real world logistics experience, especially on the "shipper"/customer side. Experience lets you see real issues and hidden agendas that are present. They also give you the ability to develop the process, people and technology that are needed because they have "been there, done that". They understand meeting the needs of their clients because they have managed and been responsible for logistics.
A 4PL, with real world supply chain experience, can present a way for customers to take control of their supply chains. They can structure the relationship and the process in a way that best meets the requirements of the customer, rather than the customer having to accept what the outsourcing provider has to offer.
3PL vs 4PL. When it comes to outsourcing, there are three questions and underlying issues. One, do you outsource a function versus outsource a process? 3PLs target the function. They want to handle containers/shipments/freight, not the transport management process, for example. The true need is the process, which is what the 4PL targets. Is there really a process in place--or a series of standalone transactions? What is the present process? How does it work? Where does it fail? Where are there gaps? Where are there redundancies? The supply chain process crosses organizational lines. It runs horizontal in a vertical organization.
Two, do you outsource work/tasks or do you outsource managing? Much outsourcing is work related. Handle warehousing. Handle shipments. Not manage them. This matter is part of the next evolution of outsourcing and where the 3PL will have to migrate-and where the 4PL is already positioned.
Three, the outsource service provider, to truly meet the needs of his customer, should be neutral. 4PLs should be neutral if they are to manage the process. 3PLs, especially those which are asset-based struggle to be neutral. 3PLs which seek to push shipments through their transport contracts or through their warehouses are not neutral.
Conclusion. Some 3PLs have not fully stepped up to meet the exact needs of customers. Some have become too focused on "managing" tasks, not processes and on serving the parent company's core business, and have missed opportunities to present value.
The 4PL opportunity exists because 3PLs failed to meet the real logistics/supply chain requirements of customers. There will not be a "model" (or cookie cutter) for the 4PL. After all, he knows to customize to the needs of each customer.As a result, 4PLs have become alternatives for business process outsourcing. These new BPO logistics service providers enable firms to manage a critical part of their supply chain by providing visibility and integration across multiple enterprises. They manage with the three key elements of process, people and technology. Users of a 4PL can focus on core competencies and better manage and utilize company assets and resources, as to inventory and personnel.
Brooke Anderson from XM Developments talks about the difference between the 3pl and 4pl models. Video courtesy of http://www.globallogisticsmedia.com/
What is 4PL?8/4/2003 by ITtoolbox Popular Q&A Team for ITtoolbox as adapted from SCM-SELECT discussion group
What does the term 4PL mean? How would a 4PL service or organization be defined?
Disclaimer: Contents are not reviewed for correctness and are not endorsed or recommended by ITtoolbox or any vendor. Popular Q&A contents include summarized information from SCM-SELECT discussion unless otherwise noted.
Adapted from response by Jeffrey on Thursday, July 17, 2003
The term "4PL" was actually coined by the consulting group Accenture. In fact, they also hold the trademark to the name 4PL.
Accenture defines a 4PL in the following manner:
"A 4PL is an integrator that assembles the resources, capabilities, and technology of its own organization and other organizations to design, build and run comprehensive supply chain solutions."
The term 4PL is something that every organization has their own interpretation of and ideas on what exactly a 4PL should offer. To add more complexity to the interpretation, the following groups of service providers actually provide "4PL type" services:
- IT Service Providers
- "E" Marketplaces
- Financial institutions
- Private Organizations
- Logistics Service Providers (traditionally only known for 3PL activities)
A true 4PL organization would then build a set of activities focused around a specific set of supply chain initiatives and goals, generally with the following attributes:
- 4PL Common Services (invoice management, call centers, warehouse/distribution facilities, etc.
- Implementation Center (the business process analysis/scoping, and development of all activities into an open systems framework)
- Product/Skill Centers (supply chain engineering)
- IT System Center (the pure IT selection for design and implementation/connectivity)
- 4PL Back Office (administration, quality, finance, legal, etc.)
Sitting above these functions would be a Controlling Interface, monitored by the hired 4PL party. This group would manage all the "blocking & tackling issues" related to daily business. The Controlling Interface would provide the customer-facing visibility, control, KPI/Metrics management, reporting, daily problem solving, etc.
Additonally, surrounding these activity sets would be the following:
+ Knowledge Transfer
+ Business Development
+ Functional Support
So, to give you a visual field, picture a dartboard. From the center outward, there would be a series of concentric circles. In the center would be the 4PL. The next outer circle would be the strategic partners. The next outer circle would be the preferred service providers, following by the larges outward circle which covers the project partners.
The Business Ethics of a 4PL would contain the following ethos:
- The 4PL organizaton focuses on the customer supply chain
- All 4PL organization decisions are made towards managing the myriad of service providers, which are based on business rules.
- All service providers are measured on a master single set of KPI's.
Lastly, a recap of a 4PL Products, Services & Capabilities (visualize a triangle):
Know-How: Knowledge Management industry/supply chain
Consulting: Supply chain reengineering, Process consulting (3PL), IT analysis/implementation
Visibility: Supply chain visibility, communication and IT integration
Operational: Accounting/invoice management, Event monitoring/exception
management, RFP/RFQ management/execution, Carrier/3PL management.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Video Clip: http://bit.ly/z2AD9B
Founder: Wai Hong Fong
Revenue: $1.8 million
Head Office: Victoria
"I grew up as a geek," OzHut founder Wai Hong Fong happily admits. At nine years old, he told his mother that he wanted to marry his computer and soon afterwards nearly lost a government scholarship in Singapore after a spot of hacking ensured that students didn't have to pay $5 an hour to use the computers.
Originally from Malaysia, Fong arrived in Australia to study at Melbourne University. He realised that he wanted to strike out on his own, rather than follow the same corporate career path as his parents.
With the help of an uncle, Wai Hong started OzHut, establishing a niche for building online retail sites for specific products. The company started out with dancing shoes, ladies boots, telescopes, watches and gadgets. Soon, OzHut was the largest telescope and optics online store in Australia.
A focus on niche areas, backed up with a strong knowledge of SEO has propelled OzHut to healthy levels of sales – from $300,000 in its first year to a predicted $3.1 million in its third year.
With a team that has an average age of 25, half of whom who are recent graduates, OzHut is a proposition that is very much of its time.
That throws up challenges too, as Wai Hong admits: "The biggest challenge we faced was actually convincing people to give us product to sell. As a small player, we had no big names to throw around, neither did we have a lot of cash."
"As such, stronger brand name suppliers were highly reluctant to provide us with anything at all. However, we learnt that if we got on board some of the smaller suppliers and built up some traffic by leveraging their products, over time, we can rope the other bigger suppliers one at a time."
"Once we've got one big player on board, it was a lot easier to convince the rest to jump on the same bandwagon."
"The biggest lesson learnt in this was definitely not to be discouraged by being turned down and to not despise humble beginnings. Eventually, all that needs to happen is one small piece after another coming together and soon enough the bigger chunks of the puzzle will want to join the party."
A tourist once visted a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor making, an idol of God.
Suddenly he noticed a similar idol lying nearby.
Surprised, he aked the sculptor Do you need two statues of the same idol ?
"No said the sculptor without looking up, We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage.
The gentleman examined the idol and found, no apparent damage.
Where is the damage? he asked.
"There is a scratch on the nose of the idol, said the sculptor still busy with his work.
".Where are you going to install the idol ?"
The sculptor replied that would be installed on, a pillar twenty feet high.
"If the idol is that far who is going to know, that there is a scratch on the nose"? the genleman asked....
The sculptor stopped his work, look up at the, gentleman smiled and said I will know it"
The desire to excel is exclusive of the fact whether someone else appreciates it or not.
"Excellence " is a drive from inside not outside...
Excellence is not for someone else to notice but for your own satisfaction and efficency...
Thursday, January 26, 2012
By MARTIN CARVALHO
PETALING JAYA: He left Malaysia when he was 12 to study in Singapore on an Asean scholarship. Then, it was off to Trinity College in Australia.
Today, at the age of 25, Petaling Jaya lad Fong Wai Hong has found fame Down Under as The Age Melbourne Magazine's top 100 most influential people 2012. However, no matter how rich or famous he gets, home is where the heart is for the Malaysian-born lad.
Wong founded the successful online retail business OzHut, whose revenue currently stands at RM8.4mil following its establishment in 2007.
"I may have been abroad since I was 12 but I still consider myself a Malaysian. There are many Malay- sians who feel the same way despite being away from the country in search of a new life," he said.
Go-getter: Fong enjoying his Chinese New Year in Petaling Jaya. He shared the secret of his success as a businessman in Australia.
Full story in The Star today.
A symbol of success, power and good luck, the dragon is the most distinguished animal in the Chinese Zodiac. True to the spirit of the dragon, 2012 promises great intensity and room for companies to lead and grow. At the annual Avaya Connect Asia Pacific Channel Partner Conference in October 2011, 90% Avaya's channel partners predicted a stronger year for their businesses in 2012 with 47% forecasting strong single or double digit growth.
In looking at the top communication trends of the coming year, Avaya highlights 5 tips for companies that can help businesses stay ahead of the curve in the competitive year of the dragon:
Rising to the social network
According to Frost & Sullivan, 2012 will see social media being widely integrated into businesses. More and more companies are looking for clear and reliable quantification of the value of their social media activities.
Common social media tools not only bridge business processes, but complement consumer-to-business interaction and vice versa. It is therefore essential for companies to be adept at navigating through the social media noise by developing and delivering a clear and comprehensive message.
To make this possible, companies must ensure that social media becomes a channel that is tightly integrated to its communications architecture. One tool that can help companies with this is the Avaya Social Media Manager (SMM), which scans and analyzes events from various social media channels using intelligent engines efficiently and automatically processes them to further integrate interactions with customers into the existing Avaya contact center framework.
The BYOD phenomenon
With the planned release of more smartphones, and with tablets and mobile devices now being made available on intelligent operating systems like iOS, Windows Phone, and Android, we see a greater influx of tools and consumer devices in 2012. Businesses will see a rise in the Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) trend.
The bottleneck for businesses is no longer access to information, but the ability to connect people together with the right information at the right time. It is all about driving faster collaboration, smarter decision making and achieving better business results.
With the explosion of devices, tools and communication channels it is essential for organizations to be able to manage and channelize communications in a manner that can help achieve real-time business collaboration in a single user friendly platform. Desktop video devices available today are equipped with real-time office collaboration tools that deliver context-sensitive mash-ups of chat, email, social network and video communications — all tied with a common look and feel regardless of device. Enabling consumer devices with the same business application is key to driving productivity and employee engagement.
Prioritizing customer service
From a market perspective, we are seeing a more demanding customer base. Business owners should expect a more demanding customer service experience for their organizations, especially when customers insist on a complex cross-touchpoint service – that is, as Forrester puts it, the ability to start an interaction in one channel, and complete it in another. Furthermore, customers are craving a greater alignment of service, sales, marketing and brand in order to interact with the company in an unbroken manner.
The Avaya 2011 Contact Center Consumer Index survey showed that consumers today are less forgiving with as many as 87% of respondents likely to tell their friends and switch to competitors on receiving poor customer center service.
Customer service now requires a horizon of devices and communication support to fulfill an evolving end-user experience. Many current contact centre solutions which have proven useful in the past are unable to provide a consistent experience for customers across communications channels let alone support the kind of multi-modal, simultaneous voice/multimedia interactions.
There is a need for a change in the architecture to one that is designed from the ground up to support multimedia, multi-modal communications – a solution that is media agnostic and easily able to adapt to new contact types as they emerge. In order to be able to catch up with newer technologies, Avaya believes that technologies that support multimedia and multi-modal communications using a wrap and embrace methodology will be beneficial as companies plan for 2012.
Ascend to the Cloud
Cloud computing brings to the table a new dynamic standard that removes technological complexities by enabling on-demand, self-managed virtual infrastructure that can be used as a service. As more businesses embrace the broadening spectrum of cloud resources, they will have to adapt to working with different cloud solutions and providers – opening a floodgate of opportunities for service providers to leverage on a fluid and integrated management of the cloud resources with greater business agility and lower costs.
Whether it is your existing data centre or a new one, cloud based data centre solutions should take full advantage of the available solutions from a multitude of vendors, integrating with traditional IT systems whether it be hardware, software or virtualization seamlessly.
A cloud-based system should also be able to shield the backend complexities from an enterprise user. End users of a cloud-based service should be able to manage their own data centre, create and use its own templates as well as access and store information on its own.
Big Opportunities unravel with Big Data
Skyrocketing data consumption continues to drive industry headlines as both consumers and businesses are discovering new ways to develop, store and use data. To remain ahead of the curve, providers must also consider ways to improve network stability, security and performance while reducing costs.
Taking the network virtualization across the enterprise from the data center to the enterprise campus network is going to be very important to help relies the power of Cloud. Open Standards like SPB or Shortest Path Bridging 802.1aq have added virtualization capabilities and an enhanced version of IEEE Shortest Path Bridging gives enterprises the option of extending their enterprise applications and services across the network — from the data center to the network edge.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
End of IT as we know it
January 19, 2012 - 6:00 A.M.
When everybody is a CIO
Unfortunately, things are about to get a lot worse.
It's not just that the relentless pace of innovation is forcing IT to successfully find, recruit and engage professionals with solid skills in a whole new range of technologies. That would be hard enough.
The new hiring challenge is finding people who have both strong technical skills and CIO-like aptitudes for negotiation, relationship management and comparison of value.
This transformation in the skills and aptitudes IT requires is coming about because IT is increasingly brokering technical capabilities and services, rather than building and running everything itself. To be effective in its new brokerage role, IT has to negotiate and manage relationships with a growing range of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS partners, as well as sundry MSPs, contractors and conventional vendor partners.
IT organizations also have to start being smarter about when to drop one brokered service in favor of another, since it is in large part by dynamically optimizing this brokered resourcing that IT can continuously increase the value it returns to the business.
Historically, this kind of relationship management was the purview of a relatively limited number of IT managers. And IT typically received a reasonable amount of assistance in its vendor relationship management from the folks in purchasing and procurement.
But, as both the number and the intensity of IT's vendor relationships keep growing, the responsibility for making those relationships work will have to be spread around. After all, it's one thing to renegotiate licensing deals with your database or CRM software vendors once a year. It's another thing to make sure your PaaS vendor is meeting 25 different service level parameters for the dozen or so different applications you have running at its facility day in and day out.
I am not even sure exactly where we're going to find these mini-CIOs. It has been hard enough to find and retain technically skilled employees. It's not easy to find people with the business smarts and emotional intelligence to know how to get the most out of a vendor while still maintaining an amicable working relationship. Now we're going to need people who can do both.
This should give the entire industry pause. It should also motivate us to re-think the way we train IT professionals-both while they're in school and once they are in our employ. There's no way around it. IT professionals are going to need a set of business skills that they never really needed before. And we're going to have to help them acquire and develop those skills. Otherwise, our companies will never be able to fully realize the tremendous potential benefits of the brokered, virtualized IT service delivery model -- making us more than likely lose out to competitors who do.
Is your company doing anything to help develop your IT staff's vendor management skills? Are you encountering any vendor relationship management issue as you engage with a growing number of XaaS partners and MSPs? Feel free to share your experiences and insights below.
Chris O'Malley is CEO of Nimsoft. He has devoted 25 years to innovation in the IT industry -- most recently growing businesses in cloud and IT Management as a Service solutions. Contact Chris via the comments below or via Twitter at @chris_t_omalley.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Agreeing to realistic goals is the first lesson a fledgling business should learn. Realistic goals should form the backbone of your company and are the most important part of your annual business plan. The most common goals for a business are revenue, profit, sales volume and growth goals. Failing to set realistic goals by being too conservative or ambitious can have disastrous results on your company. How should you plan realistic goals?
Conservative vs. Ambitious Goals
If you have the choice between conservative goals and ambitious ones, always initially choose the latter. For example, your company can either set a conservative revenue goals of $100,000 for the year with a profit margin target of 5% ($5,000) or a revenue target of $1,000,000 with a profit margin target of 25%. While the first choice might be the safer, more realistic one, take a moment to entertain the notion of the second, more ambitious plan. Taking an ambitious plan and trimming it down to more realistic proportions is far more productive than starting with a conservative plan and failing to push it to its true limits. To trim down the ambitious goals to realistic specifications, you should hold a meeting with all your departments to brainstorm and gauge the feasibility of your projected goals.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
(From left) Kevin Yip, U Mobile's head of device and branch operations; Ismail Othman, Suruhanjaya Komunikasi & Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM also known as MCMC)'s operation director; Faizal Azizan, SKMM's deputy director and Michael Mah, U Mobile's head of sales officiating the opening of the new store in a unique 'golden egg'-breaking ceremony.
Malaysian telco U Mobile has strengthened its presence in the northern region of Malaysia with the opening of a new one-stop service centre in Penang.
During the opening on 16 December 2011 of the latest U Mobile store at Seberang Jaya, Penang, U Mobile chief executive officer Dr. Kaizad Heerjee said the store is a "one-stop service centre," a concept inherited from its flagship store in Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur.
The store is the second in the region following the recent opening of the U Mobile Store in Queensbay Mall, Penang, said Dr Kaizad.
"U Mobile has been working to establish its footprint in Penang, a strategic location for the company's fastest mobile Internet offering with speeds of 42Mbps [megabits per second]," he said. "To date, U Mobile has completed approximately 80 percent of its HSPA+ site rollout on the island and the mainland, and is planning to reach its capacity of 150 sites by early 2012."
"We will continue to focus on increasing our network coverage and strive to increase our presence in key locations to bring us closer to our consumers and make our products and services more accessible," added Dr Kaizad.
It's a new year and a good time to strategize ways to get that long-overlooked promotion you deserve. Admittedly, there are risks involved with the 10 strategies listed below, but where has playing it safe gotten you thus far?
1: Gift your boss
A gift to your boss can go a long way toward your advancement. Don't waste your efforts on lower management who have no say in your future. And don't give money — that's bribery! Instead, cater to your boss's vices. And don't skimp on the gift. No doubt your boss has expensive tastes and you want the gift to be remembered, so get the best. The ROI will be well worth the money spent when you consider the future income stream from your soon-to-be-received raise. Gifting works only with naïve, shallow bosses, so be judicious about where you fling the bling.
2: Suck up to your boss
Being the Yes Man is a time-honored tradition for those who lack the highest valued skill sets. You will likely lose a few friends in the process, but hey, it's a small price to pay to get that bigger paycheck. Besides, if you don't take the role of manager's pet, someone else will.
3: Lie about your nonexistent virtues
There is no need to lead a virtuous life. It is so much work and so tedious! All you need to do is tell others about your charity work in the community, your acts of kindness toward animals and the lesser hominoids, and all those old ladies you have helped across the street. The fact that you haven't actually done any of these is totally irrelevant. They will never know the difference.
4: Exaggerate your work
Chances are that your managers don't really know what you do, so it's easy to make your work sound like it should be nominated for the Turing Award. Drop a few buzzwords whenever the opportunity arises and snow your boss with a blizzard of technical jargon. The more obscure your area of expertise, the better. Of course, you will have to restrict access to your actual work to successfully carry out the ruse. But that can easily be accomplished by leaking only a few bits and pieces when details are requested.
5: Talk down the competition
It is so easy to hurt the image of the competition. A few words here and a few negative rumors there will raise your status as surely as it will lower theirs. Nevermind the patent leather shoe marks on your co-worker's backs; they will eventually heal. Climbing the corporate ladder is a contact sport.
One way to bring down those rising stars in your group a peg or two is to throw a virtual shoe into their work. You have to be creative enough to point the finger at the right person without being caught and without doing damage to your group or company. Good luck with that.
7: Cheat the numbers
A few extra hours added to the "hours worked" column on your timesheet here or there will rarely be noticed, but it may be just enough to show that you work harder than your peers. Besides, it's not really cheating if you take your work home with you. During performance appraisal time, don't forget to inflate the numbers that show how much money you saved the company. There is a teeny tiny catch: It may be illegal where you work. But it's only fraud if you get caught.
8: Hack the system
Remember when you learned about the classmate who hacked into the school computer and changed his grades? You were angry — not because he got away with it, but because you didn't think of it first. It is so easy to deceive those who rely on "system data" at work. Just hack into the HR system and nudge your performance rating up a point or two. If you're really ambitious, slip a few letters of commendation into your personnel file when no one is looking. You know you deserve them. Don't worry about getting caught. If your rewriting of history is discovered, you can always work for USCYBERCOM or the FBI Cyber Crime unit. Well, then again, maybe not.
Blackmail is such an ugly word. Consider it coerced behavioral modification for the stubborn. If you have a co-worker who is impossible to work with, you can always leave. But why give up a good job in tough times when an alternate strategy can get rid of that pesky peer? Present your boss with an "either he goes or I go" ultimatum. You can simply refuse to work with the bad egg. It's risky business, though. You better be awfully good at what you do. If your boss decides that you are the bad egg, you might be the one to go.
10: Incite mutiny
If all else fails, it is time to bring out the heavy guns. A little bit of discontent sown amongst your crewmates can lead to a change of captains. Managers are moved on to greener pastures all the time and who knows, you might be doing them a big favor. You only have to whisper the right words to the right people to tilt the decision in your direction. It's a crapshoot, assuming it does work. You might get a new manager who's more favorable to you and your future advancement — or you might wind up with the manager from Hades.
The bottom line
We like to think of ourselves as "civilized" beings. After all, we have a conscience that guides our behavior. But when we want something, the human mind seems to have an endless capacity to rationalize the most unethical of acts. In many ways, our bad behavior is not all that dissimilar from the bad behavior of animals. There are numerous examples of "unethical" behavior in the animal kingdom, from ravens that steal and gorillas that lie to the cuckoo bird that tricks another bird species into raising their young and the cuckoo chicks that murder their non-cuckoo nest mates. Like it or not, humans deceive, cheat, steal, and lie to get ahead and probably always will.
If you do decide to employ any of these strategies of advancement, don't blame me if they do not work out well for you. You are completely on your own. I've got you sussed if you try any of these on my watch. I'm not gonna take it.
Friday, January 13, 2012
- Set the goals for the research.
- Establish the important questions to ask.
- Research and collect answers to the important questions.
- Analyze the answers to make decisions.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Anushkar Mohinani | Jan. 6, 2012
In the following interview, Louis Vuitton's chief information officer (CIO) for the Asia Pacific, Loic Buelens, describes his role; the luxury conglomerate's IT strategies, including its approach to leveraging new technology to raise the quality of its customer service; and what it means to be a CIO in the fashion industry.
Can you describe Louis Vuitton's philosophy and how this translates into its approach to IT?
Louis Vuitton's key focus is the customer. The company is dedicated to providing its customers the most thrilling experience while shopping, or even simply discovering our stores and exhibition area. As part of its customer centric philosophy, Louis Vuitton's IT approach is thus designed to ultimately improve the customer experience. IT is a fully integrated component of Louis Vuitton's overall operations designed to adapt to its business needs and provide solutions to improve its business processes.
How is the company integrating technology successfully into its business processes?
Our main strategy is integrating technology that reduces the complexity of business processes and provides easy exchange of information to increase transparency.
One example is our fully integrated replenishment system, which enables timely and uncomplicated replacement of products. For instance, if a bag is purchased at any Louis Vuitton store worldwide, the purchase information will be integrated in our systems. The warehouses will then be informed of the need to stock up on the particular product. This system also gives the sales associates in the stores complete information visibility of products pertaining to their availability and quality.
Another example is our internal social network that was deployed to enable the different departments in Louis Vuitton to share information and exchange ideas easily and speedily.
How is Louis Vuitton embracing new technologies and strategies effectively?
We are fully embracing new technologies and strategies to effectively enhance the customer experience.
For instance, Louis Vuitton has launched a new website, which includes an application that allows customers to personalise some of the products on their tablet devices. This interactive application has resonated very well with our customers.
We also use Facebook, Twitter, and permanently interact with bloggers around the world. We use social media to engage our customers, and inform them about new products, events and store openings, as well as a platform to receive feedback.
How do you define your role as the CIO of Louis Vuitton in the Asia Pacific? What does it mean to be a CIO in the industry?
As a regional CIO, my role involves being the link between the head office and the regional corporate offices. My role is essentially like a facilitator – bridging the communication between the main headquarters and the Asia Pacific departments. It involves informing the headquarters of the requirements and the constraints pertaining to the region's IT capabilities, as well as identifying processes where technology can be integrated to improve efficiency for the divisions across the region.
It is not a job that allows you to sit behind the desk and just deliver projects and support. It requires responsibility for overseeing multiple departments. This means going to the various departments across the region and understanding what systems work best for them and implementing solutions accordingly. Sometimes, this means having to challenge and counter the existing business processes, and propose alternative methods.
More importantly, being a CIO is this industry requires passion for the job and the brand.
Can you describe your leadership style? What qualities do you look for in aspiring IT protégés?
You better ask my team!
On a serious note, I believe I'm a very demanding and challenging leader. I am also very fast-paced and appreciate when things are done on time. I want to stay aware of everything pertaining to my job as well as the industry. At the same time, I expect strong autonomy from the team and to be challenged by them too.
Some of the important qualities for me are business awareness, the ability to listen to others, autonomy, and more than anything else, common sense.
What are the top challenges and opportunities on the horizon?
The top challenge will be to face the growth pace requirements without disrupting the business. Due to our growth and determination to improve our systems, we have deployed multiple projects at the same time, thus we have to make sure that we have enough resources too. So the challenge will also be to find and recruit the right talent.
As for the opportunities, the centralisation of support activities in Singapore, which started a year ago, should now give us more flexibility and allow us to be more efficient. More importantly, this will give the local team more time on their hands to focus on aligning new technology with business needs.
What key IT priorities are shaping your agenda for 2012 and beyond?
The key focus is on mobility and integrating new technology. We will continue to find the best combination of technology such as tablets and NFC (near field communication) to enhance service and the customer experience. It's what we call Innovative Retail.
Monday, January 9, 2012
As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world—that is the myth of the "atomic age"—as in being able to remake ourselves.
[...] [Some] people tell me I am being idealistic about human nature. "It would be nice," they say, "if we human beings could override impulses like fear, greed, and violence when we see that they threaten the welfare of the whole. But that's just not realistic. Whenever there is a conflict between reason and biology, biology is bound to win."
Arguing like this, some observers feel that we have passed the point of no return. Like lemmings, they seem to say, we must race to a destruction we ourselves shall have caused. I differ categorically—and for proof I have the living example of Mahatma Gandhi, who not only transformed fear, greed, and violence in himself but inspired hundreds of thousands of ordinary men, women, and even children in India to do the same.
When I was a student in my twenties India had been under British domination for two hundred years. It's difficult to imagine what that means if you haven't lived through it. It's not just economic exploitation; generations grow up with a foreign culture superimposed on their own. When I went to college, I never questioned the axiom that everything worthwhile, everything that could fulfill my dreams, came from the West. The science, the wealth, the military power, all demonstrated unequivocally the superiority of Western civilization. It never occurred to most of us to look anywhere else for answers.
But then along came Gandhi, who was shaking India from the Himalayas in the north to Cape Kanniyakumari in the south. Everyone in the country was talking about Gandhi the statesman, Gandhi the politician, Gandhi the economist, Gandhi the educator. But I wanted to know about Gandhi the man. I wanted to know the secret of his power.
In his youth, I knew, Gandhi had been a timid, ineffectual lawyer whose only extraordinary characteristic was his big ears. By the time he came back to India from South Africa in 1915, he had transformed himself into such a mighty force for love and non-violence that he would become a lighthouse to the whole world. And I had just one driving question: What was the secret of his transformation?
My university was in Nagpur, a strategic location at the geographic center of India where all the major railways connecting north and south, east and west, came together like spokes in a wheel. Nearby lay the town of Wardha, a dot on the map thrown into international recognition as the last railway junction before Gandhi's ashram. The rest of the way one had to travel on one's own. I walked the few miles down the hot, dusty road to the little settlement that Gandhi called Sevagram, "the village of service."
At Sevagram I found myself among young people from around the world—Americans, Japanese, Africans, Europeans, even Britons—who had come to see Gandhi and to help in his work. Whether a person's skin was white, brown, or black, whether he or she supported or opposed him, seemed to make no difference to Gandhi: he related to all with ease and respect. Almost immediately, he made us feel we were part of his own family.
Indeed, I think that, in a private corner of our hearts, we all saw ourselves in him. I did. It was as if a precious element common to all of us had been extracted and purified to shine forth brightly as the Mahatma, the Great Soul. That very commonness was what moved us most—the feeling that in spite of all our fears and resentments and petty faults we too were made of such stuff. The Great Soul was our soul.
At that time, of course, there were many observers who said Gandhi was extraordinary, an exception to the limitations that hold back the rest of the human race. Others dismissed him—some with great respect, others with less—as just another great man who was leaving his mark on history. Yet, according to him, there was no one more ordinary. "I claim to be an average man of less than average ability," he often repeated. "I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith."
The fact is, while most people think of ordinariness as a fault or limitation, Gandhi had discovered in it the very meaning of life—and of history. For him, it was not the famous or the rich or the powerful who would change the course of history. If the future is to differ from the past, he taught, if we are to leave a peaceful and healthy earth for our children, it will be the ordinary man and woman who do it: not by becoming extraordinary, but by discovering that our greatest strength lies not in how much we differ from each other but in how much—how very much—we are the same.
This faith in the power of the individual formed the foundation for Gandhi's extremely compassionate view of the industrial era's large-scale problems, as well as of the smaller but no less urgent troubles we found in our own lives. Our problems, he would say, are not inevitable; they are not, as some historians and biologists have suggested, a necessary side effect of civilization.
On the contrary, war, economic injustice, and pollution arise because we have not yet learned to make use of our most civilizing capacities: the creativity and wisdom we all have as our birthright. When even one person comes into full possession of these capacities, our problems are shown in their true light: they are simply the results of avoidable—though deadly—errors of judgment.
From The Compassionate Universe by Eknath Easwaran, copyright 1993; reprinted by permission of Nilgiri Press, P. O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971. The late spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in 1961. His many books include Gandhi the Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
10/15/2007 - by: Acquireo Team - Director of Marketing, Acquireo.com
Almost every household in the country will visit a hardware store at least once a year. This potential for business is one of the reasons that a hardware store has always been one of the more popular businesses that an owner can start or buy.
The generic hardware store exists in the mind's eye as a retail store that a person can go to and buy just the right nut and bolt or the odd sized screw. This mythical store is run by knowledgeable people who can answer almost anything that has to do with home repair. This is what the public has come to expect when visiting a hardware store. Some chain store outlets have gotten away from the help side of hardware stores and just sale products off the shelf. Getting answers to questions in these stores is not what the hardware store visit is about. The great help of the old type hardware store is missing. Except in those stores that are run the old fashion way and continue to prosper as their customers are repeat customers and would not think about going somewhere else to shop. Two franchises that carry on this tradition are True Value and Ace Hardware associated stores.
True Value stores
True Value is the third largest co-op in the hardware business. True Value is a cooperative that allows the store owner who is a member to buy merchandise at reduced prices since this group can make large wholesale purchases. The store owners can also enjoy the advantage of group advertising buys. Being able to buy at the large volume prices makes the advantage a significant profit maker. Group advertising can also reduce the cost of getting customers into the store.
The average True Value store investment
The average investment in a True Value store works out to about $35 a square foot for inventory. The fixtures or equipment will come in at about $8 a square foot. The start up cost can vary by area of the country, but the average is about $4 a square foot. The additional cost to become a True Value store can be found by contacting True Value corporate.
Ace Hardware stores
Ace Hardware is the largest hardware co-op Like True Value it offers members the capability to buy merchandise through the co-op at reduced prices and thereby make more profit from sales. They also offer the advantage of group advertising which reduces the cost of getting customers through the doors.
Group buying of the co-op saves all of the member's money as the co-op gets better pricing due to large volume buying. This savings is then passed on to the members and allows them to make more money.
Ace Hardware Investment Structure
The Ace membership application is about $5000 Initial stock ownership is another $5000. Liquid capital needed to start a store is $250,000 with a loan from Ace of an additional amount of $390,000 to $740,000, which depends on the store size. The total investment is between $650,000 and one million dollars.Land and building cost are not included in this pricing.
The Ace investment numbers are based on a 12,000 square foot store. Dollar amounts are for fixtures, inventory, office equipment, computer system and operating costs.
Other factors that will help the owner
Both of these hardware operations offer the owner training and seminars, which are designed to help the store grow. Suggestions for operating the store more efficiently can be taken in and used to good effect. Special purchases that include a targeted advertising campaign will attract customers into the store. The staff's helpful attitude will impress the customers and insure they will come again.
Buying a local hardware store
Local stores that are affiliated or not do come to market every now and then for purchase. The owner may be willing to deal very favorably in order to make the sale. Contact a business broker or look up businesses that are for sale listed on the Internet. A good business broker may be wise to contact, as these pros are very good sources of current information. If an existing business is for sale, the price may be excellent due to the store being established. A store with cash flow is always a business to be considered. Customer habits are in the favor of the new owner as long as the service stays the same or gets better. If you are going to make some significant changes, make sure they are well thought out before putting them into practice. If there is a strong benefit to the customers, they will probably be met with enthusiasm.
An old owner may be willing to help with the financing of the business. In most cases the price of the business will increase some and will have to be negotiated as part of the sales contract. The other way to get the needed money is to see if a business lender would be willing to give you the needed loan. Many of these money lenders are easily found on the Internet.
The hardware business is one business that has a variety to customers that need what the store is offering. Every person of age is a possible customer. This large potential customer base is what will make a new hardware store quickly grow and in the right location become profitable. . As with all retail stores location is important. Name recognition is also very helpful which is why the two co-ops have so many members. Customers will come to a store with a familiar name.
Friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff is critical if you want to stand out from the box stores. Their pricing will be competitive to yours, so you have to beat them by having better help. If you try to compete on price alone, you will be fighting a losing battle. Store hours are also important in this business. Early openings are almost a necessity of the business. People like to get up and get started on projects.
author: Acquireo Team
Friday, January 6, 2012
Dec 23rd, 2011
If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.
After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he'd prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Posted on March 30, 2011 by Alyson
You might think that loyalty to a product or company would be driven by something positive like a low price point or a delightful service experience. But no, it appears that the presence or absence of barriers and friction during service and support encounters are the barometers of customer loyalty. As it turns out, effort—how much effort your customer must expend to resolve an issue with you—is the primary driver for customer loyalty.
It may seem like an odd leap to connect customer loyalty with the amount of effort it takes to do business with your company, but apparently it is possible to correlate loyalty on just such a metric—the Customer Effort Score.
An authoritative study by the Customer Contact Council contends that customer loyalty—that Holy Grail—is no longer driven entirely by customer delight, if it ever was. Customer loyalty, it seems, also rises when you reduce the effort the customer must expend in order to meet their need. In other words, the easier you make it for customers to solve their problems, the more loyal they will be to your organization and brand.
The Council developed the Customer Effort Score (CES) in 2008 to measure (on a 1-5 scale) the customer's answer to this question: "How much effort did you personally put forth to handle your request?"
There is lots of debate about how to word this question in the most effective way, but the idea is to find out if your customer feels that the amount of effort they had to put out to resolve their issue matched their expectations.
Lowering the CES score even by one percentage point can mean huge revenue benefits. In addition, the probability that a negative experience will drive disloyalty is FOUR TIMES greater than a positive one. Let's think about that another way: Customers who indicate more effort (4 or 5 on the CES scale) are 61% less likely to repurchase – as compared to the average customer.
Friction points can be predicted. One of the most interesting ways to smooth a path for customers is to research what future service issues can be headed off with simple re-messaging or additions to your knowledge base. Look for customer-reported patterns so you can prevent future friction.
The takeaway is this: Having a delightful experience is only one part of why customers remain loyal. Empires may be built on requiring less effort. Some postulate that Facebook pulled ahead of other similar sites and established itself as the leader because the site required less effort.
People are most interested in a hassle-free, friction-free experience. So removing barriers to resolution of your customers' service and support issues not only makes for Customer Wow—it also makes for customer loyalty.
The strongest predictor of loyalty is a low-effort customer experience. Do you know your score?
8 Things That Drive Customers to Your Competitors:
1. It takes too long to resolve an issue.
2. Promises that aren't kept (over promising, under delivering).
3. Being treated rudely or with suspicion.
4. Being transferred over and over from person to person, and having to repeat the issue each time.
5. Having to check several times to see if an issue is resolved.
6. Being left in the dark, in "support limbo," not knowing what, if anything, has been done to resolve the issue.
7. Being pushed to buy something—even before a support issue is resolved.
8. Finding the FAQ (and support center information) unhelpful, incomplete, or outdated.
Counteract these challenges with:
Assistly's 12 Commandments of Customer Contentment
1. Listen to your customers and take action based on what they tell you.
2. Over deliver on promises, reliably and consistently
3. Hire the right people and empower them with great tools.
4. Educate, train, and inspire your staff.
5. Connect every person in your company to the customer.
6. Be aware of customer touchpoints and remove friction from them.
7. Treat service as a disruptive gamechanger and strategic imperative
8. Share useful knowledge. Solve problems and educate.
9. Build a visible brand presence on all the channels.
10. Deliver service fast, and anticipate future needs.
11. Remember, customer service is a human activity requiring empathy.
12. Market actively to existing customers to retain them for life.
Organizations must manage an array of customer service systems, touch points and related tasks — often with little insight into the business value of a given activity. This raises issues for business leaders across a range of departments — from customer care, to human capital management, to training. Some specific challenges facing business heads include:
A more diverse and distributed employee base. Gone are the days when all customer support functions took place inside the contact center. Today, teams in both the front and back office — as well as remote and distributed employees such as home workers — need to connect and better engage with customers. Companies also need to align the competencies and skills with customer needs, regardless of location.
A proliferation of customer-facing channels. Companies need to differentiate how they approach and interact with both customers and employees. For example, the rising popularity of Web and e-mail channels, chat, and text, as well as social networking, means that companies have to evaluate and develop new employee competencies and skills within the workforce.
An incomplete assessment of employee talent. Just because an employee is hired with a certain level of skill and knowledge doesn't mean he or she will — or should — remain at that level indefinitely. Products and services change; job roles transition; and the types of customer interactions shift as technology evolves. Unless skills and knowledge are constantly assessed and updated — with the right training reaching the right people at the right time — organizations will be unable to use their talent pool effectively. The result of this would be duplications of skills in some areas, skills gaps in others, and an overall lack of engagement with customers. It's immensely costly to hire new customer service employees, yet this cost can be reduced with the proper coaching and training.
Misalignment of people and tasks. When there's no centralized view into employee skill sets and no centralized way of managing the talent, processes and people become misaligned. With one department owning workforce planning, another owning quality assurance, and still another responsible for training, many organizations lack the holistic view they need to streamline processes and improve employee performance.
High turnover of customer-facing employees and compromised quality. The turnover rate among contact center employees — widely reported to be between 40-50% annually — is among the highest in any category of workers. Although this is less the case for back-office employees, companies face an equally large challenge: some of the highest-paid employees in the company work there, and frequently there is no accountability for the quality or response times of customer-related tasks.
These are complex issues that inevitably have an impact on organizational performance and the bottom line. For businesses, this translates into an urgent need to focus on new and more effective ways to improve employee efficiency, training, and retention to ensure a more engaged workforce. Training can often be expensive, however, and replacing a highly trained employee even more so.
The question becomes: How do you make sure that employees possess the right skills and information to provide excellent service to your customers, while also effectively leveraging existing corporate systems and resources? And, how do you boost employee engagement to ensure that what employees do aligns with company objectives, increases profitability, and provides a competitive advantage?
The answer: By implementing an Employee Effectiveness Model that aligns training, job assignment, job scheduling, quality assurance, and career development to ensure your workforce has the right skills to provide stellar service to customers.
An Employee Effectiveness Model brings together a host of capabilities under a single umbrella. Organizations may already have legacy systems in place to handle critical functions like quality assurance, workforce management, coaching, e-learning and customer feedback.
However, such systems provide a "passive" approach and often remain silo'ed, creating latency delays, errors and overhead. As a result, executives are not getting the high-level view of workforce capabilities they need to identify and develop the talent their organizations require to keep pace with customer demands.
The best way to obtain such a view is by deploying a more "active" approach that brings together all these disparate systems in a more dynamic way to manage customer-impacting resources.
A model built on the following steps will ensure a more engaged, efficient, and effective organization — one with happier employees, more satisfied customers, and a much healthier corporate balance sheet.
· STEP 1: PLAN staffing levels enterprise wide
· STEP 2: DELIVER the right work using intelligent routing
· STEP 3: CONTROL performance issues by taking corrective action in real-time
· STEP 4: ANALYZE data and correlate skill and performance gaps
· STEP 5: DEVELOP talent pools based on exact training needs and accurate schedules
By Mark Smith, Ph.D., Quadstone
In spring 2004, Quadstone commissioned a study of the approach that large consumer enterprises are taking to improve customer service experiences. The research mainly consisted of in-depth interviews with executives in the financial services and telecommunications sectors, but it also included an e-mail questionnaire with consumers and a "mystery shopping" investigation into customer service centers.
The study finds that improving customers' satisfaction with service is a rapidly rising corporate priority and companies are increasing investment in tracking customer satisfaction and what drives it. While the majority of companies are beginning to understand aggregate-level trends in customer satisfaction, only a few companies are able to systematically identify how to change service delivery processes for the better — yet this is what all of the interviewed companies most want to do.
Only a few leading companies are able to systematically identify how to change service delivery processes for the better, yet this is what all the interviewed companies most want to do.
Additionally, the study defines a success model for embracing and driving change based on customer satisfaction metrics, and it lays out the capabilities that companies must develop to fully leverage customer satisfaction data in driving change across the organization. The survey finds that telecommunications companies are, in general, more committed and sophisticated in their approach to customer satisfaction than financial services companies. Fundamentally, organizations are striving for a level of understanding that is deeper and more specific than general customer feedback (which is typically that the customers would like service to be delivered faster and more courteously).
It is not surprising that executives have recently focused much more attention on the issue of customer experience. In the 1990s, the main priority in customer service was increased efficiency. Companies have now found that the customer experience must also be effective. Customers' opinions matter, and sometimes those opinions directly drive loyalty and other behavior. Many factors are pushing this change in strategy: consumer financial services and telecommunications markets have become increasingly saturated and commoditized and, as a result, the majority of companies are seeking to maintain value by delivering differentiated customer service. Customers have become more demanding and savvy in the way they deal with large organizations. It has become easier for them to vote with their feet and switch suppliers, thanks to the Internet and intensified regulation.
Organizations are also aware that the wholesale shift from retail outlets to call centers (which are now being offshored) has been alienating for customers; CRM automation and other customer-hostile systems have, in many cases, made this situation worse.
As a result, internal investment has swung from market share-led initiatives to driving profit from existing customers through retention and cross-selling. While some money has long gone into surveying customer opinion, activity has stepped up significantly and organizations are getting more serious about actually using the survey data (along with the mountains of data available internally) as a key driver of change. Improving the customer service experience is thus the new frontier of customer value exploitation and differentiation.
Key Findings In The Survey
Between March and May 2004, Collaborative Insight, a research company based in Boston, conducted in-depth interviews with executives from large consumer businesses in the U.S. and the UK about their approach to improving customer satisfaction. There was an even split between financial services and telecommunications, as well as between territories.
The research was not intended to be comprehensive or statistically robust; it has, however, revealed the following suggestive results about how progress is being made in a world that is increasingly focused on the customer experience. Key findings in the survey include the following:
Customer satisfaction is a rapidly rising and high-ranking corporate priority: 8 out of 10 organizations reported that customer satisfaction is a top-three business issue.
All interviewed companies set out to understand more about the service experiences they deliver by doing customer satisfaction surveys: 7 out of 10 companies survey customers on a non-anonymous basis and as frequently as every month.
Six out of 10 companies have two years' worth or more of survey history.
Nearly all interviewed companies use survey data to calculate their own customer service satisfaction metrics to focus and motivate staff: 9 out of 10 have a formal, established metric for satisfaction with service; 8 out of 10 have specific companywide targets for this metric over time; and 8 out of 10 linked the performance of this metric to senior management's compensation.
Most organizations are interested in the extremes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction — the general belief is that only the most delighted customers buy more or become advocates, and only the most disappointed customers leave, usually following a catastrophic experience: 8 out of 10 companies talked about improving overall scores or the numbers of extremely or very satisfied customers (either driven by revenue/profit per customer or the effect of advocacy).
The area of analyzing current trends and the causes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction is an area where the survey found a much broader spread of practice: 8 out of 10 companies use a balanced scorecard to observe trends over time; 6 out of 10 perform analysis that links survey responses to segment behavior data; 2 out of 10 match service delivery process data with the corresponding surveys — these two companies were noticeably more able to identify specific changes that will improve the customer experience.
All interviewees saw multiple challenges on their horizons, and the survey recorded the top issues that each company mentioned and then classified them broadly into organizational challenges and technical challenges: only 2 out of 10 expressed a need to improve the survey process or clarify metric definition (technical); 4 out of 10 were focused on gaining management sponsorship or companywide understanding of the importance of satisfaction with service (organizational); 7 out of 10, the mainstream, wanted to enhance their analysis approach so that they could clearly identify what changes to make to service delivery processes (technical); only the 4 out of 10 that were beginning to surmount the analysis challenge were concerned with the practicalities of getting the organization to implement the recommended changes (organizational); and 4 out of 10 talked about the challenge of measuring ROI on the changes (technical).
The Capability Model: Building On Experience
The study draws three key conclusions for large, customer-centric organizations:
There is a wide spectrum of sophistication among companies in their capability to understand and leverage customer satisfaction data. This spectrum spans three equally divided groupings, which we have labeled "laggards," "followers" and "leaders."
The majority of companies are beginning to understand aggregate-level trends in customer satisfaction. Only a few leading companies are able to systematically identify how to change service delivery processes for the better, yet this is what all the interviewed companies most want to do.
Companies face a definable sequence of challenges to increase the sophistication and efficacy of their approach in utilizing customer satisfaction metrics to drive change through their organizations. That set of challenges divides into five categories of increasing difficulty and complexity: 1) improving surveys and clarifying metrics; 2) gaining management sponsorship or company understanding; 3) better identifying changes through in-depth analysis; 4) getting the organization to carry out the recommended changes; and 5) measuring ROI on the changes delivered. Laggards generally were focused on challenges 1 through 3; followers, on 2 through 4; and leaders, on 3 through 5.
The study defines a capability model for companies to understand these stages, to identify the stage they are at and to build a plan for how to increase their own capabilities based on what more advanced organizations have already done.
Figure 1 is a schematic of the capability model — the major barriers to progress. Although there is some degree of overlap in the way companies address the sequential challenges, we generally found that companies are particularly preoccupied with one challenge at a time.
Implications For Large Consumer Businesses
The findings from the Quadstone study have clearly highlighted that customer satisfaction is of rising importance and that, not surprisingly, significant resources are being invested in trying to improve the experience customers receive. Once engaged in the quest to improve satisfaction, organizations must focus on how to turn the investment in tracking satisfaction into decisions on what to change.
Companies are constantly making changes to service delivery processes, but they clearly need to be able to prioritize them based on evidence.
Many organizations conclude that only by identifying linkages at an individual level between surveys and operational data can they identify the processes that are the root cause for dissatisfaction. One interview revealed, "We are moving on to connect specific customer responses with source data on a systematic basis," the objective being to identify broken processes that, with an understanding of the customer view, can then be fixed.
The level of interest in identifying broken processes that companies are not aware of is high — "We're particularly interested if something fails" was one pertinent comment. Comparing what the customer thought happened with what the company thought happened reveals the root cause for dissatisfaction, allowing it to be addressed. The cost of customer dissatisfaction at broken processes is acknowledged to be huge. The combined cost of replacing customers lost through churn, providing services that are not valued and resolving complaints — especially if they get to the regulator — is the driver for change. What companies are seeking is prioritization for these change programs; it appears that exploring the cause-and-effect linkages between survey data and operational data is considered the most effective way of doing this.