Category Archives: Management

What is a holistic customer experience?

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Some companies just want to take your money. Other companies have customer service, but you end up talking to a robot on the phone for twenty minutes before reaching a human. The holistic customer experience is all about giving the customer an all around good experience and meeting all of their needs.

Although meeting all of a customer’s needs is critical, you need to solve their problems in a particular order. Customers who use phone companies complain that they have to wait a long time to talk to a customer service representative. Then, they have to talk to an automated machine that keeps asking questions and claims they didn’t understand the answer. Finally, they can talk to a rep in some foreign country with awkward social graces who accidentally gets disconnected from them on a regular basis.

My question is, is it worth it to give the customer a better experience than this cost-conscious nightmare? The answer is, if the customer is willing to pay for it.

Giving the customer a great experience from their first click to whenever they end their service should be the goal of any holistic customer service approach. And if the service is great, the service might never be terminated in the first place!

My Complaints About Outsourcing Companies
My complaint calling outsourcing companies is similar to the complaints of phone company customers.

1. It is difficult to reach the desired person (or a competent person) by phone
2. If you call, you talk to a bunch of unpolished idiots who accidentally hang up on you.
3. The company has no answering machine and doesn’t answer after hours
4. The website is poorly designed and doesn’t give a clear idea of what the company does, how they do it and who works for them.
5. It is hard to get straight answers out of people.
6. The salespeople will tell you anything to get a sale
7. The rep given is usually low quality and with poor communication skills.
8. Higher quality reps are always working on some other “more important” contract
9. Work is generally sloppy
10. Work is normally delivered long after the due date without an apology.
11. Bills always seem padded
12. It is hard to get touchups to programming or design work without badgering

How helpful are you actually? It just seems like a low-class bunch of incompetent scam artists to me. Not someone I would trust with a critical job. But, I might use them if they offered a dirt-cheap price! And the person doing the effort to get work done is the client, not the company. The company only applies effort while the salesperson is trying to sell. Once the sale is made, effort goes on minimal and you get put on the back burner.

To give a holistic outsourcing experience, you need to work on:
1. An easy line of communication to knowledgeable people — and keep the idiots OFF the phone permanently!
2. Easy access to choosing quality employees with good communication skills to work on assignements even if that means paying a lot more.
3. Meet deadlines every single time or someone gets fired.
4. Salespeople who fact-check before they make promises
5. Honest billing
6. Quick touchups to work and quick answers to questions.

In short — make my life easy and do good work. I will be willing to pay a lot more if you do. Others are wealthier than I am and might reward you in a huge way if you do.

Big companies are organized for efficiency, but not for joy

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It is interesting, that the big companies that deliver joy have become some of the biggest names in the world. Apple, Facebook, Youtube, Starbucks are companies that deliver not only products, but an experience. When I hire a company, I always get an experience, but not always a good one!

People have developed entire lifestyles around these four brands and we can’t live without them. What about your company? Can customers live without you? Do you create an experience for them? Maybe you should. How would you design a customer experience with your service?

If you have a large pool of labor, and can segment your labor pool so that people can choose their rep, that might make life easier. When we engage in outsourcing whether it is programming, web design, call center or data entry, we are working with a particular individual.

What if your company decided to be a cross between Apple and Facebook in how they did their web design? You could have a screen filled with small icons that you could see on an iPhone or desktop. You could browse through reps just like people do when looking for a date online. You could read their description and even interact with them online. Cool! You might need to interface with a manager or salesperson at some point. However, information about their skill level, experience, and levels of availability could be on the app to eliminate any misconceptions.

The idea is that all of your employees would have a little slack in their schedule so that customers could choose them. The more popular ones could be more expensive based on market conditions. You keep adjusting their price so they are available a certain percent of the time if you book in advance.

This way of running your outsourcing house will create an entire experience that nobody else is offering. The interaction is also a huge part of the experience. If you add in inviting them to your parties, newsletter and other socially connecting mediums, that is the icing on the cake. It is hard to create joy and an experience when you are half a world away, but guys like Steve Jobs will be able to find a way. Tap into his type of thinking and you might just win the game, and create a bit of joy in the universe.

If you were a customer, would you enjoy calling your company?

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Many companies make the mistake of not putting themselves in the place of the customer. I make the same mistake. Is your company a pleasure to do business with? Is your company a fun place to call?

Most companies who do outsourcing are a nightmare to call. You get bad reps answering the phone, or perhaps nobody answers the phone. The customer has to put in a lot of sweat equity just to talk to someone with a brain who doesn’t try to transfer them.

ME: What city are you located in?

REP: Oh, I will have to transfer you to have that question answered.

ME: You don’t even (cut) They cut me off and transferred me, and now I’m disconnected. I’ll never call that company again.

Yet, my experience above is the norm with Indian companies which is why Indian companies have a horrible reputation and are getting fired left and right so that Romanian, African, Central American and in particular Filipino companies can get their work. If you treat your customers like garbage, YOUR COMPANY will be the one thrown in the trash. The problem in India is that almost every company treats customers like garbage and hence, the whole country of India is being thrown in the trash by Americans who don’t like being treated poorly by customer service.

Why don’t you pretend to be a customer and call your own company. Try to get a job done. See how pleasant and easy it is! You might just learn something!

The best way to improve your customer service

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The best way to improve your customer service is to write blogs about customer service. Every time you write a blog, you will have an “ah-ha” moment where you suddenly identify what you are doing wrong. Then, you can fix the problem. Awareness is the solution. Another solution is to read blogs that other people wrote about customer service. Finally, pretend to be your own customer and see how good or bad your own customer service is at your company.

You can talk directly with your customers or employees about how your customer service is. You never know where you are going to learn about what you are doing right or wrong.

The biggest thing you should be aware of is not your efficiency, but the customer experience you generate. Do you give people memorable and wonderful experiences, or are you a pain in the neck to get anything done with?

Was your business decision wrong, or was it just a bad quarter?

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Making business decisions is hard. Sometimes I think about a business decision and rethink it for years. I often come out with completely different solutions as time goes on. The problem is that assessing a business decision after the fact is not so easy.

Let’s say you decide to add more workers to your company, but then profits went down in the 3rd quarter. Did profits go down because you added new workers, or was it just a bad quarter? You have to take a closer view at what really happened with the new workers, and where the loss of profits was incurred.

I made a stupid decision last month. I tested my analytics after I removed many of our older reviews and added mobile pages at the same time. Since I did two changes at the same time, I cannot know if the decline in my stats was because my reviews were removed, or because Google didn’t like my mobile pages. Hmm. When you make changes to your business, if you want to get a clear analysis of the results of your change, you have to make one change at a time and measure the change over a reasonable period of time — and what is reasonable may vary based on what type of change you made.

Large companies like Samuel Adams experience huge ups and downs purely based on quarterly income. My stock plummetted two days after I purchased it. I lose 15% in a day. Then, I had to wait six months and they had a good quarter and the stock went up to 1.5% above where I purchased it at. So, I sold it because I decided that I didn’t like the volatility.

Another mistake is to base business decisions on short-term results. Sometimes business decisions might help you five to ten years down the road and you can’t measure what happens the following quarter when assessing long term plans. It is common for Asian auto manufacturers to sell cars at below cost to get the market moving overseas. They will wait for a decade and then start selling cars at cost, and twenty years before they make a profit. I might be exaggerating here, but long term business practices require patience, and if you have no patience, perhaps being a business man is not the right career for you!

How to Outsource Your Entire Business

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Why Small Businesses Have to Spend Money to Make Money with Outsourcing

Outsourcing is the new buzzword in online business. After all, why do a job yourself when you can get someone else to do it at a lower ultimate price? With around 100,000 e-commerce businesses generating significant income online today, it’s no wonder that people are looking to get more bang for their buck to be in with a chance of topping the competition. But, like with any service that feeds into any business, outsourcing needs to be done properly to work well.

The simple economics of ROI for outsourcing
It’s tempting to just go for the cheapest option available when it comes to outsourcing, thinking that this will give you the biggest profit margin in the long run. But for the process to be effective, you need to think in terms of return on investment for a smart and long-term result. If you choose someone to write content for your website at 1 cent per 200 words, for example, your initial outlay will be small – but do you really think you’ll get highly attractive content that will bring in traffic and encourage conversions? The simple answer is: no. Instead, consider paying 2 or 3 cents per 100 words, increasing your initial expenditure, but creating authority and lasting value for your website visitors that will drive sales, conversions, and shares in the long terms and win you a much better ROI.

A careful selection process
When it comes to choosing a freelancer to outsource work to, it’s better to have a process in place that determines whether an individual fits your specific needs. Rather than a scattergun approach that welcomes applications from all and sundry, focus your requirements, spending the time or money to create a decent advertisement and provide a routine set of questions for candidates to answer. This will save money, time, and stress in the long term.

Contact the specialists
Running the gamut of sifting through the thousands of freelancers available for outsourcing across the globe can be a gruelling process littered with traps for the unsuspecting small business owner. By 2020, one in two business-people may be freelancers, evidence of the growing trend and overwhelming number of potentials to choose from. Consider using the services of a reliable outsourcing agency like ours, with a directory of freelancers, including verified information on past work, proof of qualifications and aptitudes, and a sophisticated system of managing correspondence between you for time-effectiveness.

How often do you give raises?

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How often do you give raises? The art of raises and rewarding your employees for deserved behavior, but avoiding running the risk of overly rewarding them and making them think they deserve another raise before they’ve earned it.

My solution was to give raises every 90 days to full-time people and every 180 days to part-time. I realize that this is a powerful strategy, however there were a few kinks to work out. Someone full time will feel a sense of moving up in the world if they are always getting raises. Keep in mind that you need to set their starting salary a little lower for them to merit raises. Also keep in mind that they need to merit the raises with an increase skill set and hard work. Most people are very short sighted which is why 90 days raises are so effective. Google uses this strategy by the way! After a year or two, the raises will become a little smaller. You also have to give people more responsibility otherwise they will not feel useful. Letting them learn new skills is very important to many employees who want to feel like they are growing, while others specifically do not want to grow at all.

The flaw in my system is that my part-timers seem to put in as much time as they feel like. This is not good for long-term employment. Those who are not reliable in their hours will not last long, or will not be that valuable as employees. It seems more sensible to have a starting wage while in training. Then have them put in 400 hours before getting a raise. If they are slow pokes and do five hours a week, it might be two years before their first raise. But, this way the raise is based not only on how much they learned and produced, but how much loyalty and hours they put in too which is a very important factor.

Someone who sticks with you in the long run is valuable, especially when combined with versatile work skills. So, reward people for everything.

These days with millennials, especially in India, there is a lot of job hopping. You cannot get ahead in any career by job hopping. But the time you half know what you are doing, you’ll be at the next company. For managers, knowing they have someone good to do a job is important. How well will they know your work if you hop from job to job? If you are dealing with perpetual job hoppers, I would give them a lower starting salary simply because you’ll have to invest time hiring and training them only to have them quit. Let them pay for this out of their salary and reward them later on if they stay.

Every time you call and get someone charismatic will make your business seem amazing

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When people call your business, what kind of people do they get to talk to? Do your prospects or customers talk to smart people, dumb people, helpful people, ignorant people, or charismatic people? If you give your customers a good phone experience, that can make quite an impression. Charismatic people might not come cheap, but neither is losing out on hundreds of great customers that you are losing by hiring losers to answer your phone.

Nobody has to know the truth about your company. Nobody has to know that you hire lousy people. If people call and get to talk to a different interesting person every time they call, they will have the impression that everybody that works for you is amazing. The truth might be that only four out of two hundred is amazing, but the customers won’t know that unless they visit your office. And even if people visit your office, have the charismatic people jump out at them and chat them up and offer them some coffee or chai.

It doesn’t matter what the ratio of great employees is to terrible ones. What matters is the perceived ratio. If every interaction I have with your staff is amazing, I will have an amazing impression. If most of your workers are amazing, but you only let me talk to the terrible ones, my impression will be terrible. You can manufacture an experience at your company, so design it the right way to make the right impression.

You can’t be behind when you behead

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The joke is that extremists in Iraq who like to cut people’s heads off were late to an appointment. All of their friends were there wearing ski masks with the video equipment ready, but two guys were late to the beheading. The leader of this satirical extremist group scolded them on their tardiness and said, “You can’t be behind when you behead! Next time will be your last!!!” The late guys said, “Gulp?”

But, having a business is just like fighting a war. You are in a sense beheading the competition or getting your head chopped off by them. If you are always behind on your work, your business will never grow. Your customers will always be upset with you for your sluggishness. Most businesses want to use manpower efficiently and make sure that each labor resource is used to its maximum. The problem with this is that you won’t have time for last minute emergency projects, not will you have time if existing projects take longer than anticipated.

If you want to grow your business, hire more people, buy more computers, buy more inventory, make things bigger. If you have a little extra available labor resources, your business can grow. If you are always up to capacity, there is no room to grow. The analogy is having a city on an island. If the city takes up all of the island like Singapore, then there is nowhere to grow unless you find a way to build into the water. You need new land to put your buildings and farms.

So, stop being behind. Start finding ways to have more labor capacity and more managers ready to assist. Have people who are ready to answer phones who can communicate well. I wonder what the Mayans would say about this article — they did lots of beheading back in the day!

Solid business practices never change

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Solid business practices never change. You can learn new technology, but good old quality customer service never dies. So many companies these days claim to be experts on Facebook, or have some fancy application that tracks the progress of your hi-tech project. Others claim to be experts in some fancy topic. When you boil it down, certain principles in business never change. Here they are:

1. Writing Skills
Some people are “Twitter experts.” Being good on Twitter amounts to having good writing skills. The actual skill to be able to run a Twitter account is not rocket science. You follow, unfollow, like, retweet, and post. Those skills you can learn in minutes and master in a few months. The harder skills are writing skills. If you didn’t do well at school, and if you are not talented as a writer, you won’t do well on Twitter. Furthermore, the type of writing skill used on Twitter is much harder than article writing. You need to be able to pack a punch in 140 characters including a link. If your post doesn’t grab attention, and the right type of attention, your Twitter account will never make it in the big leagues and worse yet — Kim Kardashian will never recognize you!

2. Prompt Communication
Some people think that because they are a genious programmer or that they work for a fancy company with a good name that is what is important. Not so. Being good at basic activities such as answering simple emails determines your success in business. If I am shopping around for companies and email twenty companies, the ones that email me back first with thoughtful answers to my queries will be most likely to get the job. Those that either don’t answer, or answer my email only to ask me questions without answer my questions will not be hired by me. It’s that simple. Those who answer their phone and return messages promptly win the game.

3. Good Communication
If you have an outsourcing company in some foreign country with an outstanding technical staff, then you are the right company to hire right? WRONG! You are the wrong company to hire because you put a moron on phones who is so incompetent that he/she/it cannot even answer the question, “What city are you in” without putting you on hold to transfer you to someone with half a brain. Put people with at least 3/4’s of a brain on phones, otherwise nobody respectable will ever hire you!

4. Meeting Deadlines
It doesn’t matter how good you are if you are never on time. Projects need to get done correctly and on time. If you get the job done, but leave bugs or errors, then you have to go back and fix those errors. If you take forever about fixing them, nobody with choices will hire you. Find a way to get your work done on time and every time, and that way people will trust you and respect you.

5. Pleasing Customers
I read somewhere that less than 1% of clients are satisfied with the service they receive from most businesses. This is a very vague and useless statistic, but the point is that most customers are not satisfied. If you can satisfy clients, you will be in the top 1% and you might get lots of referrals. You don’t need high tech 2016 type knowledge of cloud computing to figure out how to please a client. Find out what they want by paying attention to feedback and perhaps asking them what they want — and then give it to them. This is not brain surgery here — it is basic common sense.

6. Staying Open
If you are always closed whenever customers want to talk to you, they will find someone else to talk to. If you have a store that’s always closed (like the bagel store down the street) then people will get out of the habit of going there. If you run a BPO which is closed for every Indian holiday, and a few that you just made up because you didn’t want to go to work — your customers will put your company on a permanent holiday. Spend more days at work, or at least have a few staff members keeping shop open on holidays and weekends so your American clients will not feel you are playing hookey!

7. Hire People With Integrity
People hire based on technical skills and social skills, but the most important “skill” is integrity. Those who do not care about what they do, or about people they work with will not be good workers in the end. You need people who do not drop the ball, but pick up the ball when others drop it. You need people who will make sure the job gets done correctly no matter what. Most employees couldn’t care less, and flake on all types of things. Employees who will be pillars in your organization need to care and be conscientious about everything for your organization to succeed. You can teach someone with integrity technical skills, but you cannot teach integrity. That is something you either have or don’t have and it grows much more slowly within people. A technical skill can be learned in a year. Character can take several lifetimes to build and God knows what the result will be.

8. Don’t Bit Off More Than You Can Chew
Many new businesses want to start off fast and grow like crazy. You need to grow at the speed of nature. Start small, and build your way up to the top learning basic business fundementals the whole time. Those who are stable and succeed in the long run are stable and base their business on old-school business strategies which are solid. Those who try to grow too fast, also fall the hardest. In business, there is more to lose than to gain, so go slow so you don’t get yourself and others into big trouble.

Optimizing your processes at your BPO

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If you run a BPO or other business, there are many processes that you are involved in. The key to success in business is to know where to allocate your resources. If you put too much effort into one thing, you will have less resources for other endeavors that might be more critical

Example 1:
I was making calls to all of our new service providers and helping them fill out their listing. I saw it was taking up too much of my schedule and I had no time to take walks. Now, I just ask two questions, take notes on how they communicate and go on to the next listing. I now have time to focus more on marketing.

Example 2:
I was spending time running six social media campaigns. After analyzing the stats several times, I realized that one of them was getting more traffic. So, I cut down my time working on the others and focused on the winner which was Facebook. I am now putting double the effort into Facebook and getting 20 times the results. I plan to put even more time into it.

Example 3:
I was tweeting dozens of posts on Twitter. Later on I decided to see which ones were getting shares, and which were getting clicks. I also experimented with alternative titles. The result was that the posts that had merit were shared much more, and the other posts were not shared at all. I saved time and got a lot more clicks.

Example 4:
My friend needed to hire people, but interviewing took too much time. So, he formulated a bunch of questions for his assistant to ask the applicants. My buddy would scan the results of the interview questions and then schedule a second interview with those he liked. He cut out 80% of the time he was spending before with interviews.

Example 5:
A friend in India had 20 employees. They all had lunch from 12 to 1. He thought about how much work could be done if he starved his employees, and he did. Several threatened to quit, although they were so weak from not eating that their threats were in a weak tone of voice. So, he decided to have lunch delivered to the office, and they ate all together, and then had twenty minutes to take a walk around the block. Their lunch went from 60 minutes to 40 minutes, so the boss got more work out of them without losing any employees to starvation.

Thats all for now, but if you take a closer look at the hundreds of processes your company does, there are better ways, and more efficient ways to do them all.


Is Amazon too tough on their workers?

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Rumors are that Amazon management tolerates nothing less than peak performance out of their workers. The workplace is intense and often cutthroat. Workers who have health problems, other personal issues, or who just can’t measure up often get penalized or fired.

Two Times reporters wrote a 7000 word piece on Amazon after they had interviewed many current and former Amazon employees. They wrote about the grueling and competitive conditions the workers had to endure. After Jeff Bezos read this featured article, even he wrote a letter stating he would not tolerate the “shockingly callous management practices” described in the article. He urged employees to contact her directly if they heard of abuses.

However, reviews on Glassdoor indicated that 82% of employees approve of CEO Bezos and most would recommend Amazon to a friend. A program manager in Seattle wrote that Amazon had small teams, interesting and innovative projects, and very smart people. There were quiet work areas, a beautiful campus, and a startup feel. To me, it sounds a lot like Google. There were many mixed reviews on Amazon with the pros commenting on the vibrant fast paced culture while the cons were more about the office politics.

My feeling is that the companies that are getting ahead today like Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. tend to embrace a high energy culture of overachievers who work in an innovative setting creating new and better ways for society to function, buy, sell, and enjoy life. If workers want to work in a slower paced company, an innovative front-line company doesn’t seem like a good place. Becoming a librarian in a small Tennessee town seems like a better idea for someone who wants a quiet, yet fulfilling life. But, on the other hand, companies that make their workers put in too many hours can burn people out. In the long run, we need quality of life, not just some success that leads to ultimate burnout. And when we get pregnant or have personal problems, it is nice if our company understands what we are going through. After all, we’re all human (my cat is nodding her head at this point.) Well, she is not human, but the rest of us are!

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