We live in the age of online retailing and call centre customer support. We side-step consumer advertising in favour of social media shopping comparisons between friends – chatting about the customer experience, as well as the product. Yet too many consumer mass market companies still think customer service. Not customer experience.
For some consumer brands, it gets worse. To them, customer service simply means serving the customer, period. Never mind how or when! A commuter train breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the depths of winter. Its brand managers focus mostly on getting the train moving again. Supporting the stranded passengers comes a distant second. Ditto the airlines and airport staff.
(Some) central and local politicians seem intent on taking their inspiration from these kinds of companies. Voter service means sounding concerned, making long speeches, criticising everything the opposition parties say and when forced to act, calling for yet another investigative review, at the taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile, the voter experience (think air pollution, lack of affordable housing, limited school choices, flammable high-rise tower blocks, expensive transport choices etc) continues unchecked.
Some companies conduct customer surveys (including asking the wrong questions), design their retail website poorly, keep the customer in a long call-waiting queue, or charge steep day-rates for standard support. Rather that modest day rates for customised support.
In summary, too many mass market companies pay lip service to perceived customer service. Instead of moving straight to real customer experience. Mass market products need to be simple to use, clever in function, durable and value for money.
Mindset change please guys!
We’d plan tax reform BEFORE income distribution undergoes the full onslaught of machine automation.
The UN would fund and deploy aerial nano-bots that fly around the World destroying unregistered guns.
Religious opinion leaders would MODERNISE religious doctrine to accommodate future technological change.
We’d REFORM things in society before the flat part of the (technology) exponential curve turns into the steep part of the exponential curve.
Government social services would MANAGE people’s expectations in a honest way upfront, not make excuses in a patronising way afterwards. Prevention is usually cheaper that cure.
We’d APPOINT lobby groups to represent the animal kingdom and not pretend that humans and corporates have all the votes and all the freedom to act.
We’d ENCOURAGE people to self-learn to cope with global changes in progress.
The act of joining staff hands around a customer’s needs.
The act of applying electricity to hand-powered components.
Mining the magic and monitoring the wagon train.
Build it amazing and customer wow will come.
Leadership versus Management
Great management is leading by example. Great leadership is providing an example for others to better.
Management is ensuring there’s no explosion in the paint factory. Leadership is creating Pollock art that turns management on its head.
Compartmentalise to cope.
Pick, mix and cook to progress.
A’s hire other A’s. B’s hire C’s, because if they hire A’s, their B level performance will be laid bare. Morale: Hire an A to lead your organisation and radiate A’ness (not anus) outwards to everyone else.
Extreme ability is rare. Extreme talent is rare. Yet common sense is anything but common. Non leaders have talent and ability. Yet they choose not to stand out. Would they rather live in a World that could be so much more beautiful with their help?
Some leaders fail. To turn followers into team members. And team members into leaders of new teams. And so it goes.
If it sometimes seems that the World has gone mad, at least you can look in the mirror and see common sense staring back.
As everything trends towards a ‘winner take all market’, watch out for artificial intelligence reaching its adulthood.
Too often insight is fleeting and labelled ‘political agenda’ by those that don’t have it.
In the 21st Century, human management is just a placeholder for systems integration.
There are at least two good things about the rise of the machines – optimisation and innovation will replace human vanity and human complacency.
Yesterday, I watched episode four in the latest series of the BBC TV show ‘The Apprentice’. At the end of it, Alan Sugar fired all three of the poorest performers (Ella Jade Bitton, Sarah Dales & Steven Ugoalah). But not before they lost all professional and personal dignity, squabbling in the board room, with the project manager of the losing team (Ella Jade), pleading repeatedly with Lord Sugar to be given another chance.
A triple elimination in one week, along with post-dismissal pleading was a new low point for the series. Is the underlying quality of the applications really that bad, is the screening process to allow them to participate in the series the problem, or is it just the nature of the task that creates a race for bottom place? On a related note, if the CV’s of the Apprentice wannabes really are as great as they claim, why do so few of them step up to lead an ‘all stars’ team in any given episode?
I know one of the purposes of the series is entertainment and that Lord Sugar donates his sizeable series fee to charity. However, the viewer cannot help but wonder, why are the end results of each task so mediocre, whether creating their own video channels to go on the World’s largest video-sharing site, or simply selling market stall products (with TV cameras rolling that in themselves, attract curious punters)?
For any of the wannabe apprentices, especially in the early episodes of the series, doesn’t it occur to them that their best chance of not appearing in the bottom three for elimination is to put maximum effort into effective teamwork?
Arguably, for Lord Sugar to go into business with the winner, two qualities will stand out – one is very clever business ideas, executed well. And the second is stunning leadership qualities. Perhaps if the ‘prize money’ was quadrupled to £1M, it might attract a superior group of wannabe apprentices and reveal in the tasks, a far more stunning range of ideas, delivery and leadership in action. From Lord Sugar’s perspective, does he want to go into business with someone with amazing potential for a mere £1M investment, or go into business with someone who believes their own hype, for a very expensive investment of £250,000?
Personally, I’d far rather watch a version of The Apprentice, with:
- less tantrums and loss of human dignity in the boardroom,
- less smarmy sales pitches to very savvy and seasoned business buyers (even after 3 prior episodes, some project managers still seem to think you can sell complete lemon products, solely by baffling the buyer with youthful sales charm),
- less editorial emphasis on the backchat between prima-donna contestants during the task,
- more coverage during the task of heroic teamwork to problem solve,
- most importantly of all, FAR more design-brainstorming time spent at the front end of the task – none of the wannabes seem to realise that time spent doing that well will pay off massively in the final Boardroom analysis.
As well as delivering far better end results, a change in emphasis might restore some viewers’ beliefs in business activity (and Lord Sugar’s TV series emphasis) as a positive economic force.
Lastly, a real business innovation contrast with the above process. Two Imperial College of London computing graduates Ashley Brown and Simon Overell recently launched an online fraud-busting start up company (spider.io) which was then acquired by Google. Granted it was at least a year of intensive effort to create the end result (not two days as for The Apprentice tasks). My question is, would university graduates of the calibre of Mr Brown and Mr Overell have been attracted to join a series like The Apprentice, or is the instant loss of 50% control and the incentive money just too small to be worth bothering about?