Category Archives: Reading

Business alphabet: Q is for…Quality!

Q post pic

 

From my monthly Building Better Businesses newsletter (subscribe here):

What does the term ‘quality’ actually mean to you?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

Some of you might say you associate quality with high levels of workmanship, or customer service, or how well that new gadget work, perhaps?

However, when you’re a customer, what really does it mean?

Well, to me, it means giving customers exactly what they want. Not endless choices. Not what I think they want. Just exactly what they want.

Ask yourself, and your colleagues if they associate quality with getting exactly what they want as a customer. What answer do you usually get? Yes!

So, even though the components of quality can comprise a a vast number of elements, the ‘quality’ itself is associated with giving the customer exactly what they want.
Take Rolls-Royce cars, for example – the finest craftsmanship, engineering integrity, attention to detail, delivered on time, every time. Yes, these cars are rather pricey, but their customers expect nothing but the very best, so that’s what a ‘Royce’ sets out to deliver without question.
So, ask your customers what they want, exactly, and give it to them. Before you know it, they will be using the word ‘quality’ when they describe you and what you do – the best marketing you could wish for!

 

Business alphabet: P is for…Priorities!

P letter

I come across many people in the business world with long lists of things they need to do. yet they often complain they never get enough of the important things done. Well, if this sounds like you then this simple solution may work for you, that takes just a few minutes each day:

The aim is simply to prioritise your list so that the most important tasks are put in their order of needing to be done.

Step 1: Decide one simple ‘yes or no’ criteria that you will use to decide which task is more important than another

Step 2: You now need to compare each task with all of the other tasks in pairs and simply decide which of that pair is most important. here how…
Number you list of tasks

Take tasks 1 and 2 and decide which is most important (according to the criteria you selected in Step 1), and put a tick again which one ‘wins’

Then take tasks 1 and 3 and do the same, then 1 and 4, 1 and 5, and so on until you get to the bottom of your list

You have now compared task 1 with all of the others

So start with tasks 2 and 3, 2 and 4, and so on (no need to compare tasks 2 and 1 as that was already carried out above)

Then 3 and 4, 3 and 5 and so on

Carry this through the whole list

The list can simply be prioritised by looking at how many ticks a task has – the more ticks, the higher the priority!

Business alphabet: O is for…Opportunity!

Sleeping monkey

 

What do you understand, in a business context, by ‘opportunity’?

More chances to sell, or make more profit? How about a chance to build better relationships with your customers, or suppliers? What about do all those jobs your accountant has been asking you to do?

An opportunity can present itself in many, many ways. The key is to ‘see’ the opportunity when it’s there.

So here’s a simple tip: which is as effective in looking for opportunities to improve your customner service as it is in keeping yourself motivated – whenever you think you have completed one task (any task), simple ask yourself, “What else can I do?”.

Simple!

Because it’s an ‘open’ question, the voice in your head will want to avoid giving a one word answer.

Catch up with a new Business Alphabet entry every month in my Building Better Businesses newsletter. Subscribe here.

What Makes Customer Service So Difficult (for so many)?

Customer Service LI post pic 240715 1

How many organisations, not least the ones we all have to deal with (e.g.: utilities, local councils, etc), just can’t wait to tell us how good their customer service is?

Or should that be how good they think their customer service is?

In reality, just how good is it?

Remember – the most important ‘rule’ of customer service is simply…give your customers exactly what they want.

Because? Because they want what they want!

I know that sounds obvious, but how many companies (of all descriptions) actually do that?

Answer: not enough!

Achieving genuine excellence in the field of customer service really is not difficult.

It may be an old, and well-worn adage, but little things really do make the difference. Solid, simple, clear thinking is vital to success – one of the easiest things to do, and yet is so often not done!

No doubt you remember K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple (Stupid)!

Some years ago I was being spurred on to create a new attitudes, behaviours and skills development programme simply called ‘Customer Connected®’ – driven by my frequent poor experiences, as a customer, when dealing with all sorts of organisations.

Here’s an example of poor service I received recently:

I am a member of a certain health and fitness organisation (yes, tough to understand I know!).

As always, they let me know, in a letter in the post (!) a few weeks in advance of when my membership is up for renewal. Thanks for the reminder. Well done.

Now, you would think that letter would let me know the best membership deal available for my needs and, just for a bit of further information, what other membership options are available, wouldn’t you?

After all, it’s a great opportunity to grab a bit of ‘one-to-one’ with the customer and show them how much you want to meet their needs, and is so easy to do.

But no!

Firstly, the letter contained two spelling mistakes, four simple grammatical errors (commas and apostrophes in the wrong place/missing, etc). Inexcusable!

But even worse was that the letter contained absolutely no information about what my membership renewal options were, didn’t actually tell me when my current membership expired, and then asked me to contact them to discuss it!!

In other words, the emphasis was on me, the customer, to do their work for them to get what they should be providing me with in the first place!

Appalling! Bad move on the customer service front! Very bad!

Important: the company failed the simplicity test – as one deal runs out, letting the customer know of the best deal they can provide, rather than writing to them with no information at all, takes exactly the same amount of effort! So do it!

So, I checked the company’s website, only to find I cannot renew my membership online! This is 2015! The world is online! By now I, as a customer, am distinctly unimpressed!

So I grab the phone. After a few minutes of being ‘held’ in a telephonic abyss, I eventually get to speak to a human being. Who promptly enters into a written ‘script’, and tries to explain all sorts to me, absolutely none of which was of any relevance, instead of actually listening to what I wanted! Dear, oh dear!

It turns out that the staff who are directly interfacing with their customers cannot, repeat CANNOT attend to anything that the customers might want if it doesn’t fit with the very limited range of services that are available on their computer.

Yet two-thirds of customers ask for something different!

To cut this story short, it turns out that the ‘best’ membership deal is actually one of their standard products. Great. So why doesn’t your website and your letter say that?

Another addition to my poor customer experience!

Can my membership be renewed there and then? Yes. Great! At last!

So, what infathomable reasons are there for me being forced to experience this level of poor service when providing all of the information in the letter would have made me a happy customer straightaway?

Goodness knows what the real answers are to that question, but, in essence, they missed a major and so simple an opportunity to deliver great service.

Somebody, somewhere in that organisation approved the letter, designed the website (or, rather, didn’t design it), purchased and configured the telephone system, employed the customer ‘service’ personnel, and trained them not to serve the customer – all of which costs considerable amounts of money!

Or, to put it another way, adds enormous cost to the business. Cost which has to be recovered through their charges to customers, let alone the frustrations inflicted on the customers themselves.

So, if the original letter had simply advised me of their best deal, instead of nothing at all, quite a few of those additional costs could be avoided, allowing lower charges for customers or more money for investment, and, most importantly of all, much happier customers.

The lesson from all this?

However much your customer spends with you, however much interaction you have with them, and however valuable they are to you and your business, keeping them happy really isn’t difficult! Just think clearly from their position and give them exactly what they want!

For some reason, so many organisations have an overwhelming and inexplicable desire to take something really simple and make it as complicated as they possibly can. Madness!

If you really value keeping your customers happy (and happy customers tend to be profitable ones) – please, please, please don’t do it!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Networking: the centre of the onion!

LI post networking pic 070715 1

 

I am often asked what networking is ‘about’.

Needless to say, there are as many views on networking as there are networking events,  just about everyone wants to get more from their networking, and those who say it ‘isn’t working’ for them are usually the ones who go about it the wrong way.

So, here is a very quick selection of hints and tips I have picked up over the last 28 years…

Firstly, let’s look at how networking goes wrong.

Networking is NOT:

  • About collecting as many business cards as you can
  • About selling there and then!
  • About constantly blowing your own trumpet
  • About dominating conversations
  • About being a robot

 

Now, the simple, easy things you can do to get your networking right!

Networking IS:

  • About building mutually effective, productive relationships
  • About listening and being genuinely interested in the people you meet!
  • About reminding people you exist (N.B.: they WILL forget from time to time!)
  • About getting to know others and letting others get to know you
  • About being ‘real’

 

The most effective networks contain these (at least) – which ones are you?:

  • Highly respected, well-connected, pro-active referrers
  • Regular, repeat customers
  • Great value, reliable suppliers

Remember, building a great network that works for you and those that are connected to you is like being in the centre of an onion. Try to build layers of people you know – get to know 10 people well, and let them get to know you well too, and they will each remember you to 10 others as they network.

So spending the time and effort to build 10 really good relationships, could increase your network by 100 connections.

Especially remember most of all that networking isn’t all about you! Refer and connect those in your network who you have good reason to.

Good luck!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Business alphabet: N is for…saying ‘No’ (occasionally)!

No! pic 260615 1

When was the last time, in business, that you said, “No!”, and meant it?

It doesn’t happen very often, does it? Not least because we have all been led to believe that saying ‘no’ at any time in business is a bad thing.

Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!

Saying no can have a number of beneficial effects for both you and your ‘customer’ (the person you are saying it to). Here are just a few:

  • it has the effect of ‘re-setting’ your thought processes, typically allowing you to reconsider the situation from a different perspective
  • the ‘customer’ will usually not be expecting it, and they, too, will think more comprehensively about the situation, and
  • sometimes, it is simply the right answer, so say it!

New thinking = new results!

Business alphabet: M is for…Management!

M LI post pic 240615 1

So when was the last time you heard, “I’m in management” and didn’t secretly just want to roll your eyes?

The word ‘management’ can tend to have that effect, can’t it?

Yet, in any business, particularly a growing business, it is essential that the management earns and sustains the respect of those all around, simply by doing what management should do – manage!

The challenge is that the term ‘management’ has come to mean so many things to so many people.

Fundamentally, anyone in management can only manage properly if they are given the right guidance and decisions from the organisation’s leadership.

Managers are there to implement those decisions and engage those in the wider business, and almost all of the managers I meet are perfectly capable of doing that brilliantly.

However, managers also need to be aware of their responsibility not just to manage ‘downwards’ to those they have direct responsibility for, but also ‘upwards’ to the business leadership not least if they are not providing sufficient information for effective management to take place, and also ‘sideways’ with their fellow peers within the management structure.

By doing this, a good manager both gives and receives a much wider understanding of what is required of them and how to be more effective in the business.

Give it a try if you’re not doing it already – you might well be surprised by the difference it makes.

To find out how I can help you build a better business, call 01242-672440.

Business alphabet: L is for…Leadership

L LI post pic 240615 1

 

Interesting isn’t it?

How the simple word ‘leadership’ can seem to mean so many different things to so many people.

Yet, time and time again, the very best examples of genuine leadership are those that stick to the essence of what leadership actually is.

First of all, remember that leadership is not management!

Leadership is fundamentally about making decisions, as that is what every part of the organisation is dependent upon to operate. No decisions, no direction. No direction, and failure is probably just around the corner!

Great leadership is also about engaging and enlisting the support of those around you. The best leaders are often, incorrectly, seen as standing alone in what they do. But actually they simply could not do what they do without being able to lead those that surround them with their full support.

So, if you’re moving into a leadership role, keep it simple, make decisions, and remember to listen to others too.

Or, if you’re wanting to grow your business call me on 01242-672440.

Leadership: Blattered! (part 1)

Blattered PNG 030615 2

 

Oh dear!

I’m sure FIFA, just like many other organisations that have had similar experiences, would say they have had better weeks.

So Mr Blatter is going, although it seems he will be taking hiw own sweet time in doing so.

But what can we learn about leadership from this distinctly ‘sticky’ situation?

Before I go on, let me just tell you I have no interest in football whatsoever.

Let’s look at some of the key qualities that help to deliver great leadership. For this article, and part 2 to follow, I will particularly look at four areas:

  • Direction
  • Clarity
  • Responsibility
  • Decision-making

 

Direction

Blatter score: 6/10

One thing we all continually seek, whether at work or elsewhere, is certainty.

In a leadership context, both for the leader and for those they are leading, one of the constituent parts of establishing that certainty is direction – a robust, well-planned, well thought out, completely comprehensible way forward. If you ever listen to successful leaders, the best area always succinct about the direction they are taking the organisation.

What’s more, because that direction has been so thoroughly constructed, it can be easily understood by all it affects.

But what about Mr Blatter?

What direction had he (and his fellow executives) decided upon for FIFA, and was it clearly understood by all (especially bearing in mind how essential it is to FIFA for the media to clearly understand it too)?

Yes, there seemed to be a well understood direction regarding future FIFA tournaments, supporting and developing football participation in developing countries, and even, one could argue, when key FIFA members’ participation is required (e.g.: conferences, elections, bids, etc).

But what about exactly how the organisation will move itself forward, remain relevant both to the sporting world but also to the era in which we live now, and even give consistent and clear goals and identifiably progressive steps towards those goals?

Both FIFA and Mr Blatter could, and most definitely should have done much, much better.

 

Clarity

Blatter score: 2/10 (being generous!)

You may have heard me use the simple equation:

simple + clear = effective

So often, those in higher profile leadership roles are substantially lacking in how clear they are in most or all of the essential aspects of their role.

Communication, planning, goals, solutions, decisions, understanding, and the list goes on and on and on – every single one needs absolute clarity consistently and persistently.

If the leader is not crystal clear about what they are doing, how can they expect those around them, and those that depend on them to clearly support and deliver what they ask?

Worse still, in our media-obsessed world, a lack of clarity will very quickly become “smoke and mirrors”, then rumours will start, then the ‘mud’ starts to stick, or those infamous ‘skeletons’ start falling out of all those cupboards, and before you know it you’re on a downward spiral to goodness-knows-where.

And all because there has been insufficient clarity.

It seems this has been one area where Mr Blatter (and no doubt other FIFA executives) has performed poorly.

Has he been consistently clear? I think not.

Has he often confused the viewer/listener? At times, definitely,

Has he been transparent? Nope!

 

Look out for part 2, coming soon.

To discuss more on how I can help you enhance your leadership, strategy, and build a better business, please call 01242-672440, or click here to email.

The elephant in the room: Engagement!

Engagement article header 250515 1

Engagement.

Perhaps one of the most important skills for anyone in business, or any other part of life for that matter, is the ability to genuinely engage with our fellow humans.

For the purposes of this article, I will look at what is required for great engagement from an emotionally intelligent aspect.

The understanding of emotional intelligence (‘Ei’) and its influences continues to develop apace.

There are key, measurable elements of Ei that contribute significantly to our ability to thoroughly engage others, and I have described four of these below.

Firstly, let’s look at awareness – how aware we are of our own feelings telling us what we want, like and need, and how well we balance that with how aware we are of others’ feelings telling them what they want, like and need. Keeping our ‘self awareness’ and ‘awareness of others’ in balance is essential to high levels of engagement, and key to developing our Ei.

Can you tell when you’re ‘having a bad day’? What effects does it have on you in terms of your emotions, your thoughts, and how it influences how you behave?

Now, can you tell others’ emotions, and adapt your thoughts and behaviour accordingly in order to engage them successfully?

The next to look at is your ability to connect (sometimes called ‘personal connectedness’ in Ei journals) – how well you create and build significant connections with others by sharing yourself with them. Really, this is self-explanatory, although the ‘sharing yourself’ is more about letting the listener know you’re a ‘genuine’ human being with interests, habits and foibles, just as they are.

Then there is authenticity (sometimes called ‘invitation to trust’) – how well you invite others to trust you.

If you analyse what builds trust, it is mainly because the other person displays their principles (which they stick to), they are reliable (they do what they say they’re going to do), they’re consistent (in terms of their views and their behaviour), and you get a chance to ‘know’ them (reassuring you that they’re a ‘real’ person, not a robot!).

How well do you demonstrate your principles, your consistency, your reliability and let others get to ‘know’ you?

Your success at engaging others depends on it!

Finally, for this article, is how you build trust with others accurately.

In simple terms, we should build trust in others based on the evidence they present to us. The key is to start from a ‘neutral’ point – neither mistrusting, nor over-trusting, but allowing trust to build based on the evidence.

This ‘carefully trusting’ position allows you to build trust more accurately in others. If you trust them appropriately, your willingness to openly engage with them is higher.

So there you are, four relatively simple elements of Ei, all of which, with practice, will substantially enhance how well you genuinely engage others, and, essentially, how engaged they will feel with you and how much more effective that relationship will be.

 

(based on the Ei Model developed by JCA Global Limited, and the book “Emotional Intelligence @Work” by Jolyon Maddocks)

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, including using emotional intelligence, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.