Featured in Alltop StartUpRoar

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Insights on - 6 Facts entrepreneurs must know about failure

Reference:  6 Facts entrepreneurs must know about failure

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

3 Considerations that may improve customer experience

Yes, this is the call center!  No one here knows how to help you; Good Bye!
Learning what not to do is one essential part of any entrepreneurial learning experience.  Finding examples of what not to do come from everyday life because problems frequently occur.  Recent interactions with three different service providers provide are a few examples of businesses not working in the best interest of their customers.  The businesses claim to be customer centric and desire to please their clientele, yet their services and service departments fail to measure up.  

The ability to think ahead and anticipate unexpected events is part of the Think Agile concept.  Good service and agile thinking involves more than limited customer surveys, designing new offerings, or project development.  Business leaders must consider what comes next.  They also must evaluate whether unexpected events might affect a business positively or negatively.  

It is great to redesign an internet service to make it easier to navigate, but what about the long time users that hate the new version and are unable to obtain the same perceived value.   Contracting multiple call centers may reduce time on the phone for some, but what happens when the service representatives know less than the customer and are not able to make decisions or resolve a problem.   It is essential that leaders consider how to deliver the best service and products.  They must also learn to anticipate problems and find a means of quick resolution.  A few specific real examples are:

Investment service:  This well-known service changed their web design making it visually more appealing. In doing so, they eliminated the ability to find data critical for long time users that contracted with the service.  The consideration of whether some customers would dislike the new offerings was not apparent.  The same business created 4 call centers for different types of problems.  However, none of the agents at any of the 4 centers work as direct employees for the company.  Making the problem worse they were not knowledgeable about the produce and they had no ability to make decisions or provide the correct information.  Finally and most troubling, it was impossible to find any representative (contractor or employee) that was familiar with the old website or printed products.  Explaining the issues and trying to find a resolution simply fell on deaf ears due to a complete lack of knowledge.  How can anyone help when they know nothing about the product!

Bank:  A local bank offered a free service.  They later changed the service to charge monthly and deduct a fee from an account.  They notified customers by a letter requiring the customer to call to cancel or be charged.  The automated system questions leading to gaining access to a real person were numerous followed by 5 minutes on hold.  Then, the representative spent 10 minutes trying to convince people to retain the service.  Calling in to cancel a service you do not want and never signed up for should be less complicated!

Cable:  Appointments for installation involve two parties, the business and the customer.  On the day of install, a homeowner called to determine why the service person failed to show.  The company rescheduled the install without notifying the customer.  Then when the representative came two days later, no install could be performed without changes to the connections that had to occur at the street level.  Knowing the needs for service in an area should be something the business is aware of!  Oh, and they continued to run advertisements for services the firm did not yet provide.  It does not take common sense to investigate what is required to ensure a good service call and having the correct people show up at a defined time!

Every growing company will experience changes in products, personnel, and services.  Planning for these changes should consider ways to minimize the negatives and enhance the positives.  Great companies want people to perceive their product and services in the best possible manner.  There will always be unhappy people with any change, but by thinking ahead, it may be possible to minimize negatively affected customers. Here are just a few areas that could result in improvements generating a more positive customer impact.  Think more globally as you read these as they are examples.  The real exercise for your business is to find similar problems that may affect your business and fix them before they negatively affect your customers.

1)     Product changes:  Changing an offering to make the product easier to use may cause the loss of utility for some customers.  Once long term clients are familiar with the product the complexity is less a concern.  Changing the product may result in their inability to use the product in a manner that was important to them.  Try to identify ways to help new and old users of the product have better experiences with the new design and still get what they want.  Make sure your staff understands both the older products and new products before you have them engage with customers having issues!

2)     Customer Service:  Call centers should have people that fully understand products and offerings.  It helps if they can make decisions.  Increasing the number of service centers reduces wait times and allows for specialized help, but only if the people know what their products and services.  Customers do not like making multiple calls to address the same issue and they hate it more when no one is able to make a decision or provide real help.   It is even worse when the customer must explain the product to the service center because they do not understand it.  Remember, people want to know how they can get the help they need.  Try to hire and train the service center personnel appropriately!

3)     System awareness & scheduling:  Providing some services over a wide area requires significant infrastructure.  A service center may be the correct place to make appointments, however if the appointment must be changed, the service should contact the customer prior to the scheduled time and workout a new appointment time.  It also helps if the center is more familiar with the locale and specific needs for that area.  It is hard to hear that the install will be weeks away because certain equipment is not located nearby.  Try to understand the needs and requirements in advance and schedule events to occur more timely! 

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

3 Areas where finding a business solution trumps the alternative

Sometimes the best plans require extra thought and difficult decisions!

Startups are filled with many twists and turns.  Regardless of how well planned or lucky you are, situations occur that will stress your skills and patients.  It is difficult to recognize every problem in advance or to develop alternatives that reduce the harm your company.  Unexpected events require careful thought and a great deal of patients in order to create viable alternatives.

Issues that elevate stress levels may result in less logical actions and reduced care in planning.  For example, a staff member becomes overly challenging by undermining your authority or finding a way to ditch work assignments that are critical to a team project.  A capital raise slows down as a result of market conditions or delays in meeting defined milestones.  Manufacturing partners fail to meet deadlines and delays start to mount up as well costs.  Nothing prepares you to manage these events and in many cases they can be totally unexpected occurrences. 

Agile thinking and a calm disposition are greatly needed when events shift to really bad or very good.  Agility is also important in order to recognize and capitalize on a key event that can take your company to the next level.  Learning to think and react quickly often reduces further pain and this skill also helps in capitalizing on a lucky break that may enhance your chances of success.  A few examples of difficult issues and possible considerations are provided below to help stimulate agile thinking.

·       Personnel issues:  Employees that act badly or perform poorly hurt your business by destroying morale, reducing team project performance, and sucking valuable time while you deal with the issues.  It is important to keep a record of activity, but finding a way to connect with the offending party often helps identify a route to solve the problem.  Perhaps retaining a consultant to pick up the slack or to provide training for a poor performer would improve the situation.  In the end, the decision to remove the individual is always an option, but finding a way to improve performance is often better and less stressful.

·       Funding issues:  Startups can’t have too many friends or too much money, however, they can have too little of both.  Your network is important because they can help you find funding or other needed resources.  Financial raises do not always go as expected.  It is possible to have no prospects thus forcing the company to become more developed in order to attract investment capital.  Alternatively, many investors may want in on the deal and you must choose who to accept and turn away the rest.  It is always helpful to find ways to enhance the business before trying to launch or relaunch a financing.  It may take more than one attempt to get the needed funds needed. 

·       Development or marketing failures:  It is possible that product development is halted by unexpected event or slowed by high barrier to project completion.  The inability to launch the product on time hurts revenues while failing to meet projections causes concern with investors.  Market assessments are sometimes incorrect and sales are grossly lower than projections.  Either of these causes an unexpected financial burden on the business.  Attempting to have an excess of cash from a capital raise or partnership investment may tide the company over until the problem is solved.  It may be necessary to reduce spending if extra financial resources are not available.

These are just a few places you may have problems in your startup.  Try to remain calm and develop alternate plans to minimize damage and get back on track.  The greatest places requiring effort are controlling your own emotions and maintaining the confidence needed to address the difficulties.  The key is to remain calm and use your agile thinking skills to find a solution.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon