Business wisdom from Aikido

“In all of the traditional ‘Ways’ of the East, it is important to walk the path continually, it being a grave error to be satisfied with one’s achievements.”

-Kisshomaru Ueshiba

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Change, Do You Embrace It?

Most people don’t like change….particularly when it comes to their professional life. But the one constant in the universe is that things change, nothing lasts forever and there are a lot of benefits to change if you embrace it;

  1. It forces you out of your comfort zones
  2. It can re-energize you, ignite new passions and enthusiasm
  3. Save you from destructive habits
  4. Get you thinking new ways
  5. Allow you to learn new skills
  6. Allow you to tap into skills you never new you had.
  7. Show you new areas of interest
  8. Open the door to great opportunity and experiences

THE SLEEPER MUST AWAKEN…

Scotty talks, business should listen

Imagine a business environment where you need only dictate an email near your laptop then say ‘send’ and it’s on it’s way to all the names you’ve already recited. Or you are the road warrior in your car, you speak directions and the navigation system actually understands you. Phone calls come in over the car speakers and you say, “mute radio” then “answer call” and you are connected to the caller. No more pounding away at tiny key boards on your smart phone because voice to text actually understands you. What if you need to translate that text or instant message directly into Mandarin Chinese?

Well we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming. Auto makers, computer/tech as well as cell phone companies are all jockeying   to get real, working voice recognition software in place. So far, no one has really gotten it right…clunky, inaccurate and lacking versatility but each year it gets a little better. Ultimately, the company that gets it right first will earn the keys to the market place kingdom. After voice recognition software really takes off in those industries life will become like a Jetsons cartoon; Smart houses, smart appliances and just about anything with an on/off switch will be voice activated.

By the end of the decade we may all be saying, “A key board, how quaint.”

Frankenstein’s Customer Service Monster

Annex - Karloff, Boris (House of Frankenstein)_01

For almost two hundred years now, the classic novel by Mary Shelley has stood as the iconic definition of the human struggle to tamper with natural forces through science. In doing so and through careless judgment, a monster is released on the world that cannot be contained.

Has Frankenstein’s monster come to the business world? Has what we call “Customer Service” replaced Mary Shelley’s creature as the modern day Prometheus? There is always so much confusion and opinion on what constitutes customer service so it’s important to make the distinction from what business now calls “Customer Experience”;

Customer Experience is the art, science and strategy of giving people a reason to return to your business and feel good about telling others to use your product or service.

 Customer Service is the mechanics behind managing a weak customer experience.

The former is pre-emptive and assumes a positive outcome. It revolves around creating a culture in an organization that has enthusiastic people; processes that make it easy to do business with them and quality products that are both inviting and reliable. The latter is typically reactive and assumes/prepares for negative outcomes. They are tools, analytics and gimmicks designed to put a Band-Aid on the root causes behind a lack of customer loyalty.

To illustrate the difference between the two, here is a personal example;

 I recently stayed at this hotel while on a business trip (I won’t name the hotel or even the city I stayed in to protect the innocent, well not so innocent.) At check in, they gave the gratuitous speech about how their biggest concern was that I enjoyed my stay….canned customer service tactic #1. Within 5 minutes of getting to my room I received a phone call, it was from the front desk; “We just want to make sure that everything in your room was satisfactory.” Having just walked in the door, hard to say it wasn’t but I got it….it was the “follow-up call” or canned customer service tactic #2. Then I saw something new, something I haven’t seen in all of my travels. I saw the picture below;

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A post it note attached to the headboard of my bed advertising that they used clean sheets. That blew me away!!  Obviously canned customer service tactic #3 but they have to advertise that they use clean sheets? Kind of scary. Of course customer service tactic #4 was the email survey  at the end of my stay that takes 20 minutes to fill out and I don’t have time for anyway.

Now here is where the fun begins. The TV didn’t work, it would get stuck on one channel but I assumed I was a goof and didn’t know how to work it. Then clock wouldn’t work. It wasn’t set on local time and after 20 minutes of playing with the switches I gave up. Again, I’m thinking I’m just dense but I haven’t had these issues elsewhere and it would have been cool if the clock was just set to the correct time, duh? But then the iron was broken, a real problem as I have meetings in the morning. The showerhead was one of those slow drip, cheapies and there’s nothing like a drip shower in the morning.

The biggest fun came when they charged the wrong credit card, after I specifically asked them nicely not to. In the morning I asked the young lady at the counter to kindly change the credit card. After 30 minutes on her cell phone, trying to track down her manager (as I stared at the “Manager on Duty” sign) she informed me that she cannot find him and doesn’t know how to refund my card on her own. I finally said to just leave it on the current card and moved on.

None of that was really life changing or earth shattering, but it did affect the experience and consider this; What if instead focusing on all of the customer service tactics they focused on a better audit of each room, a checklist perhaps to make sure that all the amenities are working properly? Perhaps better training for their employees to handle common situations at the counter? Or even a culture of communication so management is still approachable if they are off site?

It’s just a thought, but one fact remains. Great experiences are what cause people to return and promote to others, not Frankenstein’s monster. Call it what you will, as businesses obsess over customer service tactics it continues to grow into a monster that cannot be contained.

 Do you focus on great experiences in your business? Or the monster?

Your empire, like Rome

Doesn’t fall in a day…

The common cliché is that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, which is true for the most part but equally important is the fact that Rome didn’t fall in a day either. It took almost four centuries of very small, incremental, poor decisions that led to the gates of Rome being crushed by the Visigoths in 410AD.

Yet that is how people look at their health, their careers, their relationships, etc. That is also how organizations and businesses look at their prosperity…like it was suddenly 410AD, the city is on fire and barbarians are at every door:

 “I’m not sure what happened, I just woke up one day and was 50lbs. overweight.”

“Why does my boss say that my skills are obsolete?”

“Why does every one I know say that I only call when I want something?”

“Why is my business behind on revenue, employees are quitting and competitors are taking my market share away?”

What’s worse is that people then look for “magic bullets”, “90 day weight loss plans” or some other quick fix to save the day. Unfortunately, it took small incremental improvements to get in trouble and it takes small incremental improvements to get out. After the fall of Rome, it took almost a thousand years (that’s 1000 years) for Western Europe to emerge from the consequences.

If you, your organization or your business are in a bad place create a plan for small, daily, incremental improvements and stick to it! Understand that you didn’t get here overnight so it won’t reverse itself over night…but you can move the needle a little each day and it will add up.

Sack_of_Rome_by_the_Visigoths_on_24_August_410_by_JN_Sylvestre_1890
Sack of Rome by the Visigoths on 24 August, 410 AD by JN Sylvestre 1890
Source: Wikipedia