Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Customer is ALWAYS Right

The customer is ALWAYS right, and if you don't believe me, just ask my niece & nephew who either are full of the but's and why's or are always looking forward to the next best thing as the previous one just dint fit the bill (or it did not once they experienced the next best thing - its a vicious cycle, I'm not sure there is an exit anywhere in the neighborhood).

Why does this one common statement always keep rearing its head? Many have tried to skirt around it, reword/rephrase it, but there is no way to say it, but to keep to the original, "The Customer is ALWAYS Right".

Besides the obvious commercial reasoning behind the statement, business cannot be conducted if the customer is wrong & necessity certainly, in such a world, could not be the mother of innovation.

Growing up, one winter, I had the pleasure of being tasked with surveying preschooler's about Christmas, Kris Kringle, the whole notion of gift giving, asking and delivering, etc. As I reflect back, I now realize I was asking questions that generated responses that spoke to customer relationship mechanisms, feedback loops, research & development, the supply chain, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not commercializing Christmas, simply exploring what the customer (the kids) expected from their vendor/retailer/their dealer of all types of kiddie addictions - Santa Claus, his reindeers & the elves. Besides, Hallmark has cornered the market in commercializing holidays these days.

I think about the responses I received and reflect on how we deal with this specific audience and their need to romanticize this specific holiday with magic, while trying to explain operations in real terms. It is fascinating to receive this feedback first hand, but am not sure it is looped back into how we respond to it appropriately. Yes, we have a lot of folks in Santa suits and line-up's to speak to him, while having cookies from Mrs. Claus and being constantly bothered with elvish mannerisms, but to truly reflect back their ideologies, requires a thorough analysis of what they, the customer, require during this season.

I am now thinking about my recent interactions in both hemisphere's (eastern & western), and the one commonality I find is that, organizations are willing to spend millions through customer feedback on what they need to work on, but are quite poor in translating brand promises from corporate to front line realities in all facets of their interface with their clientele. Not only does it take quite the individual to deal with clients, but it also takes quite the organization to inform, educate and translate client acquisition messages into operational realities. This alone can further our need to continue reselling and upselling our clients, rather than continuing to acquire clients through a barrage of more expensive mechanisms.

We talk about employee retention, let's dashboard customer retention and growth as well as a norm, while trying to continually deliver what we inherently promise. I leave you with one final thought; it is not Ok to have even one client dissatisfied over one transaction over the life of that relationship, no matter how big an organization is and no matter how insignificant that transaction may be in the bigger scheme of things - if this mantra can be maintained, perhaps there is hope for us yet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Efficient Inefficiencies

My recent trip homeward bound has me evaluating the business precepts we keep pushing within the confines of academia, and how most if not all of them do not hold true in this world of constant movement of economies.

Captains of business, leaders galore are all around you, and not necessarily celebrated as it is in the western worlds. Here it is a natural state of existence, an almost predetermined future of what you are destined for - absolute entrepreneurship, in every way sense of that term.

Studies have been conducted to capture this unnerving, yet eery sense of accurate, yet profitable means of conducting economic miracles, however, fail to truly document the essence of the success that drives it.

As I bounce around in the roller coaster of a ride, down a road that is termed a highway, where you do not get to move any faster than 50 km/hr on a good day, I start trying to dissect the means of this continued success. When I see infrastructure issues such as poor roadways, standard cuts for running water and electricity, yet find skyscrapers, 5 star deluxe hotels and corporate entities that hold an international presence, I remain perplexed.

My western education tells me there is something wrong with this picture and its not sustainable, yet my eastern origins teach of me pursuing through adversity's and doing whatever is required to succeed inspite of them.

I believe there to be a fundamental cultural norm that exists here, that does abundantly well as it currently stands, with the western exposures probably eating away at the core of what made it poised for success.

There needs to be a hard look at the efficiency of the human spirit, which is in contrast to the paradoxical lifestyle that is dictated by the gadget friendly, technology driven, theory dictated mechanism that clearly does not work in today's day and age.

India is not a perfect business incubator, however, it does have a lot going for it, it has the right type of entrepreneur, willing to do anything to succeed beyond measure. It is this individual drive and corporate culture that is going to see the rise of this former Raj colony beyond its own organic and ingrained shadows. Atleast for the foreseeable future, the sun will not be setting on the shores or the vast ranges of this spicy sub-continent.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Going for the Gold ....

Recognition beyond compare. I teach the notion of evaluation & compensation being based on performance & function, but I also talk about the monetary and non-monetary remuneration pieces that make-up a successful work experience. There is too much being done about too little identification of the individual and a general acknowledgment of the larger whole.

Team based achievements, group based work methodologies and collaborative work environments are all great to have, but individual growth takes a back seat only to be stifled due to a lack of motivation.

If this economy continues its roller coaster ride through time, while delivering diluted versions of our strong academic past, it will be imperative for success to not only be recognized, but also identified to begin with. Its like that old joke, even if you did clone a sheep, would you know the original from the clone - question being, did we ever before know one sheep from another?

I was recently nominated and identified as a finalist for an IT Leader of the Year award. On my trip back, I realize that, even though I did not come back with the medal around my neck, I did come back even more energized (albeit my physical batteries could do with some serious charging) to see myself at the winning circle, and not inching but speeding away from my closest competitors. My fellow finalists were a who's who of consummate executives and to be equated to a caliber that high is a testament in itself. Now imagine, how I would have felt, should I have won ....

Its all about the greater good, but individuals are part of the greater whole. Greater success is not possible without individual success and this nonchalant attitude towards it being a team effort, further disillusion's the individuals' need to succeed and grow. Let's celebrate the pit crew, but let's not forget the driver.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Information Era

I happened to be reading an article this morning ( and it spoke of the differences between what is defined as a Digital Native and in comparison what I get framed as the "other generation" that did something completely different than this new age Digital Native.

It talks about how different 28+ year olds lives were, where their first digital experience was to setup an e-mail address and the native exploration of a digital identity for young adults and kids today is the formation of avatars, posts, digital media etc.

As a disclaimer, let me just say that the social network space that is talked about so heavily these days, may certainly be equated to the invention of the atomic bomb or the moon landing, albeit I consider those a lot more scientifically progressive than this, but I have my doubts on what place it holds for us in the future. I read an article that the Library of Congress is charting a project that will archive all the tweets in Twitter ( in perpetuity and the pro's for doing so of course is discussed as being a look back into our social culture and norms 10-50 years from now.

I guess there are more educated and well versed people than I, but are the Twitter tweets of today really representative of our social culture today? As a human race that saw the brilliance of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, and the Da Vinci's, and the Picasso's of modern time, we have now moved to archiving tweets that are representative of what/who we are today. I'm not so sure we have taken a step ahead - but of course, this will call for a lot of discourse on the power of what is tweeted these days and the following some tweeters have.

I also suspect that a better project to undertake, noting the first article of the Digital Native is to conduct an experiment on the shift of the developmental life cycle of child from birth to grave. We came from an era where children and youth were exposed to simplistic & rudimentary forms of entertainment, coupled with a slow progression of a reveal into the human condition. This is not the case today - they are being bombarded with information, engaging all aspects of their psychological & physiological development. I wonder what the apex of a shift like this holds for us.

This takes us back full circle once again to the social network aspect of our digital space, which has prompted for terms such as "knowledge in the crowd", "crowd sourcing", etc., but it is not the knowledge that I remain concerned with, it is the contextualization & categorization of it that is troublesome.

Today, anyone is an author and a subject matter expert and both good and bad contributors see detractors and supporters, putting the reader in the driver seat to decide what their take on the matter is. As adults, who have been taught about the basics of the social experience, educated on acceptable behaviors, lectured on academic nuances and provided with experiential knowledge from their close circle of influencers during their youth, the child of today gets to make those decisions on his/her own as the Digital Native.

Although there are debates on both sides of this, and there are tools, mechanisms, etc. that one can employ, I would just humbly suggest that the Digital Native is influencing the generational norm of today, that is going to separate it from the previous generation exponentially, as compared to a progressive gap we have experienced before. I would suspect there are consequences of this yet to be seen in the coming decade that could prove noteworthy for the development & possible transformation of the human being.