Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Last week I did attend a Center for Service Leadership webinar  about Georgia’s roadmap to faster, friendlier and easier customer service.
It was very impressive to see the results of such a large project, which covers 130.000 employees. I know that it is a popular subject to complain about the government’s performance and customer service. But this is an example how you can significantly improve customer service without huge investments.

Their focus is on 4 area’s of service:
-       Faster, the main complaint from customers are the waiting lines
-       Friendlier, creating a customer focused and value based culture
-       Easier call handling and internet access
-       Improving employee satisfaction

This focus on customers as well as employees creates a win-win situation. Why is that the case? Well, if you have been waiting as a customer for a couple of hours than that impacts your mood. When you are finally being served the employee gets the hit, the complaints are shared. This is not nice for the employee as well. Constantly dealing with complaining customers is not very motivating.
So, if the process steps are shortened, this helps both the customer AND the employee. If you don’t have to deal with angry customers any more than that impacts your own satisfaction as well.
There is also a win-win situation because there were no budget cuts or headcount reductions. There were dramatic improvements with no additional funding. Employee-led teams developed all the efforts. This creates ownership and excitement.

What was crucial for the success of this program? “Having very strong, unwavering support from the Governor”.  “It all starts from the top”. It started with a bold vision: Georgia will have the best customer service of any state in the nation.

So, what is your vision for customer service?


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Many organizations are starting to see the need to innovate. However still many of them still have the (strong) opinion that they can only innovate themselves, so innovate from within. Open innovation, crowdsourcing and the use of any other outside expertise is a bridge too far. The reason for this attitude is really a cultural heritage.

The management of an organization often shares the same attitudes on how the business should be conducted. In sharing these management attitudes, you can see them as collective attitudes, collective beliefs. Together they form the culture in your organization. This culture heavily influences the thinking and thus the actions, both internally and externally.
Recent research on companies that are among the most successful innovators points to one common denominator – the right culture.

“Innovation is no longer about money, it’s about the climate:
 are individuals allowed to flourish and take risks?”
William Weldon, chairman Johnson & Johnson

Below you will find examples of limiting business attitudes and energizing business attitudes.

Limiting attitudes about business
Most attitudes are based upon experiences, habits from the past. “That is the way things get done over here’. They were suitable for the 20th century, but with the huge speed of change and challenge, these attitudes are ‘out of date’ now.
Below you will find an example of how your current attitudes might look like. Of course you will have been using different wordings and context, but in essence there might be a lot of similarity. I have used different categories (underlined) to cover some main business subjects.

  1. Purpose: To make as much profit as possible.
  2. Management Style: Managers  give commands to employees on what, when and how to accomplish goals.Managers control employees
  3. Customers: Product-out push. Transaction focussed
  4. Rewards: People are only interested in their salary
  5. Metrics: Mainly financial; profit and shareholder value
  6. Workplace: The standard workplace is defined by managers
  7. Working hours: 9-5, 40 hours per week, on-site
  8. Training: There is limited room for professional development
  9. Information: Info is distributed according to your position
  10. Innovation: We have all the know-how inside

Changing your attitudes
These attitudes have served you well in the past. However, in order to cope with all the new challenges and to claim your leading position, it is clear that new attitudes need to be developed. Below you will find an example of the proposed new attitudes, which will serve you perfectly. Of course you need to develop your own wording, subjects etc.

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.”
Lou Gerstner, U.S., former IBM CEO

Energizing attitudes about business
The 21st century with all its changes requires a radical overhaul of the old habits, the old attitudes. To cope with all the challenges a different mindset is absolutely necessary. For ease of reference, the same numbers of the attitudes are used. So, the new attitude number 1 is the more effective alternative to the old number 1.

  1. Purpose: There is  meaning, a purpose in the organization and in the work itself
  2. Management Style: Managers coach their employees  as and when asked for. Employees determine how they will reach their goals. Employees are given responsibility and trust.
  3. Customers: Needs driven. Lifetime value
  4. Rewards: Employees want more than a great salary.  They are interested in having a more fulfilled life, less stress, and more decision-making authority within their job
  5. Metrics: People, planet, profit and stakeholder value
  6. Workplace: Employees define/design their own workplace
  7. Working hours: Defined by employees, based upon goals achievement, on-site or remote/mobile
  8. Training: If people grow (professionally and personally), the business grows
  9. Information: Info is distributed according to your needs
  10. Innovation: We use the available know-how of the marketplace

“Corporate culture is the strongest driver of radical innovation across nations.”
Journal of Marketing, Tellis/Prabhu/Chandy, 2009

So, isn’t it time to bury the ‘not-invented-here syndrome’?


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In December I did fly to Copenhagen for the Climate Change Conference. The day before I departed I could check in online. Nothing special you would say. However, I was pleasantly surprised when they offered the option to receive by boarding pass on my iPhone. So, there was no need to print it. Cool! My mindset was already in Copenhagen so if I could save a little bit by not printing that would be good. And as long as I have my phone with me, I would also have my boarding pass there. The boarding pass looked like a bunch of dots and should be shown to a special reader.

So, when I was at the departure gate, the only thing that I had to do was to show the mail (i.e. the boarding pass) to that reader and I was set to go. Wow, this is progress, this is technology in action, which makes life (a little bit) easier for me.

I clearly wanted to repeat this experience when I left Copenhagen again. So, I did check in online and then I went to the regular check in to deliver my suitcase. When the steward asked for my boarding pass I showed the document on my iPhone again. He replied that this was not useful and he printed a boarding pass on the spot. I was flabbergasted.

It follows that even self-service requires proper implementation for all participants, whether customers or customer service employees. Otherwise you have more costs as an organization instead of less.
You see the same phenomenon with these self-service check-in terminals. There are always stewardesses there to help you to check in via these terminals. Apparently these terminals are not so easy to use, that is why this help is still needed. Again, this increases the costs. So you have to build really easy to use terminals which need no support or don’t implement them at all.

Yesterday I had the same experience in the city hall where I had to request a new passport. There was a terminal on which I had to click the purpose of my visit e.g. birth, move, marriage, and passport. Once I made my choice I would get a number and I could sit and wait for my turn.  But, this was also not  real self service as an employee was standing next to it and helping people with it. And there was also still a receptionist who was not busy at all. So, now there were two people and a terminal involved in this ‘check-in’ process, while previously there was only one receptionist.

Again it becomes clear that self-service needs proper design and implementation.  And maybe you can even come to the conclusion that self-service is not really a sound alternative.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2010


For products most collaboration takes place in the design and manufacturing phase.  During that time there are different departments involved in designing and building the products. E.g. marketing, R&D, design, logistics, supply chain and manufacturing.  But once the new products are ready to be sold, when they are in stock and on the shelf, the product itself is fixed. Every time the product is sold, it is exactly the same product.

For services this is different as there is an ongoing need for collaboration. Of course there is the collaboration in the design and building phase, but also when the service is being delivered. At the point of delivery a service is every time being build for the customer. Although the processes and procedures (as in a Service Delivery Kit) are standardized, it is still the customer service employee who is the real-time ‘vehicle’ for delivery. For instance when an engineer is being dispatched to fix a hardware problem with a customer, he needs ongoing collaboration with the helpdesk (which gives him the customer info and analyzed the problem), with logistics (to send the right parts), with 2nd line support ( to help him solve the problem) and with sales (to keep the customer informed on the progress).

All service contain  professional (PRO) requirements (what should be done and how), but also personal (PER) requirements (what behavior is needed). So, form a collaboration point of view this matrix has to be filled out.









Human resources


The smoothness of this cross-functional collaboration determines the end result which the customer experiences. This means that management should give a higher weight (in the performance evaluation) to this collaboration than to single minded focus on the department only.

Many of today’s problems are so complicated that only a team approach can find the solutions for the customer.

Are you fully stimulating collaboration across silos?


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