Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Steve that I understood

It's just amazing as to how a person so remote could have such a dramatic impact on your life. His authority as a visionary has well been documented. We all love the products he invented. For the record he invented the "personal" computer, the GUI, mouse, designed master piece computers (Macs), the iPod, i phone, i pad and i tunes, great software such as Mac OS, iOS and of course the animated movie industry with Pixar.

To me he was a lot more. He was the best showman of our time. His method of presentation was a game changer. It set the standard for modern presentations.

He was indeed the Michael Angelo of our time. He was also the Edison of our time. Probably the only man ever to combine both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain to that extent!

The tenacity in which he pursued his passion has in it's own right created an impact around the world unlike any politician of our time. It was he who was instrumental in the concept of "designed in California and assembled in China". Todate they have a very successful model for this new world order.

Many say he defied marketing principles. He was famous for saying that consumers do not know what they want. Contrary to the popular belief he was indeed inline with the basic principles of marketing. He was probably the only person who could see, envision and anticipate so many game changing products. No doubt he was the best contemporary marketeer!

However his greatest legacy is none of the products he helped invent but probably the greatest institution of our time. Many feel with demise of Jobs Apple will be doomed. However the greatest second act of the history of modern business was all about creating an organization that could think 'Steve Jobs'. He was instrumental in putting together an all star executive team. As an avid Apple follower we know that he put together several initiatives to institutionalize the Apple way of thinking for future generations of Apple employees.

As always the real test for Apple as an organization will come after 4-5 years when the current lineup of products will see the daylight.

Steve's ultimate success could be measured on the success of variety of products they might launch 5-6 years down the line. Time will tell. Till then we wait.

Goodbye Steve. We'll surely miss you!

(Picture : courtesy of

Friday, September 30, 2011

Droping the ball at the most crucial time

You choose a bank for variety of reasons. You become a member of their proviledged banking service with certain expectations. Organizations use marketing communications to reinforce the product positioning in the minds of their target audience. When you are dealing with  one of the largest in the world, you expect certain base minimums.

Here's the context. They call themselves the world's local bank! You deal with them thinking that they could offer certain benefits that other local private banks cannot offer because of their own netwrok and reach especially overseas.

My requirement was simple. I wanted to withdraw certain amount of money exceeding the daily withdrawal limit on the ATM network of the said bank. So I spoke to the Sri Lankan call center which confirmed to me as a special case I could walk in to any local branch of the said banking network and make a request and they would verify my credentials and other formalities with the Sri Lankan branch and honour the transaction.

However I was in for a shok the next day as I walked in to their local branch! So called Customer Support Executive aftermaking me seated for 15 minutes simply said that I cannot withdraw money over the counter. I requested that I be taken to the manager in charge since it is a special request. The guy simply said that If he cannot solve my issue the manager cannot do either! He even refused to take me to another senior officer! Talking of attitude !

Then I made a call to the Sri Lankan call center of the said bank and expalined my plight. After asking several questions and keeping me on hold for over 13 minutes I simply gave up on the call. But the best part is after knwoing my plight and knowing that I was stranded in a foreign country and also having my raoming contact details the call center simply did not bother to call back.

I have made a formal complaint on the matter, lets see how they respond this.

What's the point if they cannot serve you when you need them most!

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not knowingly losing customers

Probably retail is the industry which has the highest frequency of repeat business and also the one of the highest level of interaction with consumers. In retail, supermarkets focus on two things, basket value and footfall. You improve which ever the variable and you'll improve top line. Product availability is a key for the success of any supermarket because of it's impact on basket size and customer satisfaction.

Since of late I've come to realize that a supermarket outlet that I frequently use to visit is increasingly running out some of the items that I would shop for on weekly/monthly basis. While these items might not the basic essentials they would fall in to the category of items you would look for in your weekly shopping trips.

Here's the consequence. After lack of various products for the past several months I have started to go for competition outlets which I have not done for a long long time. I would call myself a loyal customer of the previous chain. However loyalty is bound to have limits. Running out of products, let alone essentials occasionally is not an issue. But when you come across situations where product unavailability on regular basis you would look else where.

The other danger is that organizations even will not know the parting customers or the reasons for it. There we two others that I know personally who have moved to other chains from the same chain of supermarkets I am referring to. However they have made no attempt to even leave any kind of feedback. I generally do make it a point to provide feedback. Because I believe in brands that I shop with, be it food, clothes etc. But when you don't see much happening after serveal feedback sessions you give up.

Well my current supermarket has lost it's weekly big basket customer in me, but I will use the place for my top ups. With top ups at roughly 10% of the basket value it's quite obvious the wallet share loss. May be I'm the exception. I only know two other people who have abandon the chain under similar circumstances. Interestingly the initial switch happened not because the competition was significantly better(at least we were not prompted to think that way), but because of the bd 'experience'.

Best part is that no body in the organization knows that they've lost a customer!

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Service Recovery - Traders Maldives Way

In one of my previous posting I wrote about bad service at Traders Hotel Male'.

Upon my return I provided on line feedback on the incident and revved a personalized note from the GM herself assuring me of better service and non recurrence of similar experiences with a request to keep her posted with my next travel plans to Male'.

Couple of months later I did make another trip to Male and I certainly dropped a note to her about my travel.

As expected this time it was different. There were Traders personnel awaiting my arrival at the Male airport. Without any delay I was taken to their speed boat to be transferred to the hotel. At the hotel I was greeted by GM herself, Ester Marcaida who apologized for my precious experiences and assured me of best of service this time around. They gave me a sea view room which was also an upgrade to the usual deluxe rooms we take up. Staff were much more attentive and for all practical purposes they were at my service at the drop of an hat.

At the room there was this personal note from the GM.

All in all it was quite obvious that they've made a successful effort in recvoring from a service mishap. I suppose it was the initiative of the experience GM, Ester Marcaida which assured them over 15 room nights last time and probably a whole lot more as I have advised all my colleagues to stay at the same hotel.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comment

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making the most of the situational leadership opportunities

Some gain leadership positions by context. While they may not be the appointed leader, given the circumstances and their technical competencies it creates a scenario for them to assume leadership roles.

However these moments could be an acid test for their true mettle as a leader. Those who observe them will watch them closely to evaluate the softer aspect of their leadership style which is so crucial for the longterm assignment of the leadership roles.

Such individuals would do well for themselves if they consciously step out of their obsession on technical competency focus. While technical competency is crucial the leadership in the longer term is really about bringing out the best in others and providing direction, which is much easier said than done.

So if you are assuming a situational leadership role be conscious about the true aspects of leadership as well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Leadership - You have to earn it

How careful and thoughtful one should be when taking over a team for the first time?

Simple answer is plenty.

The level of thinking needs to be much greater if the manager comes from an individual contributor background previously.

While every manager wants to stamp their authority and mark in the team they need to be very careful in the manner they go about it. Initial interactions are the most critical. If you mess it up initially it is indeed an uphill task recover from that point onwards.

One needs to be extremely careful in understanding the EXISTING team dynamics prior to making any changes necessary. While changes could be an absolute must in line with new leadership thinking, one needs to get their subordinates buy in to that thinking. A subscribed approach is always good if there are strong existing team dynamics while prescribe or stick approach is also appropriate if the leader has clear set of deliverables. Eitherway communication and regular communication becomes paramount in that regard.

Even with the stick approach it is advisable that the leader depending on the capacity should have one to one chats with the subordinates where (s)he should understand there expectations out of him and also his expectations for each individual. Many forget to spend quality time in this regard and most of the time those who do it fail to do it sincerely.

It's paramount that one understands that a leader's success is as good as the success of his/her team!

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What magazine purchase can teach you about opportunity scouting

There is this regular business magazine that I purchase on monthly basis during my shopping trips to the regular supermarket that I shop at. For past 4 weeks  I have been on the look out for the March edition of the magazine every time I stood at the cashier counter for the grocery payment. Couple of times I've made casual inquiries and the cashier staff response was "sorry sir it is not available".

Since it was not one of those do or die things I did live without it till today. However during my usual walks down the crowded streets of Colombo to my surprise I came across a pavement hawkers who was selling newspapers had not only the March issue but also the April issue. I ended up buying both. But reflections on the incident over lunch reinforced an important lesson.

On most occasions we miss potential opportunities in business and in life because they are not visible from the path we usually take similar to my weekly supermarket trips. While it is the regular usual path we always take  it makes lot of sense to deliberately "take a walk down the road less travelled" to identify opportunities.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Be Open to feedback

Today I had my skip level and it was indeed a glimpse of the 'master class' to come going forward.

As mentioned during the previous postings, I very much wanted to walk my talk in terms feedback in an industry and in an role where I am a complete beginner. My survival would depend on as to how much I would factor in the feedback I receive.

First few months were bit disastrous as I virtually did no sales. Then two of my colleagues did provide me with feedback which was a reality check.

While I have not done any wonders since then, I certainly have made decent progress ever since.

Given we are 15 days in to the last quarter of the financial year there is so much to do during the next 2 1/2 months.

Today's skip level feedback session was indeed very useful in that regard.

Let see what progress I make after this.

Come first June I'll let you know.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All the facilities in the world cannot make up for service deficiencies

We were shopping at a newly renovated and expanded supermarket recently. The place looks excellent, it carries the almost the full range we want. We certainly did our weekly shopping at the place but it was obvious that something was not right about the place.

It all came together at the point of checking out. It was indeed the service. There were newly recruited cashiers at the checkout counters. The manner in which they punched your bill you lose faith of the accuracy of the bill.

Supervisory staff and other staff at the checkout and elsewhere in the store did not have any kind of orientation towards customer service. It was as if that the supermarket chain was doing us a favor by selling goods! The manner in which they look at you, the urgency within which they attend to things such as weighing and finding goods for you and above all the feeling that they show that we the customers are a bother was just extraordinary.

Let us draw parallels with another outlet of belonging to the same chain which is smaller in size, carries less range. I've always realized that my basket size is 20% less there but we have no issues in shopping at that place. It is the complete opposite when it comes to service. There is much greater sense of sincerity at every point of customer contact right from the security.

Here's the thing. We decided that we would not return to the newly expanded outlet again but will stick to our known location.

However in the process the chain of supermarkets will loose 20% of our weekly basket value which will go else where. Given the special counters that they had at the newly renovated outlet such as bakery etc they definitely lost out an opportunity to up sell to our family and increasing the share of our wallet at least by another 5%.

Point is that might be smaller absolute amount to have lost out from ours as an individual customer.

Just work out the lifetime value that they loose from us. We as a family would continue to shop for at least another 20 years minimum and basket values will continue to grow.

Just to work out the math.

20years * 52 weeks = 1040 times of weekly shopping!

Now multiply that by the amount!

I only wish the staff on the ground realize this.

Like us I'm sure there were others who would have walked out from the place thinking never to return.

Now it's obvious that they have a serious problem.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lessons learned from a Juvenile Correction Centre

Recently I was in the Maldives and I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to a close by island which houses a JCC or Juvinile Correction Centre. They've started operations less than a year ago.

Children brought to this island (yes it is an island surrounded by the Indian ocean, with depths of 100-600ft deep sea) are ranging from 12 - 18 years. They are the most notorious with criminal background. Largely they do not posses basic literacy.

It was heartening to see the skills acquired by these kids in areas such as art and craftsmanship. Some of the oil paintings are of the highest order. Thats after 10 months of training. I was also encouraged to hear that two such inmates have successfully launched a commercial painting career.

Here is a successful model that has been puttogether by Police personnel based on a decision taken overnight.

It is interesting to see the level of softskills that could be imparted to the future batches going forward. Arme with such skills the inmates would be in a better position to take on different challenges in the real world.

Hats off to the police officer in charge of this center for a job well done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Management blindness and loosing customers

Traders at the Maldives do have customer feedback forms just like any other hotel. But what's the point if you do not act on the feedback. How tolerating the customers would be and for how long before walking away.

Not too least only until a proper alternative arrives.

Traders at Male in the Maldives offer complimentary speed boat service from Male international airport to the capital Male which is roughly a 5 minute ride.

Now imagine this. You make a booking and specifically communicate with the reservations department regarding your flight times and request for a prompt pick up.

Situation becomes even more critical when your flight lands in Male at midnight, 00.30 to be exact.

Ok, they are not there waiting for you although far away resort islands have sent their boats for pick up. So you call them and remind them that you are there!

1.00Am local time they are still not there and you remind them again. You call them again at 1.15Am they still don't make it. What is an hour in the Maldives one might argue. Not if you are on a business trip with morning meetings the next day morning and not of you are the only tourist in the airport!

Fair enough, but how did they try to win back me as a customer?

Obviously I was mad but the guy who came to pick me up was arguing that I should have come in a earlier flight. The lobby manager and his staff (who were there on 2nd morning) acted so so dumb and clueless and simply said sorry.

No recovery plan at all.

On my account I have asked the manager who appears to be a career hotelier to speak to me tomorrow morning. Let's see in his capacity as to how is he going to handle my situation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be careful with what you dream

Dream is a powerful tool at the disposal of any individual. Many are familiar with the definitions of day dreamers and traditional dreams at nights.

On many a occasion night dreams are negative and frightening for most. While I am no psychiatric to decode this phenomena, my guess is that it represent a scenario of a vivid representation of an individuals deep thoughts, hidden in mind.

It's a proven fact that human mind cannot distinguish between what's real and whats imagination. Physically we react to vivid imagination the same way we react to reality.

While one may think this us dangerous and unrealistic, you can in fact use to your greater advantage as well.

Why not use vivid imagination to dream and experience about success you want to achieve in life. If done right with persistence the human body will start reacting to your thought process and you will start making progress in that front.

Try dreaming for a different purpose hereafter. But make sure you allow you body to react to the feeling as well. Last you want is your subconscious mind telling you that's not going to work!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy and Prosperous 2011!

New year rituals are common for most. However goals alone means nothing unless they become an absolute must where we take massive action.

On most occassions these resolutions are things we wish to have, we think we should have or things which are nice to have. On most occasions they do not become part of what is must to achieve.

So the challenge is to make a resolution (or few) which is (are) must to achieve this year and work our hearts and souls toward the same.

May each of you achieve goals setout for 2011!

Happy new year!