Managing Customer Experience is really a rocket science

I love to visit Crossword. It is a ritual I perform every time I visit a mall. Usually, these stores are quiet, peaceful and urge you to spend time with books you never care to read. But a few days back, it was a different story.

Two staff members were having a heated conversation. The mediator was their store manager who was quietly listening.

It was early in the day, around 11:30 am.

It was not a big store but clearly understaffed given its size.

I could hear the heated conversation from the extreme corner of the store.

By every minute it was getting louder. They were speaking in Marathi.

My wife gestured, let us move as I was trying to find a good book for her.

Whatever I could overhear was the following:

“I don’t take lunch breaks, she goes for lunch breaks and takes her own sweet time to return. 

She doesn’t even file the bills. I am working here for 8 years, I have never seen such nuisance created by a new employee.”

We left the store. I didn’t even feel bad. I am not even a loyal customer of #Crossword. I appreciate them for their physical presence and always prefer to buy books on Kindle. Or buy physical copies from Amazon. Thanks to the huge price differential. Do I deserve a good experience at a Crossword? maybe not. 

Maybe it was the post-pandemic noise as things are coming back to normal. The discussion could be dismissed as two employees voicing out their concerns over KRAs, work hygiene, etc. 

We then headed towards Decathlon for a specific need; compression socks for distance running.

I love their large stores. Employees were busy arranging merchandise. 

“You need compression socks? You will get them near the billing counter on the left” said a 20 something enthusiastic executive.

Once we reached there, he came and explained the nomenclature and the size details. 

Unfortunately, my wife couldn’t get her size which she ordered online later but I got mine. 

After a few minutes, he met us again at a different counter and asked if there is anything else we need.

Are we comparing the two experiences? Not really, it will be foolish to do so.

But I believe managing customer experience is very difficult. It is a deliberate art, well thought of the top levels and equally well executed on the floor. 

Trivia: Decathalon hires employees who are passionate about sports. They are hired as sports leaders and manage the related merchandise.

#customerexperience#perspective#management#hiring#culture

Taliban version 2.0 : How they are different?

How can everyone quietly observe the Taliban overthrowing the Afghanistan Government?

How can the US quietly withdraw its troops and diplomats?

How can China declare friendly support to the Taliban?

What are we missing here?

It is the Taliban version 2.0

It took 20 years for version 2.0 to be released

Has the Taliban changed its ideology?

Are they more civilized now?

Not really.

Did the Taliban win the hearts of Afghans?

They don’t have to.

Then what has changed?

Taliban learned the Art of Diplomacy.

It took two decades in the making.

You must listen to Taliban Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen.

He speaks of policy, reforms, and non-violence.

Do we need to believe him or the Taliban for that matter?

Not really.

However, what they have earned the hard way is “The Benefit of Doubt”

Somewhere there is a hope that the Sharia law will work in Afghanistan.

That benefit of the doubt was enough to throw the world into a standstill, a spiral of inaction and indecisiveness.

Afghanistan is no longer as strategic as it was in the 70s and the Taliban is not really perceived as a terrorist organization by outsiders.

It is seen as an organized army of 75000 that has taken city after city without major conflicts.

The world forgets, we have a short memory.

The ability to organize, plan, and ability to communicate that plan to the world is a skill in itself that the Taliban has built over the years.

Back in 2001, they didn’t have it.

All they could think was Hijack a couple of planes and ram them into the twin towers.

It is a wait-and-watch game as to how the Global powers will play this out.

But there is a reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires, it has not failed to live by that sobriquet.

#organization#diplomacy#politics

Do you celebrate outcomes or processes?

A few days back there was a meme that went viral. It goes like this:

Who we are? 

Indians

What do we want?

Medals

What do we want our child to be?

Engineers or Doctors

We need glorious outcomes but we are not ready to pursue the appropriate means to achieve those outcomes.

Moreover, we celebrate outcomes to death. However, we don’t celebrate the processes, behaviors, and efforts that eventually lead to those outcomes.

So many organizations have declared millions, cars, and gifts for those who won the Olympic medals but how many have really invested in the processes or infrastructure that will enable us to win more medals in future events?

The outcome is rewarded but the effort is not. Efforts are the details that we wish to conveniently drop from the plot.

Let us borrow a page from Bollywood, shall we?

Bollywood takes every opportunity to reinforce an outcome-driven mentality.

I recall Dhadkan, starring Shilpa Shetty, Sunil Shetty, and Akshay Kumar.

Ok, I regret watching this movie, had to watch it while traveling (typical Volvo bus movies).

But I recall one scene so distinctly for obvious reasons.

When Sunil Shetty confronts Shilpa and declares that “when you left me, I didn’t even have 50 paise in my pocket, but now I have 500 Crores”

The audience is left bereft of the details as to how Sunil made this possible. Bollywood just doesn’t bother to explain.

But that’s Bollywood for you in a nutshell. Had it been a Hollywood or European movie, Sunil’s rags-to-riches story would deserve a sub-plot.

Likewise, we are still bereft of the details and know-how of what it takes to achieve excellence as Neeraj Chopra did. 

Those details seldom surface. 

We want documentaries that narrate the hardships and challenges and not prime-time news feed that only glorifies.

Let us also celebrate the infrastructure, processes and standards, and efforts of those who might enable sustained excellence in the future.

Finding your weaknesses

What are your weaknesses? 

When asked in interviews, we all have a couple of well-fabricated weaknesses up our sleeve.

Serves the purpose. 

But what are our real weaknesses? And why most of us are not able to clearly articulate them?

Here is the answer: Our weaknesses are deeply buried under our strengths.

Oftentimes we use our strengths to such an extent that our weaknesses always remain hidden from us.

These weaknesses also remain hidden from others.

We “overuse” our strengths to hide our weaknesses.

Here is a common example.

I bet you must have experienced a heated argument with your close ones, friends, or colleagues.

If you always try to win such arguments by being logical and critical then it is more likely that you are unable to have a deeply emotional and empathetic dialogue. 

Note that “Always” is the keyword here. 

If you “always” address conflict by being passive and quiet then you are underusing assertion as a skill.

If you happen to play a Table Tennis match with me, you will notice that 80% of the time I use my backhand.

I am an average player, never took any formal coaching. 

But the backhand is so hardwired since my college days that I am just unable to play simple forehand shots.

I tend to overcompensate the lack of forehand technique by creative and strong backhand action.

I could easily improve my game by 30-40% if I work on my forehand but sadly I don’t.

Table tennis is a sport, your weaknesses could be spotted in plain sight.

Unfortunately, life isn’t.

Strengths are often coping mechanisms for our shortcomings.

Behavioural shortcomings are difficult to identify.

But with some reflection, you could identify them.

Just spot a strength that you tend to overuse and ask why am I doing that?

#strength#weaknesses#behavioralscience#selfawareness

Normalization of Death

Manali Memes are all over the internet. You see hordes of people on the busy streets of Manali.

For the uninitiated, Manali is an famous hill station in North India. Currently it is in news because hordes of people are visiting the place after the lift of second lockdown. These tourists don’t really follow Covid protocols and put their lives at risk. This is a sign that an 3rd Covid wave in India is imminent. The second wave has proven fatal to millions.

Given the above scenario, the rational mind questions such behavior of people . Why are people even risking their lives?

If you reflect, this could be a direct consequence of the normalization of death.

Let me explain.

Death has been normalized in religious scriptures.

Mythology says you live and then you die.

However, acceptance of loss has never been easy.

Death is a rarity, you only die once.

Death is a rarity because in your lifetime you could only closely witness a few deaths.

You mourn and revive. You accept and move on. It is an organic process.

Death in that case is an event. Obviously a sad one.

Now let us have a look at the havoc unleashed by the pandemic.

The pandemic has claimed millions.

During this period, death was seen through the “mechanized lens”.

The sad event was reduced to mere operations.

Haste, quick, mechanized.

Book beds, allocate breathing devices, manage supply chain, optimize beds.

Prioritize the sick, decide who doesn’t need the bed and who does. 

Manage logistics for the deceased. Waiting lists and resource allocation.

Bottle-necks and workstations (pyres)

Does this ring a bell?

The scene was no different from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

If death is normalized then we might not really appreciate the longevity of life but the “shortness” of it.

A trip to Manali in that case is just a bet on life, now that it has lost some of its value.

It is okay to live grand and short life taking all the risks because it is okay to die as well. 🙂

The aftermath of the pandemic has significantly reduced the fear of death?

Do let me know in the comments.

#covid19india#death#life#wayoflife#fears

How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

A few days back, I commented on an Instagram post.

The post had thousands of likes. The creator was a woman with more than 50000 followers.

She stated that “fitness” is subjective. It was her belief.

I usually don’t comment on Instagram posts. But that day I felt like doing so.

I said, “Fitness is objective, the world is moving in that direction. If fitness is subjective, no one is really fit.”

It was my worldview and belief.

“100% untrue”, came the reply. 

She went on to explain at length why she believes so. 

Now I had a choice, to leave the debate or push my point further.

I decided to push it a little further. This time with some more logic.

I said “if fitness is subjective, then why fitness tests for jobs, any gym, or sports are so objective? There are series of checkboxes. Hence, fitness is nothing but a checklist, hence objective”

I received no reply after that. 

The next morning, I received a notification. She had again written a long reply. Now she brought logic and scenarios that were confusing or simply beyond my comprehension. 

I decided to yield for two reasons.

The opponent was actually trying too hard to be right and win.

Reason two, it was her turf, with all the zillion followers, it was a hornet’s nest.

Here are few reflections:

The true test of your character will happen when someone disagrees with your beliefs and opinions and how you react after that.

Are you big enough to accommodate a thought, an idea, or a principle that directly counters yours?

Anyway, on LinkedIn such confrontations are rare.

LinkedIn is the world of “I agree”

We all live in harmony here, don’t we? 🙂

The three crucial competencies (pick any two)

These days everyone wishes to retire early. People in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s and people who are in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s.

Here are some of the common approaches that are all over the internet:

1. Generate passive income somehow through a side hustle
2. Invest consciously in risky instruments and keep on doing so till the returns match your expected income
3. Create content and monetize it
4. Create courses and sell them
5. Coach/ develop others
6. Influencing/ endorse products

How this is possible?

1. Internet: it allows you to act as an individual unit and connect with millions 
2. Platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube
3. Tech: Mobile, Laptops, Accessories 

How people in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s?

1. Create kickass content that goes viral
2. Invest in Bitcoin (or other risky instruments) and hope that Cryptocurrency rules the world in their 30s
3. Create organizations, processes, and systems that disrupt

How people in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s?

1. Use the skills they developed in their 20s and teach-back/coach
2. Invest in equity/SIP/small case(or relatively less risky instruments)
3. Build businesses that offer sustainable returns in the 40s
4. Invest in disruptive businesses (eg Tesla)

What people in their 20s might lack?

Focus/attention span, the value of perseverance, and patience

What people in their 30s might lack?

Exponential Mindset

Two broad themes emerge here:

1. Create/curate content and distribute it to the masses
2. Channelize your funds towards businesses/technologies that are promising 
(Pick one)

Three competencies that will make you win at this age:

1. Learning agility 
2. Financial Acumen
3. Creativity
(Pick any two)

Leave comments. 🙂

#learning#skills#career#finance#content

The father-child bond

Stages of relationship with my father

He is the world:
This is always the first stage. I would comply with his ideas, opinions, and worldview. Followed his ideologies and ideals. Had similar political/economic views. 

What if he is wrong? 
Second stage. Fathers are the early role models. In my late teens and early twenties, I started doubting his opinions and ideologies as I was slowly developing my own understanding. Nevertheless, I was still under his influence. Tried to live up to his vision and dreams.

Inflection point:
Inflection point. Started challenging his opinions and way of life. Became more independent. This was the zone of divergence. There was friction, debate, and chaos. But we learned to keep our differences aside. 

Parity:
We both found a zone where we could agree to disagree. 

Throughout my journey, my father supported me in all my endeavors and failures. Fathers are like launch pads. Eventually, you will be nothing like your father. You are not meant to be. It is a paradox. 

Every stage that I mentioned above is crucial to growing in life. 

Imagine what if father influences your decisions for most of your life?

Imagine if you never challenge his views?
Sometimes the objective is not to please (as I did in my formative years) but to follow your own track. I feel the inflection point needs to arrive as early as possible. 

Imagine you both don’t learn to manage the differences?

I have seen many relationships go for a toss because the last stage isn’t managed properly. I think father-child bond is tricky to manage. Because it has more to do with managing expectations. 🙂

A mother-child bond is relatively easier. 

The Wrath of Sunk Cost Bias

On Wednesday’s we usually do a short-distance fast pace run.

We woke up at 5:00 am and it was drizzling. It was cold and dark. 

I told my wife, we better skip running today. 

Madhu said, what’s the point of waking up at 5:00 am?

C’mon, don’t be lazy let us get ready.

I reluctantly started getting ready, watched the drizzle getting a little intense. 

Now we were both falling for the sunk cost bias. We had already invested the time and effort into this. 

We hit the road at 5:25 am.

As I started my watch, I had no GPS signal. Thanks to the big dark clouds right above me.

After a few minutes, I got the signal. We started off. The drizzle was showing some signs of receding.

After 2km or so, it started drizzling again. After 2.5k it was pouring. We stopped under a tree. 

Now we were arguing.

See I told you to skip, you don’t listen to me or my predictions!

After a few minutes, no luck. We headed home. Sat in the verandah and watched the rain. Madhu cursed it. I was frustrated too but I was reflecting on the fact that I was so damn right.

We decided to buy running jackets. The following day we headed to Decathalon. We not only bought the jackets but random paraphernalia which was not even needed. 

The next day it was time for a long run. Madhu was all prepared and anticipated rain so that she could wear the new waterproof jacket. I wasn’t so sure if it was going to rain.

I decided not to wear the jacket. If it doesn’t rain, the humidity will kill me, I thought.

4km, 6km, 8km, no rain.

The sun was up now. I could only imagine what Madhu was thinking and feeling now. 

10km, 11km no rain.

I finished my run at 12k. Saw Madhu walking towards home. She was not wearing the jacket. Obviously, she did not enjoy the run.

We walked home joked and laughed about the whole episode. 

We (especially Madhu) had fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy. 

Running goal is a trivial matter but sunk cost fallacy has the tendency to do much worse. 

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money, or effort)

I bet you must have gone through similar episodes in your life.

Sometimes it is just ok to quit and write off your losses. 🙂

#bias#perspective#decisionmaking#choices#lifeadvice

I wrote an email to Jack Welch

Back in 2014, my boss told me to draft an email to Jack Welch (you read it right). I never dared to ask why we are even doing this. I thought why would Jack Welch or his team even read this email and reply.

But Jack’s team replied:

“With Mr. Welch’s current schedule, a trip quite this far, unfortunately, doesn’t look feasible for this fall. To give you some general information, Mr. Welch has a two date guarantee for international appearances, with each appearance at an honorarium of $150,000 (a total of $300,000) plus private plane expenses, one suite, and one standard room at the hotel of his choice, security, ground transportation and meals for two.”

It was not a surprise or shock. 

Why did we even write to him in the first place?

Were we stupid? Maybe.

In hindsight, was my boss aiming for the stars, in the hope of finding a moon? Who knows?

Back then, “Make in India” had different traction altogether. The attempt was to invite such luminaries to deliver a speech on digital transformation in manufacturing in India. The plan was to give it good media coverage and launch a program for the manufacturing group under that media Buzz.

The underlying belief was that sometimes some people are more accessible than you think they are.

We not only wrote to Jack Welch but also reached out to Seth Godin, Clayton Christensen, and some Harvard professors. Every time we received a very warm reply. Some kindly declined and some quoted obscene amounts. 

The result? We consolidated the findings and reported them to the management. There were discussions around budget and approach. One thing led to another. Eventually, we settled for some IIM Professors. 

Was it a big success? Not really. However, the event started moving things. It gave us the required momentum to progress. We were comfortable inviting people and conducting events. 

Cost of trying and failing in digital world is too small. It is worth taking that moonshot.