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

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

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. 

Organizational Culture Doesn’t matter?

Last week, I connected with a close friend after a while.

After the usual gup-shup, the conversation somehow steered towards workplace culture.

He recently changed his job and given the circumstances, joined the company remotely.

I asked, how is the culture of your new company?

He said, it doesn’t matter, I have no clue about the culture. But do you know what is more important? The culture of a team.

He went on to describe his boss and his colleagues, the team dynamics, and routines.

After the conversation, I reflected a bit.

Why we are so obsessed with organizational culture?

Isn’t a team a micro-community within an organization? 

Have you noticed two starkly different teams in the same function? I bet you have.

The team leads/ managers set the tone for the team culture.

It matters how well your colleagues stick to the values and expectations set within a team.

The team lead can espouse organizational values and culture within a team.

Or he/she might completely isolate the team from the good/bad influence of #workplace#culture.

Two teams are like two neighborhoods within a given locality. Each with its own set of characteristics. 

And given the #WFH situation, the significance of #teamculture has become even more profound.

In that case, should we take the Glass Door reviews that describe org culture (both in a positive and negative light) with a generous pinch of salt? 

What do you think?

A smart phone is all you need to start a business

Do you want to start a business? All you need is a mobile phone.

Take real estate agents, for instance, they manage their business on WhatsApp.

I have a running coach who manages all his operations through his iPhone 4.

He uses Team Link a free alternative to Zoom to train us.

He accepts payments through G-Pay.

Yesterday I learned about a founder who maxed out his 5 credit cards to manage his working capital.

I am sure you know Jose Covaco (Hoezayy) from MTV fame. In an interview, he mentioned that he uses his mobile phone to shoot and edits his videos on the phone.

Then why people obsess around websites, workstations, fancy equipment, and finance and jargon?

Because people just love doing that. People are more passionate about the “identity” of an entrepreneur than entrepreneurship. 

What do you think?

Note: I was able to identify these examples because I recently finished reading ReWork, highly recommended for those who want to understand #entrepreneurship, especially the #frugal side of it.

The fall of Newspapers; don’t blame the readers

Last Sunday, I was badly searching for a newspaper in my house.

Not to read.

But to use as a disposable sheet to manage beard trimming operations.

I found one old newspaper that was used as a base to keep mangoes.

After trimming, I neatly folded the paper and kept it for future use.

I was surprised to realize that we produced almost 0 paper waste. 

I remember back in the days when I was living with my parents there was always a big stack of old newspapers in some corner.

Once my dad consumed the news, the value of the newspaper dropped to almost 0.

It was then used to wrap food parcels, press oily pooris, and whatnot.

Back then I always used to think newspapers get their major revenue share from reader subscriptions.

I used to wonder, how come they afford to give such thick copies.

Well, now I know that advertisers paid for the newspapers.

Classifieds and big front-page ads were the bread and butter. Subscription revenue might have covered the logistics.

The news was only to grab our attention.

#Newspapers won’t go out of circulation because there are no readers. 

Newspapers will go out of circulation because eventually, it will make less sense to #print#ads

Brands will reach out to people who need not be readers but just passive media consumers.

Nevertheless, newspapers will leave a huge vacuum, not in the reading space but in the utility space. 🙂

#advertising

Pathetic Product? Provide kickass customer service

Today when we came back from running, there was a big patch of spilled milk at our doorstep.

The packet had slowly leaked. Damaged due to poor handling.

After a good run in pleasant Pune weather (especially after the cyclone), this is was an ugly scene.

And this was not even the first time.

Wife in furious mode: I will call them (Supr Daily) right away and blast them.

Me (frowning): Tell them to deliver a fresh packet. I was trying to preserve a good mood. Why cry over spilled milk? *metaphorically and factually speaking*

We called customer service.

A lady on the other side started with an apology

This was followed by an apology and then some more apology

I started laughing, I can’t use your apology to make tea right?

Sir, I have already refunded the amount in your Supr daily wallet, please check

*that was fast*

After the call, my wife said, let us shift to some other delivery service. I am done with this.

I said, hold on for a minute.

What if the other new delivery agent offers a bad product and also has poor #customerservice? Or a better product with substandard customer-centricity?

Surp daily has poor delivery operations but awesome #customer service. 

You can either have an awesome #product or kickass customer service. Pick one.

#customerexperience

Managing risks beats Decision Making any day

More than taking the right decisions, life is all about managing risks. 

Aspiring for a stable government job or private job is a part of managing risk.

Investing in an FD or a small-cap mutual fund is again managing risk.

Choosing to drive at night or during the day is again a choice to manage risk.

So most of our decisions are simply less risky or riskier.

And yet, we label them as good and bad.

Starting a risky business that succeeds is a good decision.

The business that fails in hindsight becomes bad decision. 

In hindsight, we always tend to curse our decisions.

Result? 

Regrets.

But the cycle never stops. We compare our decisions with others and suffer.

Instead, focus on your ability to take risks.

If you don’t like to take risks, so be it. Live with that.

If you love to take risks, don’t regret it when things go wrong.

If you still wish to take it, get yourself covered.

Wish to drive at night? Buy a safe car and get yourself insured.

Don’t like the risky small-cap fund? buy an FD but don’t complain about the returns. 

The quality of our decisions depends on our appetite to take risks as individuals.

#managingrisks#risk#decisionmaking

And the theme for women’s day would be opportunism

Conversation between me and my wife on #Women’s day

Wife: Why so many organizations influence women to wear traditional on women’s day?

Me: I believe that is symbolism, it makes you look special. I think you should just stick with the theme and enjoy. Unless you want to look the odd one out.

Wife: What is the point of looking special? Don’t you think it is limiting and defeats the whole purpose of celebrating women?

Me: Well, what is the purpose of women’s day? To make women feel they are valued or they are special or equal?

Wife: Well, who knows!. Suggest me something, quick!

Me: Wear something traditional but comfortable, how about the Kurta that you bought last year?

Wife: Yeah, but that has to be ironed ( Goes and irons the Kurta)

Wife: It still looks a little wrinkled

Me: Don’t worry, looks good. Book the auto, you are getting late

(She reaches office and calls me)

Wife: You know what, Uber gave me a discount! It is women’s day. She goes on to narrate how a woman in Saree almost met with an accident on her bike. 

End.

What my wife went through is a small example of how her decisions and choices were inadvertently limited on women’s day.

I can only see one theme on every women’s day. The theme of “Opportunism”; creative ads and discounts

Thoughts?

Sometimes, all you have to do is exist

Yesterday I received a call from Sharekhan. Sharekhan has been my stockbroker for almost a decade now. Anyway, it was good to hear a local dialect (Konkani) because the call was from Mapusa, Goa, my hometown. The lady wanted to know whether I would be interested in buying some MFs through Sharekhan. 

I politely declined and diverted the conversation to their core offerings, that is, brokerage charges on the stocks. 

Your brokerage is almost 5 times more than other brokerage firms, I said that laughingly. 

The response was funny. She said, we know sir, but there is hardly anything we can do about it. Firms like Zerodha are quite new and we won’t be able to match their prices.

I said, well, then why do you think I should stick with you?

She said because we have people to support you. (She meant service)

I asked a couple of more questions around the platform and the discussion was over.

I just reflected on the sorry state of some businesses that opened in 2000s :

#Sharekhan will never be able to match the brokerage of #Zerodha

#Crosswords will never be able to match the prices of #Amazon

Idea-Vodafone will never be able to match the unit #economics of #Jio

And yet they exist!

Think about it

Or maybe sometimes you only need to exist…

Comment!