Discuss 17th Sept 2005 within the Articles !! forums, part of the Mirror View - Ebooks Links & Miscellenous Reading Material category; Management Article 1 ================================================== ============== Cherie Carter-Scott's Rules Of Life Rule One - You will receive a body. Whether you ...
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17th Sept 2005
17th Sept 2005 - September 20th, 2005
Management Article 1
Cherie Carter-Scott's Rules Of Life
Rule One - You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it's yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what's inside.
Rule Two - You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them 'is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life'.
Rule Three - There are no mistakes, only lessons. Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it's inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you'd want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement - of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine - it's also 'the act of erasing an emotional debt'. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour - especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps - are central to the perspective that 'mistakes' are simply lessons we must learn.
Rule Four - The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons - they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance - 'causality' must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required - change doesn't happen overnight, so give change time to happen.
Rule Five - Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the 'rhythm of life', don't struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change - be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.
Rule Six - "There" is no better than "here". The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what's good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.
Rule Seven - Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.
Rule Eight - What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don't get angry about things - bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us - use it when you need to do what's right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.
Rule Nine - Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.
Rule Ten - You will forget all this at birth. We are all born with all of these capabilities - our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence. The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise - wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen was created in Japan following World War II. The word Kaizen means "continuous improvement". It comes from the Japanese words "Kai" meaning school and "Zen" meaning wisdom.
Kaizen is a system that involves every employee - from upper management to the cleaning crew. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a year, or monthly activity. It is continuous. At Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, 60 to 70 suggestions per employee, per year are written down, shared and implemented.
In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis--always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness, and reducing waste.
Suggestions are not limited to a specific area such as production or marketing. Kaizen is based on making changes anywhere that improvements can be made. The Kaizen philosophy is to "do it better, make it better, improve it even if it ain't broke, because if we don't, we can't compete with those who do."
Western philosophy can be summarized as, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Kaizen philosophy is that everything, even it it ain't broke, can be improved.
Management Trivia Question of the week
What was the name of the first company
formed by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates?
Management Joke Question of the week
On An Average, we all get it right. The question is Does it count?
Three statisticians went hunting in the woods. Before long, one of them pointed to a plump pigeon in a tree, and the three of them stopped and took aim. The first fired, missing the bird by a couple of inches to the left. Immediately afterwards the second fired, but also missed, a couple of inches to the right. The third put down his gun exclaiming, "Great shooting lads, on average I reckon we got it..."
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." --John Quincy Adams
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
Management Trivia Answer
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, launched his business
career in 1969, at age 14 by forming a company
named Lakeside Programming Group. Gates and his
friend Paul Allen signed an agreement with
Computer Center Corporation to report bugs in
PDP-10 software, in exchange for computer time.
This happened during the interview rounds of IIM (A)
Interviewer said "I shall either ask you ten easy questions or one
really difficult question.Think well before you make up your mind!"
The boy thought for a while and said, "my choice is one really
"Well, good luck to you,you have made your own choice! Now tell me
What comes first, Day or Night?"
The boy was jolted into reality as his admission depends on the
correctness of his answer, but he thought for a while and said,"It's
the DAY sir!"
"How" the interviewer asked.
"Sorry sir, you promised me that you will not ask me a SECOND
He was selected for IIM!
"Technical Skill is the mastery of complexity, while Creativity is
the master of simplicity....."
Management Article 2
How to Write Strategic Marketing Plans, Business Plans and Sales Plans
People use various terms referring to the business planning process - business plans, business strategy, marketing strategy, strategic business planning, sales planning - they all cover the same basic principles. When faced with business planning or strategy development task it's important to clarify exactly what is required: clarify what needs to be done rather than assume the aim from the description given to it - terms are confused and mean different things to different people. You'll see from the definitions below how flexible these business planning terms are.
Business Planning Definitions
a plan - a statement of intent - a calculated intention to organize effort and resource to achieve an outcome - in this context a plan is in written form, comprising explanation, justification and relevant numerical and financial statistical data. In a business context a plan's numerical data - costs and revenues - are normally scheduled over at least one trading year, broken down weekly, monthly quarterly and cumulatively.
a business - an activity or entity, irrespective of size and autonomy, which is engaged in an activity, normally the provision of products and/or services, to produce commercial gain, extending to non-commercial organizations whose aim may or may not be profit (hence why public service sector schools and hospitals are in this context be referred to as 'businesses'.
business plan - this is now rightly a very general and flexible term, applicable to the planned activities and aims of any entity, individual group or organization where effort is being converted into results, for example: a small company; a large company; a corner shop; a local window-cleaning business; a regional business; a multi-million pound multi-national corporation; a charity; a school; a hospital; a local council; a government agency or department; a joint-venture; a project within a business or department; a business unit, division, or department within another organization or company, a profit centre or cost centre within an an organization or business; the responsibility of a team or group or an individual. The business entity could also be a proposed start-up, a new business development within an existing organization, a new joint-venture, or any new organizational or business project which aims to convert action into results. The extent to which a business plan includes costs and overheads activities and resources (eg., production, research and development, warehouse, storage, transport, distribution, wastage, shrinkage, head office, training, bad debts, etc) depends on the needs of the business and the purpose of the plan. Large 'executive-level' business plans therefore look rather like a 'predictive profit and loss account', fully itemised down to the 'bottom line'. Business plans written at business unit or departmental level do not generally include financial data outside the department concerned. Most business plans are in effect sales plans or marketing plans or departmental plans, which form the main bias of this guide.
strategy - originally a military term, in a business planning context strategy/strategic means/pertains to why and how the plan will work, in relation to all factors of influence upon the business entity and activity, particularly including competitors (thus the use of a military combative term), customers and demographics, technology and communications.
marketing - believed by many to mean the same as advertising or sales promotion, marketing actually means and covers everything from company culture and positioning, through market research, new business/product development, advertising and promotion, PR (public/press relations), and arguably all of the sales functions as well. Marketing is the process by which a business decides what it will sell, to whom, when and how, and then does it.
Marketing Plan - logically a plan which details what a business will sell, to whom, when and how, implicitly including the business/marketing strategy. The extent to which financial and commercial numerical data is included depends on the needs of the business. The extent to which this details the sales plan also depends on the needs of the business.
Sales - the transactions between the business and its customers whereby services and/or products are provided in return for payment. Sales (sales department/sales team) also describes the activities and resources that enable this process, and sales also describes the revenues that the business derives from the sales activities.
Sales Plan - a plan describing, quantifying and phased over time, how the the sales will be made and to whom. Some organizations interpret this to be the same as a business plan or a marketing plan.
Business Strategy - see 'strategy' - it's the same.
Marketing Strategy - see 'strategy' - it's the same.
Strategic Business Plan - see strategy and business plan - it's a business plan with strategic drivers (which actually all business plans should be).
Strategic Business Planning - developing and writing a strategic business plan.
You can see that many of these terms are interchangeable, so it's important to clarify what needs to be planned for rather than assuming or inferring a meaning from the name given to the task.
Other useful and relevant business planning definitions are in the glossary on the sales techniques section; some are also in the financial terms section, and various are among the business and training acronyms section, which could provide some welcome light relief if this business planning gets a little dry.
When writing a business plan, remember...
The most important driver for almost any business plan (whether it's called a business plan, a sales plan, marketing plan, marketing strategy, strategic business plan, or other department business plan) is return on investment.
Commonly, when someone starts to write a business plan for the first time (and for many people the umpteenth time), they wonder: what is the objective? Often when they ask their manager, the manager has the same doubt. Sometimes even company directors fail to appreciate that return on investment is the main driver for any plan, unless there's a very good reason for there being some other purpose.
The essential planning elements are identifying causes and effects, according to your relevant business drivers. In many good businesses a substantial business planning responsibility extends now to front line customer-facing staff, and the trend is increasing. In this context, the business plan could be called also be called a marketing plan, or a sales plan - it's all the same:
"What you are going to sell to whom, when and how you are going to sell it, how much contribution (gross profit) the sales will produce, what the marketing and/or selling cost will be, and what will be the return on investment."
The same principles and methods actually apply to very large complex multinational organizations - the only differences are that there are other costs - typically fixed overheads - more spreadsheets, more lines and columns on each, more folks crunching the numbers, and a couple of extra angles for the accountants, to tell them what they need to know about cashflow and the balance sheet.
The essentials of business planning, strategic business plans, sales plans and marketing planning - whatever you call it and whatever it means to you - are quite straight-forward.
Having said which, it's best to start at the beginning, which really starts with a bit of research:
Carry Out Your Market Research, Including Understanding Your Competitor Activity
Your market research should focus on the information you need, to help you to formulate strategy and make business decisions. Market research should be pragmatic and purposeful - a means to an end, and not a means in itself. Market information potentially covers a vast range of data, from global macro-trends and statistics, to very specific and detailed local or technical information, so it's important to decide what is actually relevant and necessary to know. Market information about market and industry trends, values, main corporations, market structure, etc, is important to know for large corporations operating on a national or international basis. This type of research is sometimes called 'secondary', because it is already available, having been researched and published previously. This sort of information is available from the internet, libraries, research companies, trade and national press and publications, professional associations and institutes. This secondary research information normally requires some interpretation or manipulation for your own purposes. However there's no point spending days researching global statistical economic and demographic data if you are developing a strategy for a relatively small or local business. Far more useful would be to carry out your own 'primary' research (ie original research) about the local target market, buying patterns and preferences, local competitors, their prices and service offerings. A lot of useful primary market research can be performed using customer feed-back, surveys, questionnaires and focus groups (obtaining indicators and views through discussion among a few representative people in a controlled discussion situation). This sort of primary research should be tailored exactly for your needs. Primary research requires less manipulation than secondary research, but all types of research need a certain amount of analysis. Be careful when extrapolating or projecting figures to avoid magnifying initial mistakes or wrong assumptions. If the starting point is inaccurate the resulting analysis will not be reliable. For businesses of any size; small, local, global and everything in between, the main elements you need to understand and quantify are:
• customer (and potential customer) numbers, profile and mix
• customer perceptions, needs, preferences, buying patterns, and trends, by sub-sector if necessary
• products and services, mix, values and trends
• demographic issues and trends (especially if dependent on consumer markets)
• future regulatory and legal effects
• prices and values, and customer perceptions in these areas
• distribution and routes to market
• competitor activities, strengths, weaknesses, products, services, prices, sales methods, etc
Primary research is recommended for local and niche services. Keep the subjects simple and the range narrow. If using questionnaires formulate questions that give clear yes or no indicators (ie avoid three and five options in multi-choices which produce lots of uncertain answers) always understand how you will analyse and measure the data produced. Try to convert data to numerical format and manipulate on a spreadsheet. Use focus groups for more detailed work. For large research projects consider using a market research organization because they'll probably do it better than you, even though this is likely to be more costly. If you use any sort of marketing agency ensure you issue a clear brief, and that your aims are clearly understood. Useful frameworks for research are PEST analysis and SWOT analysis.
Establish Your Corporate Aims Or The Aims Of Your Part Of The Business
First establish or confirm the aims of the business, and if you are concerned with a part of a business, establish and validate the aims of your part of the business. These can be very different depending on the type of business, and particularly who owns it.
State the objectives of the business unit you are planning to develop - your short, medium and long term aims - (typically 'short, medium and long' equate to 1 year, 2-3 years and 3 years plus). In other words, what is the business aiming to do over the next one, three and five years?
Bear in mind that you must reliably ensure the success and viability of the business in the short term or the long term is merely an academic issue. Grand visions need solid foundations. All objectives and aims must be prioritised and as far as possible quantified. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.
Define your 'mission statement'
All businesses need a ‘mission statement'. It announces clearly and succinctly to your staff, shareholders and customers what you are in business to do. Your mission statement may build upon a general ‘service charter' relevant to your industry. You can involve staff in defining and refining the business's mission statement, which helps develop a sense of ownership and responsibility. Producing and announcing the mission statement is also an excellent process for focusing attention on the business's priorities, and particularly the emphasis on customer service. Whole businesses need a mission statement - departments and smaller business units within a bigger business need them too.
Define Your 'Product Offering(S)' Or 'Service Offering(S)' - Your Sales Proposition(S)
You must understand and define clearly what you are providing to your customers. This description should normally go beyond your products or services, and critically must include the way you do business, and what business benefits your customers derive from your products and services, and from doing business with you. Develop offerings or propositions for each main area of your business activity - sometimes referred to as 'revenue streams', or 'business streams' - and/or for the sector(s) that you serve. Under normal circumstances competitive advantage is increased the more you can offer things that your competitors cannot. Good research will tell you where the opportunities are to increase your competitive advantage in areas that are of prime interest to your target markets. Develop your service offering to emphasise your strengths, which should normally relate to your business objectives, in turn being influenced by corporate aims and market research. The important process in developing a proposition is translating your view of these services into an offer that means something to your customer. The definition of your service offer must make sense to your customer in terms that are advantageous and beneficial to the customer, not what is technically good, or scientifically sound to you. Think about what your service, and the manner by which you deliver it, means to your customer.
Traditionally, in sales and marketing, this perspective is referred to as translating features into benefits. The easiest way to translate a feature into a benefit is to add the prompt ‘which means that...'. For example, if a strong feature of a business is that it has 24-hour opening, this feature would translate into something like: "We're open 24 hours (the feature) which means that you can get what you need when you need it - day or night." (the benefit). Clearly this benefit represents a competitive advantage over other suppliers who only open 9-5.
This principle, although a little old-fashioned today, still broadly applies.
The important thing is to understand your services and proposition in terms that your customer will recognise as being relevant and beneficial to them.
Most businesses have a very poor understanding of what their customers value most in the relationship, so ensure you discover this in the research stage, and reflect it in your stated product or service proposition(s).
Customers invariably value these benefits higher than all others:
• Making money
• Saving money
• Saving time
If your proposition(s) cannot be seen as leading to any of the above then customers will not be very interested in you.
A service-offer or proposition should be an encapsulation of what you do best, that you do better than your competitors (or that they don't do at all); something that fits with your business objectives, stated in terms that will make your customers think ‘Yes, that means something to me and I think it could be good for my business (and therefore good for me also as a buyer or sponsor).'
This is the first 'brick in the wall' in the process of business planning, sales planning, marketing planning, and thereafter, direct marketing, and particularly sales lead generation.
Write Your Business Plan - Include Sales, Costs Of Sales, Gross Margins, And If Necessary Your Business Overheads
Business plans come in all shapes and sizes. Pragmatism is essential. Ensure your plan shows what your business needs it to show. Essentially your plan is a spreadsheet of numbers with supporting narrative, explaining how the numbers are to be achieved. A plan should show all the activities and resources in terms of revenues and costs, which together hopefully produce a profit at the end of the trading year. The level of detail and complexity depends on the size and part of the business that the plan concerns. Your business plan, which deals with all aspects of the resource and management of the business (or your part of the business), will include many decisions and factors fed in from the marketing process. It will state sales and profitability targets by activity. In a marketing plan there may also be references to image and reputation, and to public relations. All of these issues require thought and planning if they are to result in improvement, and particularly increasing numbers of customers and revenue growth. You would normally describe and provide financial justification for the means of achieving these things, together with customer satisfaction improvement. Above all a plan needs to be based on actions - cost-effective and profitable cause and effect; inputs required to achieved required outputs, analysed, identified and quantified separately wherever necessary to be able to manage and measure the relevant activities and resources.
Write Your Marketing Plan Or Business Plan
Your marketing plan is actually a statement, supported by relevant financial data, of how you are going to develop your business. Plans should be based on actions, not masses of historical data. The historical and market information should be sufficient just to explain and justify the opportunities, direction, strategy, and most importantly, the marketing actions, methods and measures - not to tell the story of the past 20 years of your particular industry.
"What you are going to sell to whom, when and how you are going to sell it, how much contribution (gross profit) the sales produce, what the marketing cost will be, and what will be the return on investment."
As stated above it is easiest and best to assemble all of this data onto a spreadsheet, which then allows data to be manipulated through the planning process, and then changed and re-projected when the trading year is under way. The spreadsheet then becomes the basis of your sales and marketing forecasting and results reporting tool.
As well as sales and marketing data, in most types of businesses it is also useful to include measurable aims concerning customer service and satisfaction.
The marketing plan will have costs that relate to a marketing budget in the overall business plan. The marketing plan will also have revenue and gross margin/profitability targets that relate to the turnover and profitability in the overall business plan. This data is essentially numerical, and so needs also some supporting narrative as to how the numbers will be achieved - the actions - but keep the narrative concise; if it extends to more than a half-dozen sheets make sure you put a succinct executive summary on the front.
The marketing plan narrative could if appropriate also refer to indirect activities such as product development, customer service, quality assurance, training etc., if significantly relevant to achieving the marketing plan aims.
Be pragmatic - marketing plans vary enormously depending on the type, size and maturity of business. Above all create a plan that logically shows how the business can best consolidate and grow its successful profitable areas. The marketing plan should be a working and truly useful tool - if it is, then it's probably a good one.
Sample Business Plan, Marketing Plan Or Sales Plan Sample Structure And Example Format/Template
Keep the written part of the business plan as concise and brief as possible - most situations and high-ranking executives do not need to see plans that are an inch thick. If you can make your case on a half dozen pages then do so. Particularly if your plan is more than 5-6 pages long, produce an executive summary (easiest to do when you have completed the plan) and insert it at the beginning of the document. If you need to include lots of reference material, examples, charts, evidence, etc, show these as appendices at the back of the document and make sure they are numbered and referenced during the main body of the plan. Each new section should start at the top of a new page. Number the pages. Important plans should be suitably bound. All business plans should be professionally and neatly presented, with no grammar and spelling errors, clearly laid out in an easy to read format (avoid lots of upper-case or fancy fonts or italics as these are all difficult to read). Your business plan contents and structure should be as follows:
Business Plans Structure
• Title page: Title or heading of the plan and brief description if required, author, date, company/organization if applicable, details of circulation and confidentiality.
• Contents page: A list of contents (basically the sections listed here, starting with the Introduction page) showing page numbers, plus a list of appendices or addendums (added reference material at the back of the document) allowing the reader to find what they need and navigate the document easily, and to refer others to particular items and page numbers when reviewing or querying.
• Introduction page: Introduction and purpose of the plan, terms of reference if applicable (usually for formal and large plans or projects).
• Executive summary page: Optional and usually beneficial, this should normally be no more than a page long (or it's not an executive summary) - the key points of the whole plan including conclusions, recommendations, actions, financial returns on investment, etc., clearly readable in a few minutes.
• Main body of plan: sections and headings as required, see template below.
• Acknowledgments and bibliography/reference sources: if relevant (only required normally for very large formal plans)
• Appendices: appendices or addendums - additional detailed reference material, examples, statistics, spreadsheets, etc., for reference and not central to the main presentation of your plan.
Business Plans - Main Body Sections Examples Template
This sample template is typical for a sales/marketing/new business development business plan. (A business plan for a more complex project such as an international joint-venture, or the formation of a new company including manufacturing plant or other overhead activities would need to include relevant information and financials about the overheads and resources concerned, and the financials would need to show costs and profits more like a fully developed profit and loss account, with cashflow projections, balance sheet, etc.)
1. Define your market - sector(s) and segment(s) definitions
2. Quantify your market (overview only) - size, segmentation, relevant statistics, values, numbers (locations, people/users, etc) - make this relevant to you business
3. Explain your market(s) - sector trends, eg., growth, legislation, seasonality, PEST factors where relevant, refer to Ansoff matrix, show the strategic business drivers within sector and segments, purchasing mechanisms, processes, restrictions - what are the factors that determine customers' priorities and needs
4. Explain your existing business - your current business according to sector, products/services, quantities, values, distributor, etc.
5. Analyse your existing customer spread by customer type, values and products/services including major accounts (the 'Pareto Principle' or the '80:20 rule' often applies here, eg., 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers)
6. Explain your products and services - refer to Boston matrix and especially your strategic propositions (what these propositions will do for your customers) including your USP's and UPB's (see sales training section and acronyms)
7. Explain you routes to market, gatekeepers, influencers and strategic partners - the other organizations/individuals you will work with to develop your market, including 'what's in it for them', commissions, endorsements, accreditations, approvals, licenses, etc.
8. Case studies and track record - the credibility, evidence and proof that your propositions and strategic partnerships work
9. Competitor analysis, eg., SWOT analysis of your own business compared to SWOT analysis of each competitor
10. Sales/marketing/business plan (1 year min) showing sales and margins by product/service stream, mix, values, segment, 'distributor', etc, whatever is relevant, phased monthly, in as much detail as you need. This should be on a spreadsheet, with as many different sheets as necessary to quantify relevant inputs and outputs.
11. List your strategic actions (marketing campaigns, sales activities, advertising, etc) that will deliver the above, with costs and returns. This should be supported with a spreadsheet, showing cost and return on investment for each activity.
Tip: If the business plan concerns an existing activity, use the previous year's sales/business analysis as the basis for the next year's sales/business plan. Adapt as necessary according to your new strategic plans.
Other Business Planning And Marketing Issues
Staffing And Training Implications
Your people are unlikely to have all the skills they need to help you implement a marketing plan. You may not have all the people that you need so you have to consider justifying and obtaining extra. Customer service is acutely sensitive to staffing and training. Are all of your people aware of the aims of the business, its mission statement and your sales propositions? Do they know what their responsibilities are? How will you measure their performance? Many of these issues feed back into the business plan under human resources and training, where budgets need to be available to support the investment in these areas.
Customer Service Charter
You should formulate a customer service charter, extending both your mission statement and your service offer, so as to inform staff and customers what your standards are. These standards can cover quite detailed aspects of your service, such as how many times the telephone will be permitted to ring until the caller is gets an answer. Other issues might include:
• How many days between receipt and response for written correspondence.
• Complaints procedure and timescales for each stage.
This charter sets customer expectations, so be sure you can meet them. Customers get disappointed particularly when their expectations are not met, and when so many standards can be set at arbitrary levels, think of each one as a promise that you should keep. Business-to-business customers would expect to agree these standards with their suppliers and have them recorded as part of their contracts, or as SLA's (service level agreements). Increasingly, large customers demand SLA's to be tailored to their own specific needs, and the process of developing these understandings and agreements is absolutely crucial to the maintenance and development of large contracts.
Remember an important rule about customer service: It's not so much the failure to meet standards that causes major dissatisfaction among customers - everyone can make a mistake - the biggest cause of upset is the failure of suppliers to inform customers and keep them updated when problems arise. Not being told in advance, not receiving any apology, not getting any explanation why, and not hearing what's going to be done to put things right, are key areas of customer dissatisfaction, and therefore easy areas for suppliers to focus their efforts to achieve and communicate improvements.
A special point of note for businesses that require a strong technical profile among their service staff: these people are often reactive by nature and so not good at taking initiative to identify and anticipate problem areas in customer service. It's therefore helpful to establish suitable mechanisms and responsibility to pick up problems and deal with them - a kind of trouble-shooting capability - which can be separately managed and monitored at a strategic level. Do not assume that technically-oriented staff will be capable of proactively developing customer service solutions and revisions to SLA's - they generally need help in doing so from staff with high creativity, empathy, communications and initiative capabilities.
Establish Systems To Measure Customer Service And Staff Performance
These standards and the SLA's established for large customers need to be visible, agreed with customers, absolutely measurable. You must keep measuring your performance against them, and preferably publishing the results, internally and externally. Customer complaints handling is a key element:
Measuring customer complaints is crucial because individual complaints are crucial areas to resolve, and also as a whole, complaints serve as a barometer for the quality and performance of the business. You need to have a scheme which encourages, not discourages, customers to complain, to open the channels as wide as possible. Most businesses are too defensive where complaints are concerned, preferring to minimise their importance, or to seek to justify and excuse them. Wrong. Complaints are the opportunities to turn ordinary service into unbeatable service.
Moreover, time and again surveys suggest that anything up to nine out of ten people do not complain to the provider when they feel dissatisfied - they just keep their dissatisfaction to themselves and the provider never finds out there's a problem, even when the customer chooses to go elsewhere. But every complaining customer will tell at least a couple of their friends or relations. Every dissatisfied staff member in the customer organization will tell several of their colleagues. Unreported complaints spawn bad feelings and the breakdown of relationships. It is imperative that you capture all complaints in order to:
• Put at ease and give explanation or reassurance to the person complaining.
• Reduce the chances of them complaining to someone else.
• Monitor exactly how many dissatisfied customers you have and what the causes are, and that's even more important if you're failing to deliver your mission statement or service offer!
• Take appropriate corrective action to prevent a re-occurrence.
• If appropriate (ie for large customers) review SLA's and take the opportunity to agree new SLA's with the customer.
Implications For It, Premises, And Reporting Systems
Also relating to your business plan are the issues of:
Information Technology - are your computers and communications systems capable of giving you the information and analysis you need? How do you use email - is it helping or hindering your business and the quality of service you give to your customers? What internet presence and processes do you need? How should your voice and data systems work together? What systems need to be available to mobile staff? What customer relationship management (CRM) systems should you have? How should you consider all these issues to see the needs and opportunities? IT and communications systems increasingly offer marketing and competitive advantage to businesses in all sectors - make sure you know hat IT can do for you and for your customers.
Premises - Review your premises and sites in light of your customer service, distribution, and customer relationship requirements. Pay particular attention anywhere in your organization that your customers visit - the impression and service you give here is critical.
Reporting systems - If you can't measure it you can't manage it, and where finance and business performance is concerned this is certainly true. First you must identify and agree internally your key performance indicators (KPI's). Identify every aspect of your service or performance that is important - then you need to be able to measure it and report on it, and where people are involved in performing to certain standards then the standards and the reporting needs to be transparent to them also.
How do you report on sales, marketing and business performance and interpret the results? Who needs to know? Who needs to capture the data?
Communications And Ongoing Customer Feedback Are Essential
Having an open dialogue with your customers is vital. There's a double benefit to your business in ensuring this happens:
• You nip problems in the bud and stay aware of how you're performing.
• Your customers feel better about the service you provide as a result of the communications, or from the fact that the channel is open even if they don't use it - it's human nature.
Try to devise a standard feedback form. It can double as a promotional tool as well if it's made available on a wider scale. The form can carry details of your mission statement, service offer and your customer service charter.
Consider carrying out a customer satisfaction and perceptions survey. There are many ways to do this on a small or large scale, and valuable feedback is always obtained from customer survey exercises.
Template and Structure For A Feasibility Study Or Project Justification Report
First, and importantly, you need to clarify/confirm the criteria that need to be fulfilled in order to justify starting or continuing the project or group, in other words, what do the decision-makers need to see in order to approve the project or its continuation?
Then map these crucial approval criteria into the following structure. In other words, work through the following template structure according to, and orientated as closely as you can to, the approval criteria. (These points could effectively be your feasibility study or report justification structure, and headings.)
• past, present and particularly future ('customer') need (for the outputs/results produced by group or project)
• benefits and outcomes achieved to date for what cost/investment
• benefits and outcomes to be produced in the future
• resources, costs, investment, etc., required to produce future required outcomes and benefits (identify capital vs revenue costs, ie., acquisition of major assets and ongoing overheads)
• alternative methods or ways of satisfying needs, with relative cost/return (return on investment) comparisons (ie., what other ways might there be for satisfying the need if the group or project doesn't happen or ceases?)
• outline strategy and financial plan, including people, aims, philosophy, etc (ideally tuned to meet the authorising power's fulfilment criteria) for proposed start or continuation of project (assuming you have a case, and assuming there is no better alternative)
Keep it simple. Keep to the facts and figures. Provide evidence. Be clear and concise. Refer to the tips about effective writing. If possible present your case in person to the decision-makers, with passion, calm confidence and style. Look at the tips on presentations, and assertiveness.
I have to find something to write here.
|17th, 2005, sept|
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