Sunday, October 21, 2018

I'm Giving You a Free eBook: The Four Tasks To Do to Access & Use Your LinkedIn Connection Data

I started out in LinkedIn in 2004, I was just curious then.

Didn’t have much expectations and it took me a couple of weeks in fact to complete my profile.

After I completed my profile, friends and colleagues started seeing me online. Even colleagues so far away from home now living in places like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Middle East and even some parts of Africa I’m not so familiar with started getting in touch.

At that time the opportunity to write and to publish was through invitation. I suspected that anyone with an “All Star” status were invited.

Quite exciting then.

From a network of less than 30 members limited only to people I personally know, my network grew.

Even then I was still selective in terms of accepting who should be in my network. Even though I did get a few consulting engagements through LinkedIn I still did not use it the way most do.

I largely tap LinkedIn as a source of learning and personal development. I specially choose people who can make me a better person, a better consultant, and a better advocate of development.

You will have your own reasons for being in LinkedIn.

You have to grow it before it can make sense to you or be useful to you.

I’m not going to speculate how useful it will be. My job in writing this e-book is to help you access your connection data and hopefully make you productive.

I hope it serves your purpose well.

Please subscribe to the eBook now to get access!

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Wait for an email providing you a link to the eBook in portable digital format.

Available only until November 30, 2018.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

Customer Service and LinkedIn

Establishing customer or corporate public expectations through your professional profile is a sound approach if you are a CEO or a consultant communicating what you can do for your stakeholders. 

The usual way of broadcasting your profile is either inserting it in your corporate profile, your business plan or do a mass mailer of your resume (which is bordering towards narcissism). 

Or simply build a website that broadcast all the good stuff about yourself (which may also be considered narcissistic).

Your profile is really your resume.

Your resume is the comprehensive kit or advertising material you will need to put your best foot forward.

To do this you will have to provide substantial information about you that is relevant to the job you're applying for.  

Don't do an information overload by cramming everything about you in your resume.

It must be simple to be beautiful and logically organized to make sense to your prospective reader.

We are all familiar with the importance of resumes when applying for a job. There are really more to resumes than just selling yourself during a job application. 

You need to always remind yourself what you have become, what knowledge and skills you have acquired, and what you have achieved not only as a professional but as a person.

It is the reason why you have to update your resume at least once a year or preferably when a new year starts.

It can be a good morale booster if you're down and figuring out what will be the next step in your career or in your life.

Generally, when you draft your business plan and submit it to investors, banks, venture capitalists, etc., you will most likely be ask to back up your management profile with either your resume or the resume of your partners or managers.

It is just logical.

If you claim you can pull off what you were talking about in your business plan, the least you can show them is what knowledge, experience and skills you have to be able to pull it off.

The resume will do just that.

If you are into a consulting business, you will need to advertise your experience, the projects you have handled and the problems you have solved.

The resume will even be more significant once you have to create a short description of your background for a book you will be writing.

(Ever notice the short group of text that gives the background of the author just below the author's picture.)

Personally, the best thing that happened to me in terms of broadcasting my resume or professional profile is LinkedIn.

If you have not heard of LinkedIn yet, it is one of the largest business network online to meet professionals, business leaders, and colleagues.

It is a channel for you to build relationships and find opportunities for yourself. I have been a member of LinkedIn since 2004. 

I have kept in touch with former customers, colleagues, friends, classmates, and even former students in LinkedIn.

What is it you will see in LinkedIn? Let me give you a short preview.....

Home page is where I see updates happening within my network like friends or members getting new jobs or promotions, articles written or endorsed by members, professional endorsement from network members, people I may know that are not yet within my personal network, etc.

Your Profile page which is basically a good preview of your professional profile or your "living resume".

It's a living resume because LinkedIn always prompts you to improve your resume or update it.

There's the My Network page where you see everybody that you have linked with (or you have Linked In) since you became a member. This is your professional network. This is like a directory of all the people you have related with in LinkedIn since you established yourself in the network.

The Jobs page is where corporate members post job openings in their respective companies. If you use LinkedIn primarily for career growth, this is the page you will look at very often. I seldom visit this page, but whenever I do it gives me a preview of the companies that are expanding based on the scope and quality of the job openings being advertised periodically.

The Messaging page is where you can communicate to members of your network. It works just like any other messaging service but only works with people within your network.

The Notification page is where you get updates from members of your network like articles they've written, news about their careers, and updates from LinkedIn (updates from you included).

It is in LinkedIn that I have re-established relationship with former colleagues and customers. These are the people I thought I will never get to meet again. I'm not really meeting them again but it is the next best thing because now we communicate regularly and even share a lot of things professionally. You get sound advice from them occasionally.

If you are a first time user or visitor, the features in the network can be confusing or maybe a bit intimidating. The roster of members in LinkedIn is quite impressive and just being within their network beholds many possibilities and opportunities either as marketer, customer, leader, mentor or student.

I distinctly remembered not being able to write anything on my profile for several weeks after I registered. Today, it won't be that intimidating anymore to new users or visitors. There's now a manual available to help you or walk you through the process of being a member, preparing your online resume and establishing your own network in LinkedIn.

The manual is entitled....

"Learn LinkedIn: How to Build your Living Resume"

The manual will teach you how to set yourself up on LinkedIn (if you are not a registered member yet!). Once you have set up yourself up in LinkedIn you can establish your account and start developing your own "living resume" in easy step by step process. The manual will walk you through a lot of must-know tips and information to ensure you don't make mistakes. For old time users like me, it will also recommend new tricks to enhance my living resume.

During my time, we did not have this manual, so I was actually adding, deleting, more adding, and more deleting of information in my resume. Even today, I'm still updating it and enhancing it to reflect things I have been doing and achieving through the years.

The manual will spare you the agony I have to go through updating my resume. It eliminates the trial and error of enhancing your professional profile like I did. Well there's always always room for improving your profile in LinkedIn.

Before I forget, here is the page where you can download the manual.....I hope it helps you like it did me...

Learn LinkedIn: How to Build your Living Resume

Monday, May 28, 2018

The 20 Customer Service Facts You Should Know

In my more than ten years in the service business and information technology, I have come to accept 20 facts in my customer service world.

You may think otherwise about these facts, but I always get in trouble when I take for granted any one of them.

I also noticed that the more conscious I am about these facts, the better I manage my team, the more refined are the customer service trainings I designed, and the more proactive my approaches to customer service becomes.

One of the best bonuses I get is that I seldom get unresolved issues haunting me in the future.

Here are my 20 Customer Service Facts:

1. If you keep tabs of your resolution rates related to complaining Customers, you will find out that less than 10% of dissatisfied Customers will actually file a complaint or let you know about it.

This is one reason why I always make it a commandment in my sales or customer support teams to call the Customer 3 or 5 days after delivery or completion of service.

You should not wait for them to tell someone else about the problem before you have a chance to know about it.

Most problems really are just a result of a Customer not being educated enough to harness the benefits from your product or service.

Show them how!

Besides, if your service or product provides him or his company an edge, why would he tell his next door neighbor why he has the edge.

He knows his competitor is going to get hold of it somehow, he just doesn't want it happening anytime soon.

2. 300% more people will know about your bad service from dissatisfied Customers than your good service from satisfied customers.

Sales people have always observed this pattern about Customers.

If you are not that keen yet about this trend better watch out because you might end up hearing it from your competition, after he gets your Customer.

Worst! He gets your biggest Customer.

This is one fact that is not funny when it's eating up your market.

You will lose Customers and it's usually too late to know why.

If your Customer is a member of an association or a club, you can bet that half of the membership already know about the bad news.

You can also bet that nobody will hear a whisper about how you have dealt with the problem later on.

But that's a different story altogether.

3. Although Customers seldom make their complaint known, dissatisfied Customers will most likely find and meet Customers with the same experience.

They will talk more about the problem and will tend to attract more people who will listen.

This explains the previous fact.

Haven't you notice that you tend to have more listener with bad news than good ones.

The uglier it is, the more glued the audience will be.

You always find more headlines with ugly...No horrible news than happy ones when you watch TV.

You notice one other thing. You never turn the TV off!

You're glued!

4. If you can resolve an issue or fix a problem of a complaining Customer, 80% of this kind of Customers will come back and will most likely make a purchase again.

You will increase this percentage to 90% if you act immediately upon notice of the complaint.

Logic would have told us that if you mess up, you should get fired as a service provider or supplier.

You don't get fired. You get 8 out 10 of them coming back!


In a crisis or if some problem comes up, this is the only opportunity you have of showing a Customer that there is an organization, process and people behind your service or product.

This is assuming you indeed have an organization, process or people behind your service or product.

By solving the problem the Customer sees you at work.

They see procedures being followed.

They get calls.

They get interviewed about a problem.

And, they see real people not machines doing something for them.

They see. They don't hear about it or get told about it.

They clearly see an action in progress.

This action in progress allows your Customer to size you up.

Know what you can do. See your capabilities.

This is why I firmly believe that an opportunity to serve under these conditions should not be passed up.

5. No technology can be a substitute for human interaction.

Even if the technology is the only contact with Customers, certain needs will eventually require some form of human contact.

The human physiology will always seek out some form of affective human interaction.

Have you heard about the "crib syndrome" that afflicts only infants?

It's been suspected that this syndrome normally happens if the baby does not experience a nurturing environment or more specifically human touch.

As early as infancy, the human physiology already exhibits the craving for human touch.

6. Treating Customers badly for any reason will eventually carry costs and consequences.

I don't believe in karma or all that esoteric beliefs.

I do believe in action and consequent reaction.

As early as high school, you've been introduced to this concept in Physics.

Human beings have a funny way of getting back at you.

Animals are more predictable because we already know how predictable or unpredictable they are.

Human beings are complex. Even if you understand their habits they don't behave exactly as expected in the same situation all the time.

When you hurt a Customer by not serving him or her well, you will be remembered.

It has nothing to do with selling principles or organization. It has to do with human nature. Pain has a way of making our memory sharper and our recall more instinctive.

The reckoning will come. It may not be now.

It will come!

More than 10 years of dealing with Customer made me a believer in this phenomenon of eventual reckoning.

7. Your reputation and credibility are directly proportional to the quality of your service and eventually to the quality of your Customer relations.

If you have good customer service, you tend to have more people talking and hearing about it. Quite naturally, you tend to have more customers. It is just consequential that you will have some kind of reputation. Hopefully you have a great reputation rather than a bad one.

Find or better yet develop the right process and team to ensure that you nurture good relationship with your customers. The stronger your relationship with customers, the more solid and enduring will be your reputation and credibility.

Your reputation is built on the relationship you keep. Who is more inclined to believe you than people or organizations who know you--Your Customers.

8. The environment in which you will establish good impressions with Customer on first contact will always be stack against you.

Remember that the Customer is the person who sets the time, the date, the place and the agenda of the visit (if you let him).

If the Customer tells you to see him in his office or place of work, he again controls the atmosphere and physical environment.

It is rarely that the Customer will see you all excited about what you are about to say, unless of course he initiates the call or ask for the appointment.

The necessity of creating first impression is lesser if the Customer initiates the call or meeting.

The Customer has more or less a clear grasp of what he wants from the meeting. He expects you to validate his wants or needs.

Normally, if the customer initiates the call he would already have certain level or scale of expectations. It's like already having 100 bonus points in his pocket for you. What you do or don't do during the meeting will just give him an incentive to keep the 100 bonus points for you or take out 5 points here, 10 points there until you got just about 50 bonus points to nothing.

If you're initiating the call, what you are really doing is grunt work. I don't care if you have undergone gazillions of sales training. If you are initiating the visit or call, everything is stack up against you.

Good luck!

9. Sophisticated Customer service or retention programs fail simply because it lacks appreciation of the universal principle of good business and good manners.

Most support services for computer systems are failing in their service ratings not because their core services are bad it's because they lack the common sense to do the simple things.

Service call request coming in by phone are not handled well.

Customers complain that they keep repeating themselves to people at the other end of the line.

Service personnel can not remember details of their complaints.

Customers' repaired units are delivered with films of dust on its surface. Smudges of greasy fingerprints on clean surfaces.

Service personnel forgot to take their trash with them or fail to return the Customer's equipment in its proper place.

Common sense dictates that you treat Customers the way you expect others to treat your daughter, son, wife or mother. Of course you will find this far from any form of common sense if you are a wife beater or child molester.

It's the reason why I always choose happy people with lots of high self-esteem after I pick them out for their common sense.

Happy people tend to have better disposition and are easier to train. They tend to handle stress better specially those created by customer interaction.

10. In an existing Customer service program, you will lose your best employee specially those with sound judgment first, (followed by the team if he is a team leader) if you don't nurture the right working environment.

Good workers specially those with sound judgment and really competent ones know what is a healthy working environment for them and their team. These are the people who are not afraid to leave when they think things are not right for them, for their colleagues and their customers.

These are the kind of people who can easily build strong relationship with customers.

There's also one good thing about these types of employees. Team members tend to be loyal to them if they become team leaders or are team leaders. They will do almost anything for them. This is usually the reason why you tend to lose your best team members right after the team leader leaves.

Take care of your team.

Create the best working environment for them specially after the launch of a successful campaign (any campaign!).

Rewards must be tailored to what motivates your team.

Remember this: Money maybe the best reason for taking on a job but it is seldom the first or significant reason for leaving one.

Team leaders (the Good Ones!) who conduct their own exit interviews of team members who leave will seldom hear money as the reason for leaving a job. If your team member refuses an exit interiview with you, you are probably the reason for leaving the company or the team.

11. The people who should be convince about your value proposition and your Customer service program should be the very people who will deliver the proposition and manage the program in the first place.

If the frontline staff themselves do not believe or have little faith in the company's customer service program, you cannot expect them to deliver the quality of service expected by customers.

On a staff-to-customer level, the customer service staff will have little empathy and will generally have little motivation to go the "extra" mile to help customers.

Frontline staff who do not believe in the very service they deliver will have no motivation to give the company feedback and in most instances will generally "conceal" the actual conditions prevailing in the field.

You must have a credible customer service program. The kind that make sense to your own people.

12. The sincerity of any Customer service program is directly proportional to the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the support teams involved in its management.

A company who is confident in the capability of its service team don't worry so much about their service contracts. Service teams that deliver according to customer standards seldom get the opportunity to handle customer complaints because problems never get out of hand too often to become a customer's problem.

You must invest time, training, tools and other resources to make your team cohesive and effective.

If you have an honest-to-goodness customer service program you will spend more time making your customer support teams more effective rather than tinkering around with the quot;waiver" or "non-liability" clause of your service contracts.

I have seen so many service contracts in my career from really good to really "plain paper useless". There are contracts that have so many waivers and clauses to pre-empt damage suits that it practically ties the hands of service personnel even if they sincerely want to help customers.

And let me add that the sincerity of any Customer Service program is also directly proportional to the distance of the CEOs office to the company's legal counsel. You really and truly are sincere if you see your lawyer less and less about customer issues.

Companies with dismal customer service performance have lawyers busy either suing customers for unpaid bills or are defending themselves against consumer rights litigation or non-performance liabilities.

13. A problem or Customer complaint is an opportunity to do better and to reinforce your Customer service policy and program.

Nothing can subject a customer service program to the most rigid acid test but a live customer making a legitimate complaint.

A good service program kicks in almost automatically upon the first contact with a complaining customer. Information about the complaint is immediately gathered while the customer's profile and details of the related purchase is reviewed. An account manager is immediately informed and made accessible to the customer.

The whole chain of events from the first receipt of the customer contact will show the customer real people acting on the complaint. The customer will be able to discern from the flurry of activities that a system is in place to assist him. Support people return calls to customer and provide feedback of the steps taken to resolve the issue.

14. A review of actions to respond to complaining or dissatisfied Customer will provide an opportunity to look into your company's internal process related to Customer Service or service delivery.

This is suppose to be a very obvious conclusion but surprisingly most of the process to support customer complaints were not really designed to resolve issues. More often the process is really a complex procedure to either evade responding or discourage customer from lodging their complaints or raise issues.

A bad process even if reviewed a hundred times is still a bad process. No amount of review will change the outcome of a bad process. Ever heard of "garbage in, garbage out"?

Good service providers know that the key to delivering good service every time is the quality of the core service, the process, the tools and the team.

When a unique incident, issue or problem comes up to test your process, a review must immediately be conducted to find out how the process responded. Did each of the component seamlessly worked from one sub-process to another? Is there a bottleneck or glitch somewhere? What conditions led to the glitch?

This is suppose to be really common sense unfortunately this "review" is not really that common.

Now we hear about quality control circles, process improvement, ISO that basically starts their methods with a review of process. Today they call it fancy names like quality assessment, quality audit, system assessment, system audit, process assessment, and all that high-sounding terms which are really designed more to make consultant's work appear complex and their costly bills easier to swallow.

15. The finer is your definition of market niche the more focus your Customer service will be.

This may not come from common sense, but marketers should already realize that the more clearly you understand your customer, the more specialized you tend to design your services around their needs. This will eventually lead to a more defined sets of distinct services for just a specific need.

A good example of this is the way Internet service providers have evolved. Before, there was really no distinction between a person using Internet services in the office and those using Internet at home. Now, you have corporate accounts, home market, and even mobile users.

Service providers, at least the most dynamic ones, are learning that they can no longer offer a smorgasboard of services and attach a single price tag for all types of customers. Customers now truly perceive a value relevant to his unique situation and buys in only from providers who can understand this perceived value.

Service providers, fortunately for customers, are no longer having a "me-too" pricing strategy. They know that those who gets the price pegged right the first time dominates a niche almost rapidly specially in a service that is technology-driven.

Marketers are now fine tuning their ability to define their niche not from a concept of who is a customer but from data taken from a customer base that they now own. This enables marketers to develop products and services that are more focus.

16. The more complex your offering the broader will be the scope of your Customer service programs.

Some customer service programs are actually born out of a service concept catering to a broader customer profile. In essence, the definition of the service is a consequence of an assumption that the customer has multi-level and multi-faceted needs. The result is a process that accommodates so many contingencies.

The customer service program is not really one homogenuous program but a complex combination of sub-programs intended to respond to different customer needs.

This condition is not inherently bad. The real issue is capital expenditure and logistical requirement. The organization that has an abundance of knowledge resource and other resources will not find customer service a real challenge even if it has a complex offering.

The challenge is how to cover a broad spectrum of customer needs without wearing yourself too thin.

17. Between a prospect and a Customer, a Customer can do more damage to you by simply not doing anything.

In terms of value, a prospect has zero Customer Value. He is not a Customer, he is still a prospect. You have already invested in a Customer, that investment will go to waste if the Customer stops interacting.

I had a Customer covered by a maintenance contract for their mainframe computer. When he came across a problem related to our service, he simply allowed the contract to lapse.

This provided an opening for a competing service provider to offer an alternative.

He got our proposal for a renewal and just sat on it for more than 30 days.

See, the Customer simply did nothing and I still lost the account.

18. The foundation and institutionalization of a good Customer service program is hinge on the creation of a seamless process and the systematic documentation of each key components to ensure consistent delivery and maintenance of quality standards.

If you are having problems keeping your customer service up, you are most likely having the following:

Customers can't understand the terms and conditions of delivery.

Your own people can't seem to understand the terms and conditions of delivery.

Service personnel don't seem to follow the same method of initiating service delivery and can't seem to improve their resolution rate or response time.

You keep losing people at a time when they are suppose to be competent enough and can't seem to get the same level and quality of productivity from their replacement.

You are responding to the same form or nature of the complaint at ever increasing frequency and still have your service people getting the response wrong every time.

You can't seem to get your competence training up and running at a level that does not demand too much time from your most senior and experienced team leaders and members.

You don't have the right people for the job.

You're delivering the wrong service to your customer because what you are delivering is not what your customer expects.

Most of these common and irritating issues I have solved by adapting only two (2) key strategies: creation of a seamless process and systematic documentation.

The identification and creation of tools plus the design and development of truly effective skills training will evolve from these two (2) strategies.

19. Two (2) key roles must be present to perpetuate a seamless process:

The leader who will be responsible for the process; and The key person or persons responsible for the results.

The definition, selection and installation of the right leader for a good team will ensure the integrity of the customer service process. A competent and effective team will ensure that service standards are achieved.

Each member of a team in a process is responsible only for the result of component of the process assigned to him. The team leader must be responsible for the process end-to-end because he is the one with a broader or over-all perspective of the customer service process.

20. When all things are equal and perfect, meaning product, service, process, organizational structure, technology, and communications, your weakest link will be two kinds of people:

The leader responsible for the integrity of the process; and, the team responsible for the quality of the results.

The weakest link in any system or process is the human component. This part of the system or process is the less predictable aspect of managing a system or process. People as part of system is simply the most volatile and also the most dynamic.

The contingencies designed for any system will almost always address the doing or undoing of human nature or its consequence. The only time human nature is less a consideration in contingencies is when the effects of the environment or extreme outcome of natural calamities are factored in.
In the customer service perspective, we focus our attention only on the leader and the team.

It is important that you build a good team and manage it well.

Stick to basics. Choose your team leader well and help him build his team.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dimension Six: The Team

You now have a good service or product concept.

Delivery of this service or product is clearly defined and understood by everyone. 

You have the right tools to ensure that the service or product is easy to deliver and will be done right all the time.

In spite of competition, you know you have to do it better and in the process make a profit by managing your customer service well.

You have the cash and capital in the right proportion but you cannot do this alone.

If this isn't a business, you will just probably be worrying about punching in and hope nothing messy is going to happen before the day ends.

Unfortunately, this is not a job and you are not a rank-and-file.

The business is going to be managed. It's you or someone else.

You need to deliver your customer service, systems are in place and tools will be use, the whole thing is going to be done over and over, you simply cannot do this alone.

You need a group of people who know what they are doing.

This group will do it because they understand their role in the whole process of customer service.

They are trained to deliver and support customer service.

In all likelihood, they will define the quality standards of delivery, setup the system to support your process, ensure continuity and consistency by documenting your customer service process, and develop the training program for your future staff.

You need a dynamic team!

Why Build a Team

Society is increasing pressure from organizations not only for increase profitability and productivity but also the expectation that organizations must also improve the quality of life.

Business enterprises want profitability; government aims to effectively deliver services; while not-for-profit organizations try to alleviate social or economic inequity including the effective management of the environment.

Whatever the aims the incentive to use human resources as little and as much in the most effective and productive way is great.

Today, the use of teams is gaining ground to answer these aims.

Whether in corporations, in special police teams, in the armed forces or in foundations, the use of teams to deliver cost-effective completion of projects and the assignment of project managers as team leaders will continue to be a primary alternative for project management.

Let's start building your team!

Good Teams

It is not a team if it is not a good team.

So what are the traits of a good team?

Here are the most prominent traits of really good or effective teams:

  • Team members tend to work more effectively together than they would if they were working individually or alone.

  • Clear sense of itself as a special group but still has the capacity to interact positively with other groups in the organization.

  • Communicate clearly with one another and effectively across the organization.

  • Cultivates and negotiates positive assumptions and beliefs among team members.

Just because you have a list of what constitutes a good team, you may think that you can simply go around your organization and pick out a group as a team.

You build teams. You don't stumble into them.

Some actually believe that they can handpick people, designate a leader and give the group a name like Team A to come up with their team.

Like anything else, doing something you know nothing about is worse than doing nothing. Take a surgeon's advice: First do no harm!

The Team Leader

The team leader can make or break a team just as a team can make or break a project. The challenge to management is electing the best man to fit the shoes of a team leader.

You just can't set any criteria that you like or your comfortable with when defining who will be best suited for the role.

Take time to know and understand a team leader's role in team building and management. The following broad roles should give you a hint:

  • making and keeping the goals clear

  • defining or setting measurable performance

  • managing relationship within and without

  • identifying or creating opportunities for team members

  • building confidence, strengthening commitment, and developing skills
If you want a list of more specific tasks a team leader does, here are some:
  • facilitating and preparing project plans

  • monitoring the progress of team projects

  • preparing reports of team progress

  • managing flow of information across the organizational hierarchy

  • facilitating and acting in behalf of the team to get support and resources from stakeholders

  • keeping track and documenting changes in project specs or team process

  • developing learning systems within the team
Sorry if I'm taking up team management in lesser detail here. This e-book is not for supervisors or team leaders.

The content in this e-book is for the business owners or management executives responsible for managing or developing marketing or customer service programs.

The Members

When choosing the composition of the team or making a selection of members, I prefer basing the selection on the knowledge and skills that each will bring into the team.

A certain degree of expertise or knowledge can help a lot if the team is task to undertake a specific function or role whether organizational or project-based.

In a team, one or more may have to possess problem-solving skills and make decisions.

If you work with projects long enough you will realize that most of your team members will acquire a certain level of problem-solving skills as they gain experience.

Of course, it will be a distinct advantage if one of the members have both problem-solving and decision-making skills at the formative stage of team creation.

Members of the team must be able to communicate with each other clearly because communication is the key to making diverse backgrounds work together.

To be able to know what skills are required for the job, you must be able to define the team's objective and the functions that will eventually define its structure.

Define Team Roles Clearly

Knowing your role in projects is almost obvious. In reality, very few things done in projects are the way they are because of being obvious.

Defining roles in projects is important but unfortunately this is one of the most basic things that a neophyte in projects will almost certainly take for granted.

Defining roles as clearly as possible at the start of the project will save you time and most of all credibility.

Roles must be defined right after selecting and creating the team.

Problems brought about by poor or absence of clear team roles include bad coordination, assignment of the wrong skills to a task, extended deadlines or plain failure to complete deliverables.

What I'm trying to say is you cannot wait for the team members to define their roles or let it evolve.

The function of the team is dependent on the very specific objectives or clearly defined tasks set by the organization.

Management or the team manager must not let the team decide its function or its purpose.

Teams cannot draw guidance from organizational culture. To do so will leave the team lost and can lead to very serious organizational problems.

The most common team function that people see are the type like those actively operating in the manufacturing (or production) and service sectors.

Examples of this type are assembly line teams responsible for a component, software support teams, aircraft maintenance, security teams, or even building maintenance.

Most of the work for these teams is routine or prescribed by a regular flow of activities or tasks. Because of the nature of the work, almost all are full-time workers.

It may not be strange to find out that most of the members of this type of team have worked together for many years.

Since the profile of the work does not change drastically, this form of team function allows team members to manage and to organize their own work.

Another team function is the kind that is entirely task-focused.

This type of function requires that every member has a specific skill that contributes to the successful completion of the task.

The specific role or task defines the composition of the team based on the skills or knowledge that will be brought in by that prospective member.

The level of experience of each member in a particular field of specialization allows the team to modify solutions or improvise methods to get the job done even in the most extreme situations.

As a member of management or as a team manager responsible for the team with this kind of function, you will have to prescribe the mission or the specific task.

Once the team has been presented with their mission or task, they take over.

Team functions that are project or development driven also require specialized knowledge or skills but the project takes longer to complete.

Members of the team may sometimes come together just to complete a single task or sub-project and later go back to their regular work.

Teams with this function tend to work with a high level of autonomy in the organization within the duration of the project.

Another team function that through the years have influenced the corporate world are those providing advice or assume a certain level of decision-making in the organization.

Management teams that are common in the service or hotel industry are good example of this team function. Highly specialized roles of investment or financial consulting teams are also examples of this function.

Not all functions require high-level participation. Quality control circles in many manufacturing organizations prescribe this function in their teams.

Members of the team with this function perform other roles in the organization and will normally use a very small portion of their working time.

The level of autonomy in this type of function is not very high and highly dependent on the degree of commitment that management has demonstrated to support the team approach in their organizational development.

The function of the team will greatly be influenced by how very detailed or specific is the objective or how generalist or broad are the goals.

Team Structure

If the processes that define the functions are very distinct you will have to find out if it will require a single person to accomplish or a single person with multiple roles and skills.

You will have to know if:

  • the process are happening simultaneously or executed in parallel work schedule;

  • the tasks or jobs are co-located or have to be performed in the same location or site;

  • the knowledge and skill set required to perform a job or complete a task can logically be expected from the same person or is it too highly specialized and unrelated to or not complementary to each other.
With the above knowledge, the team can map out the best approach to accomplish their goals or keep up with their vision.

Never assume that team members understand the structure the first time you discuss it with them.

Experienced have taught me to explain structure with a chart and a print out of the brief description of the roles represented by the neat boxes in the chart.

There's very little ambiguity with chart and those with different perception of their roles will be able to ask the relevant questions when they read a brief description of their roles in hard copy.

Training Your Team

Training a customer service team is different from training an individual to equip him with competence.

The kind of training that a customer service team undergoes is not the kind that makes them more competent.

Usually a well selected team leader and members are more than competent taken individually.

The training that teams go through are designed more to make the team work or function together.

It is really a training that forces or coach team members to use knowledge and skills in complementary proportions so as to attain the synergy needed to successfully complete a project.

The experience undergone during training helps meld the team into a seamless working unit more capable than each member undertaking tasks individually.

Team Empowerment

You now have selected your team leader and members with a high degree of confidence that they will be competent enough to contribute to the team.

Training will also ensure that the team functions well together.

The team has a clear mandate, a structure, and a process developed by the team itself.

Your team manager and team leader are able to work harmoniously to get the right resources in the hands of the team at the right moment.

Even with all of the above the team still needs to take responsibility for their work. This is only possible if management delegates a vital process that will allow the team to complete their mandate.

Most organizations however are still toddlers when it comes to delegation. They do come up with some forms of delegation but with a twist.

They come up with a checklist and a detailed procedure how the task will be done.

The team or work group has little legroom to innovate or to be creative when the situation requires.

What is missing is "empowerment"!

The team must be able to not only take responsibility for doing the relevant work to accomplish its mandate.

It must also be able to make the necessary or relevant decisions to carry out the work effectively. This is the core of real empowerment.

Empowerment has more to do with the culture of the organization and philosophy of management.

Unless the organizational culture allows real delegation and a truly honest belief that well-motivated teams can make the right decisions and act on those decisions, empowerment will not be possible.

I believe that it is simply difficult or impossible to make teamwork possible without real empowerment.

Only empowered teams can make significant gains in organizations.

People who do the actual work must have the power to make decisions about matters that gets the job done.

Are you comfortable with team empowerment?


Our common visualization of the concept of teamwork is a team being able to work together to accomplish a goal.

Teamwork is a concept more delicate and less simplistic than that.

The heart of teamwork is delegation and empowerment.

Teamwork is getting teams to take responsibility for their tasks and jobs to complete their mandate without always consulting or running to top management.

You must give your team the authority to make specific day-to-day decisions related to operations or projects.

This can be quite a difficult proposition for managers who are control freaks.

Traditional managers have a different concept of management control. This concept can be in direct conflict with their understanding of delegation.

For some, delegation can be perceived as a threat to job security. Empowerment is a higher form of delegation.

Imagine how threatening empowerment can be to these traditional managers.

I believe that people who are responsible and are treated as responsible individuals will simply act their part and behave responsibly.

My experience working with students, old people, farmers, fishermen, gold miners, security forces, and even ex-convicts have made me realized that our ability to communicate our respect for people have consistently proven my belief.

Remember that not one aspect of team building will help you create an effective team. Teamwork is really just one of many.

If you want teamwork to happen I suggest not doing the following:

  • Making assumptions that members in the "team" are actually eager to work and that they are equipped with the necessary skills to work within the team.

  • Extending or imposing too much authority or too little of it.

  • Disregarding existing organizational structures to accommodate the creation of teams.

  • Providing inadequate organizational support.

  • Management referring to an operational or performing unit as a team when actually they are managing the unit as a set of individuals.
Overall the success of teams will depend largely on three major factors: Commitment, Accountability, and Opportunity.

This is the last of the Customer Service dimensions. I do hope you learn something from it.

Do ask me questions?

Post it here of course!

Log on next time because I'll share with you some of the things I believe are facts of life in Customer Service.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dimension Five: The Business Plan

When I facilitate business planning workshops, I am amazed by how much marketing or business development people don't know about their customers.

Worse is that you don't come across good documentation of customer profile.

Most of the customer profiles I come across describe their customers in so vague and generic terms they might as well describe a horse or any specimen of mammals considered our direct evolutionary cousins.

The really successful marketing organizations see customer information as a strategic tool, accumulate it like it was oil and guard it like it was gold.

You may say that nobody can possibly have that much information about a customer.

If you're saying that then you're one of the many who don't keep information about your customer.

Customer Data is the Key to Intimately Know Your Customer

You may not know it but you probably are accumulating a considerable amount of data about your customers.

Most business or organizations keep data about customers, suppliers or even competitors.

You can say you almost do this at a fairly regular rate.

You just do so without conscious or deliberate effort to use this data to your advantage.

What most businesses don't realize is that there is really a profile hidden in the cluttered paperwork that most sales and accounting people keep.

It's practically staring back at them like a large puzzle waiting to be piece together.

Most of the information we get about customers is either an effort to look back or to understand what is about to come to either correct an oversight or avoid past mistakes.

Unfortunately, the objective of most business planning is like that, correct an oversight or avoid past mistakes.

It's going to be a long way before small business will take business planning or identifying customers as a proactive strategy rather than a remedial reaction to competition or the environment.

The typical questions you should be able answer with your existing business information are as follows:

  • How much profit contribution value do you attribute to each customer in a year or a lifetime based on historical revenue and profit margin contribution?

  • Make a list of your customer constituting 80% of your revenue and net profits. Rank them according to net profitability.

  • Do you have a compelling reason why you should retain the account that is the most expensive to serve?

If you don't have the numbers from last year in a spreadsheet, you are going to need a crystal ball guessing the baseline projection.

There is really no empirical basis for you to guess what will be the starting point of the forecast.

You must be able to at least approximate the money value of each account from last year.

These are concerns better discussed during a business planning workshop or conference.

I know what you're thinking.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)

You're thinking that you are already doing SWOT every year. SWOT actually refers to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

I don't know if you notice this yet, SWOT is not "the" business plan.

So much of the inputs in SWOT analysis are really collection of perceptions from stakeholders.

The end result of the SWOT exercise is made even more confusing because sometimes facilitators with not enough business sense mistake the exercise of SWOT analysis as the planning itself.

This is the reason why stakeholders, after all the cost and time spent doing SWOT analysis, come to realize that they have not moved forward to a new milestone in their planning process.

SWOT is what I refer to in my business planning workshop as the Pre-planning Information Gathering Phase.

Your customer profile is just one of many categories of information you should be getting during SWOT analysis.

This means that if you have completed your SWOT and proceeded immediately to business planning without a clear customer profile, you just undertook an expensive exercise in stupidity.

I am shocked that organizations used to doing SWOT come to the workshops bringing nothing.

In my workshops, I give each of the stakeholders who will be attending the SWOT analysis a diagnostic questionnaire and a checklist of data or information they should take with them during the SWOT sessions.

Without these data or hard facts, the whole SWOT session will be merely a gathering of perceptions.

I maybe moving too far from the subject but the bottom line is if you have a gathering of perceptions without the facts to validate them, your people's perception is really just that--perception.

When you do business planning, hard facts speak definitely and distinctly louder than perceptions.

You can act on facts better than you can on perceptions.

The only perception relevant to the planning process is your customers' perception of you and your offering.

Critical Aspect of Business Planning

The major aspects of business that must be factored in during a business planning workshop are as follows:

Goal Definition
Some organizations have very simple goals: separate the customer from his money and use every resource to make the money go their way.

Majority who don't really know who are their customers or why these customers even buy anything from them seem to have a simpler goal: Grab it and go!

For a very few they believe that serving the customer first is their goal.

These very few believe that somehow money will go to them more predictably this way.

The more experienced and savvy define their goal based on a certain customer base and revenue.

They set it this way because they believe that certain volume of satisfied customers have an equivalent potential in terms of present and future revenue.

Goals can be purely financial, partly altruistic but definitely formulated to reach a certain completion within a time frame.


The general approach of organizations or enterprises to achieving goals is its strategy.

Strategy is a simple statement that defines what has to be done and how it is going to be done.

It is simple enough to provide everyone a direction and general enough to accommodate several tactical or operational maneuvers in the medium and long-term to achieve goals.


It is surprising that very few realize that structure follows strategy.

Usually, when you start an organization, you start with the structure and then work down on the functions of the people who will be in the structure.

We do this even before we know what exactly the different units in the structure will do in relation to business goals.

Organization is the creation of the necessary structure and processes to support your strategy.


A broad sets of guidelines for action or basis for decision. In strict corporate sense, it is the guidelines set by or approved by the board.

Policies maybe prepared by one person or by a group, but it will have to pass the scrutiny and nod of another level of authority in a corporation.

Usually this authority rests on the board of directors.

When somebody refers to an issue as a policy issue, it normally means it is a matter better left for the board of directors.


Procedures are specific steps to complete a task or a routine. This brings the detailed and actionable reflection of policy at the operational level.

If your procedures are on paper that will normally constitute what you will refer to as SOP or standard operating procedure.

If it is in one compiled document, you can refer to it as your operating manual.

Financial Controls

The concept of financial management to most accounting department heads is not to allocate anything to anyone as much as possible.

In most small business, the accounting department will most likely be managed by a relative or even a wife.

This is typical of business without a plan.

Without a good business plan, cost management is really just cutting corners or not spending at all.

You must view cost management as a strategic tool.

The budget is the foundation of your financial controls.

Take time to study carefully what goes into the budget.

Getting the different business units involved will help a lot in preparing a realistic and sound budget.

You define goals and then formulate the structure that best enable you to harness resources to accomplish the goal.

You identify the resources you need and you pay for these resources with the confidence that each resource yields a certain level of profitability or helps you reach a certain milestone in your plan.

Get educated in financial management in general and financial controls in particular.

What you must decide on your own is to define what constitute investment and operating costs.

Business Alliances/Commitments
Alliances provide advantages not possible if you are doing it on your own. Some resources like experience, technology, goodwill and a host of others takes some years to build.

Business alliances make for acquiring these resources in the shortest possible time.

An organization must however know their organization well in order to be convincing to a prospective business partner what relevant advantage he is bringing to the table.

Advantages of selective or strategic alliances:

  • Access to technology or patents

  • Infusion of knowledge and skills

  • Adoption of better management approach and systems

  • Goodwill

  • Access to new or wider market

  • Access to better products or services

  • Adoption of cost-effective marketing strategy or system

  • Better service standards
You can probably add to this list with your own unique experiences based on cooperative ventures you have created in the course of your own growth.

Your business plan must take into consideration the advantages and limitations of your existing business alliances.

Small enterprises may not have the cash-flow to hire professionals to help them conduct business planning.

Most of the materials for business planning workshops have copyrights and consultants charge certain fees for the use of these materials.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Dimension Four: The Tools

Implementing customer service programs require resources or tools.

Tools are specific applicable arsenal at your disposal to act and to achieve results.

The modern age equips you with so many tools depending on the seriousness or commitment your organization has to customer service.

Tools must have a specific purpose and application.

Since the use of tools may mean investment or cost, it must be use effectively and for the right reasons.

Purpose of Tools

The concept of tools is as unique as the people or organization using these tools.

What can be a simple checklist to one can be a quality control tool to another?

Customer service does need tools. Tools are use for the following varied purposes.

Here are some of the most significant ones:

  • aid in implementing and documenting feedback mechanism

  • help manage business and know how the business is going

  • maintain the integrity of the process

  • maintain the quality of service delivery

  • help deliver and confirm delivery of service

  • aid in managing and developing the service team

  • make customer interaction less stressful for both service people and customer

  • secure and validate information and transactions

  • communicate to customers, to partners, to shareholders, company officers, and even the general public
If you are not yet sure if you are actually acquainted with the tools I'm talking about, here's a short list of some of them.

Communication Tools

  • Phone

  • Fax

  • Email

  • Internet/Website

  • Mobile phones

  • Postal Mail

  • Advertising

  • PABX
Product/Service Delivery Tools
  • Technical Tools

  • Service Vehicles

  • Website

  • Postal Mail

  • Monitoring/Feedback Forms

  • Service Checklist

  • Administrative/Management Tools

  • Business Plan

  • Budget

  • Financial Statements

  • Manual of Procedures

  • Manual of Operations

  • Standard Operating Procedures

  • Service Agreement

HRD/Training Development Tools
  • Job Description

  • Skills/Knowledge Inventory

  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys

  • Training Needs Analysis Questionnaire

  • Recruitment and Selection Manual

  • Customer Relations Tools

  • CRM Software

  • Customer Database

  • Process Flow Charts

  • Monitoring/Feedback Forms

  • Incident Reports

  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Although, there is almost unlimited sources of tools in the market the choice really will be based on your own realities and what you define is the most cost-effective for you.

There's a catch! You need to learn how to use them!

The Most Widely Used Low-Cost Tools Today!

Let us take the most effective and the most applicable to most small enterprises.

Survey FormsIf you do a poll of outlets in a mall, more than half of outlets don't have a survey form to deliberately capture data or information about their walk-in customers.

With printing and printers getting cheaper, businesses still don't take data mining seriously.

After all that hype through the years of customers being important, few businesses actually have the willingness or common sense to classify customer data in the same category as their account receivables.

The really strange thing in marketing is that the most successful businesses seem to be the ones with the system, tools, people, culture and attitude to make customer profiling work for them.

Survey forms don't have to be long.

A survey form half the size of an A4 paper can get enough information if you know exactly what you want the data for.

Customer Data/Info Capture forms/DatabasesWill you recognize a database if you saw one?

Chances are if your accounting section or accountant is using a spreadsheet, you will probably have a set of database somewhere in your PC.

Your sales summary in Microsoft Excel is a database.

Your mailing list is a database.

Your accounts receivable if organized in a spreadsheet is a database.

The key is to understand the logic behind the way the data in the database is organized.

I can go on and on about how database can be use for a lot of things but that will mean writing a whole section altogether.

I'm writing a separate e-book on using database in support of customer service. You can check that out.

You'll get a preview of that e-book from my website. Chances are I'll package it in portable digital format or PDF. The good news is the first edition will be free!

So keep logging on or simply subscribe to my newsletter.

Standard Business Forms (sales, accounting, service)

Let's run through several most common bunches of paperwork you take for granted that says so much about your customers.

Let's take your garden variety delivery receipt.

What do you normally get from your delivery receipt?

Most of the delivery receipts are actually standard forms created by your printer rather than by your people.

This means the data you get from them are mostly very common.

A typical delivery receipt form allows you to get the following data: delivery receipt serial number, date of delivery, name of customer (probably with address and contact information), description of whatever is being delivered (it might include details about warranty), value of the goods, payment or sales document reference, name of person or office suppose to receive the item described, person preparing the form and the person who actually delivered the items.

Now let's take your common official receipt.

Your common official receipt has the following data: official receipt serial number, date of transaction, mode of payment, name of paying customer (You sometimes don't bother getting contact information anymore and worst is you only get a big letter "C".), amount actually paid, description of item bought, name of person receiving the amount and maybe some notes about order slip or warranty.

How could very common forms like these generate a profile of customers?

The forms themselves will not reveal anything yet.

The data in those forms however will reveal a lot about the specific transaction in the form and eventually about the customers involved in the transaction.

The data themselves will not be of any use unless organized in a structured form.

This data in structured form is what we normally refer to as a database.

Office Productivity Software

In my eleven years working and talking about technology, I still see and witness the most incredible applications of information technology.

My amazement is not on the new things that are being introduced in the market but by boundless possibilities users find in the technology.

Take for example our common, garden variety Microsoft Word.

If you ask the more experience user why they want the new version, they would say along the lines of: "It's got five thousand more features than the last version."

If you ask exactly what features they are referring, they would say along the lines of: "I'm not sure. I have not tried any of it yet!"

My affair with Microsoft Word is around the lines of no more than five hundred features in the last five years and probably less than that for Microsoft Excel.

This number is less than five percent of the features you will see described in a manual.

With that number alone, I had created and managed sales campaign, mail campaign, fax campaign, product launching and more than five thousand templates of letters responding to complaint from Customers.

Believe me, I did not get this through training, but through sheer nerve-wracking necessity and continuous crisis management of marketing campaigns for the last five years or more.

A cursory exploration in Microsoft Excel would have indicated that listing names and addresses would be simpler in spreadsheets than in word-processors.

Not only that, you can actually have a cost-efficient scheduling and mail delivery system if you organize by district, city, block or street the list created by your assistant.

You'll have a good mailing list to boot for the courier service to use to have recipients sign actual receipt of the mail.

Somehow I have managed to accomplish the following using simple office productivity software:

  • Organize information about Customers.

  • Plan and implement effective marketing or sales campaign.

  • Design inexpensive advertising copy for products.

  • Analyze revenue, net profit and costs to help start a business plan.

  • Use simple software to manage time and projects.

  • Establish simple credit and collection schedule.

You will most likely have a PC in your office or at home.

The least you can do for your business is learn how to use it creatively and to the hilt!


E-mail marketing is one of the most effective business tools in the Internet today.

Although the leverage you get from this marketing tool is great, it is currently deluge by the notoriety of Spammers.

Autoresponders are simply automated systems that send email messages triggered by you or by someone sending an email message to your autoresponder account.

It is an automatic follow-up system you can use to respond to someone requesting information through a form in your web site.

Autoresponders can be programmed to send instant or preset messages at specific timed intervals.

You can send your messages any time 24 x 7 to anyone emailing to your autoresponder account.

I have used autoresponders for several applications.

Currently, I'm using autoresponders for:

  • Online seminars and trainings via email to prospects who register via a form in my website.

  • Answering frequently asked questions about services.
  • Confirming schedule via email of job applicant's interview for the week.
  • Building Opt-in List of prospects for our live seminars.
  • Building Opt-in List for a newsletter.
Some applications I have come across are the following:

Reinforcement Programs
Normally use to motivate sales staff, affiliates and new Customers.

PreSelling or UpSelling

When you have products or services allied or complementing those previously sold to Customers, you can use autoresponders to follow up on Customers and offer these products or services.

Bulletins and Updates

Whether they are prospects, Customers, sales people, tech support or affiliates, you need to be in constant contact.

You have to do this on autopilot so you can do something else like improving products or services or creating new ones.

Advertisement Tracking

To be able to know where your traffic is coming from or from which ad and web site they are getting information, you need a system that captures information from visitors.

You can always use autoresponders to capture membership or subscription via a registration form in your website.

If you think email is a strategic tool for you, you can take extra time to sign-up for free lessons on using autoresponders.

These lessons will come to you via your email.


The Internet when it started did not have the color and dazzle of most web sites we see today. 

It was just plain text. 

It was plain and often times cryptic messages on a great black screen.

The only reason people got or logged into the Internet was to grab or receive information.

It is not color, picture or sound that people pay access to the Internet. It is information.

Even the most bland or plain looking website will be inundated with so much traffic if it offers the most needed or critical information.

Information is the real commodity in the Internet nothing else.

The effectiveness of your web site can be measured. How?

  • The most obvious is the traffic count.

  • The next is the number of downloads.

  • Then by the number of emails you receive because of the site or your subscription service.

  • The number of orders actually credited to the web address.
Not all of the above tools will apply to you. You will have to do a bit of experimentation using some of these tools.

You must come up with a way to measure the effectiveness of each. Don't rely on opinion too much.

The reasons I got proficient with any of the above tools was that situations have forced me to learn to use them and eventually rely on them in some phase or aspect of my job.

Once you get good results in any of these tools, you will never go back to doing things the old way.

Trust me. The cost savings and the opportunities that will open up to you using new and better tools are really worth the effort and time learning them.

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