Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Be Always Careful When Outsourcing.

Outsourcing anyone?
Much to my regret (or maybe not that much) the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to live some really regrettable, but certainly very revealing, experiences which have been the inspiration to more than one entry in this blog.

And I say unfortunate because in such a highly technologically advanced world in which we’re living, filling our mouths by announcing to everybody the many innovations we come up with every single day to make our lives easier, more productive, supposedly to better communicate with others, it’s really hard for me to confirm we are forgetting about the most fundamental of things: this whole thing is about people, human beings just like you and me.

But those experiences have also been revealing as they definitely proved that most entrepreneurs and business owners (which after all, are people too) remain as innocent as they’ve always been and still think that tools alone will solve their lives and will become the Solomonic solution their businesses need to succeed.

I cross my fingers and wish you're not one of them. Hopefully you're one of those few business owners who clearly recognizes that, on top of everything, the cornerstone of your business is its customers, and that those customers are human beings at the end of the day.

Customers are not always right, but they are always your customers to begin with.

We got used to saying customers were always right, but as the times have progressed and we have all moved on, we have already came to realize "our customers are not always right, but they will always be our customers", and whether you like it or not, and to put it down with the easiest words possible, your pocket along with your business depends on them.

When outsourcing areas within your relationship with customers can become a problem?

Your business grows as your customer base grows. They go together. As you get more customers, your sales increase proportionally, meaning more money coming in to your business and everything moves forward.

As your business grows, you will usually start to outsource some services.

It's natural that, as your customer base grows, you start hiring other companies to delegate some of the services you provide to your customers so that you can concentrate your efforts on other things. It could be, for instance, hiring a courier to deliver products your customers buy on your ecommerce site, or outsourcing your leads and new business development processes.

In any case, somewhere along the road, you have to start relying on external agents to completely fulfill your customers’ demands and many of those external agents are not directly under your control and supervision.

Let me share with you one of those experiences I recently lived which will hopefully allow me to show you two things: one, that there is a moment in which the intervention of third parties within your relationship with customers can become a problem, and the second one being that regardless of this sort of “dependence” you must find a way to keep your business connected at all times with customers and keep control of the relationship.

My wife recently gave our two kids a mobile phone to each one as their summer present. The SIM cards corresponding to these mobile lines were sent to our house by Simyo (the mobile phone agent) through a delivery company, in this case, Zeleris. As they always do, and following their normal procedures, they called my wife to arrange the delivery date and estimated time frame, to which my wife replied that she wouldn’t be at home, therefore I would be the one receiving the package.

When the Zeleris driver arrived to my place, and after having a rough start on the intercom, he finally knocked my door and, with one of those attitudes, handed me over the package. When I had to sign for it, he asked me for my wife’s ID.

"Well, I don’t have it" - I replied.
"What do you mean you don’t have it? I need your wife’s ID"- referring to her on a non-acceptable, personal way.
"Well, I have to say I don’t have it" - I replied then because there was really very little I had to say.
"So what do we do then?" - the driver asked me, in a defiant tone.
"I don’t know, because I don’t have my wife’s ID. For me it’s the same if you take it back and come back tomorrow to deliver the package, and allow me to get my wife’s ID if you need it"- I offered because it was all I could think of at that moment.
And for the “great finale” on the whole incident, he said: "I am the one who doesn’t care" - and handed me over the terminal they use to collect data from the package’s recipient, and I had to do a strong effort to keep myself shut and not to tell him he was being rude to me and that it wasn’t the he should treat a client, so I signed the package off and grabbed it.

After closing the door, I had that strong sense of frustration as I watched myself being treated like that, on such an “I don’t care” way, as if instead of being a paid service, he was doing me a favor.

A few days after the incident, and after the corresponding analysis I came to realize: That man is not the one to blame. For him, I'm really not his customer. For him, I'm nothing but another package he must deliver to meet his daily quota and that’s about it.

When others handle areas of your relationship with customers, your business’ reputation is on their hands.

Neither him nor his company have a business relationship with me. I will not pay them for the delivery but Simyo will. The person he has to report with is Zeleris, the one who pays his payroll, and Zeleris would respond to Simyo if it had happened that I sent the package back, which I didn’t, for instance.

That's the main reason why he doesn’t care at all about what happened (I should say “He doesn’t give a sh.. but I’m not going there), although he should: If I reject the delivery of the package and say “bye, bye” to Simyo, Zeleris’ driver doesn’t care. He does have absolutely nothing to do with my satisfaction as a Simyo customer.

And that's exactly the moment in which this kind of outsourcing can become a risk for your business.

What things could you do to keep this from happening to you?

In such an specific situation as the one I narrated above, I think it would be interesting if Simyo had designed a way to contact me to confirm the SIM cards were delivered properly and that I had no problem with its delivery.

Make sure you have full control over what your customers experiences with your company, at all times.

Had a monitoring mechanism of this type being implemented, and had the people from Zeleris (the outsourced) been aware that their work was being directly monitored by their paying customer (Simyo), the story would have been completely different.

And I'm sure that in many situations like this, monitoring mechanisms can be implemented, so that you can always be sure that your customers are having a positive experience with your company.

Keep in mind that even something as simple as receiving a package is part of the overall experience your customers have with you, and even though it would seem as a minor thing, it doesn’t mean it’s less important.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When The Crisis Explodes, Don’t Focus Your Eyes On The Tip Of The Iceberg.

Focusing on the tip of the "iceberg"?
According to the experts, only one ninth of the iceberg is visible above the water surface, and the rest remains submerged. Never to be seen, unless we dive deep into the water and, only then, we would be totally shocked for sure: If that thing is huge out of the water, imagine confirming it’s up ti 8 times larger underneath the surface. It must be an awesome, breathtaking sight.

When it comes to managing the reputation of your business online, it works the same way: When the crisis finally breaks through, you're only seeing a small part of the whole process that led to it. The remaining, the greatest and most important part, stays under the water, and never makes it to the surface.

I'm going to tell you a real life, recently lived story which completely reflects this whole process and I’d like to share with you why I consider it important for you to take your business’ reputation management seriously, and going even beyond that, why you should take the service you provide to your customers seriously, regardless of their company’s size.

You start off with the wrong foot when your sole goal is to close the deal.

Just over a month ago, some friends and I made the decision to hire the services of a company. This company offered three different "packages": Basic, Professional and Advanced.

I must admit we did spent a while discussing which would be the best package for us to choose, maybe a little more than usual, however this was an important decision for us take and we didn’t want to take it lightly.

We decided to buy their “Advanced” package, on the belief we would receive a better treatment than we would if had gone with the "Basic" package. What a huge disappointment it was!

As it turns out, once we bought their “Advanced” package, and after receiving the corresponding "Thank you for your purchase" and "We are at your service for whatever you need" automated messages, nothing else happened.

And even when we have emailed them several times after the purchase, trying to communicate them our concerns and asking them for their assistance in a couple of points, there hasn’t been any response so far, and it’s been more than twenty days since our purchase.

What’s our conclusion? You buy, you pay and then the magic is over. It would have been better to buy the "Basic" package instead of the "Advanced" one, save the extra money and be on the understanding that we’re going to receive their “basic” services, as it has been so far.

A frustrated customer is a reputation crisis in the making for your company.

As I mentioned before, several weeks have gone by since we decided to hire this company’s services and so far we’ve not received a response from them in regards to emails we’ve sent, and we do not expect to receive it either.

Since my colleagues and I move within these social networks world, we have been evaluating over the last few conversations whether or not it would be worth to bring this issue to social media, raise our voice and see if the company decides to pay attention to us.

All company deserve an opportunity to recognize their mistake and make it up to you. Do not keep them from it.

But we’ve thought that, as professionals ourselves (and since we are in social media with good vibes and attitude), it’s well worth to give the company an opportunity to listen to us, without bringing the situation to social media.

An opportunity to review things, recognize the mistake they’ve made servicing  their "Advanced" customers in such an non professional way, and avoid what could represent an important reputation crisis for them: Having 5 social media professionals sharing with their respective audiences how frustrated they have came to be for the bad service received.

Which would be the tip of the iceberg in our situation?

The tip of the iceberg would afloat if we were to decide to speak out our minds and make our complaint public on social networks. At that time, the company would surely turn their eyes towards us and, perhaps, listen.

But only at that time, once the issue has already made it to the spotlight, for everybody to see, with consequences that are difficult to measure.

Why wait for the crisis to explode, to serve customers who complain?

But at that point, the damage would be done already, at least for us as their customers. Our feelings towards them have changed radically and we have came from considering them serious and professional individuals to just one more company, another one on the bunch, like so many others.

Are we likely to do business with them? For sure not. Will we recommend our peers to do business with them? Certainly not. If we were to take a customer satisfaction survey (those that are so trendy now), which do you think our response would be?

Learn to recognize the part of the iceberg that does not come to the surface.

As I mentioned above, we have not yet decided to make our complaint public, and our of good consideration, we probably wouldn’t go for it.

And the same thing would probably not happen to you as your angry customers, those who have received a poor service from your company, will never make their complaint public. You might never see the tip of the iceberg you’ve created afloat, but that doesn’t mean that damage to your company’s reputation has not occurred.

How many angry customers have to raise their voice against you, so that you take action and pay attention to them?

Because, at the end of the day, to a disgruntled customer it’s the same thing whether you have just one or a thousand customers who feel like him. He would simply stop doing business with you, will not say good things about your company if asked for his opinion, and definitely will not recommend you to anyone.

Remember that it’s been statistically proven that every unhappy customer will share his bad experience with up to 15 people within his own network.

If that’s something you consider important as an entrepreneur, then learn to recognize the crisis itself is only the visible part of your customer’s discomfort and beyond that there is always an unhappy customer who, as it has happened to us, has done his effort to make you aware of their frustration through available ways… if available at all.

And they haven’t been able to do so because you haven’t taken the time to listen, because you were too focused on your one goal of closing more business and nothing else.

Your customers are equally important. Whether they’re big or small, all of them deserve your best treatment.

Copyright: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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