Posts Tagged ‘service’

Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication

by Tanmay Vora on November 19, 2009

Welcome to the ninth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first eight posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual

#QUALITYtweet How NOT to deliver total quality:

Focus on quality of product without focusing on

quality of relationship and communication

In an increasingly service oriented business environment, what you sell is not just a product but an experience. People may forget explicit details like specifications or price, but never forget the experience they had when they bought the product.

Experience extended to end-customers largely depends on attitude, values and behaviors of each individual who interacts with a customer. One of the most important challenges is to keep this group of people aligned to organization’s quality system and values.

Communication is the backbone of organization’s success in marketplace. Effective internal and external communication within an organization ensures that:

  • Your employees understand your value system
  • They understand what is expected out of them
  • They are motivated to walk an extra mile to deliver excellent service
  • Your customers know your value system
  • You build trust-based relationship with your people and customers with consistent communication
  • Manage expectations with your people and customers.

How can you motivate your teams to deliver excellent customer experiences through simple communication processes? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Train:

Training your internal team can be your biggest tool for clearly explaining the process of communication and how important it is for the business. Consistently train your people on value systems, leadership, quality management, effective communication, what works in customer management, what not, expectations management and cultural aspects of client’s location. Clients also need training on how best they can use your products. Companies organize client workshops to educate them about different aspects of product/service. Train consistently to streamline communication.

Support:

Once your people are trained, you need to support them in doing right things. Supporting can be a simple act of being there with your people when they talk to customers. Help them improve and share feedback on how are they doing. Some companies may see this activity as an “overhead” but it is an “investment” in your people.

Monitor:

Once you have confidence that your people will be able to do the right communication, monitor them. Take periodic feedback from them. Communicate consistently to ensure that they are motivated enough to continue doing it.

Delivering consistently superior experience to your customers (via quality of products and communication) results in a long-term relationship based on trust. In business, as in life, relationships are crucial. Quality of your relationships is as important as quality of your products, or perhaps, even more.

How hurtful is your product or service offering?

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 5, 2009

hurtAs an entrepreneur, whatever product or service that you sell, it is critical to look at not only how it helps your customers; but also to look at how it might hurt your customers. Most of the offers that exist in the marketplace end up being ordinary and have little value associated with them, because they end up “hurting” customers at places which have serious consequences for them. The “hurt” can be of different types (and depending on what the level is, it hurts the marketability of the product or service) and you want to stay as far away as possible from the one that comes with the serious consequences for your customers.

Here’s a little personal story of mine: I recently bought a new bed frame from one of the discounted retail stores. It was a beautiful wooden (brownish) frame; both my wife and I loved it. While my wife strolled around to the other parts of the store, I walked around the bed inspecting it and marveled to myself how it’d look in the room we were thinking of putting it in. While I was mentally playing taking this beautiful piece of furniture home, I heard my wife call me from the other aisle. As I started walking towards her casually; I felt a sharp pain under my kneecap and immediately sat down. That’s when I noticed that the bed had a protruding part on the corners of it (the corners where the legs would go) which could easily go unnoticed (Hello?) and “hurt” people. Suddenly, the beauty, the wooden frame and the comfort vanished from my mind and all I could remember was the “hurt” that I felt from my little accident with the bed frame and how “dangerous” it could be for people in the house. The product (or service) called “The bed” immediately lost its marketability with me, its customer.

While you are designing your product or service for providing the fantastic help that it’ll provide your customer, be sure you give a thought to how it might “hurt” your customers. While one can argue that it’s impossible to come up with a product/service that is “Perfect” in all aspects and causes no “hurt”, one can surely design it in a way so that the “hurt” is kept to a minimum. Here are a couple of levels of hurt to consider while you think of the design of your offer:
1. Fundamental Hurt – This is what I call the “Deal Breaker”. This is the hurt that will instantly kill any marketability of your product or service. It wouldn’t matter how aesthetically tasteful your product is; it wouldn’t matter how practical it is or how valuable it is. If your product or service hurts a fundamental concern; it will, in all likelihood, not be very marketable. My example, above fits the bill for “fundamental hurt”. The bed, regardless of how comfortable and elegant it was, was dangerous to the fundamental concern of my body. The moment that dawned upon me; the offer was outta-the-door for me.

2. Derivative Hurt – This is something that the customer sees as not impacting his or her core concerns and thus, is open to a cost-benefit analysis of whatever product or service it is that he or she is considering buying. It’s like your offer gets a Second-chance-at-least kind of hurt. This is where most of the “good” products or services fall in. They all “Cost” something (which obviously hurts the customer in a way since it eats into his or her resources) but if the Return is good, the Cost is viewed as more of an investment and the conversation suddenly centralizes around the ROI, and not just the “Hurt”. As an example, offers such as entertainment magazines and Television fall in this category. They provide customers with a sensation called “Relaxation” and “Fun” in return for the money and time they cost the customers.

When you are designing your products and services; look closely for what kind of “Hurt” they might cause your customers… and stay away from the “Fundamental Hurt” as much as possible!

Branding – What’s the point?

by Laura Lowell on October 1, 2009

whats the point brandingWe’re all bombarded with thousands of messages each day – personally and professionally. Maybe it’s because of new media like Twitter, LinkedIn or FaceBook. Maybe it’s the internet in general.  Whatever the cause, the effect is the same. The volume of marketing messages is overwhelming to most Americans. In fact, 60 percent have signed up for the do-not-call registry; 33 percent have installed Web pop-up blockers, and nine percent have signed on to a do-not-e-mail list (and 40 percent may want to). So the question is: “How do you break through in this environment?”  One answer: Branding.

Everyone has a different definition of branding – everything from your logo, your message, to your visions and personality.  Each of these is correct in a way.  My definition (just so we’re clear) is that a brand is a promise; a promise of authenticity and value and sets our expectations about the product or service we associate with the brand.

That’s all well and good, but here’s the real question:  What’s the point of having a catchy slogan if it doesn’t strengthen or support your business? Why invest in PR if it doesn’t translate into increased awareness and recognition? Why go to trade shows if they don’t produce high-quality leads? Branding, or a promise to your customers, is a way to differentiate yourself in a crowded market so your company can sell more stuff.  Short and simple.

Independently, without a coherent brand strategy, these tactics do little to attract customers and drive revenue. However, as part of an integrated brand and marketing strategy, these and other tactics are the foundation that will deliver results for your business. Sounds simple, right? Well, often the simplest things are the hardest to do.

Here are three things you can do today to make sure your brand is doing it’s job – helping your company sell more stuff.

  1. Look at your website: Is your brand consistently applied on your website?  Do you use the same logo, or do you have multiple logos scattered about the place?  What about your messaging, are you delivering similar yet different messages and confusing your customers?
  2. Ask 10 people what they think: You want to know what they think your brand stands for.  Hopefully you get similar responses, and hopefully they are right on target.  If not, well, you have more work to do.
  3. Step out of the box: Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Step outside your company and look at what’s going on around you.  Is your brand relevant in today’s market?  Are you linking with current events and trends?

Marketing should get people’s attention, and convince them to consider your company’s products or services over the competition. An integrated brand including strategy, messages, visual identity, and other marketing tactics extends the impact of your marketing investments. You can more efficiently and effectively improve awareness, produce leads and ultimately drive revenue. After all, isn’t that the point?


Cost of Health?

by Guy Ralfe on June 24, 2009

stethoscopeWhat is the likelihood of a small startup being successful if its members don’t take their health seriously? In small companies it is known that everyone has to wear multiple hats and it usually takes all hands on deck just to keep things going. So if you have an unhealthy1 person or organization can you afford the cost?

There are numerous studies and statistics on how much health affects the performance of an individual. It is also known that in business people have to work in social networks in order to get tasks done and the mood of one can often lower the mood of a group. Often the findings of health studies on employees or employers environments with poor health shows up with increased absence, lower work-rate, mistakes, minimal teamwork and poorer customer service. All of these are expensive costs to any size business.

Who do you want out there in front of your clients and prospective customers  – your lean healthy employee that got up and exercised before work, is energized and in a great enthusiastic mood for the day ahead or your overweight and unkempt employee that no one in the office will work with? Choices like this are easy but we don’t always find ourselves in a position to choose, often this degradation of health takes place over a period of time. The answer lies in not trying to avoid the issue – and that is by both the employer and employee – but to make a conscious decision to act to take care of it.

A company in the UK – Parcelforce – in a bid to improve employee motivation and attendance, introduced health screening clinics, gym memberships, bicycle loans and health education support covering stress, smoking and nutrition. Absence reduced by 33%, employee satisfaction improved by a similar amount, workplace accidents reduced by 45% and the program contributed towards productivity and customer service improvements.

As individuals our bodies are the one source of god given power that we all have by virtue of being born – How we take care of our health over our 40 odd year careers is likely the most powerful daily decisions we will make!

1 Unhealthy being anyone not respecting their bodies like illness, weight problems, poor diet, smoking, alcohol and drugs abuse, physical fitness, mental health, work-related stress, tiredness, irritability