1. Employee attitude can create a stellar customer experience

    March 28, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Customer Service Experience by Dr Jason Price

    One of the great things about commenting on customer service is the day you get to tell a story about the little things that, in reality, go to create a truly spectacular customer service experience.

    Leading management author, Ken Blanchard, has written extensively [1] about how customer service employees make the difference in providing an exceptional customer experience.

    Ken’s experiences tell us that satisfied customers aren’t enough – we should look to create experiences that make “raving fans” of our organisation.

    Today, I’m a raving fan of Upper Hutt City Council in New Zealand for the simple, dedicated actions taken – well above and beyond the call of duty – by their website administrator, Maria. It’s a story that I think should be mandatory reading for every customer service advisor who works on an e-mail response team anywhere on the planet.

    Proof positive, just like my previous article on FedEx, how simple, thoughtful and committed belief from one customer-facing employee creates a genuinely exceptional customer experience enhancing an organisation’s brand.

    A great customer experience is driven by employee attitudes

    What’s got me so excited? It wasn’t a tough enquiry, but the response I received from Maria showed the kind of commitment to customer service values that every manager is crying out for in their team.

    Here’s what happened to me last night…

    I’m at home, in the evening, browsing the Upper Hutt City Council website for some property related information. It’s a routine transaction and I quickly find the right page from a first time search. However, when I click on a link to the relevant document, it turns out all the links on this page are broken.

    That happens in any website sometimes, so I selected the ‘feedback’ form on the page and left my comment that the page links were all broken. It was 8:46pm at night.

    At 9:51pm, I received a very polite e-mail from Maria thanking me for the feedback, apologising for the inconvenience caused and letting me know that the site links had been fixed if I’d like to try again.

    This wasn’t an auto-response e-mail letting me know a team would look into it. This was a personalised e-mail from a human being, telling me (at quarter to ten at night) that they’d received my e-mail, fixed my problem and were terribly sorry I’d been inconvenienced.

    Not since Craig from FedEx appeared at my door with a cheery grin holding a parcel have my expectations been so dramatically blown away. I clicked on the page again, and lo and behold, all the links were fixed and I was able to look up the information I wanted – in a fraction over one hour from my first contact.

    Now let’s be clear about this, Upper Hutt City Council is a relatively small Local Government authority at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island and Maria left the office at 4:30pm.

    Global businesses with 24×7 contact centres that tell me they value my feedback, but refuse to actually respond when I provide it (and trust me, I always provide feedback)? Your contact centres could learn more than a thing or two from Maria at Upper Hutt City Council.

    Going above and beyond to excel in customer service

    Blanchard talks at length about the role of customer contact employees going above and beyond customer service, and that delivering whenever possible is the key to creating raving fans. It’s this dedication to service that creates unforgettable customer experiences [2] .

    In this case, an employee who’d actually finished her working day at 4:30pm cared enough about an individual’s customer experience to put something right – and send them a personal response right there and then to help them get their business done – rather than waiting for the next morning.

    That’s a definitive example of putting the customer first, above and beyond the call of duty.

    As with my FedEx experience, it was the final response I received from Maria that propelled this from a story about commitment into a stellar customer experience. Simply put, her final e-mail demonstrated a personal belief in customer service that would gladden the heart of so many contact centre managers.

    When I expressed my thanks for such a fast fix, her e-mail reply (again, within minutes at 10:21pm) was to say that “I know it’s frustrating and inconvenient when technology does not provide the information you need – when you need it!”

    Rather than an automatic out of hours response, I got a dedicated, personal service from an off duty employee who cares enough about her customers, her job and the brand reputation of Upper Hutt City Council to go the extra mile. In doing so, she created a raving fan.

    Simple, caring employee actions make all the difference.

    Exceptional people, like Maria, make for a stellar customer service experience.

    [1] Blanchard, K, Bowles, S (1993), Raving Fans: A revolutionary approach to customer service, New York: HarperCollins; Blanchard, K (2007), Leading at a Higher Level, London: Pearson.
    [2] Blanchard, K (2007, p.55), Leading at a Higher Level, London: Pearson

  2. Why Support Use of the Baldrige Framework?

    March 25, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Why the American Hospital Association (AHA) believes that using the Baldrige Health Care Criteria can help hospitals get better faster was explained recently in an audio podcast by Gene O’Dell, vice president for strategic planning and performance excellence for AHA.

    “From a hospital perspective, using the Baldrige model can help you achieve better patient ahaodellsatisfaction, clinical outcomes that are aligned with patient requirements, workforce satisfaction, . . . greater efficiencies and operational performance, and improved execution of your strategies,” said O’Dell.

    AHA, which is a sponsor of the 2015–2016 Baldrige Excellence Framework (Health Care), sees the Baldrige sponsorship in alignment with its own performance excellence journey, Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence Initiative, and strategic plan, including strategies to reduce cost and improve care and population health. As a framework sponsor, AHA provided a digital copy of the framework to all of its members and encourages its use for improvement.

    “Baldrige is the overall organizing framework that can identify where there are problems,” said O’Dell. “Think of Baldrige like a map that will show the organization where . . . Six Sigma, Lean, and other tools should be deployed. . . . If an organization deploys [such tools] without an overall map as Baldrige, it would be like taking a trip in a car but not having a map to know the way.”

    According to O’Dell, organizations—no matter their size or the type of services they offer—can use the Baldrige framework to answer three simple questions:

    • Is your organization doing as well as it could?
    • How do you know?
    • What should your organization improve or change?

    “Baldrige helps you to integrate the organization to better align a patient’s requirements with the systems that will deliver what patients want and ensure those are linked to clinical outcomes,” he said. “Baldrige helps focus you on the core values, giving you a systems perspective that is process dependent, not people dependent; visionary leadership, with leaders focused on the future and changing the business model not just running the business. But [the Baldrige framework] has a patient-focused excellence component, too, delivering ever-improving, high-quality health care to patients. And it also really values people. An engaged workforce that finds personal meaning and motivation in their work, and when they receive positive interpersonal and workplace support this really improves the entire organization.”

    Added O’Dell, “When you speak with Baldrige Award winners, while they’re honored to have received the award, the real reward is how the process has improved and continues to improve their organizations. . . . Because, you see, pursuing performance improvement is not a destination, it’s but a journey, and more importantly you don’t have to apply for an award to get started in evaluating your organization and identifying areas for improvement.”

  3. What Executives Value in Their CEOs

    March 20, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on HBR by Leslie Gaines-Ross

    A CEO’s reputation is a key part of a company’s success.

    Few would disagree with that. But how about specifics? Weber Shandwick conducted new research with KRC Research, The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era, among more than 1,750 executives in 19 markets worldwide. We sought out the perspectives of those closest to the CEO, those in the best position to judge.

    We found that nearly one half of a company’s corporate reputation (45%) is attributable to its CEO’s reputation. Similarly, 44% of a company’s market value is attributable to its CEO’s reputation. Tellingly, one-half (50%) of the global executives we surveyed report that they expect CEO reputation to matter even more over the next few years.  Global executives also say that a positive CEO reputation attracts new employees (77%) and helps to retain them (70%).

    We found that executives value a few key attributes more than others. Among them:

    1. Humility. Only one out of four CEOs in our study were described by their executives as being humble. Yet we found that highly regarded CEOs are nearly six times as likely as less highly regarded CEOs to be described as humble (34% vs. 6%, respectively). While there are still some well-known celebrity CEOs out there, today’s CEOs have to demonstrate their humility, not their celebrity, and make it clear that the company, not themselves, is their focus.

    Humble CEOs motivate and empower those around them, share employees’ values, and listen well. They use their reputations on behalf of all.  They rely on their senior teams to validate strategy.  They build cultures that are about the collective whole, not individual rising stars.

    This is a nascent trend that will undoubtedly continue to grow. Global media coverage of humble CEOs has spiked 200% in the past year and mentions have risen 70% in a Google search.

    2. Visibility. While it’s important to be humble, a successful CEO can’t be a wallflower. A hefty 81% of global executives believe that for a company to be highly regarded it is important for CEOs to have a visible public profile.  In addition, admired CEOs are four times more likely to be skilled at engaging the public than those with less admired status (50% vs. 13%, respectively).  When engaging the public, CEOs are the purveyors of the company’s narrative. It is this narrative that must stand out amidst the informational deluge that besets the public. The CEO therefore must attend to the clarion call, standing up and standing out so as to tell the company’s story.  Given the glut of competing information bombarding society, however, standing up and standing out is no easy task.  It is immensely difficult to get the story of one’s company not only heard, but also recalled and shared.  All of which leads to our next finding.

    3. Persuasiveness. The CEO must convey the company narrative and satisfy the marketplace’s demand for content and transparency through both traditional methods of storytelling (such as media interviews) and newly developed digital channels.  Which of the many communications channels are most important?  The majority of global executives (82%) believe speaking engagements to be most beneficial when engaging external stakeholders.  Industry-specific speaking engagements are more important than non-industry ones. Other important external CEO activities are building relationships with the media, using the company website strategically, and identifying compelling thought leadership platforms. Social media participation is also viewed favorably.  A full 43% of respondents deem using social media a worthwhile CEO activity to demonstrate the company’s forward-looking ideas and clear vision for the future and, of course, to elucidate the company story.

    Along with public visibility and engagement, however, comes some risk.  When asked whether CEO visibility positively or negatively impacts company reputation overall, an equal number said it improves reputation (41%) as said it can either improve or harm reputation (41%).   Just 10% said visibility serves only to harm a company’s reputation. So the smart CEO takes advantage of the positives but is wary of the negatives.

    Global executives today are luckier than ever — a rich ecosystem of channels exists to promote the company’s business strategy, greater purpose, and company story. Customers are ready to engage with the CEO, and conferences with receptive audiences are exploding.

    CEOs now generally accept what has long been apparent:  like it or not, they are public figures.  By virtue of digital communications we all have in some sense or another gone public.  It is just that some of us, CEOs in particular, are more public than others. There is no turning back. It’s time to embrace engagement — but in a most humble way.

  4. Being Too Busy is a Mindset, NOT a Badge of Honour

    March 16, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Better Time Management Habits by Robyn Pearce

    A client on one of my Sydney courses shared with the group how he’d changed the culture of his company from one of ‘ we’ve got SO much to do that we have to work long hours’ to ‘we manage our load effectively and profitably within reasonable hours.’

    He was the owner of a very busy printing business and until about two years earlier had constantly left work about 8pm, due to the work load. His staff of 10 also worked really long hours.

    Just before his first baby was due, he had an epiphany. It struck him that if he was ever to see his coming child he needed to change his ways. He was also a keen sailor but at the time frustrated with how seldom he got out on the water. Instead, his boat was growing weed and barnacles as it languished on the marina. Hard on the heels of this introspection came the awareness that if the work hours were having a negative impact on him, his staff might also be having problems.

    So he decided he had to put a stop to the long hours, even if it had a negative impact on their profitability. choice, chance and change

    ‘From now on we all leave the premises by 6pm, me included,’ he announced one day.

    The result was startling. Not only did people get their work done by 6pm but the profitability of the firm increased. What they all realised was that, when they had less hours in which to get the work done, they were focused and worked more efficiently. Also, because everyone had more free time they came into work rested and fresh.

    There’s also a further element to this scenario – the power of the words out of our mouth. Previously he’d said, ‘We have to work late. There’s so much work that long hours is the only way to keep on top of it.’ The new phrase became, ‘We do our work within an 8 or 9 hour work day, efficiently and profitably. We leave work by 6 pm at the latest, knowing that we’ve done our best.’

    How often do you hear people say: ‘I’m flat out’, ‘I’ve hardly time to think’, ‘I’m exhausted with all this work on’ or ‘There’s never enough hours in the day’?

    At first listening it sounds positive. After all, if we’re really busy we’re probably making money. We all want to know our income is secure. For many, an abundance of work equals income. But maybe there are other ways to look at the situation.

    Our language is powerful. When we tell ourselves and everyone around us that we don’t have enough time or we’re too busy or too tired or exhausted (any variation will do!), that message becomes part of a loop between our speech and our subconscious. The trusty subconscious says, ‘You want tired, or too much to do, or hardly time to think? OK, I’ll organise that for you. Coming right up.’

    James Allen in his classic little essay ‘As a man thinketh’ , written in 1902 and still available in bookshops today, has devoted his whole essay to the topic. (It’s now in the public domain if you want to get a digital copy).

    Here’s just one quote: ‘The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors, which make for the ultimate good of the individual.’

    Here’s to enjoying work and watching my words!

  5. Catch My Draft? Dissecting the ISO 9001:2015 draft international standard

    by ahmed

    originally posted on Quality Progress by R. Dan Reid

    As you probably know, ISO 9001, the fundamental international quality management system (QMS) standard, is being revised. It is at the draft international standard (DIS) stage at the time of this column’s publication and due to be released in September 2015. Figure below shows the revision timeline.

    This article discusses some content in the current draft, but remember that changes still may be forthcoming, so you should not proceed too far with implementation of new content in the standard at this time.

    Vertical alignment
    It’s important to realize not everything in the new version of ISO 9001 is changing. The 2012 global user survey that was conducted to determine whether a revision to ISO 9001 was needed indicated a majority of users believed the standard was acceptable as-is or with slight modification.

    The support for change came largely from within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) community, when a small task force recommendation to use a new and mandatory clause structure was supported by the ISO technical management board.

    The purpose of this support was to drive standardization among new or revised ISO management system standards, such as those related to quality, the environment, and occupational health and safety. The adopted proposal has been incorporated into the ISO directives, known as Annex SL, and also requires use of some common text under the required clause structure.1

    Some carryover content between the ISO 9001:2008 and ISO/DIS 9001:2015 has to do with the clauses involved in vertical alignment. Many organizations, including those that certify and implement QMSs, do not understand the critical role and linkage of the clauses as intended by the standard writers.

    The first process is to determine customer needs and expectations, which is located in two clauses of the new draft titled, Clause 4.2—Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties, and Clause 5.1.2—Customer focus. There are three sources of specified requirements for organizations:

    1. Internal (for example, engineering).
    2. External (statutory and regulatory).
    3. External (customers).

    The DIS addresses the external requirements in these clauses, which are then input for the quality policy. There are requirements for top management related to the quality policy in ISO 9001—one of which necessitates a commitment to meet applicable specified requirements.

    W. Edwards Deming said management commitment to quality is insufficient without its also knowing what must be done to achieve quality. With ISO 9001 being the minimum set of requirements for a functional QMS, the QMS does not go that far. Without an effective process to determine customer requirements—the quality policy—effectiveness of the QMS is compromised. The quality policy is intended to drive conformance with specified requirements, as well as drive continual improvement of the QMS.

    Note that in ISO 9001, continual improvement of products and services is not required because it would be difficult—if not impossible—for regulated industries to meet that requirement under the current regulatory environment. Continuing suitability of the quality policy is to be reviewed in formal management review meetings.

    Quality objectives are to be established and to be consistent with the quality policy. The DIS defines an objective as a result to be achieved. Objectives start at the enterprise level to address the external specified requirements, such as regulatory and customer-related ones. There are generally five to 10 high-level objectives.

    More detailed objectives, however, are to be deployed to relevant levels and functions within the organization to support the enterprise-level objectives, which are meant to drive conformance with requirements. Objectives are required to be relevant to product and service conformity and to the enhancement of customer satisfaction, and they must be measurable.

    Objectives are part of planning the QMS, but after objectives are met, they should be revised to drive continual improvement. The need for adjustment of the objectives also should be evaluated in the management review process. The current standard lists the clauses in this order, but the revised draft lists objectives after planning, which arguably does not make as much sense. The process for setting objectives and flowing them to relevant levels and functions in the organization is a key driver of continual improvement in the standard. Organizations that do not use objectives in this manner are missing key value in the QMS implementation.

    Objectives are meaningless without plans to achieve them. Plans must list who is going to do what and at what time in the project or process, the required resources and how progress will be measured along the way. Resource determination should be made using data, taking into consideration workload on existing employees, budget and resource availability.

    Risks also must be considered in developing plans to ensure they are adequately prevented or mitigated by the QMS. Use of risk identification and quantification tools is recommended to appropriately prioritize efforts, based on data. Emphasis should be on error-proofing processes to prevent problems from occurring because detection is not as effective as it should be.

    Plans should be reviewed for adequacy prior to release. Plans are developed with some expected end in mind. Ask: Does that end go far enough to meet specified requirements and drive continual improvement? Sometimes, it is known up front that the plans are not adequate to achieve the objectives. When this is the case, management should approve and consider revising the objectives.

    Note that the clause on preventive action in the current ISO 9001 standard is not included in the draft revision. It was associated with the current corrective action clause, which is not truly an effective planning function. Current thinking is that planning the QMS up front is the best preventive action, making a clause linked to corrective action unnecessary.

    After sufficient plans are in place, metrics are needed to monitor progress in achieving the objectives and specified requirements. Just as objectives are set at the enterprise level and deployed to relevant levels and functions in the organization, so must the metrics be set. They must be in place at relevant functions and levels, and for products and processes that can affect quality or delivery. There should be leading, contemporaneous and lagging indicators to adequately monitor the progress of plans being carried out across the organization.

    Data for control charts in high-volume production processes are collected in real time, but a control chart can forecast future process performance if the process is statistically stable. If you have enough data and the process is stable, you can also accurately predict nonproduction process performance, such as achievement of annual cost savings. Lagging indicators, such as those about warranty issues and customer satisfaction, are also important to monitor and react to when necessary.

    With regard to customer satisfaction, many organizations track metrics that are actually indicators of customer dissatisfaction, such as complaints, returns and parts per million (ppm) defects. The assumption is that if these metrics show low occurrence, customer satisfaction is achieved, but this is not necessarily so.

    Your product or service performance may not be bad enough to cause a customer complaint, return or high ppm, but the danger is that a competitor may be satisfying and delighting customers, and your organization would not be able to detect this if it is tracking only customer dissatisfaction metrics.

    Looking at the ISO 9001 DIS, many of the core concepts remain unchanged from the current standard. The changes that are being proposed provide an opportunity to implement the existing requirements more effectively to add value to the organization and not just implement a QMS because customers require it.