Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Customer is ALWAYS Right

The customer is ALWAYS right, and if you don't believe me, just ask my niece & nephew who either are full of the but's and why's or are always looking forward to the next best thing as the previous one just dint fit the bill (or it did not once they experienced the next best thing - its a vicious cycle, I'm not sure there is an exit anywhere in the neighborhood).

Why does this one common statement always keep rearing its head? Many have tried to skirt around it, reword/rephrase it, but there is no way to say it, but to keep to the original, "The Customer is ALWAYS Right".

Besides the obvious commercial reasoning behind the statement, business cannot be conducted if the customer is wrong & necessity certainly, in such a world, could not be the mother of innovation.

Growing up, one winter, I had the pleasure of being tasked with surveying preschooler's about Christmas, Kris Kringle, the whole notion of gift giving, asking and delivering, etc. As I reflect back, I now realize I was asking questions that generated responses that spoke to customer relationship mechanisms, feedback loops, research & development, the supply chain, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not commercializing Christmas, simply exploring what the customer (the kids) expected from their vendor/retailer/their dealer of all types of kiddie addictions - Santa Claus, his reindeers & the elves. Besides, Hallmark has cornered the market in commercializing holidays these days.

I think about the responses I received and reflect on how we deal with this specific audience and their need to romanticize this specific holiday with magic, while trying to explain operations in real terms. It is fascinating to receive this feedback first hand, but am not sure it is looped back into how we respond to it appropriately. Yes, we have a lot of folks in Santa suits and line-up's to speak to him, while having cookies from Mrs. Claus and being constantly bothered with elvish mannerisms, but to truly reflect back their ideologies, requires a thorough analysis of what they, the customer, require during this season.

I am now thinking about my recent interactions in both hemisphere's (eastern & western), and the one commonality I find is that, organizations are willing to spend millions through customer feedback on what they need to work on, but are quite poor in translating brand promises from corporate to front line realities in all facets of their interface with their clientele. Not only does it take quite the individual to deal with clients, but it also takes quite the organization to inform, educate and translate client acquisition messages into operational realities. This alone can further our need to continue reselling and upselling our clients, rather than continuing to acquire clients through a barrage of more expensive mechanisms.

We talk about employee retention, let's dashboard customer retention and growth as well as a norm, while trying to continually deliver what we inherently promise. I leave you with one final thought; it is not Ok to have even one client dissatisfied over one transaction over the life of that relationship, no matter how big an organization is and no matter how insignificant that transaction may be in the bigger scheme of things - if this mantra can be maintained, perhaps there is hope for us yet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Efficient Inefficiencies

My recent trip homeward bound has me evaluating the business precepts we keep pushing within the confines of academia, and how most if not all of them do not hold true in this world of constant movement of economies.

Captains of business, leaders galore are all around you, and not necessarily celebrated as it is in the western worlds. Here it is a natural state of existence, an almost predetermined future of what you are destined for - absolute entrepreneurship, in every way sense of that term.

Studies have been conducted to capture this unnerving, yet eery sense of accurate, yet profitable means of conducting economic miracles, however, fail to truly document the essence of the success that drives it.

As I bounce around in the roller coaster of a ride, down a road that is termed a highway, where you do not get to move any faster than 50 km/hr on a good day, I start trying to dissect the means of this continued success. When I see infrastructure issues such as poor roadways, standard cuts for running water and electricity, yet find skyscrapers, 5 star deluxe hotels and corporate entities that hold an international presence, I remain perplexed.

My western education tells me there is something wrong with this picture and its not sustainable, yet my eastern origins teach of me pursuing through adversity's and doing whatever is required to succeed inspite of them.

I believe there to be a fundamental cultural norm that exists here, that does abundantly well as it currently stands, with the western exposures probably eating away at the core of what made it poised for success.

There needs to be a hard look at the efficiency of the human spirit, which is in contrast to the paradoxical lifestyle that is dictated by the gadget friendly, technology driven, theory dictated mechanism that clearly does not work in today's day and age.

India is not a perfect business incubator, however, it does have a lot going for it, it has the right type of entrepreneur, willing to do anything to succeed beyond measure. It is this individual drive and corporate culture that is going to see the rise of this former Raj colony beyond its own organic and ingrained shadows. Atleast for the foreseeable future, the sun will not be setting on the shores or the vast ranges of this spicy sub-continent.