Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Glossy Screens and Shiny Cases

I need a new cell phone.

So I've been doing a little research online, visiting stores, listening to sales persons and talking with friends and family. I've checked out T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, iPhone, Blackberry, Pre, myTouch, Vu, Faves, Roll-Overs, the Network and who knows what else.

I've been intoxicated by glossy screens, shiny cases, apps, tools, features, cards, calendars, games, email, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, ring tones, GPS and of course that all important new electronic smell.

In the midst of the excitement and sensory overload, I nearly forgot about what should be the number one criteria -- service!

When I say "service", I'm rolling the whole package together: call quality, connectivity, speed and price.

All of the major manufacturers are pushing their smartphones, all the while our country's data network can't live up to the phones' true capabilities. Did you know that in Japan data speeds for cell phones are up to 21.6 MBps? In the U.S. the highest possible speed is 7.2 MBps but none of the carriers even support it yet!

In the Netherlands, the average citizen pays $131.44 per year for cell phone service. Americans pay an average of $635.85!

Other modern countries are using their phone as a credit card, TV and internet service, but I have to walk outside just to make sure that I have a good signal when my mom calls.

We're supposed to live in the most advanced country in the world, but I'm afraid the glossy screen and shiny case of America is hiding inner-workings that are due for a major upgrade.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Walmart Effect

You know about the Walmart Effect right?

When you hear someone say "They don't make it like they used to," you can bet it's true and you can thank Walmart. They've essentially forced their suppliers to cut corners in production standards in order to keep that not-so-lucrative Walmart contract. Ice cream containers are getting smaller and smaller (trust me, I notice), sandwich bags don’t zzzzzip quite the way they once did. The freshness of meat and produce is questionable at best. And what about customer service? How about ninety-nine lanes and only 6 zoned-out checkers on the day before Thanksgiving? When you're lucky enough to find an employee he's walking the other way so you can only see the "How May I Help You Today?" silkscreened on the back of his blue smock – not that he'd offer to help anyway.

The worst part is we, as patrons of that store, accept their behavior! If we don’t accept it we've, at the very least, become numb to it while pushing our oversized buggies around pallets of yet-to-be-shelved canned goods.

Now, here's the good part. You and your company are in the perfect position to shine. The simplest act of kindness or consideration in your place of business will have your customers thinking they've woken up in Mayberry. "Hi, how may I help you today?" "Oh, yes ma’am, we have that right over here." "Hmmm, take this one instead. It looks a little better."

Why is good customer service even an option? It's the only thing you’ve got to separate yourself from the corporate giants. You know you can't under price them, not over the long-term anyway.

I've been lucky enough to work where that was understood and ingrained in every employee. Make it part of your "corporate culture" and each time you make a difference to someone you'll gain a customer for life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Strategy | Goals | Results

To make more money.
To have more customers.
To be the biggest company in my industry.

Ask someone about his goals and those are answers that you are likely to get. Truth of the matter is, these aren’t goals – they are results! Maybe it's just mere semantics to some, but to me there is a very distinctive difference between the two. If you want more customers, your goal should be to create the very best product in your industry – they will beat your doors down. If you want to make more money then provide your clients with exceptional service and they’ll happily pay you for it.

Achieving results like those listed at the top of the page is no accident; they are the fruits of a sound strategy and specific goals. And while the goal remains the central element of the process, defining a strategy is the key that makes it all possible; otherwise there is no map to success. In my mind, it looks something like this:

Strategy, Goals, Results

This isn’t a new or radical concept, yet I encounter people time after time who are hoping for magical results without a strategy and goal. Don’t be one of those.