Customer Service Starts with Employees

April 28th, 2015
engage and empower employees

Superior customer service starts with employees but is guided by strong leadership.

Have you ever seen a company that provides consistent, exceptional service for its customers that has unhappy employees? I never have! From my view, it is not possible for longer than a short-term time frame.

On the other hand, if you empower and engage your employees, you’ll find that customer service follows. It is no accident that the Ritz Carlton provides exceptional service. They know it starts with their employees. If you have a problem at the Ritz, whoever is helping you (from a baggage handler to a maid) will make sure you walk away satisfied – without asking for approval.

The problem is that it isn’t easy to create this culture. Empowering and engaging employees means that you must let them try new ideas and fail. You must support them giving away more money than is necessary while they learn the ropes. You must be willing to live with – and support – the choices your employees make.

The key to empowering and engaging employees begins with leadership. I’ve yet to work with a client that had empowered and engaged employees with a weak leader on top. Yet I’ve seen the least likely suspects turn into empowered and engaged employees with an exceptional leader on top! 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

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The Importance of What is NOT Happening

April 27th, 2015

supply chainQuality must be an assumption. The problem with assumptions such as service and quality is that people lose focus because there is little conversation about the topics when “all is well”. People are typically not rewarded for things that don’t happen. For example, if there is a crisis, people are rewarded for resolving the crisis and working long hours to work through the situation; however, if they avoid the crisis altogether, it might go unnoticed. Worse, they might get push back on working on the topic at all because it hasn’t proven to be an issue! As leaders, we must appreciate what is NOT happening.

It is not magic or luck. In working with clients of many industries and sizes, it is apparent that “working smart” is what avoids crises. And, most of these crises are well worth avoiding! I was just talking with one of my clients about this topic. They have done an impressive job and are in great shape from many perspectives – well ahead of their competition actually – however, they will not thrive if they continue to be plagued by quality issues. We must build quality, service, safety and these types of fundamentals into the culture as critical norms!

One tip to implement this week:

The first step in noticing what hasn’t occurred is to take a step back and observe. What is going on around you? Do you know why people are doing what they are doing? If not, ASK. You might find out it is to avoid a major pitfall. Showing interest is one way to ensure it becomes an assumption. Another idea is to make sure you are capturing the “right” metrics ­– which numbers are important to your business and results? Watch these trends carefully. You’ll be reminded of the importance even if the trend is continually “good”. Go talk with the team making that happen!

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


Avoiding Top Project Pitfalls

April 24th, 2015
avoid project pitfalls

Project roadblocks will happen. Chart a course that allocates your attention and resources on the most critical projects.

Project results drive business performance! In my experience in working with countless companies ranging from small to multi-billion dollar ones, I’ve yet to run across one that wasn’t dependent on project results to meet critical company objectives. Actually, quite the opposite is typically the case – too many projects with too few resources are vital to performance. Thus, those executives who find ways to ensure project success will outpace the competition.

For example, one of my significant manufacturing aerospace clients is experiencing delivery challenges. Thus, there are several projects which are geared towards improving the order fulfilment processes to improve delivery performance. If they do not deliver results, customers will leave. What could be more important than that?

The bottom line is that project failure is not an option! Yet 0% of my clients have enough resources, and they are especially short on the right resources with the right skills to deliver these projects. Given this state of affairs, it is important to understand the top project pitfalls – and, of course, how to avoid them.

A few of the most common pitfalls include the following:

  1. Too many projects: If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. I’ve yet to go into a client that didn’t have more priorities than they could meet successfully in the timeframes desired. Thus, something is bound to fall through the cracks.
  1. Too few resources: Often times, there are just too few resources to manage projects while keeping the rest of the day-to-day priorities moving. Since the recession, companies don’t over-hire; thus, staffing projects can be a quandary.
  1. Lack of skills: Even if they happen to have enough resources or can pull resources into key projects, it is rare that the people on the project team have the appropriate skills to ensure the timely delivery of results. People are moving jobs, retiring, getting promoted, etc. Typically I find that high-skilled resources jump on the chance to be involved in a high-impact project; however, there are never enough to go around.
  1. Lack of a plan: Because executives are focused on immediate results, they tend to “jump right in” and being without a plan to back it up. If there is no plan, how do you know if you are off track?
  1. Lack of focus: Is there a clear critical path? Is everyone on the same page as to the priority? If each project team member focuses on what he/she thinks is important and isn’t aligned with the team, there will be a lack of focus. This is not uncommon!

Given these pitfalls, a few strategies to ensure success include the following:

  1. Prioritize goals: If there are too many projects, it probably means you have too many goals. Go back to your strategy and objectives. What is most important in order to achieve your objectives? Pick only 3 goals. Then, determine which projects tie to those goals. Limit the number of projects.
  1. Reallocate resources: The great news is that if you start with too many projects, you’ll likely have resources available once you slash the number of projects to the essential few. Reallocate those resources. If you still have too few resources, look for ways to automate daily tasks so that you can reallocate additional resources to projects.
  1. Develop & outsource skills: Project management skills are not developed as an aside. Make sure to provide training and education to bring the skills up in your organization. It is likely you’ll still need additional skills. Bring them in! Projects are short-term needs. Find resources with the specialized skill required and bring them in as a temp, contractor or consultant. Supplement as needed.
  1. Make your first priority to plan: Resist the temptation to start doing. Take a step back and build a plan with your project team. If you receive push back from executives, explain the critical importance of flawless execution. A plan doesn’t have to take months to put together. Bring your team together, dedicate a day and do not the leave the room without a plan.
  1. Build a critical path: The best way to know where to focus is to clearly identify the critical path. Which tasks are dependent on other tasks? Which tasks are on the path which will impact project timing? Focus attention on just those tasks. Remind task owners on the critical path. Remove roadblocks.

In today’s new normal business environment, project results are of paramount importance as growth and profitability is cornerstone to success. Identifying and removing project pitfalls is a top priority, and you’ll elevate your business performance. 

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Project Failure: How to Avoid Top Causes

Are Check Points Required to Deliver Project Results?


Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

April 21st, 2015

With every business looking for a customer service edge your CRM system should set you apart from your competitors to create customer loyalty.

Keeping with the customer theme, I thought a brief discussion on CRM would be in order. In the last 5 years, I’ve seen the importance of CRM double, at a minimum. The critical importance of customer service has emerged, and so having tools to aid with this process has become trendy – and helps to grow the business.

To determine what you need in a CRM system, start with your customers. What is important to your customers? Determine the top 3 ways you’d like to leverage a CRM system to help you develop relationships with your customers. I often refer to these as critical success factors – what will “make a difference” to your customer and your business?

Once you know your top 3 critical success factors, dig into the specific functionality that supports these areas. For example, if managing your pipeline is important, you should look for software that has robust capabilities on tracking prospects, stages of the business, probabilities of success, etc. On the other hand, if you want to remember to call your key customer or prospect every month to offer value, advanced pipeline management capabilities can be a deterrent. You just want software with call management features and reminders. CRM software is becoming more robust, and it is often embedded with upgraded ERP systems. A bit of searching will yield the perfect CRM to support your particular customer requirements. 

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Watching Metrics Trends 

The Value of CRM


Cherry Blossoms & The Value of Time

April 20th, 2015

supply chainI was in DC this week for a conference. My theme last week was on continuous learning, and I put that into practice this week. Walked away with several ideas. It just so happens to be “cherry season” in DC. This is what got me thinking about time because the cherry trees are beautiful but only in blossom and last for 10-14 days. How ridiculous is that? Talk about a condensed tour season for cherry blossoms! Perhaps that’s why all the hotels were booked….

Thus, cherry trees made me think about the impact of time in our work life as well. If there is one common theme I hear from executives, it is that TIME matters – there isn’t enough time in the day; customers are demanding quick deliveries; month-end close must be rapid for quick decision-making, etc. I guarantee if you take too long to make decisions, you will miss opportunities. When you are 80% ready, GO! Sure, sometimes you’ll be wrong but you’ll gain many more successes that would be missed opportunities than you’ll experience in failures.

One tip to implement this week:

The nice thing about time is that it is not a resource; it is a priority. We cannot increase or decrease the number of hours in a day; however, we choose where we spend our time – a priority. Thus, one easy tip that might be hard to implement is to stop whining about the lack of time!  Instead, think about where you are spending your time. Even track what you are doing for a day – hour by hour.

Did you waste much more than you thought? Reallocate your time to what will drive results – your A tasks. Ignore your C’s – you might never get to them; however, wouldn’t it be better to miss a C than an A because you started with what was easy vs. what should be your priority? Also, consider this: Find a non-essential activity you can cut 15 minutes from on a daily basis. It will be pretty easy if you create that hour-by-hour log. If you do that for a year, you’ll have found 91 hours!

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”