How your business can sell a transformation

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It’s obvious in hindsight. Our very best customer service memories happened when something special left us different than we were before. As a result, when we approached the seller again, we were not the same person: we had been transformed.

Lest you think this is an impossible task for your business, take another look. This transformation can happen anywhere. For example, my local pan-chicken man offers more than food in each interaction. It helps that his product is superb, but to really understand what he’s doing that’s special, let’s contrast transactional versus transformational products and services.

Transactional products and services only involve an exchange of value. You pay your money and receive an item or action.

However, those which are transformational leave you in a difference place once the transaction is complete. It could be that the experience consistently improves your mood. Or you learn so much that you become informed. Perhaps you may be motivated differently.

The reality is that you enter the next transaction transformed. You have been changed on the inside.
By contrast, buying chicken from KFC, Popeye’s or Island Grill doesn’t have this effect. It’s an anonymous activity in which I only expect to be treated humanely, fairly and consistently. The seller is satisfied if they receive the funds, and I walk away with my meal.

However, when I buy from my pan-chicken man in Sterling Castle Square, he (perhaps unintentionally) offers more than barbecued meat. He knows my wife and I by name and I expect to hear about him, his friends and the community. He’ll tell me some of the inside scoop on the latest happenings, such as recent efforts to develop a football field for local youth. I’ll ask him for extra sauce and give him specific feedback on the last purchase.

When I get home, I sit with a bottle of wine and eat slowly to prolong the experience. Sometimes, it even gets cold because I take too long. My wife and I have a recurring conversation about the finer points of the food, such as its spiciness, or sweetness. Plus, whenever we see him in the neighborhood we stop for a few minutes and have a chat.

It’s tempting to believe that a big business can’t be transformational. However, I worked for a world-leading training company that delivered transformation in 200-person workshops in dozens of countries, making me think it can happen for your firm. Here are some strategies to adapt, regardless of size.

1. Define “The Transformed Customer”

This particular end-result is far beyond that of a satisfied or happy customer. It also does not occur simply because the buyer has received the product or service.

Instead, stand in the world of a customer and ask yourself what they would really want to have. Do they need to use your product in a unique way? Are they trying to improve the value-price equation? Are they hoping to get the service for free in the future on their own?

Make a list of these experiences, place them in rank order and brainstorm different ways to provide them.

To complete this exercise effectively, you must consider as many angles as possible without restraint. To feed your ideas, I recommend examining your personal, first-hand experiences for clues. Find those moments where you have received transformational value.

Then, study brands which are able to stack one transformation on top of another. Use them as inspiration to stretch beyond the edges of your thinking.

2. Look for Limits

Another way to define a transformation for your customer is to look past your limits. For example, start by stretching the time boundaries of each interaction.

Some who have done so, like Disney, offer “Backstage” tours of their operations. They help customers learn what happens before a product or service is delivered. (Some firms provide such experiences virtually, via Instagram.)

The mindset needed to create such a transformation sees value in educating customers so that they become better people, and therefore more loyal. It’s a low-cost way to offer a powerful kind of “Brawta.”

3. Plan for the Long-Term

If your company is currently transactional, don’t expect this shift to happen immediately. Instead, pick a number of smaller changes and spread them across several years.

Too many Jamaican companies are at war with their customers, giving as little as possible while keeping all they can. The few transformational firms are seen as aberrations, impossible to replicate.

This excuse just keeps brands stuck at low standards of customer delivery, turning their product or service into a commodity. This leaves their company ripe for disruption or displacement by customers who won’t hesitate to adopt a better solution (like Uber) when it becomes available.

Save your brand an awful fate: find a way to use transformation to gain a competitive advantage.

 

How to Gamify Employee Engagement

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For most companies, staff engagement is just like a religious belief: Someone either has it or doesn’t. This separation between those who are blessed or cursed is familiar to any church-goer, but does it have a place in corporate Jamaica? There may a better way starting with a key assumption.

Many managers assume that high performance is an innate characteristic. “Is so dem stay!” is a retort that ends arguments. In their mind, it’s due to personality, culture, upbringing, ethnicity, or some other intangible factor which can’t be changed. They pass a final judgement that throws an employee, with all his potential, into a box…which is then locked from the outside.

Following this logic, the only resolution is to hire engaged staff-members from the start. However, that not only takes a long time, it hardly lasts. Why? The vast majority of new hires are honestly engaged for their first three to six months after which they slip into the same disaffection that afflicts their colleagues. After a while, they are as ordinary as everyone else.

A more fruitful approach throws out the old concept of engagement as a belief, replacing it with a higher standard. Let’s narrow it down to a collection of observable behaviors which can be captured on a video camera, thereby passing what I call “The Video Tape Test.”

Using this standard we can focus on the precise habits, practices and actions people take when they are engaged, or not. However, we must be careful – my work in the region shows that engaged behaviors vary widely between companies, and sometimes even between working groups. There are no cookie-cutter, universal answers.

This challenge means that you, as a manager, need to do some legwork in order to help your staff succeed. Follow these steps.

Step 1 – Group your employees’ jobs
Examine the positions which report to you and group them by the behaviors demonstrated to be engaged. In some rare cases, you may find that someone’s formal job description may be too narrowly defined. For example, their role in building positive relationships around them using engaged behaviours may be diminished. In these cases, redraft the job description to be more realistic and holistic.
Step 2 – Distinguish Low Engagement
Set aside hostile behaviors which are clearly antagonistic or simply a demonstration of “Bad Mind.” Then, define the level of low performance which is just enough to prevent someone from being fired but not enough for them to contribute more than a minimum. Start to detail the behaviors of this person.
What practices does she engage in each day? Which ones is she unlikely to initiate?
Break down complex behaviors into small, practical atoms which are easy to observe. For example. “Being a standoff” is not a detailed behavior. However, “skipping the Christmas Party”, “refusing lunch meetings” and “leaving at 4:30 on the dot every afternoon” might be.
Step 3 – Clarify High Engagement
Perform a similar tear-down of high engagement.
Step 4 – Identify interim behaviors
Between the two extremes, distinguish additional levels an employee would climb on her way to high engagement. Think of it as a ladder. Then, turn these steps into an assessment for people to apply for themselves.
Step 5 – Teach Employees to Self-Assess
As staff-members evaluate themselves, show them the benefit of conservative grading which allows for room to improve. Serious employees will be glad for the opportunity to improve, now that they have a clear yard-stick and direction.
Step 6 – Offer Coaching
Ask employees to take the initiative to improve performance. Most should be able to put together long-term improvement plans, but they will need your help to craft a strategy which isn‘t too aggressive – these skills always appear easier to implement than they are.
In fact, employees require a great deal of support to achieve their goals. You may not be the one to provide it, but you should help assemble a framework that makes it easy to make stepwise improvements.

If you suspect that this sounds a bit like self-gamification, you are correct. As the manager, you are actually providing a clear-cut game people can play to become more engaged, one step at a time.
In summary, it provides a huge win for both parties. Employees’ attention will be diverted towards the task of giving themselves the gift of focused energy – a life engaged in purposeful activity even at their workplace.

The problem your company faces is that employees who are bored and disengaged are comparing their work-life with other parts of their lives. The only way for it to measure up is for you, the manager, to play your part in helping them adopt a game they can win.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20181216/francis-wade-how-gamify-employee-engagement

Moving Towards a Productive and Positive Employee Experience – CTO 2018 HR Conference

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December 3, 2018

On November 29, 2018 I spoke at the CTO HR Conference in Cayman. This recording of my interactive session is accompanied by the slides which were presented at the conference. They are available at the following link: http://goo.gl/RRQoqt

P.S. I just read an interesting article written by a hotel manager on the topic of employee engagement and Millennials: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/least-engaged-generation-jeremy-mccarthy/

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

Change your business model

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There’s a certain false comfort which comes from believing that your organization’s profitability will always occur in the same way, year after year. That is, until the magic stops. When a disruption takes place, you must face the facts: your products are stale, your people disengaged and your loyal customers are doing business with someone else altogether.

Now, it’s time to transform your business, except that you are too late. The perfect moment was several years ago while you were enjoying the fruits of your success. Back then, you suspected that you would eventually have to make a shift, but never expected it to come so quickly… so suddenly. You thought you had more time. In retrospect, you should have paid more attention to the disruptions already taking place in other geographies.

If your business is able to survive today’s onslaught, how can you ensure it never happens again?

One way is to plan the kind of strategy that assumes a future combination of new technology, external competition, poor economic performance and government regulations. Put them all together and you imagine a perfect storm in which you are forced to react to monstrous changes.

But is there a way to be proactive?

Start by using the Jobs to Be Done framework introduced by Clay Christiansen. It asks the question “What are my customers trying to do when they purchase my product or service?”

For most industries, a rough answer might be: “To achieve a decent balance between price and value.”

For example, look at the value-price equation for a highly competitive niche like internet access. Over the years, the consumer has been able to enjoy the best of both worlds, as both sides of the equation have improved dramatically. How can you provide such a benefit to your customers that would endear you to them?

  1. Change Your Mindset

If your company views customers as scoundrels to be defeated, or as disloyal partners to be scorned, it might be time to shift your mindset. Instead, think Win-Win, in which each transaction is an opportunity to build goodwill on both sides.

Consider that the average transaction delivers a dose of goodwill which “satisfies” both parties. However, that might simply be ordinary.

What if you were to commit to a mindset of providing extraordinary goodwill? What difference would a systematic approach to increasing value and decreasing cost make to your company?

  1. How to Increase Value

Imagine if you were to keep your prices constant. Ask yourself, “How can we deliver even more value to customers, while continuing to achieve a Win-Win relationship?”

As tricky as this may sound, it’s a principle embedded in Jamaican history. “Brawta” – the little extra offered by a supplier to sweeten a transaction – has been a part of our island‘s commerce for as long as most remember. The idea is simple: a supplier can improve the buyer’s experience in ways that are asymmetrical.

For example, imagine visiting the local butcher. She offers some raw dog meat as Brawta – a gift of scraps that were headed to the garbage bin. To her, the cost is nothing. To you, the benefit is substantial.

As a supplier of value, you probably have lots of ways to make your customer’s life easier. You just need to look for them with the right level of creativity. Once found, can they be packaged up and delivered so they add significant value yet cost you relatively little?

  1. Cut Prices

Here’s the more difficult part. How could your company deliver the same value, enjoy the same margins while lower prices at the same time?

This is no theoretical exercise. Instead, you are anticipating a time when you won’t have a choice – a future in which you may be forced to cut prices in order to remain competitive. The difference is that if you do so now, you will have higher margins, and retain some powerful flexibility for later.

In effect, you are building a buffer against disruptions.

Plus, you’ll be able to provide customers the kind of price cuts that make them fall (and stay) in love with your business. As foreign as this may sound, look around at companies who consistently offer you the lowest prices. If they are smart, they are being aggressive to find ways to continually cut the amount you must pay.

What you may not know is that there’s a secret benefit to this effort. If your company commits to reducing prices, it will discover the technologies necessary to keep competitive advantage. In other words, you’ll never be surprised by a disruptive technology because you already use them.

Together, these three strategies can launch you into a different world from your competitors: one they’ll find hard to replicate.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20181202/francis-wade-change-your-business-model