Seventhman Blog

  1. What Makes Your Customer Service Exceptional?

    "customer experience"Whenever I meet a small business owner, I’m often tempted to ask if their business have a ‘soul’ –  that is, if they are customer-centric.  There’s no denying that people are demanding world class customer service these days and where loyalty is at stake, it only makes perfect sense to come up with effective means of improving customer satisfaction scores by investing in training for your front-line or virtual team.  Marketing professionals make the mistake of mixing up customer loyalty and customer experience, and this can come at a high cost — your brand reputation.  The problem why many programs won’t work is that loyalty is more about relationships and though they may appreciate all those discounts, freebies and perks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will buy more.

    Redefining Your Customer Touch Point

    Someone mentioned that it’s five times more costly to get a new customer than keep new ones.  If that’s the case, why do businesses lose the good ones?  Perhaps, achieving high levels of customer service is a myth?  But then, we hear brands like Southwest Airlines who keep customer service at its finest.. thousands of miles above the ground.  I bet that what worked for them is not only creating superior value for customers to buy, but making customers feel valued.  The more you customize the experience, the closer you get at building that relationship many have been blogging about.  Customers are not just some number on your balance sheet, your score cards.  You may be proactive in taking steps to improve satisfaction rate and at the end of the day, it’s more than just doing business in order to generate revenue.

    The Fundamentals of Creating a World-Class Customer Experience

    I have been an avid participant in this weekly twitter chat that talks about customer service, and it’s an amazing source of insights and best practices from key influencers and folks who are passionate about the subject. The #custserv chat happening every Tuesday nights at 9-10 pm is something you might want to add on your to-do list where getting social is concerned.  I’ve been itching to ask if they can name one important component of what makes an awesome customer service and I think, the answer will vary a lot.  I believe that training your front-liners is crucial to your company’s success and the challenge is how to make them feel this sense of purpose.  To motivate your team is one thing, to make them enthusiastic in giving out a one-and-done resolution to your customers is another.  It will all start with the passion to help..

    The Makings of a Transcendent Customer Support Revealed

    I recall someone asking me weeks ago on what makes a good customer-centric website and here’s the best way I can answer that question: It’s not about where your customers intend to do business with you that matters, but how available you are when they need your help.  Investing in a good website may help lessen the amount of phone time or the load of tickets you get each day in your inbox. It will come down to a customer-friendly website that’s easy to navigate, easy to read, updated, understandable and most importantly – complete.  This is why I would recommend entrepreneurs to invest in developing a good website that doesn’t look like some free blog template tweaked for the sake of keeping an online presence.  Besides, there’s no point creating an interface for your customers to interact with when your site gives them a crappy experience.  That means dabbling in some codes or hiring someone to do it for you.

    Then, all you have to focus on is listening to your customers so you can build conversations with them that create trust over time.  And by talk, I mean going beyond the typical ‘yes/no’ type of questions.

    Are you ready to engage now?

  2. Managing Virtual Teams: Five Keys to Success

    "virtual team management"Do you believe that teams working remotely can outperform those who work in the same location?  Virtual collaboration is shifting from trends to norms as more people are working from anywhere in the world.  They all have to thank mobile technology with this new-found freedom.  There’s no denying that we are entering the age of the global workforce and soon, team members working in the same cubicle will be obsolete.  We see teams working from their homes, across cities and even across the globe.  Everyone works independently this time.  Aren’t we so lucky to live in such a digitally-connected world?

    The Fallacy of Face-to-Face Meetings

    While it is undeniable that nothing beats the usual way people meet to brainstorm and synergize, leading teams across different time zones and conquering cultural divides can be felt in the virtual world.  Small businesses are taking advantage of running a virtual team as it means flexibility and minimal cost.  Though studies have found that collaboration across distance is tougher to manage, it is manageable still.  Proximity may promote frequent communication, but it can also be a hurdle when trying to accomplish complex tasks that need more focus.  A good example is those in the research and development industries, where their network of operations are scattered across the globe as they compete and work towards excellence.  The degree of expertise in these teams are more extensive, where they can work for the same goals while having a higher tolerance for diversity.  This diversity may cause problems in communication but overall, it enhances problem-solving skills so everyone can come up with a faster and better solution for a particular project.

    How You Can Lead a Virtual Team to Succeed Anywhere in the World

    I have worked with virtual teams for over two decades now and managing people in dispersed teams means helping them realize their potentials.  There are many socio-emotional barriers to cross and making sure that your remote team commits to your business goals is a learning process, even after this long.  What’s the secret formula?  There is NO secret! The future of work starts with having people skills so you can create trust, connection, communication, collaboration and commitment among them.  You have to:

    1. Place trust at the heart of your work relationship with your virtual team and employ strategies for building relationships over time

    2. Promote the idea of self-leadership among your team, so they can be self-sufficient in managing their work

    3. Set expectations early by communicating with your team what you expect for them to accomplish – from work hours, deliverables, status reports, to conference calls

    4. Stay virtually connected by utilizing platforms like Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangout and many more.. It’s all about creating an online water cooler for your team to feel that they’re stepping into the office.  It’s all about sharing ideas and breaking the ‘virtual ice’.

    5. Use new technology wisely as there are a plethora of tools available for you to use in managing your virtual team

    It all comes down to RESPECT.. and 360 degrees of communication at all levels.  By fostering a global mindset among your team, everyone will feel that they are part of something bigger than their geographic location.  This will make them respect the diversity of work, its schedules and stay committed to each other in meeting deadlines.  The degree of competitiveness lessens and collaboration heightens.

    Are you ready to keep your team together?  

    Bottomline is – the workplace has changed and we all have to adapt to survive and thrive.

  3. Why Entrepreneurs Should Become Radical Thinkers

    "radical thinking"They say that if you ask the right question, you will get the right answer.  It’s simple common sense.  Yet, we often miss opportunities because we kicked the ‘human’ out of the process, and bombard our questions with technological terms and jargon speak.  This may be one of the reasons why it is hard to find your business principles these days, that no matter how you try to get rid of the complexities, you just won’t do it.  To think strategically in terms of positioning your brand out there and gain competitive advantage is something of a hit-and-miss deal for many.  It’s a hard habit to break, don’t you think?

    The Bottom Line of Radical Thinking

    Umair Haque wowed me with his post on the paradox of radicalism.. and I have to agree that when all resources have been spent on thinking of the next great innovation, there’s always wisdom to be sought for in looking back to the past.  Maybe, you can spend time digging in to inspiring stories in that old history book and seek to challenge ideas that have worked before.  The problem with this consumerist age is that every entrepreneur wants to come up with the next shiny object without giving second thoughts on how these will make a difference in people’s lives, more accurately, in their customers’ lives.  You don’t have to go the extreme just to make an impact.  In times when even big brands reach an epic low, to be radical may simply mean taking the next step from being a spectator to a mind mover.  You don’t even have to become a rebel and protest in the streets.

    Is It Time to Change Your Mind Habit?

    When you’re used to the trivial way of things, it is quite hard to know if you’re practicing good or bad habits.  If you’ve read Charles Duhigg‘s new book, The Power of Habit, you’ll know exactly  what I mean.  Have you ever wondered why you struggle so hard to do something when you can do things now?  Maybe, you’re waiting for something to strike or waiting for someone to do things for you.  Be it boredom, complacency, distraction, procrastination, negativity or low energy in accomplishing tasks – the excuses can be plenty and you HAVE to do something about it!  When you became a business owner, you’re not an employee anymore and yet, you’re still working.. for yourself this time.  You can always schedule time to change these habits and brainstorm new ideas – before and after business hours.   Are you willing to sacrifice a bit to make things happen?  You are the only key to change.

    Real Innovation: Mindset or Skillset

    When you’re stuck with corporate thinking, you think about existing status quo and rules that are now the big barriers to creation of new ideas.  The old bureaucracy may not work in an environment that encourages openness and agility.  If you’re not willing to listen to your team, to challenge common beliefs, then, the room for growth becomes too small.  While acquiring new skills are called for in this age of outsourcing, big data and technology – it is your attitude, your view, and your passion which will drive you to the right direction.  Let your motivation affect your perception and you’ll start to perceive what everyone fails to see.  Sometimes, it is totally fine to do a counter flow to where everyone is going.  You may want to be trendy.. but would you really want to be another face in the crowd?

    Try solving real problems this time and create true value for your customers.

    *** and if you’re looking for words of wisdom to chill out your inquisitive mind, you can check out The 10 Best eBooks Entrepreneurs Should Be Reading This Summer

  4. Business Principles: Your Mission and Vision Will Define Your Action

    "business vision"What’s the difference between a successful business and an epic fail?  The second one hits the wall because no business principle has been established, committed to, and communicated.  Call it many different names: vision, mission, values.. if you don’t define them, it’s like driving long distances without a road map.  Just as thinking outside the box is crucial when you’re formulating ideas for your business, you have to lay down the foundation that will set the stage for many decisions that you will make later, or you may see yourself going downward spiral.  And don’t give me the reason that you have no time; I’d say make time!  These core values will affect everything that you do, no matter how big or small it may be.

    Creating a Vision in Vulnerable Economies

    Promoting entrepreneurship is not an easy task when you’re talking about small businesses that are thriving in developing countries and economically-challenged zones.  While outsourcing has bridged the gap between skills and technology across the globe, having a comprehensive approach in tackling the slews of difficulties in business growth seems more than just a modern vocabulary in the world of innovation.  The truth is, that whether one does business in developing or progressive countries, most often, the CEOs of these organizations are not in touch with reality – simply because they lack a clear mission, vision, values statement to start with.  It’s like an incurable paralysis spreading over one’s foot, leg… just because processes are ineffective and goals are misaligned.

    Your Values are the DNA of Your Business

    Our founding fathers have made it clear what freedom really meant and they took every measure available in order to gain independence.  They were revolutionary thinkers.  You see, no matter how grandiose your vision ( more likely, fantasy ) is, if you don’t make a mark within your company about it for your people to believe, everything’s lost.  This is why it is not only important to shape your business with your founding principles, but to stay transparent and consistent with your cause.  Perhaps, we can define:

    Mission – as the very reason ‘Why’ your business exists
    Vision – as the way your business will look in the future, like five years from now
    Values – as your collection of beliefs that you share with everyone in your organization; something that creates your company culture

    And having a mission based on your vision will help you define values to keep, as you inspire your team to charge in the right direction.

    Your Business Principles Don’t Have to Stink

    Like rotten eggs, that is, if you make time to create something meaningful.  This means you have to come up with a statement that’s tailored to your business, something that doesn’t look like everyone else’s.  No buzzwords, no jargon.  Keeping things simple is your best bet here and you may not be a talented writer, but your mission-vision statement have to make sense, so much so that it gets everyone in your team excited about what defines your company.  Think of storytelling.  What story does your business have to tell?  Will this story spark an interest among your customers?

    There’s no need for talking the talk here and  those countless excuses why you don’t need to write down what really defines your business.  You may know what you’re doing or you may not. You may be too busy for all I care.  But having a focus and clarity on your mission, vision, values, and objectives will shape that winning strategy you’ve been looking for ever since.  It’s time to take.. Action!


    Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.  ~Albert Camus

    Happy Independence!!!

  5. NoSQL: A New Breed of Database Explored

    "nosql"There’s a lot of talk about big data these days that a novice can easily get lost amidst all that tech talk.  Are we really ready for this?  The subject is becoming a hype lately, but that doesn’t mean another fad coming our way.  The big data movement is here to stay and data scientists are finding new playgrounds to thrive in, where intelligence is gathered from all that volume, speed and variety of data traveling on the fifth plane.  With Red Hat joining the emergence of NoSQL lately, we will just see how companies will maximize their applications and lessen the need for added relational databases.  The only question we need to ask concerns standards of how this new solution can sustain the need for cheap storage that is bundled with high performance.  Gone will be the days of slow hard drives and RDBMS.. because NoSQL is the crown of the internet superhighway.

    NoSQL Seen Through the Lenses of a Business POV

    To say that relational databases like MySQL, Oracle and MS SQL Server are dead is way too early.  In time, these may fade into a memento of the past.  Countless businesses are using these right now and it has proven to be effective in storing information.  But of course, these are not perfect.  Dealing with huge amount of information presents new challenges and the bottom line is, when an unprecedented amount of data is created, what good is it if you can’t utilize these data for your business?  In an ideal world, database technology should scale horizontally – something that is fast, agile and simple no matter how large the volume of data is.  With a good data model, like an open source, that can be run anywhere (virtually) on the cloud, this can mean easy access, easy deployment and high availability in an era where people are searching by the trillions.  If you’re a business dealing with massive amount of customer data, like an ecommerce site, that would mean faster results, less downtime, less IT costs and simply, less work.  The ‘pay as you go’ model that NoSQL users get means big savings over time.  Take for example those that provide cloud service with NoSQL offerings, it takes only seconds to use without having to worry about data configuration, nodes, clusters, scaling or data recovery.  Now, this is getting too technical.  Let’s say you have a site that gets millions like that of Digg’s.  I know it’s not normal, but having noSQL means having a peace of mind, whether you’re scaling from megabyte, gigabyte, petabyte or any  size of data that you may have.  The last thing you want is for your system to crash and for you to  lose important data in the process, that is, if you’re still doing it the traditional way.

    A New Era of Transformation is Here

    The only thing relevant to these changes is your perception of big data.  NoSQL brings us a new kind of freedom from the pains of relational databases.  While some are just a few key-value data stores, others are built on XML, The truth is far more simple:  NoSQL is NOT a buzzword; it exists and it will continue to thrive because there’s a demand for it.  The size of this market may not be known right now, but as soon as companies see the light of how beneficial it will be to their business, we will see a growing acceptance for these NoSQL databases.  Because the truth is, as your data starts to grow, you will need more space to store it and a faster way of updating and accessing it, which may not be delivered by the old way of managing data systems.  The real challenge is to see brick-and-mortar companies adapt to this change and finding top caliber data scientists to play with these new tools.

    Is NoSQL the Ultimate Answer to the Big Data Problem?

    Because every day.. data grows. There are so many manuals to learn and yet, so little time.  What good is data if you will not manage and analyze it?  The real problem may lie with choosing the right database solution for your business.  While there are those who love the idea of a non-relational, non-structured SQL, there are those who are saying that the level of risks are high.  There are errors to correct and upgrades to do just to sustain a project.  Just because talks of NoSQL is hot these days doesn’t mean you have to choose this technology.  Yes, data is increasing, from structured to unstructured, and you may need a new way of managing it.  You need to evaluate thoroughly the pros and cons of running something that’s relatively new.  For all its flexibility and scalability, I’d say it’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution for all.

    In the end, it’s all about the idea of delay… which you can’t simply have when you’re running a business 24×7.

  6. The Next Big Idea: When Entrepreneurs Think Outside the Box

    "brainstorm"Back in the days of jotting down your idea on a cocktail napkin, the excitement seems so overwhelming that you need to capture that ‘magic’ moment to the next million dollar dream.  Like sugar rush, ideas can also crash.. because you haven’t had time to find out if it’s viable.  For a gifted few, imagination comes so easy.  But reality is, one need to lay down the foundations of a plan, to have a clear idea on what makes your product unique, on how to build a demand in the marketplace for it.  So, the real question is this: How can you turn that big idea into a profitable business?  Can you manage without having a partner, taking a loan or writing a business plan?

    Going Beyond Your Unique Value Proposition

    It’s starting to feel a lot like summer and I can’t stop thinking of this beach vacation under a beautiful weather.. and yet, I have to keep my focus somehow as I prioritize my list to making this new idea a reality.  If there’s one good advice I’ve read today, it’s this post  on military training techniques you can apply to business.  I love what Louis wrote, “Intelligence is a Key to Staying Ahead”.  Nowadays, everyone’s on the rush to come up with a new product or service that they often forget to do market research.  The data you can gather will prove invaluable in determining the success or failure rate of your plan.  This is why we often see many aspiring entrepreneurs waste dollars in activities that lack direction.  You don’t simply state what makes you unique, but you need to have a road map to follow in making sure that your research will help you fine tune that idea into something a customer will want to purchase.  Even before you think of innovation when it comes to brand development, try to see the SWOT of your idea ( as in strength, weakness, opportunity and threat ). Your analysis based on these will help you fix flaws before people try it out.

    Challenges in Brainstorming: Where Traditional Meets Digital

    Sometimes, it is better to get less advice because the more you do, the more distracted you will be.  Should you just ignore everybody instead?  It’s just that the more unique your concept is, the harder it is for you to get like minds to help you brainstorm ideas.  There are those moments when solitude works best though, where all that brainstorming sessions and focus groups do more harm than good.  What intrigues me most is that in this digital age, those who collaborate using new technologies often come up with creative ways to work on ideas.  When there is time pressure on compiling data and predicting trends, the very same idea can be burned through overthinking.  The challenge, therefore, is how to run a criticism-free session that’s free from fear, stress, ego, beliefs, absolute truths, conformity, doubts and bad habits.  The very process of sharing becomes the very problem itself, don’t you think?

    Is There Really a Market for Your Idea?

    This is a very crucial question to answer.  The problem with running surveys is that quantifying results based on a few number doesn’t really justify the target market as a whole.  How can you really solve your customers’ pain points?  When you present an idea to a group, things become interactive and participants are free to share their thoughts about your idea.  Sometimes, it is how we question things that define what we observe and this can be very limiting.  The marketplace is crowded and having your slice off the pie means creating the ultimate hook where fishes bite the bait.  It all comes down to making things simple and sticking to your promise.  If you build it right, the right customers will come..

    There is chaos in the creative thinking process. Things can get out of control.  Don’t panic. It’s only normal.  Pay attention and just do things better this time.

  7. Workplace Revolution: Are We Thriving or Surviving?

    "workplace revolution"How people work today defines the future of the workplace.  In this multigenerational work environment, our responses to drivers of change will lead to our survival – to secure a job that’s safe, challenging and satisfying.  If you take a closer look at how people work today, it is a fact that office workers have to deal with volumes of data from a variety of sources.  With new technology comes increased productivity… and together with it comes negative effects that affect our very own happiness at work.  If you take a step back to how we worked from the Stone Age, you’ll surely see how complex our needs have become.  The hunt for food became a hunt for ambition.  I can’t believe how fast we have evolved until I saw this infographic on the Evolution of Workplace Technology.  This makes me wonder if we’re really moving forward, or we’re still doing the same thing we’ve done ages ago, only this time, with a new shiny object to seek for.

    The Only Limit is Your Imagination

    Everything seems high-tech today and one can only guess if we have pushed ourselves to the limit of how, what, when and where of solving problems through knowledge and manpower.  We see new ways of doing business and it seems like we didn’t even take a slumber since the transformation from the Industrial to the Information age.  If you take a dive into history, that’s less than 50 years.  We are currently working at the speed of type ( and thought ).  Globalization has encroached upon us at uncontrollable speed that may have opened up doors of opportunities, as well as drove shortages in talents that businesses suddenly felt the need to outsource offshore.

    The New Economy: Are We Surviving or Thriving?

    The World Economic Forum may have stated that we are entering an era of scarcity, where talent is much sought for.  We are living in a universe that’s continually expanding, and a perfect mirror to this is the growth of a new breed of workers who are far from the traditional way work has been done.  These days, work isn’t defined by location anymore, thanks to the wonders brought about by this digital evolution we now enjoy.  Sometimes, you can’t help but ask if we have been forced to adapt to these advancements so we can complete our tasks each day.. or have we really changed our perspectives to deal with these developments?  Have we really reached the peak of innovation.. or are we just trying to make ends meet in this so-called golden age bubble?

    The Real Challenge to Economic Change

    You might ask why I’m writing about a subject that doesn’t seem to relate to my business.  In fact, all of us who work should reflect on what we have reached so far.  Know that intangible forces are still at work and this workplace evolution brings with it core values that has a major impact , both on society and culture as a whole.  For example, just take a look at how baby boomers use technology for work against the Generation Next.  As work becomes a melting pot of people across the globe, the cultural divide widens; differences clash.  The ability to adapt to change is called for in such a dynamic workplace, and leadership is needed in order to perform and excel.  Just as there’s collective unity, there’s also a collective fear where people are wary of those who don’t belong to their race.  This can put a dent on collaboration for many stakeholders who rely on teams from various countries.  Companies may try their best to keep a tight ship when it comes to discrimination and in the end, it all comes down to individual dialogue, of empowering the workforce amidst all the attempts to standardize and regulate work process.

    Are you ready to adapt your way of working.. to deal with change?