Seventhman Blog

  1. Customer Experience: Delighting Your Customers in the Digital Age

    "customer experience"Last time, I have asked about how big data can save lives and this time, I’d like to touch the subject of customer data as your next best ally when it comes to moving your business forward.  The key to making this strategy succeed lies with customer service – more specifically, Customer Experience.  Learn that communication with customers have won them over call scripts each time someone asks for help.  These customers want to feel that you care about their requests and that they’re treated as individuals; not some bunch of numbers on your list.  No matter how big or small they may be spending on your products or services, it’s their experience with your brand that makes a lasting impression.  So, why are we still failing in the art of conversation?

    Customer Experience for the Uninitiated

    You can find lots of definition about it.  Customer experience is defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier (Wikipedia).  The challenge is how to meet customers’ expectations to make sure that they will have a positive experience with your brand.  For this, businesses support it with their sales, marketing and customer service departments to make sure that customer issues are resolved at every touch point.  This is why we see customer loyalty programs that turn into a valuable resource of customer intelligence, of knowing what to improve to adapt your offer to their preferences.  Still, there is this huge gap in providing a seamless service and plotting customer’s intent to purchase.  That’s where things start to get complex.  How do you deal?

    A Fatal Attraction With Numbers

    I can’t believe that there are still those who are running call centers on call scripts – because they’re missing out on opportunities to do more business with their customers.  This is the age of dialogue and it amazes me how many companies are getting it wrong.  Even the C-suite don’t get the reasoning behind a poor customer experience.  With all the training that management can provide about delivering that Wow! factor in customer experience – the message don’t match the intent.  We still see products that are too complicated, fine print that leaves people scratching their heads, promotions that don’t match reality, rude customer service.  All those metrics we measure on customer satisfaction have made us obsessed with numbers and the more we do, the less we feel respect for the very blood where our business thrives.  Those analytics are working against our capacity for empathy.

    The Price of Efficiency

    Standardization of processes are done to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, no doubt.  While this may work in the production line, with computers and machines replacing the human assembly line – the same principle may bite you in the hand if you implement it in your front line.  To provide your customers with consistent, compelling experiences is a huge task.  It’s not just about responding quickly to customer requests that will win them over, but it’s also about making each customer interaction highly personalized.  It’s leading from bottom to the top which will define your brand’s value and profitability.

    Next time, I will share with you essential lessons to learn when it comes to delivering top-notch customer experience.

    For now, I’d say.. “Ditch that Script!”

    -End of Part One-

  2. 2013 Business Insights: Adding the Extra to Ordinary

    "2013 business trends"What if 2013 marks the year where no rules apply to doing business?  I wonder how it will look like, especially when people can’t stop talking about going over the fiscal cliff.  No matter what bracket you belong to, one thing’s for sure: Taxes are on the rise.  Perhaps, it isn’t time to quit things yet.  How about going with the flow of this change and starting a new business all over?  Bottom line is, that it’s the only realistic option there is where many are already pinching pennies.  No matter how you look at it, your business is an investment and a risk; something has to give.

    Hitting the Brakes on Trends

    I have been following lots of articles and news talking about business and technology trends this 2013.  The thing is, there’s no way of knowing if that new shiny object is the real thing you need.  I guess, at one point, you’re all too tired of the endless gimmicks brands place, here and there, that you wonder whatever happened to good ol’ customer service experience.  Let’s take for example those QR codes you see on packaging, on stores and so on.  Does everyone even know how to use them?  Maybe not.  Making things complicated won’t work, no matter how trending it may be.  This may also hold true for the many buzzwords we hear like big data when you just don’t know what to do with all that noise.. and gamification that dies as soon as the spark ignited.  You may want to invest for the long run this time.

    Real Change Starts With You

    What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but what if you are the very knife that makes your business bleed?  As the year is coming to an end and we’re about to face the new year, it’s time for honest conversations, careful analysis and introspections.  Your leadership may be put on hot waters.  Scary?  Yes.  The thought of undergoing change? Scarier.  Only the brave dare go beyond the walls of their false egos and conquer the unknown.  This is why we only have a very few percentage of successful people in their niche.  You must learn to separate fact from intuition and ask yourself if you’re really looking at real problems.  Your faith will determine your fate… and real solutions will come to surface.

    The Culture of Thriving

    I have always said it, time and again, that your people are the greatest asset your business can ever have.  Your competitors can always hire the best talents out there, but without a strong culture, it’s simply a waste.  You are in the business of listening to your team and your customers.  For this reason, it is crucial to hire those who feel connected with your values and goals.  You can train anyone new skills, but only attitude makes for a winning team.  Sadly, many are left in the old way of doing business that they find it hard to adapt in a changing market.  There is a fine line between managing and leading .  In the end, your company culture will be your greatest competitive advantage – if you manage things right and lead the right things.

    This 2013.. Are you willing to take the risk and reinvent the wheel?

  3. Do You Manage or Lead Innovation?

    "innovation creativity"Sometimes, doing nothing is the right thing when it comes to giving your team the independence they need.  Managing an invisible workforce made it harder for businesses to trust their virtual teams to become more innovative.  The physical distance has become a great challenge where leadership and management is concerned.  The issue always come in how you can motivate your team to achieve their fullest potential.  How do you know that they’re working and committed to your business goals?

    Manage Without Managing

    I can’t deny that this is the age of creatives and geeks – of individuals who will push the limits of your imagination so you can come up with a cutting edge solution.  But with talent comes difficulty, especially on how to manage effectively.  You see, your talented crew may also be the most difficult to work with as they want autonomy far from the structured work environment that we see in the turn of the industrial age.  But, this doesn’t mean you can’t lead them.  You have to walk on a tight rope here and keep your balance, to make them feel that they’re part of a group while giving them the freedom to explore. It’s not easy.  Achievable? Definitely.

    When Conflict Meets the Creative Process

    You may disagree with me, but when teams are forced to face a conflict, they are more likely to come up with better solutions.  The key here is moderation.  If you’re open to the idea, instead of trying to control the leash on your people – let it loosen a bit and encourage civil disagreements on certain tasks.  Their independence will translate to inter-dependence as they try their innovative best to come up with the best fix.  Your team’s diversity may just be the missing link between failure and success.  Innovation becomes a fun, exciting quest for everyone then.

    Lessons I Have Learned in Working with Creatives

    To lead or to manage?  I’ve often asked myself this.  In my years of working with remote teams, I have learned that guiding them helps us all win.. than me having to actively manage people like puppets.  This doesn’t mean that there are no rules.  Instead, I focused on the bigger picture.  Boundaries are simply guides so everyone’s effort can complement each other’s.  Think of your team as a pack and you’re the pack leader.  It’s not about deadlines, but more on timelines.  Think about that the next time someone missed a milestone so you can address the issue, and not the person.

    If there’s one hard pill to swallow – it’s learning that there are better, inspiring ideas than yours.  It’s up to you now to listen, collaborate and open up avenues for creative conversation with your entire team.  You have the power to encourage everyone to think big and when they do, your appreciation will mean more than anything else in the world.

    Are you ready to give your team the freedom to fail.. so they can succeed faster?

  4. Perceptions on Big Data: The Good and the Bad

    "big data trends"There have been many talks about Big Data lately and one can only wonder if there is a limit when it comes to the power of predictive data with all these analytics available.  Last time, I have blogged about creating big data initiatives for business success and yet, looking through the lens of an entrepreneur, there are still plenty of unexplored terrains where the topic is concerned.  Should we simply embrace the idea that big data is here to stay?  Is the trend reaching the peak of inflated expectations where matters of security is concerned?  At the end of the day, data gathered is not really the real business driver, but the insights and intelligence that rise from this.  It will always transcend beyond size.. to the impact these data will have, whether the raw volume of data is big or small.

    What You Should Know About Big Data

    With the influx of investors wanting to take a piece of the big data cake, it’s not a news anymore to find venture capitalists pouring millions of dollars into firms creating products whose goal is to manage this so-called big data.  Does big data mean big business?  It’s too soon to tell.  Right now, one thing is for sure: Businesses will always look for better ways to store, manage, analyze and integrate data to help them reach their goals.  With the advent of cloud computing, mobile technology and social media platforms – it’s all a matter of time when everyone gets more comfy with the idea that big data isn’t a hype, but a hope for those who are targeting global markets in a down-sized economy.

    Given this circumstance, you need to know that data these days can come from virtually anywhere.  The real value here is how you can capture what’s important and analyze it to drive efficiency to your business.  For this to happen, you will need to find the right person who knows how to work the tools of the trade, so s/he can come up with the right data, of filtering through the clutter.  This onslaught has surely paved the way to a renewed interest on predictive analytics, of finding value in an era of widespread data – to finding ways in solving big problems before it can happen in real-time.

    When Big Data Enters the Dark Side

    A couple of years back, big data is used by credit-rating companies in an effort to build a monster database about their clients.  Access to this rich customer data is like joining an elitist club.  Today, big data is more strategic.  Just take a look at Facebook who recently offered an IPO and is valued in the billions simply because it’s a big treasure cove of valuable data that will unlock the secrets of selling to a wider demographic.  I’d rather say ‘Welcome to the stalker economy’ and there’s no such thing as free.  People these days are willing to give out personal information in exchange of  free products.  Yes, technophiles may be excited about the potentials of big data, but it’s like appreciating carbon energy and its huge supply… until ice caps melt.  What we created as a gift may be our burden, and the cost may be higher this time.. where knowledge is concerned.

    We may argue for the customer’s sake as we use big data to drive a customer-centric business.  Yet, are we reaching the end of privacy?  Or more likely, will we risk our privacy to pay for the price of big data?  Knowledge do come with power and this time, it’s not really about the data we will gather.. but how we put it into use.  The risk may be higher and this time, there’s no turning back.

    Are you ready to walk the fine line between what’s right according to the data you’ve examined… and what you feel is right?

  5. Synergy: Doing Business in Real-Time

    "synergy"It’s amazing to see the correlation between the rise in  remote work and the growth in virtual teams around the world.  A survey even shows that 77% of American adults feel that online meeting is on the rise.  When companies are in a boot-strapping mode so they can meet their business goals, just how can teams that are spread out geographically collaborate like they do in real-time?  Of course, online collaboration saves a lot on travel time and transportation cost, not to mention that participants are more focused meeting online than offline.  Even after years of working with virtual teams, I still face daily challenges in managing it and having an open mind is just a start.  The real question is:  How can you make your process work?

    When Real-Time Performance Feedback Counts

    If you’re working with people across different culture, you know that having a global mindset is the key to making everyone work seamlessly together.  Having a common language is not really enough.  You have to combine communication tools with real-time feedback to your team so they can learn and improve faster.  Most often, feedback come in a little too late and people end up with disagreements.  To engage your virtual workers, you have to give constant feedback that will encourage good habits and practices.  Thanks to online conferencing tools and social networks, this is not an impossible task.  I’m using Yammer to share constant updates with my team, to keep a friendly and healthy discussion, or when I need to implement a quick change.  Think of it as having your own knights-of-the-round-table in a click.  Slipping out a note of appreciation can work wonders too and yet, how many of us have sent a thank you note lately?  Call it your digital pat on the back and it’s time-tested to boost your workers’ morale, no matter how far they are.

    Keeping the “I” in Agile

    I.. for innovation, that is!  Just how can you mix quality time with real-time connectivity?  And if you can, will you create a synergy that will help bring you closer to your goals?  Creating a real-time feedback loop is a serious game that demands business agility, where people can excel at their skills.  Still, there are some who say that the Agile process is anti-innovation.  This can be true though if your user stories are not based on real scenarios that your business face.  The problem with online collaboration comes in when there are more than two users/players in the scene and most often, too much time is wasted on talking about things that are not related to the issue at hand.  To learn faster and come up with effective solutions of getting things done will require not only abstract thinking in a technological perspective, but innovative minds as well.  If you are transparent with your team about your plans and processes, you open the door to making better decisions for your business.

    Revamping Your Business Process Management

    With globalization, the demand to accelerate business processes to come up with real-time solutions is becoming a necessity.  In the name of growing a brand’s recognition and business profit, organizations will have to learn how to synergize by getting rid of information anxiety and empowering their team at all levels.  It will all come down to managing IT, the people.. and maximizing business value where tech is concerned.  These days, the fast will beat big and everyone will be forced to innovate.  Doing business in real time may simply mean alignment of strategies and performance feedback from day-to-day… and responding quickly to change.

    Are you ready to empower your team?

  6. Innovation: Managing Risks and Portfolios Explained

    "managing innovation"Everyone in business knows that exploiting new technologies in search of the holy grail of innovation is crucial in the goal of gaining optimal returns, while choosing the right levels of risks and managers to work on the project.  Without proper systems in place, it’s not possible for R&D to flourish and as such, a certain process is in place to help everyone understand on how to work as one team for the goal.  Yes, the Web provides businesses these days with easy access to gather ideas and yet, when was the last time that you really took a dive into your customers’ feedback? How about those of your employees?

    Ideas Incubator: Addressing the Real Issue

    What you conceptualize today will dictate the marketing profile of your company tomorrow.  You may have a Lean Canvas to make this planning stage much faster and yet,  optimizing your product research and development will mean higher chances for you to win in the battle of creating something new.  Just how do you do this?  There are many ways, but these answers are not that simple.  The challenge to create and maintain cutting-edge products or services is something dynamic and will need to undergo careful evaluation and selection.  Along the way, you may find yourself going over your drawing board and start again from scratch.. when you’re in the middle of accomplishing plan A.  The most crucial of them all is the ‘Go-Kill syndrome’ – Do you go for the concept or kill it when you’re in the mid-stage process?

    The Underlying Principle Behind Managing Innovation Portfolios

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in business, it comes down to this:  With innovation comes risks.  You can succeed or fail and sometimes, it can be both.  It’s like working on a science project and the degrees of success or failure will help create the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  In a market that changes in a blink of an eye, it only makes sense to assign various portfolios for every type of innovation, business models or new ventures… and a mother portfolio to manage them all.  This can be done by tracking your prototypes through a database system, like an idea factory, and assigning someone to manage it.  Without this management, you may end up with too many projects, which may not even be the right ones to start with.  Or, it can take too long for your concept to get in the market and when they do, it has low value or worse, your competitors beat you to it.  The last thing you want is to have your resources spread too thin.

    The Anatomy of a Well-Balanced Portfolio

    It is only normal to fail in your efforts.  The key here is to fail fast so you can learn faster and apply what you’ve learned to perfecting that innovative product.  Therefore, striking a healthy balance between success and failure rate is necessary.  Managing your innovation portfolio is all about doing the right projects that will produce the biggest impact to your business, in terms of ROI ( return on investment ).  You have to communicate this value to your executive team, those who participate in the R&D process, so that you can balance how they will do the job and how they will contribute to the goal.  You can have everyone vote on an idea or ask people to rank ideas.  Refining these ideas is not an easy task and as everyone is engaged, your team will become better at identifying and working on projects with the most potential.

    Innovation… is a work in progress and optimizing what you’ve learned is just the start.  How do you value your innovation efforts and communicate it to your organization?

  7. What Does Customer Centricity Really Mean to Your Business?

    "customer centricity"It was my first time participating in #LeadershipChat last March 13th, where I had the pleasure of learning from @BobBurg and other brilliant folks there.  The topic of customer centricity made me want to dig deeper in the agenda of creating a positive customer experience at point-of-sale and post-sale transactions.  Is it all  about adding value to your company… by being a go-giver in this go-karma economy?  Last time, I’ve pondered on the subject of going beyond customer satisfaction surveys and now, let’s break into the reality of implementing your customer strategy by taking a risk to do something that have eluded many businesses for years.

    Commodity Hell: The Challenges in Today’s Marketplace

    Why is it hard for many CEO’s to answer a simple question, if their business is customer-centric?  Yes, plenty of organizations do have a customer service department, but it’s more like a ‘set it and forget it’ scenario where business-to-consumer relationship runs on shallow waters ( murky as well ).  Organizations sent out plenty of surveys to get useful data for them to analyze and learn from it, but most often, it doesn’t reveal anything vital about their customers.  It’s a no-brainer that knowledge of your customers means more revenues and still, more evidence is seen each day on how lack of collaboration and siloed information in your internal departments may be the very barrier to achieving a customer-centric brand.  Is it lack of resources to implement a well-rounded program.. or, is it fear of failure?  What’s stopping you?

    Looking Through the Lens: An Outside-In Approach

    Every CEO knows in his/her heart that running a customer-centric business is the key to its success.  The reason that we’re all consumers make up for the validity of this thinking and yet, there seems to be a gap somewhere.  Instead of looking at your business from the inside, try walking in the shoes of your customers and see your brand through their eyes.  In that way, you will understand what real problems they face and how you can come up with the best solutions to help them.  Sometimes, you can’t stop wondering if it’s psychological.. that many executives play it safe by continuing to impose systems that didn’t work, that doesn’t work even now.  Are we making excuses?  In simple words, it’s just doing what you say you will do and as such, bringing value your brand promises and delivering it constantly to your customers.

    When Customer Centricity Means Sustainability

    You know that as new technologies rise, the communication barrier between your business and your customers will cease to exist.  So, what does it really take to make that transition?  In this competitive age, having a consumer-centric business is not a goal; it’s a must – if you want to survive longer.  Creating a culture that puts your customers at the core of every business decision-making can be challenging as you can’t please everybody.  Still, having a holistic approach is the key and by training your employees with the right tools to solve your customers’ issues, and by motivating your team with appreciation of their efforts, you CAN start a domino effect that will build a solid rock for your business to stand on.

    The days of fooling customers to earn profit is over.  They are smarter now.  Are you ready to get real and face this reality?