Category Archives: Validating Knowledge

How can business and technical people work with sales and marketing on customer experience initiatives?

A misconception about customer experience makes many people think that it’s exclusively the responsibility of the sales and marketing departments. But people who actually deliver products and services and customer care teams are the ones that can have the most important impact on the experience of the customer.

Both categories of employees are usually either very specialized (which makes them very useful in some areas of the business but not others) or not specialized enough to perform anything but basic tasks (e.g.: customer care performing basis tasks in IT)

Among the specialized people, those with expertise in business will rarely know tech very well and vice versa. Since customer facing people (e.g.: sales, marketing, customer care) usually aren’t experts in either, they usually need to rely on experts for questions they cannot answer or problems they cannot solve. This can bring the challenge of resource allocation and collaboration and one solution would be to have a “connector” between the two categories of employees which will help them work better together.

Such a person would be responsible for the following:

–          Translate customer needs into business and tech needs and make sure that everyone is on the same page. In software, a project manager may be assigned to this during the implementation, but this usually stops after the go live when customer care is the main responsible for the interaction with the customer

–          Determine which issues are important and work with both business and technical people to solve the problems by escalating to the appropriate person and following up on the actions required

–          With sales and marketing, gather feedback from customers and communicate with them to explain company strategy, future development plans, etc.

–          With product development to increase transparency, thus trust (see this post)

–          Get involved in user communities (formal or not), participate in analyzing social media interactions which can be used for product development, to proactively solve problems, and contribute building a brand that people have reasons to trust

Such a person is hard to find because (s)he will have to be good at business, technology, and communicating with people, even though not an expert in either field. Most professionals will specialize in only one, maximum two of these fields, but never all three. The good news is that extended expertise in all three fields isn’t actually required because this person needs to work closely related to marketing and communications, business operations, and IT.

What do you think? How important is such a person in a company? Are the various departments of a company too specialized and disconnected from each other and from the outside world?

Disconnected - geograph.org.uk - 1516053

Is Bill Gates’ opinion more important than yours?

Most of you will probably answer: Duh, of course – Bill Gates is a legend and you’re not. That’s true, but does that mean that he’s “qualified” to offer valuable feedback on anything? We think not. We often times tend to think that people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Richard Branson know something about everything (or most things), maybe because they get involved in so many things, from business to philanthropy, writing, sports, politics, etc. And some of them may be very good at most of the things they do, but some aren’t and we should not assume that they are. For instance, what do you think about Donald Trump’s TV show The apprentice? Would you take recruiting advice from Donald Trump?

In our opinion, who you are is not very relevant in both online and offline conversations – what matters is what you think and how you express it. If you treat people differently based on who they are, the conversation will stop being authentic and it has little (or no) value.

What do you think? Who’s feedback is more important? There are experts that very few people ever heard of which may offer a much valuable opinion on some topics than anyone else and there are those who may know less but are very well known in their field. Who do you trust more and why? Should we put people’s feedback in a balance to measure it? If yes, what would be a fair system to measure it?

Balance scale IMGP9755

Photo: Old two pan balance
By Nikodem Nijaki (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s this company culture everyone talks about?

We’re sure you already heard experts talking about how the company culture is the answer to pretty much everything that goes wrong in any company. Employees hate their jobs? Company culture can fix it. Your customers don’t really like you? You need a good company culture. Company culture seems to be some sort of panacea, named after the Greek goddess of Universal remedy, Panacea, also known as panchrest

Panacea

No one really talks about what company culture is (or isn’t) – experts would rather focus on how to change or improve it (probably assuming that most companies have one already). 

If most of the advice on how to change a company culture (i.e.: engaging people or listening to your customers) sound familiar to you, it’s because it’s nothing new. It all started in the 60s with the concept of Organizational climate which evoled in the 80s to become Organizational culture

Before trying to change it, it would help to understand what a company culture is. The first interesting thing we found is the fact that systematic differences in national cultures (according to a study conducted by IBM on 117,000 of its employees between 1967 and 1973). This can be explained by “four anthropological problem areas that different national societies handle differently: ways of coping with inequality, ways of coping with uncertainty, the relationship of the individual with her or his primary group, and the emotional implications of having been born as a girl or as a boy ” (more details on the site of Geert Hofstede, the author of the study)

The interesting things that we found is that there are different types of cultures: strong vs weak cultures, constructive, passive, and aggressive cultures, or the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument which distinguished between four types of culture: clan culture (internal focus and flexible), adhocracy culture (external focus and flexible), market culture (external focus and controlled) and hierarchy culture (internal focus and controlled)

To make things even more complicated, companies can also have sub-cultures and mergers and acquisitions between companies will not result in the merger between the cultures of the companies that merge.

Since only defining company culture with its types and characteristics will require more than a blog post, we will dedicate the next three or four posts to provding more information on how to understand company culture by answering the following questions:

– How can decision makers find out what the characteristics of the culture of their company are?

– Is the existing company culture organic, imposed by management, or a mix of both?

– What are the pros and cons of the existing company culture?

In our opinion, questioning the concept of company culture and the existing culture that the company may already have in place is the first important step in improving a company culture.