I am feeling very uncomfortable about the antagonism towards the Confederate flag in the USA. The flag is part of the history of the country and you cannot walk away from it just because some crazy person or persons do some irresponsible and irrational things that are both illegal and morally ridiculous.
The killing of people in a church and the burning of churches is just terrorism that is no different than ISIS. I would not condone the broadcasting and use of the ISIS flag because it depicts what they stand for. However, adopting another flag as a sign of a groups terrorist cause, is not a reason to ban it. These people are too scared to use their old Nazi and KKK flags and so adopt the confederate flag instead.
What does the confederate flag now stand for? By the fact it is on Dukes of Hazzard car probably means that is stands for traditional Southerners who are wild, independent, down-to-earth, slightly crazy people that probably invented the expression ‘No Fear’! It doesn’t mean racist, bigots, with no principles and moral values that are seeking to exert their power through torture, fear and discrimination.
People are in danger of letting the confederate flag become something it is not, by reacting negatively to it. Yes I do feel that flying the confederate flag in the wake of the killings, was not a good idea, and someone should have raised the American Flag on the same pole as the confederate flag to show the respect for history as well as for the current country. Attempts to blame the confederate flag for the evil behaviour of a few, only hands them the flag. If you are giving them the flag, you are part of legitimising them.
It is easy to complain and point fingers at what is wrong. It is easy to cause discontent. It takes a better level of thinking to show respect. It takes a great strength of character to seek to unite and it takes principled people to not be dragged down into the mire of conflict.
This has probably been one of the most fascinating elections in living memory. Nothing, but nothing happened the way it was thought it would and the landscape is now not dissimilar to a world war one battle field, parched, rising smoke and littered with bodies!
I am not going to repeat the list of casualties and the events that people know well. I would like to take a moment to make some ‘leadership’ points that struck me. Nick Clegg is probably the man I feel most sorry for. I think he made an excellent Deputy Prime Minister and in years to come his Party will lament on their stupidity in not supporting him better than they did. Having said that, as much as he was good a Deputy Prime Minister, he was not effective as the Leader of his Party and he did make some mistakes. He is one of those people that make an excellent Number 2 and not the Leader at the top.
However, he made a very interesting and perceptive comment in his resignation speech. He said; “Liberalism in UK and Europe is not faring well in a world of fear”. This is a very true statement, and the Party needs to really consider this carefully. The truth is, in a world where there are threats like ISIS, Al Qaida and other forms of terrorism, people do not trust the Liberals to make the right choices. They are simply not seen as strong enough to stand up to these forces.
So what about Labour? Ed Miliband is not a Leader and should never have been elected in the first place to represent his Party. He has the amazing ability to talk a good talk and made some clever statements at times, but he is like a street fighter and not a professional boxer. He can fight a good fight in the back streets but struggles with the rules of the game when in the ring. A statement was made at the beginning of the campaigning that found seed in many people’s minds. The statement was something like, “If he can stab his own brother in the back…”. He lost Scotland after that. Scotland didn’t want to vote for David Cameron but they certainly did not want Ed Miliband.
He also made some major gaff’s that showed his immaturity as a leader. His commandments in stone were cheap, tacky and smacked of publicity seeking and of no real substance. His comments about being called to Downing Street to discuss Syria and standing up to Cameron and Obama, was embarrassing to say the least. However, the biggest issue was ironically at its clearest in his resignation speech which came over as though he was still campaigning and not imparting some wisdom to his Party of where they need to focus now. Having reversed Labour from the re-invention of Labour under Tony Blair, which he did with such pride, he still does not recognise that this was the wrong thing to do. The striking difference in the two resignation speeches from Labour and Liberals showed how little Ed Miliband understood the real issues and what people are thinking. He is totally out of touch and set Labour back as badly as Michael Foot did years ago.
The term “Customer Service” has become overused, and in many cases becomes an excuse to explain frustration when something goes wrong. Organizations have started using different terminologies in an endeavour to appear better than competitors or to rally their people and breathe new life into their customer approach or activities. New phrases have appeared including, Customer Excellence, Customer Engagement, Customer Journey, Customer Satisfaction and many others.
In all sectors, and most specifically in the service sector, the relationship a business has with its customer is very important. In fact it is vital to the success and performance of the business. The problem is, every industry is different and their customers have different expectations. Added to that is geographical and cultural differences, which all have an impact on the way a business is run.
A study done by Bain & Co asked senior managers in selected companies to rate their organizations customer service. 80% of these senior managers believed that their organization gave excellent customer service. When the customers of those same organizations were asked about the level of service they received, only 8% believe they received excellent customer service.
A study by Michigan Business School compared the performance of a S&P general tracker fund with that of a general portfolio of S&P companies awarded high American Customer Service Index (ACSI) ratings. The results show the dividend returns per dollar invested in each fund as consistently higher in every case in every year, for the 5 year period over the recession.
If organizations are going to deal with their customer relationship, they need to differentiate the terminology in a meaningful way that allows an organization to consider what it is seeking to achieve and what relationship it wants with its customers.
What is Customer Service?
If you take time to think about it, the term customer service is non-descript. It does not say if the customer service is good, bad, adequate, dynamic, or any other descriptive word you wish to use. It simply implies that you give a service.
Customer Service is the way you interact with the customer. It is what the customer gets at a basic level with no definition or further description. If any person or organizations have a relevant product, service or skill, provides an acceptable environment or physical appearance and meaningful dialogue with the customer, then a service can be provided for a customer. Of course, cost or value for money could be included, but even these are a bit above the basic three needs to provide a customer a service.
- Relevant product, service or skills In order for there to be customer service, there has to be a product, service and/or skill that the customer may want or make use of.
- Environment or Physical Appearance There has to be a place that the service is provided. It can be a physical place but it also be virtual by being on the web or in the cloud.
- Meaningful Dialogue The interaction with the customer has to happen to transfer information and possibly make a sale.
The important point is to understand that most of the above can be achieved by good systems and processes, and hiring the right people. In fact, a lot of it can be scripted. For example, in a restaurant the script can require the server to ask if your meal is ok within three minutes of receiving your food. This is an example of customer service being scripted.
So, provided you have a product, service or skill to offer, a place to offer it and the means to have a transaction with the customer, you are providing customer service. It is up to the organization to decide the level of that service by ensuring it has the right systems, processes and people to deliver what is desired.
What about Customer Satisfaction?
Of all the words used in relation to dealing with customers, “customer satisfaction” is the most misused, misrepresented and misleading in most cases. In fact it is often a misnomer. The reason is because it often assumes that we all desire the same level of satisfaction. What would satisfy one customer may not satisfy another. People are different. It also assumes that the customer knows what they want. Working for customer satisfaction is probably a worthless goal because it is too general.
“If I asked the customer what they wanted, I would have tried to create a faster horse”
⎯ Henry Ford
In many cases it is largely nothing more than random feedback. Typically an organization collects data through a questionnaire/survey completed (normally with some sort of grading) by their customers. However, the organization does not know what those customers expectations were in the first place! So the data is random data with no sound basis to enable meaningful improvements.
As a result, it becomes a useless method for the organization to use as a differentiation with their competitors. It does not provide comparable data that can help identify areas for improvement.
Worst of all, this means that it is not meaningful as a means to drive a business or improve performance. If data cannot be used to differentiate or improve performance and drive the business forward, then it has to be asked….why do it?
So customer satisfaction is an overused term that creates the wrong impression in most cases. This does not mean that surveys should not be carried out and feedback should not be obtained, it means that approaching it with the terminology “customer satisfaction” is misleading when what really is needed is feedback that ensures improvements.
By taking the time to examine how effective companies approach the relationship they have with their customers, we have managed to identify the meanings behind the words being used. These successful organizations understand the value they offer and the way they want to relate to their customer.
Customer Excellence: Customer Excellence is where an organization seeks to differentiate its basic service. It may be driven by a desire to create a differentiation from their competitors. It may be that the product, service or skills have a unique element or feature that takes it to a level of excellence. It is about providing what your TARGET customer wants, in the order they want it.
Customer Experience: Customer Experience is where the organization focuses on aspects of the service they deliver so as to create something for their customer that manages the customer’s perception. It may be that the organization identifies touch points that it wants to ensure an experience for the customer. It can be a series of touch points. It is about ensuring that at a certain point (or series of points) the customer perception is guaranteed or exceeded.
Customer Engagement: Customer Engagement is different from anything else. In this case the organization has a different view of the customer altogether. The organization is seeking to develop a relationship with the customer by setting the customer as an equal. This is not a serving relationship, it is about where your value meets the customer’s needs in a way that surprises them. It is about delivering the value you offer in a way that takes the customer along with you. It can include training and educating the customer in a way that improves their life. Customer engagement is about the relationship that your staff and the customer are allowed to have
I am not a big lover of statues but I do understand their significance. Over centuries there are people that have done significant things, whether it is Ghandi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln, Hitler, Stalin, Mao or others. Some of them did great things of good and others not. The point is that they did exist and did make major contributions to the world. In every case there were some people that hated them and some that loved them.
This week students at a university in South Africa got their way and had the status of Cecil John Rhodes removed. For them this is some sort of moral victory. In truth it is an example of their immaturity. You don’t create the future by trying to remove the past. The past is just that….it is the past. Cecil John Rhodes made a major contribution to Africa. He may have been part of building an Africa that was racist, but he was still a building block in the creation of modern Africa.
A mature approach from students would be to have demanded that a statue of Mandela or even Rhamaposa was erected next to Cecil John Rhodes to show the way Africa has developed and moved forward DESPITE and because of these people.
The defacing of the statues was, at best childish, but sadly ranks them alongside ISiS in the destroying of the great Buddha’s in the Middle East. These students are so focused on overcoming their past, they are in danger of replicating their past. They are so focused on “demanding retribution” for the way white people treated black people, that they are starting to become the white people they hate.
This week Mugabe said that he did not want to see a white face. An outstandingly stupid comment to make, but not surprising. Mugabe hated racism. Yet he is now the most racist person in the world. He has become everything that he hated all those years ago. Mr Mugabe, if you hate whites, then why do you like to wear western suits, nice white shirts, beautiful ties? Why do you like cricket and embrace the trappings of colonial power with their buildings and systems? You hated white people for the same reason white people hated black people all those years ago. You are still frightened of them and it is time to face your fear and get over it!
We should all be careful of what we hate, because it can consume us and turn us into what we hate. It is better to regret the past, learn from it and build a future, than to hate the past and accidentally end rebuilding the past all over again with different labels.
This is obviously not an setting that Cameron is good in and he started out very hesitantly. When he did get into his stride, Burley was not giving him time to answer the questions fully. Miliband did well in many ways, and he employed a useful strategy of taking the sting out of questions by simply agreeing that Labour had got it wrong in the past. He did a good job of coming over as personal (talking about the issue with his brother) and he tried to come over strong and certainly will have surprised some people.
In terms of Content, Cameron had a lot more content and answered questions well. Miliband lacked content as he always does.
In terms of Personality, Cameron was still the more mature of the two. Disciplined and calculating in his presentation and answers he was the Cameron we all know (love him or hate him) and consistent. I lost count how many times Miliband said “the point is….” He was too intent on making his point and not answering the question. He came over as the kid who sits in the class with his hand in the air saying “Me, me….please Sir me”.
In terms of Leadership, Cameron was more of the Statesman and portrayed a steady hand with a sense of strength, that was just below the surface and behind that smile. He was more disciplined. People like consistent, disciplined and strong enough. Miliband lacked the Statesman and leadership style is still an unknown with him. When tackled on being strong enough, his example of saying “No” to President Obama about Syria was laughable. Having said that, die hard Labour supporters will have loved him and he gave them something to feel good about. The undecided voters will not have been won over by Miliband in terms of leadership ability and will still lean to Cameron as the better leader.
Think of it this way, who would you want leading the country against ISIS? Who would you want negotiating against a Republican President? Miliband still has not shown he has a leadership style worthy of the job of Prime Minister
Overall, Cameron came over as a steady hand and Statesman, Miliband came over as the ‘wannabe’ Alex Salmond! The winner was most definitely Jeremy Paxman
As I look back on 2014, I have realised that is was a year that I will call the Year of Awakening. We think we know things and we think we have a frame of reference that is real and true.
I pride myself on being objective. I can take a step back and look at things from an objective stance, removing emotions and focusing on seeing things as others see them. I have worked hard at developing that attribute over the years. However, 2014 opened my eyes and made me realise that despite how hard I have worked at being objective, I still get drawn into things and lock onto thoughts that govern my behaviour.
For years I have laboured under the belief that the sometimes stormy relationship I have had with my Father was because of me and how I was. I blamed myself for not being a better son and being more understanding of him. In September we had found a level of peace between us and actually enjoyed some time together. Then on the 25th of September he had a stroke that nearly killed him. Doctors and Consultants said he would not last 48 hours, but he wasn’t listening! For over three months he remained alive, although steadily deteriorating.
What was interesting was the way his friends rallied to me and were reassuring to me. I think that the following comment sums it up: “Paul, I know your Father was a difficult man and very stubborn, and it can’t have been easy growing up for you” Wow, other people found him difficult and stubborn!!! I thought it was me! Now that was an awakening. I had no idea that people saw him in that light. The relief was like a weight lifting off my shoulders.
In another awakening, I worked hard for over twenty years to maintain a good relationship for the sake of my sons. I hated the idea they would be forced to choose between us at important stages of life. Many people passed comments over time that maybe my belief was one sided, but I believed that it was mutual and that despite everything we were still friends and would be there for each other. The awakening in 2014 was her turning against me at a difficult time. It was very simple really, she listened to what someone else said about me and without bothering to talk to me or hearing the other side of the events, she simply slated me. Wow, what an awakening! I realised that it had been me that had worked hard at maintaining our friendship and she had taken advantage of it.
I had been so intent on making it work, I had ceased to be objective any more. Others could see what I had refused to see.
As if that were not enough, I had the same awakening with my son. Once again, when I found out that what I had believed was actually not reality, I was stunned by comments of people that said they could see what the situation was. Don’t get me wrong, my son is a wonderful person in many ways. However, there is aspects of his character that I chose to ignore until events showed me I was not being as objective as I thought I was.
I have always believed that you cannot move to the next level in life until you have learned the lessons of the level you are at. So 2014 has been a year when I have had an awakening and it has made me wonder what else I am missing? If someone that works so hard at being objective and looking at things dispassionately, can be locked into things, then what else am I locked into?
So in 2015 I am pushing myself to be more aware and be prepared to challenge my perceptions. I need to be less willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and ensure that I am able to justify what I believe with consistent evidence, whilst at the same time be careful not to be cynical.
A year ago I said it was going to be a demanding and hard year in 2014. I had taken over as interim CEO of a company to turn it around and make it viable once again. My expectation turned out to be underestimated by a long way.
The turn around ended up being a lot more demanding than expected at a number of levels. I had to break off relationships with some of our Partners and suddenly dismiss another member of staff for unacceptable behavior. After this I had a complaint leveled at me to the Board and the Financial Director walked out locking everything in the company safe so we could not get at it. Although the allegations were false, it made for a difficult time with the Board. We moved premises, changed banks and finished putting in a new ERM system.
As difficult as it was, the result was good as we are back in profit and got a clear focus now. I have also put together an excellent team and we are achieving more with less people and the atmosphere is wonderful. More than that, I am enjoying working with some wonderful people. We had a great conference in October and had Alvin Law as our guest speaker and it was great to have him with us. We are so fortunate to have friends like Alvin and Darlene. That conference was the watershed moment and it has been so heart-warming to see people who finally get it and start stepping up to the challenge.
On a personal front, the year has been in some ways a lot more traumatic. We were delighted in December 2013 to welcome Holly into the family with David’s first baby. She has been a delight and is such a happy soul. Unfortunately David’s wife has decided to distance herself from us and that has made it hard for everyone and we do not get to see Holly very much any more. The worst of it is to see the pressure it has on David and the long-term impact on his health is a matter of concern to us. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I admire his loyalty to his family and most of all how he has not allowed it to effect our working relationship. He has been a star this year in the work we have done with the company I am CEO of. In some ways he has grown up a lot and it has done him good to be in a real working environment and deal with issues and people.
If this unnecessary pressure on us was not enough, my Dad had a sudden stroke and is now under observation in a Home. At ninety, he has had a good run, but he was independent and living on his own. Then suddenly he is at deaths door and should not have survived (according to the medical team) and now in a regressive state where he does not know who we are and is heading to a vegetative state. I have come to terms that he is not going to come back but it is still hard to see him: tiny, in a shriveled state who cannot communicate, has to be fed, etc. We strive to keep him comfortable and wait. That is all we can really do now.
Often when I have a really busy year, Lorna has an easier year and visa versa. However, that has not been the case this year. Lorna has had a very busy year as well and so we have often spent time apart….more than normal. The pressure on both of us has been very hard. Lorna was very close to my Dad and of course she was very close to Holly as well. Loosing both has been extremely hard for her on top of us being apart. But we are soul mates and have an unconditional support of each other that transcends these things. We are fortunate to have one another and we love and cherish the time we do have together. In some ways all this has made us stronger and, ironically it has helped us to focus on ourselves and our future.
The wonderful part of the year has been to see Tim and Penny and the two granddaughters Lucy and Amy settled and in such a good place. They have had a few hard years with a lot of ups and downs and challenges. They have broken through and both have good jobs they are really enjoying, and the girls are growing up so well. They are a tribute to the way they have parented the girls and we are so looking forward to having them for their holiday in 2015 in Canada. That will be a real joy for Lorna and I.
The farm has been neglected this year although we did get to spend a bit of time on it at stages in the year. There has been some memorable times in 2014, including taking Lorna to Algonquin National Park, being joint MC with David at PCMA conference in Montreal; speaking at the CAPS conference and doing something totally different, and of course seeing some of our really good friends like Kit Grant, Ulana and Juri, Mike and Joanne and others.
What about 2015?
I have agreed to stay on as CEO for another year and get some of the things I started up and running. So my focus will be more on ‘business development’ this year and driving the international element. I am fortunate to have a good team in place that can keep things moving forward, and I am delighted to have Ruth Regan as my fellow Director now. She is a real pleasure to work with, and along with Kathy Leahy, Rob Barlow and others, I know 2015 will be a good year.
On the development side, I am excited about the opportunities and delighted to have Gary Swarebrooke on board to get projects off the ground. On both sides of the business, David continues to do great work and will have a significant impact in 2015. We have moved past the worst and can now get back to being innovative and create some interesting stuff. I am also looking forward to working with our good friend Lindsay Adams with our plans for Australia and South Asia. Of course I have my speaking and advisory business as well, and that is going well and continues to get stronger.
2015 will be the year we leave Grantham as our UK base. We are selling up our properties there and buying something smaller in the Nottingham area. Having got a bit more focus on our future, we may also sell the farm in Canada and do something different. So it will be a bit of consolidation whilst still planning a significant growth, year ☺
As you know, we don’t do Christmas Cards any more but we do wish all our friends a wonderful Christmas and Festive Season, and Happy New Year. Lorna and I wish you all the best for 2015 and may your year be everything you want it to be. Hopefully we will get to see you at some stage, but if we don’t, please keep in touch.
Love and best wishes
Paul and Lorna
The death of a young man on the streets of Ferguson is certainly tragic and sad.
However, the outbreak of violence, looting and criminal behaviour does not do credit or should be a fitting memorial to a young man despite his background or life. Worse than that, the protest is for totally the wrong reasons.
Everyone seems to be missing the point.
First of all, Michael Brown was hardly an example of common sense a law abiding citizen. At the same time the officer was hardly showing common sense or following sensible protocol when confronting Michael Brown. First of all a police officer allowing ANYBODY to approach them while they are in a vulnerable position of being sat in their vehicle, is not sensible and probably taught in Police School to avoid. Having got themselves trapped in the police vehicle and then attacked, was pure stupidity and showed the naivety and lack of experience of the police officer.
To return to the scene ALONE after the first altercation, was once again pure stupidity. The Officer is alone, there are two suspects, there are plenty of witnesses watching….. everything about it was screaming, don’t deal with this on your own. Call for back up. Make sure back up is on the way. Don’t walk into this on your own!
But the inexperienced officer with what is now a bruised ego decides to deal with it himself. Now he steps out the car and confronts the youth and we all know what happens next. Very sad indeed. Did the officer break the law? No. Unfortunately being naïve, stupid and not following your training or protocol is not illegal. So there is no crime committed by the Police Officer.
So what do we have? Michael Brown acting inappropriately at least, behaving stupidly and showing a complete lack of common sense. A Police Officer acting inappropriately, behaving irrationally and showing a lack of common sense. You can be as upset as you want that the Officer shot the young man, but he DID NOT BREAK THE LAW. In fact if anyone broke the law in the altercation, Michael Brown was in the wrong for attempting to assault a Police Officer. And it is absolutely true that the young man should not have died for what, at that stage was a misdemeanour.
So what is the real issue here?
The real issue is the lack of trust the Public has for the Police Service. This is an issue across the country. The Police are seen as enforcers of the law and not keepers of the peace. It is true that the Police have the full force of the law behind them and that is a lot of power to have in their hands. However, they are seen as wielding their power like a ‘right’ rather than a back-up when needed.
A Police Officer should be hanging on to their common sense long after the members of the public have lost theirs. But the public don’t see that happening. They see the Police wielding their power, and it is often seen as doing it to inflate their own ego and not because they are doing the job required of them.
I am not sure where the fault lies here, but I will guess it is not in one area alone. I suspect the training given to Officers needs a complete rethink. I suspect the way officers are performance managed and even disciplined needs a rethink. I do know one thing for certain…..Leadership is at fault. The culture and attitude of the Police comes from the top, and the communication and perceptions of the community comes from lack of clear Leadership.
Two young men have faced tragedy. One lost his life literally and the other lost his figuratively. He now has to live his life knowing he needlessly killed a human being because of his arrogance, stupidity and lack of common sense. He will always be known as the reckless person incapable of showing sound judgement. I believe he has resigned, and I bet he was encouraged to do so because no Police Force wants that sort of reckless person on their force.
When will society wake up and realise that these incidents are an outcome of a bigger issue?
To the protesters I say this: Protest not against the single foolish Police Officer or the single incident. Rather protest against the culture of the Police Force and Leadership that has allowed it (even nurtured it) and certainly condones it. You are wasting an opportunity to make a real statement and instead showing yourselves in a bad light when resorting to violence.
Real change happens when the right conversation is held in public. Start that movement NOW. Start talking NOW. Force discussion NOW. Create a following of people behind a change and reform in the Police Service across the nation, NOW. Become an example to the world of how a good Police Service should be run and led.
To Protect and to Serve
This week I wanted to hire a van to move things from one of our offices. I phoned up three local hire firms. All were very polite. I have used Enterprise a number of times in North America (having moved away from being a gold card Avis member) and so decided I would go with them. They also advertise on their website “The company that is famous for its excellent customer service”.
The booking service was good and the guy was trying to be helpful but he was not grasping my needs at all. Anyway, I booked the vehicle and decided that I would go down to the depot the day before to go through the booking and make sure it was ok. The depot is 500 yards from my office.
I get to the depot and there was definitely a cheery atmosphere and a young lady greeted me very nicely and in a welcoming manner. I explained that I had a booking and I wanted to run through it with her. My desire was to book the vehicle through the company name as it was a company that was paying for it.
I am not going to bore you with the sequence of events but everything I asked about, she answered ending with “OK?”. It was very obvious that it was not OK and that I was trying to make a point that she was not prepared to engage with me how we could accomplish a result. I eventually had to say, ‘please stop saying “OK” when you can see that it is not ok and not what I am wanting’.
I found out that this lady was Branch Manager!! How anybody makes Branch Manager that things that a joyful tone is all that makes excellent customer service, is beyond me. She even said, “Are you wanting this booking or shall I cancel it?”.
I walked away very unhappy with the service I was buying and paying for. I did not cancel but went back to the office to think about it for a while and not make an emotional decision. Eventually I went on the website and that did it for me. I noticed that they had section called Business Rentals!!! So all I needed was to be directed to the business rental section and I could have got most of what I needed. What is more, I would have been locked in with them.
The lesson is, don’t treat all customers as the lowest customer who is going to try and con you, return your van with scratches and have their payment bounce. Treating customers as your lowest common denominator means you will attract your lowest common denominator. Take the time to understand the client and discover that you may be facing someone that could bring in significant revenue to your business, is actually honest and above board in his dealings and has the resources whereby you are guaranteed your money without any doubt at all.
Time to look for a new hire company I think. Sad really, when the North America
Enterprise is really good L
P.S – Enterprise: Friendliness is not all that is required for excellent customer service. Friendliness is part of ‘standard’ customer service.