Monday, December 8, 2014

It's Monday and there's only 16 more days until Christmas

It's usually at this point where we ask ourselves "Where has the year gone?"

This question gets me thinking, does it mean that the year had no significant achievements or milestones, or does it mean that it was full of them providing no time to rest? For me, it seems that every year older I get, the faster each year goes.

This year started with 'go live' on a significant IT project at Toyota Motor Corporation of Australia. Approximately 3,000 employees showed up for work to be greeted by a new email system (Microsoft Outlook 2013) as a replacement for Lotus Notes. After 11 months of project work, the team and I delivered a successful project, after that I returned home New Zealand for a bit of rest and relaxation.

Now, I'm working as a Sales Executive for a New Zealand company that provides Workforce Management Solutions. After working for so many years with IBM software, it has been a challenge to build new relationships with Human Resources and Finance professionals. Thanks to Social Media, this has become a lot easier.

With only 16 more days left this year, I find myself to be rather focused on what I can do to maximise my time this side of Christmas. Monday provides a great opportunity to review the status of my opportunities and how I can best progress them. While closing more sales this side of Christmas is likely, I am keen to ensure that I am off to a great start in 2015.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Orcon strikes again - no VDSL broadband

Last night I was due to give a presentation to an audience of 100 registered (mainly paying) participants within a virtual conference. I ran a few tests to ensure that everything was set and ready to go. A few minutes later, my wife told me that her laptop was not able to browse the internet. So, I blamed her useless laptop.
Just moments before the presentation was to begin I went back to my laptop to connect and what would you know? The internet was down. There couldn't have been a worse time. I got onto the phone and called my ISP (Internet Service Provider) to ask them what was happening. I'm a loyal customer of Orcon.

The customer support person who answered the phone went through the usual process of trying to eliminate the obvious things that would go wrong with an internet connection. Rebooting and resetting the router seem to be as much as he was able to advise me to do. Neither of these things worked, so I decided to use my mobile phone as a wireless hotspot.

As internet connectivity on mobile devices can be unreliable, I did find that I lost my connection to the conference just minutes before the end of my presentation. I managed to reconnect to ensure that I could respond to a question and answer session. You can imagine, that for a professional speaker these sorts of technical issues are really embarrassing.

Once the virtual conference had completed, I got back onto the phone to Orcon customer support. It didn't appear that a call or fault was logged from my initial call. The person on the other end of the phone logged a call and he escalated it to the second level support. He then proceeded to advise me that the connection could be down for between 12 hours and three days. I said that this was unacceptable and then got off the phone feeling quite frustrated.

This afternoon, I have come home to do some work. I noticed that the broadband internet connection is still not working. I called the support desk again and the person that I spoke to was not able to give me any satisfactory update. He reminded me that it could be anywhere between one to three business days before my connection would be back up and running. That would mean that my connection went down on Wednesday evening and may not be up again until Monday evening. Again, in this day and age, this is highly unacceptable.

After getting a little bit frustrated, I decided that I would escalate my predicament to a supervisor. I asked the young man if I could please speak with his supervisor. He was reluctant to put me through to the supervisor. I was persistent and insisted that he did, finally he made an attempt to put me through. The supervisor was apparently on the phone.

 I then asked to speak to the supervisor of the supervisor. I was placed on hold for a considerable amount of time, maybe up to ten minutes. The young man came back to me and said that the supervisors supervisor was also on the phone. Not wanting to give up, I asked for the supervisor from the next level up. Again he came back to me to say that that person was also on the phone dealing with a customer issue. So, now we have three supervisors on the phone dealing with customer issues. They must have some fairly significant issues if all of the supervisors are on the phone, especially when I'm trying to escalate. This would also suggest that other people were having to escalate their issues. For some reason my confidence and their ability to deliver a good service has significantly diminished.

I decided not to muck around, so I insisted that he provide me with the name of his CEO. After all, if I was going to have to keep escalating to the next person above the person I was asking for, I may as well get in touch with the person who can really make a difference to my problem. Now, I know that Orcon has recently been purchased or acquired by CallPlus, but this happened a few months ago. The young guy on the end of the phone could not tell me the name of his CEO. He told me that he didn't know who his senior manager was! What sort of a business is it when people don't know their own CEO?

To save some time, I did a google search on the phrase "CEO of CallPlus". Within seconds, I identified that the CEO is a gentleman by the name of Mark Callander (twitter account). I can't believe, that the young man at the call centre could not be as resourceful as myself and actually use an internet search engine. It would have saved himself some time and embarrassment. I asked to be put through to Mark, however I was told that he couldn't even find a phone number or email address for Mark. Again, I ask, what sort of a company is this when staff cannot engage with their CEO? How do you ever ask them to raise something with senior management, when they don't know how to connect withthem?

So, here I am now, waiting for my high-speed internet to be reconnected. I could be waiting for as long as next Monday. I understand that it could be earlier, however even 12 hours is a long time in this day and age. Having being a customer for approximately 10 years in a consumer driven culture that lacks loyalty, you would think that they would treat me as a VIP.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Announcement: Social Biz Guy Virtual Connection (Mentoring & Coaching)

You asked for it! And I've listened.

I am proud to announce that I am launching a new service that will provide mentoring and coaching for people interested in how to get value out of social media. This is being done through a virtual community and is powered by the IBM Smartcloud.

As an introductory offer, the first 20 people to email about joining will get a free one year subscription, valued at $600.  If you would like to take up this offer then please email NOW!

Monday, November 17, 2014

How product mash-up's are causing disruption within traditional consumer markets

A few years ago I started to hear of a term called “mash-up's”.  As I have spent most of my career working in Information Technology, this term typically referenced a web page or application created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

More recently, the term “mash-up's” has become more popular. The term is also applied to the likes of music. On YouTube you can find many music videos where two or more songs have been skillfully and craftily combined into one.

Yesterday, after enduring 60 minutes of HIIT (High Impact Interval Training) I took a shower. On a recent trip to the shops, my wife got me some new shampoo. While it was my usual favorite, Head & Shoulders, I noticed a small difference, it also included a scent of men’s perfume, known as “Old Spice”. These two different companies came together to build a product, a “mash-up”.

One of my favorite chocolate bars has to be the Whittaker’s Peanut Slab! Here in New Zealand we are also spoilt with a drink known as Lemon & Paeroa. Both Whitakers and Lemon & Paeroa got together to put a drink into a white chocolate slab. Again, another “mash-up”.

I’ve also seen another “mash-up” between Lewis Road Creamery and Whittaker’s that has lead to one of New Zealand’s most coveted chocolate milk drinks, known as Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk. Often shops limit the purchase of this product to one per customer. Happy customers are posting photo’s on Social Media.

Out of old products, new products are being created! Each company is able to take advantage of cross-brand customer loyalty. There seems to be a refreshing buzz amongst consumers where the idea of product “mash-up's” appears to be gaining in popularity and success.

This is not whole lot different to the idea of traditional business partnerships.   However, they have the ability to create disruption within traditional markets. However, I do ask the question, is the Head & Shoulders/Old Spice “mash-up” meant to be a time saving tool?

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Spark (Telecom) refuses to take cash payments

It was with interest that I read an article about a man going into a Spark store to pay his telephone utilities bill whereby the store refused to take cash as a payment. What interested me the most about this was my 80 year old father-in-law running into the same situation a few weeks ago. Even if he went to a NZ Post store, he could pay by cash but would incur an additional handling fee.

I struggle getting my head around how businesses operate in this fashion, especially when the telco's are finding their industry to be so competitive. Just last week both Spark and Vodafone NZ announced the need to lay-off significant numbers of staff (significant for tiny little New Zealand).

When my father-in-law shared his experience with my wife and I, the first thing we said was "leave". It would appear that my generation has little or no tolerance for this sort of behaviour. If we don't like something, we know that we have a choice and therefore we look elsewhere. With our ability to access the internet, we can reassign our services to other utilities company with minutes.

The problem is that for people like my father-in-law, he has been a loyal customer of Spark right through several buyouts. From the good old days of Spark being a state owned enterprise known as NZ Post, then Telecom and now known Spark (a rebrand). Now, he has trouble adapting to change as almost everything becomes electronic. This is the man who has a mobile phone that rarely leaves the kitchen bench! He once had a computer at home to play solitaire, but as with all great technology that didn't last for ever.

Like most of our friends, my wife and I have next to no tolerance of bad service or things happening that we as customers don't like. We always weigh up the pro's and con's of taking our business elsewhere and sometimes chose to remain as an unhappy customer. Even with the variety of options, often there is no good alternative.

I have reviewed a lot of research over the last couple of years that would suggest that one of the top 5 key priorities for the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is to increase customer loyalty. What I am seeing on the consumer side of the equation is that consumers don't provide loyalty when they don't feel that loyalty is returned.

While Social Media is a great platform for people to make buying decisions, so is the ability to have real-life interaction. When it comes to making a buying decision, a negative review may/will determine a positive or negative buying decision. Big deal, right? The bigger deal is an existing and loyalty customer sharing a bad experience. Younger generations, like mine (who are not so young any more) are actively encourage the loyal customer to take their business elsewhere. The loyal customer is persuaded or even pressured to make a move.

The majority of comments here on my blog, talk about customer experience. It's something that I am passionate about.  We need to be listening to our customers and we need to ensure that it is easy for our customers to do business with us. It doesn't matter if we are B2B or B2C. What does matter is that we provide an exceptional service from start to finish and thereafter if need be.

Another key priority for most CEO's is to increase customer engagement. Better customer engagement generally leads to better sales. Let's put the two together shall we, better customer engagement and customer loyalty must be a great concoction!

If Spark are to invest in having retail outlets then they have an opportunity to engage with their customers in person as they walk into a real-life store. They have the can to talk to them about their needs and to help them to find solutions. Also, known as 'sales'. The cost of selling something to an existing customer is a lot lower than trying to acquire a new customer.

Photo provided under (cc) license by Abaconda Management Group

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