Monday, January 31, 2011

Great service starts with identifying expectations

This is the starting point for great service. If you don’t understand the expectations of your customers, then everything that you do is likely to contribute to failing to meet them. Customers will have expectations whether you understand them or not. They usually consist of outcome factors and process factors and have a zone of tolerance for them to be acceptable.
The outcome factors relate to the reliability of the service/product and determine whether the service/product meets the customers’ expectations. The process factors relate to the customers experience and will determine if the customers’ expectations have been exceeded or not.

Quote from a research participant
Once you realise that the starting point is understanding expectations, everything else becomes a whole lot easier. All you have to do is ask people what they want, and then do your best to deliver that to them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day - a time to say "Thanks!"

Not that we should limit ourselves to saying "Thanks!" to one day per year, but Australia Day offers an opportunity and a reminder to be thankful for what we have. Recently I posted an article titled the Thankful List.

Think about the things for which you are thankful and offer a genuine "thanks!" to at least one person today. Why not! For those of us who live in Australia we recognise that we are very lucky to live in a country full of opportunity and potential, while still remaining relatively safe.

I too would like to thank you for making the effort you are making to help make your organisations, institutions and centres of learning better places for the people who work/study there and the people you serve. You can never underestimate the positive difference that a lot of people doing a lot of 'little things' can make over time.

Enjoy today and once again, thank you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Formal learning 'on the job' a success

Much of our tertiary education system involves a separation of theory from practice. Recently, however, a new experiment to bring a fresh stream of talented people into the teaching profession has shifted from the traditional approach.

The Teach For Australia initiative selected 45 top university graduate students from 750 applicants across a wide range of course backgrounds. Despite wide criticism of the program, these students were then placed into an intensive 6-week teacher education program at Melbourne University.

The students were then sent to 'Associate' teaching positions in Victoria's toughest schools.

Throughout their practical teaching experience the students continue to study and undergo a formal mentoring program. In many ways this initiative mimics the style of training and development established in the vocational education system. The bottom line is that the students are learning by doing, supported by continued development of their knowledge of theory.

After the first year of the program, 95% percent of the students are continuing into the second year of teaching which is an outstanding achievement and highlights the value of mixing theory with practice.

As a qualified teacher myself (my first degree was a Bachelor of Education majoring in Physical Education) I have often thought that the 'apprenticeship' style of formal education might be better suited to the development of teachers. I have often thought the same about management development.

One of the great challenges for management development is the separation between theory and practice. When you are the only manager from your area completing a graduate management program it is very difficult to apply what you are learning in the workplace. It is even more difficult to discuss with colleagues why you are doing what you are doing. It is for this reason that formal corporate education programs where teams of people from the same company receive formal management training as a cohort have the potential to significantly enhance the transfer of theory into practice.

Looking back at the education example cited above, let's consider some of the reasons why this program has been successful despite it being highly criticised when it was introduced. I will take a Systems Thinking perspective on my analysis.

  1. The system required that the students who applied for the program had to be graduating from their current courses with high grades. This meant that the system was attracting students with a proven capacity to learn in a university environment.
  2. The students were aware from the outset that the program required them to teach in 'difficult' schools and that this commitment was for a two year period. In other words the students were highly aware of the 'big picture' into which they were enrolling.
  3. The students would be paid $45 per year for being in the program. This is a reasonable wage for a graduating student and what better way to receive a formal education than to be paid for doing it!
  4. The factors listed above meant that you had highly self-motivated people enrolling into the program.
  5. When only 45 positions were available and 750 applications were received the intrinsic value of the system was in evidence by the sheer numbers of applicants - students could see the long term value of the system.
  6. Continuing the formal teaching education after the initial six week university program meant that students could discuss and reflect 'in class' on real teaching situations. Theory and practice had become one.
  7. The formal mentoring system meant that the students were 'not alone' on this journey - while they may have been alone in the classroom, help was never far away.

It is heartening to see such a modern approach to formal education and my hope is that more university courses follow this approach, and management is a particular area that could benefit from tightening the relationship between theory and practice.

You can read more about the Teach For Australia program here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

News Flash - Great service attracts customers!

Leonard Berry (author of On Great Service, 1995) has long advocated that great service attracts customers. This is because there are so many companies who are poor at service delivery. It is therefore easy for customers to differentiate between good and poor service companies and providing the benefit that the customer receives is more than their burden for obtaining that service or product, customers will continue to be attracted to great service.

Berry also highlights that a large benefit of great service is that positive word-of-mouth advertising is generated by great service. In short, great service attracts customers.

Quote from a research participant
For a long period of time my friend had been telling me about this bakery near where she lives. Finally I went there. She was right! The people and the ‘taste bud delights’ were fantastic! You should go there too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great service identifies what we shouldn't be doing

Just as great service tells us what we should be focussing upon and where our resources should be allocated, great service also helps to identify what we need to stop doing or what we should not start doing in the first place.

Southwest Airlines is an example of an organisation that is clear about the service that its customers want. They want safe, regular, reliable services that will get them to their destination on time delivered by genuine, caring and courteous staff.

Everything else, the in-flight food, the styling of the tickets etc. is all secondary to the main expectations of its customers.

Southwest’s Customer Charter outlines how it respects and addresses the expectations of its customers. You will not find Southwest Airlines placing a lot of focus on in-flight food. While it is available, it is not the main focus of their service. So they don’t put any more effort than is required into that part of their service.

Southwest’s service focus enables it to know what to do and what not to do.

After we had expelled three members from the centre and fully refunded their memberships (even though they had already used 90% of their time) we were approached by more than 30 members who told us that if we had not acted and expelled the three people, then they would have all gone and joined another centre. It really re-enforced that our members’ code of behaviour was there for a reason. The worst thing we could have done was to have turned a blind eye to it. It would have cost us.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Creating Shared Value Contributes To Creating Organisations That Matter!

Michael Porter and Mark Kramer have released an interesting article about organisations creating shared value in the Harvard Business Review.

Porter and Kramer argue that organisations need to operate from a new paradigm. One where value creation is not just about profit generation but also about how organisations can contribute to solving community and societal problems. They are not talking about social responsibility either.

They are talking about a genuine paradigm shift in which profit and social responsibility create equal value and they argue that it is possible to create such an organisation.

Shared value provides value to the organisation achieving its objectives, provides value to the employees of the organisation in helping them to contribute to worhtwhile projects and provides value to the broader community in contributing to solving social problems.

You can access the full article here.

Establishing the skills to create an organisation that matters is paramount to being able to create shared value. Yet most organisations are unaware of the skills required to undertake such a paradigm shift. Developing the skills to dialogue is one of the critical skills required. You can learn more about the seven skills of dialogue here.

What are your experiences of creating shared value?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Introduction To The Discovering Your Personal Values Activity

As a result of an impromptu request from audience participants after his TEDx Talks 'Plan For Personal Success' keynote, Gary Ryan facilitated an exercise to help staff identify their personal values.

This short video includes the introduction piece to this activity.

Please Contact Us if you would like to speak with Gary regarding discovering more about personal values or facilitating a program for your staff.

The complete exercise is included in Gary's new book What Really Matters For Young Professionals!

Length: 6 mins