Business lessons learnt from 2011

Clock counting down to review

With Christmas just around the corner and the pending close of 2011 shortly to follow I have been asking myself what were the key lessons learnt for 2011.

Big business with a small business service philosophy
Big business is no excuse for poor customer service. No matter how big the business is it needs to service their customer as a small business would. Consumers are spoilt for choice and will vote with their feet without providing feedback, so you will be none the wiser why they left you.

I recently caught up with a friend for a pre-Christmas champagne at a major hotel in Sydney. The service experience could only be described as a comedy of errors. Between the champagne order not arriving, to a problem with the food order and the second glass forgotten, I found myself providing feedback to one of the wait staff.

I have been frequenting the establishment for the past six years, so I needed to say something as it was embarrassing when I had recommended the venue to a friend. To my pleasant surprise we were presented with complimentary French champagne, an enormous apology and the honest reason why the problems had occurred—how refreshing! Taking ownership of the problem, remedying the problem and offering some compensation is generally all it takes to keep customers loyal to your business.

This is not rocket science, but the world of business often misses service 101 today. You need to engage and focus the attention of your people on what matters to your customers and align your recognition and reward programs accordingly.

‘One kitchen, many dining rooms’
I heard this expression at an Adaptra Group breakfast forum and it resonated with me as a great way of describing economies of scale for business continuity and sustainability. Many companies are juggling multiple brands and value propositions, not to mention the internal complexities with systems, competing distribution channels and the politics that go along with these challenges. Most lose sight of the real agenda, which is ‘The Customer is King!’

Can I suggest for 2012 that you merge your kitchens (the back office) and focus on the service in your many dining rooms (front of house) to reduce the internal competing priorities and focus on the real end game—customer satisfaction?

F Commerce
Is this the new black? Progressive companies are leveraging the power of Facebook, LinkedIn and other electronic media. Australians today, more than ever before, are connecting and buying online rather than in person. Organisations need to understand how F Commerce impacts their business if they have not already done so.

Consumers are no longer expecting – they are demanding information and service at their fingertips. Many consumers today are digital natives and that in itself tells us that this trend will become a norm before too long. Perhaps it already is.

High cost, no time, no resources, no budget…
These words are an all too familiar reality for many organisations. So how do you empower your people to do more with less? We have discussed earlier this year about the importance of people being your competitive advantage, using their influencing skills and being a good leader. I thought when the going got tough; the tough got going or was that just a song to sing for fun? What happened to inspiration, resilience, agility and determination? These appear to be just words inside many organisations.

So what can you do to mobilise your employees for the tough economic times ahead of us in 2012? Focus is the answer. Focus attention on what is important, rather than trying to boil the ocean. A few cascading objectives that everyone in the organisation is working on achieving in the new one kitchen many dining rooms approach to business. Remember you should be one TEAM—’Together wE Achieve More’.

So I leave you with these couple of lessons to wrap up the year of 2011. I hope you take the opportunity to take a break over the festive season to recharge your batteries. Have a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. I look forward to sharing thoughts with you again in 2012.