Thursday, December 20, 2012

Who is building your BRAND?

Customer Experience is EXTREMELY important in the times of Social Media.
Last week we celebrated our marriage anniversary. My wife had read an article in the newspaper about one restaurant known for mouth watering food , visits of celebrities there and all new varieties of food.
Plan was finalized.
Just on the day I was looking to get clue of the location on the internet and that provoked me to just check the review of the restaurant.
& to my shock and surprise, most reviews were against the restaurant. Not only food quality reviewed by the customers was pathetic even hygiene was not up to the mark , few customers stated.
Rather than me telling my wife, I ask her to read reviews. Her mind changed immediately and our plan also changed for the day. May be we were saved from pathetic experience on the important day.
Point is:
- Companies MUST focus on creating better experience and then leave it to the customers to spread the word. Yes companies can play a role in facilitation in that.
- Paid media , paid/unpaid reviews or high claim advertisement will not work.
- Create awareness about the brand and let customers speak .
Generation NOW is highly connected with the help of Mobile Internet. Words spread fast, faster than one can imagine. Traditional advertising and marketing models and mindset will quickly give way to CUSTOMER Speak.
Role of Brand building has moved from creative AD agencies to CEO , Customer Experience Designers & Social Media Champions.
Customer experience is the end result of everything organisation does. No one can hide in the name of BACK OFFICE. Every action in the organisation impacts customer experience.
We all r on alert mode in experience economy. SO CALLED adverting agencies and brand champions  will find it difficult to get the desired results. ROI of such initiatives will diminish , diminish quickly.
Who is building your brand? Your Customers or Ad Agencies/Paid Media ?

We the (reactive) People:

We the (reactive) People: 
1) Cigarette Smoking  is Injurious to health & can cause Cancer.
2) Going to Gym and doing Exercise is good and must for Fitness, else disease and medicine dependent life 
3) Right eating is important for healthy life , else obesity , dependency, diseases 
4) Customer Experience is the sustainable competitive advantage else low margin, redundant business , possibility to go out of business  
Two things r common in all the above 4 statements.
First – Everyone know this.   Second - Hardly many takes action to get the benefits of the knowledge
Why:  Why we don’t ACT even if we know what is right and dangers of doing wrong ? 
Love for Status-Quo & Procrastination. Unless we forced to ACT even when the action is for the survival, we don’t ACT. All of us like to Re-Act to the situation. Most do not like to Pro-Act.
When we are diagnosed with cancer , we leave cigarette immediately.
When we are diagnosed with some diseases or become obsess we go to gym and eat right food.
When we are about to go out of business , all options are over , margins are shrinking , competitor/innovation has taken over our market share – we react and focus of better customer experience creation.
Stephen Covey of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People will tell you that the very first habit is to be proactive. Covey explained that to be proactive “means more than merely taking initiative.  It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.”
Be it business or personal level, we refuse to be PROACTIVE. Circumstances will force us to ACT.
Customer Experience is the most important thing every business CEOs and Entrepreneurs agrees/understands but where is the FORCE? Where is the compulsion ? Waiting for PRO to turn RE, is too costly , yes very costly and sometime FATAL.
Diagnosis Test for Status of Customer Experience : 
- Our company has customer experience statement
- Our business Process Team work Closely with Customer Experience Team
- Our advertising/marketing messages matches with experience our product/service offers to our customers. We make it sure.
-  Our people know the impact they create on the customer experience
- Our top management participates in customer issues/complaints/initiatives
- Our distribution channels are trained on company’s customer policy
- We measure customer experience our company creates.
If  answer to the most of the above statements are NO,  your company is already suffering Customer Experience leakages &  call for action is loud and clear.

Do you think your company is proactive in the matter of customer experience initiatives?

Brand Communication Vs Brand Execution

Mr. Narendra Modi is a very good Marketer. He is marketing his state so vigorously, that perhaps no other CM can match his passion and vigor. No two views here.  Opposition also agrees and says so.
Issue is what about SUBSTANCE ? Whether successful marketing is possible without matching investment in product and service ?
Marketing that follows good product and service development will only succeed. Howsoever aggressive marketing may be , it will fail miserably if the product and service being marketed is lousy. Therefore good marketing can not make lousy product successful. At the same time bad marketing can fail good products.
Bottom line is both product and marketing has to be excellent. Product can fail without the smart marketing but smart marketing have to  fail  without smart products/services.
“I rather die of bad marketing than a bad product!”
Most companies are smart marketer but not enough is done to make product or service smart that can give wow !!! customer experience.  Examples of product and service failure due to weak marketing is rare whereas example of failure of smart marketing campaigns due to weak product and service is more often.
Modi is smart marketer but that is because he was substance to offer to the voters. He cant be a successful marketer unless he has invested in his offings to the voters. Most political parties are just good campaigners but nothing to be shown on ground  That is a problem and that is the difference.
Bollywood is the best example where companies have become smart marketeer without investing  adequate in product.
So next time when you are deciding on marketing campaign just re check whether your product and services deserve this kind of marketing &  if the answer is NO , invest and work more on product and services than marketing communication. Make brand promise you wish to communicate through marketing campaign actually executable while using your offerings.
Does your product LIVE your brand promise  marketed by your marketer ??

Friday, December 7, 2012

Are you a SHAKER or Looking for One ??

Unless you shake up the bottle, you will get diluted version of the medicine. Unless you share up the institutions /companies, you get diluted performance. 

Therefore shaking up MUST be a part of regular activity if medicine or institutions have to perform at its finest potential. 

Our Institutions and companies for that matter perform below the potential merely due to non shaking up regularly. Mr Arvind Kejriwal & Team Anna have shaken up our democracy. People are now more forthcoming , speaking up and participating in democratic process and issues concerning them. 

Even at companies new CEO can bring life if he is enthusiastic and have capability to see things in different light. Status-Quo is the biggest challenge everywhere. Status Quo is nothing but unshaken condition. 

Look at the leaders who shook up the things. 

Public Life: 

Arvind Kejriwal , Narendra Modi , Nitish Kumar , Rajiv Gandhi , TN Seshan, CAG Vinod Rai , Manmohan Singh of 1991 , Ex BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar........


Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Narayana Murthy (IT), Kishor Biyani (Retail), Dhirubhai Ambani 
(Capital Market and Business)...... 

There are many institutions and companies that are looking for someone who really can shake them up and enable them to realise and/or  regain its true potential. 

Shekhar Suman Show Movers and Shakers might have lived its life, but we need Movers/Shakers everywhere, or else we all r likely to go sleep. 

Are you a Shaker or waiting for one?  

To become Shaker: 

- Ask Why as often 

- Ask Why Not more often

- Challenge Established Practice for betterment (better Speed, lower cost, higher reach, more revenue, happier people )

- Change Responsibility in Organisation

- Re-imagine world around You (every year). Execute what you can influence.

Name some of the Movers & Shakers known to you? How they Shook the world around them.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

SPEED UP – The only REFORM we want from Government

When we design customer experience , business processes r the most important thing after culture at the top and people.  Even that is true for Governments. Business and Governance processes are the most critical deterrents for offering delightful experience to customers/citizen. But when the matter is only of delight, we can ignore the same in favour of necessity, but when it has become necessity for development ,  economic growth and even for timely justice , we can neither ignore it nor remain inactive to live with that.  We can and must attack these procedures and processes which is delaying our - development, justice and everything in life.
Be it birth certificate,  death certificate, be it permission to start business or wind up the same,  be it permission to start construction or get conveyance of property, be it taking action by police for reported crimes, or admission in hospitals - everywhere delay  and follow up. Its consuming time of the nation enormously.
Recent global business survey held by World Bank puts India at 132 out of 185 nations for Ease of Doing business.  
Why doing business should be so uneasy? Why dealing with government departments is so uneasy and horrible experience of every citizen? Dealing with corruption is one part, getting things done in time is the most critical challenge. These kind of unease breeds corruption.
Mr. Kejriwal is right when he says there has to be  a Citizen Charter which states within HOW many days the application for anything in any govt (state/central or local) department in any state will be disposed off. & it must be done that way. Period.
Delay is even costing our social behaviors. People know justice will be invariably delayed hence there is no fear of law.
Govt is hell bent on Retail FDI and delaying Parliament Sessions ,  HOW many bills r pending other than Retail FDI? I fail to understand why Govt thinks Retail FDI is the Mother of all reforms? So much so that Parliament sessions are being sacrificed.
We are living with Govt with misplaced priorities as far as economic reforms are concerned. Why improvement of Ease of Doing Business ranking from 132 to under 50 is not a MISSION of the Govt?
Multiple problems can be solved – speed of doing business will attract more investments, faster implementation of projects, faster economic and infrastructure development, lower corruption, lower crime (speedier trials r deterrent) , speedier alleviation of poverty, reduction of stress (today people are stressed as things are not moving and they want it to move faster)  - and finally even victory in election.
I am not sure what benefit people and  Govt will derive from Retail FDI but Governance process rejuvenation will certainly help citizen, govt and nation as a whole. It will be hugely better citizen experience. Just don’t do any reform till 2014 and focus only on this. People will thank the Govt ……..  and VOTE may be one of the way to thank!! Who is listening and thinking in Govt?
Share your experience about - delay in governance/business  process. How things can be improved?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rajat Gupta & MCHI - Court Judgement

Well the title suggests some co-relation between the two judgement

Yesterday Mumbai High Court delivered a judgement on VAT to be Payable by the builders. Therefore no relief to the builders for which the case was in court. 

I have been observing since last few years, every court and consumer body are delivering judgement against the builder or builder body MCHI. There is a news about some or the other cheating by builders more often. Press is full of negative news about the builder community. 

In such a scenario what is the role of MCHI or CREDAI? I haven't seen any advertisement in the press by MCHI other than their regular exhibition 3/4 times a year. That are the only times they are seen in the press. That's it. 

What financial market regulator SEBI does? They are out in the press many a times during the year to educate and make investors aware about the market. They are concerned about the fraudulent companies and think that investors should not be fooled or looted by these companies and there fore education and awareness. These kind of initiatives build perception. 

Rajat Gupta of ex Mckinsey got support letter from 400 top notch people of the world and his sentence was reduced substantially by the judge. It was only token sentence of Jail. His good work and his perception about otherwise individual conduct had an impact on the judge and it saved him from rigorous punishment. 

Therefore if one wants to be seen and heard from the heart , perception in the market plays significant role. The way good perception helps to reduce the gravity , bad perception will act negatively. 

MCHI talks about their consumer grievances cell. Why don't they publish data on how many complaints they received and how many issues were resolved? Why don't they come out in press periodically to make consumer aware about bad practices in the industries and dos and donts while buying home or dealing with builders? No concerns for consumers  and only time to go to press is when they want to sale their products. This will not work.   

Bad perception is being created by some of their members by their conduct and no effort to create good perception effort by some aggressive proactive action , how can you win trust of consumers, authorities and even courts? 

Food for thought for MCHI to ACT and ACT proactively for the betterment of consumers at large and not only for the benefit of their members. Rajat Gupta and MCHI both are impacted by their perception - one positively and one negatively. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 MUST for India to Move Ahead

1.     Robert Varda  Must open up for SC Judge Inquiry

2.     Govt Must work towards passing of Lokpal Bill acceptable to all parties may not be to Arvind Kejriwal

3.     Govt Must speed up non FDI procedural reforms

4.     2 G and Coal Gate, CWG scamsters Must be prosecuted in fast track courts

5.     Govt Must come out with VRS Scheme – Voluntary Resignation Scheme for their ministers before their scams are unearthed

6.     IAC and Anna Hajare Must dig out all political, bureaucratic and corporate scams

7.     Nitin Gadkari Must prove beyond doubt that nothing is wrong in his conduct of public life

8.     BJP Must declare Narendra Modi as PM candidate and invite any opposition leaders to debate on TV

9.     Educated class Must join politics – party of their choice and get more  engaged in national activities

10. Cong Must find out PM candidate for 2014 election as MMS & RG are already discounted and found to be not competent 

This will also make Media Free for more productive and positive reporting.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Exposure is Given, Manage your Behaviour not Exposing Medium

Lousy product reviews on FB or Twitter and whole efforts on product and marketing fails.  On the contrary superlative reviews can boost the sales and brand image beyond imagination.
Therefore companies have stared focusing on their social bushiness strategies.
Bigger question or issue is: With Social Media (SM) is taking center stage companies need not only design their social media strategy but has to change business strategy altogether.
Yes, emergence of SM, organisation is exposed to the world i.e. potential customers, existing customers, suppliers , potential employees and investors, everyone. Therefore advertising and marketing campaigns will have to be realistic and under claiming.
Ad Guru David Ogilvy has said “Great Marking only makes weak /lousy product faster .”  This was in times of no SM. Imagine what can happen in times of SM?  Movie JOKER is the latest example. Earlier this week Volkswagen (VW) ad in TOI was talk of the town, now suppose VW’s  product is not up to the mark or people reads not so good review about their other products, what will happen to so brilliant advertisement? Though its is unlikely for VW but not for majority of the companies.
When the company is exposed to masses about their behaviors, it has to change the behavior and not only strategy to deal with exposing medium. With people to people contact , what company says is hardly of any significance. Its time to get real. Its time to revisit objectives and mission statement  again. Its time to revisit business processes, people soft skills, HR policy, product innovation and afters sales service. Its time to check the air in all the four Tyre (people, process, product and communication). Puncture in any one will curtail the speed and end products/outcome. All companies NOW has to work towards creating brand advocates. Yes that is the ultimate thing that all companies must aim for and best things that can happen in favour of the company through SM.
Now its a time to work towards not triple bottom-line but SINGLE bottom-line through happy customers, motivated employees, supporting vendors, community building, active CSR , concern for environment. Every activities will be watched and  discussed on SM. Now is the time BRANDS will be built by company business strategies and not by advertising and marketing team.  Measurement parameters MUST include other  parameters than only financial share holder driven parameters. Net Promoter Scorecard, Customer SATisfaction, Employees-SAT, Community-SAT etc etc.
When EXPOSURE is given , you don’t try to strategies to defend mis-behavior but certainly-try to behave and put up EXPO-SABLE show.  Brand building is NOW everyone’s role in the organisation. Happier times are here not again for the first time.

Its all about Emotions – Highest level of Customer (Human) Experience

Emotional Intelligence – one of the best selling books by Danial Goleman, Emotional Campaigns like McDonald’s campaign says I am loving it (not about rational need of taste, delivery, ambiance or people) . Zappos .com slogan is Delivering Happiness (what shoe retailer has to do with customer happiness? Ask Tony CEO of or read his book Delivering Happiness. Happiness is the highest form of emotions, check pyramid below.) , KBC previous and present versions are based on emotional stories of the participants. Its now less on prize money and more focus on human emotional stories.  Author of the book The New Leaders Says  
” Acknowledge Emotions, Hire for Emotions, Evaluate for Emotions, Promote for Emotions, Lead by Emotions, Follow by Emotions, Sell Emotions ” .
Emotions are most important factor in every human being. French thinker had said ” Our rational decisions are driven by our emotions. ”  
Elite companies have started using emotions in their campaigns. But is it enough? Unless customers see similar signs in the offerings they will neither become loyal nor advocates of the brand. Where do we put our loyalty in our personal life?  Of-course with family and friends with whom we have emotional associations and not just rational. 
Therefore when we talk about customer experience, unless we focus and map emotions of customers at every touch points , we are failing in true measurement of customer experience. This is the reason perhaps we have experience of commoditsation of most of the products and services. Every companies are focused on efficiency of processes, cost cutting, call centers outsourcing , appointment of Customer Service people and many such things. Every companies are doing the same level of improvement and end result is commodity product for customers. But now what next?
How about changing company culture ?  How about  measuring customer emotions and mapping it for desired outcome?  
When we are dealing with any aspects of human being we have to consider human being as a whole i.e rational, emotional and subconscious. Present system of customer service or very little experience measures rational aspects of customer service or experience. However customer always experience company offerings and moments of contacts with emotional and subconscious mind also. 
How to go about this ?
(Pyramid developed by Beyond Philosophy-  Which emotions creates value and which ones destroy )
Put your organisation on NPS driven performance measurement. Business growth is limited part of the story  , NPS lead growth is what companies must aim for sustenance.  NPS will only grow reasonably if customer experience is bettered on every given day with holistic approach of mapping emotional behavior of the customers. It enables the organisation to become sensitive and designing emotion altering customer experience for desired end results. Measuring & Mapping emotions is the new regular.  
Its a win win win for all the stake holders i.e.  company , customer and society at large. Emotions are contagious. Happy and pleased customers will spread the feelings and emotions along with company brand.   How are you feeling today? 
Share your stories and emotions with brands you have encountered. Brands could be company or individual. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Are there any lessons from the death of Mr. Lalit Sheth ??

Our heartfelt tribute to Mr. Lalit Sheth (Owner of Raj Travels). This is very unfortunate incidence and shaken many who are in business world.

Are there any lessons entrepreneurs can learn from his sudden and  tragic death ?

Well I think many.

Borrowing is easy but its servicing of debt and repayment of debt drown many families. Be it farmers in interior Maharashtra or entrepreneurs like Lalit Sheth, unmanageable debt is a killer.

We have many many cases of NPA and over borrowing and situation is close to alarming. As long as cash flow is sustained (not necessarily profit) one would not realise the gravity of situation.

How analysis of viability of the project is critical and me too kind of approach is disastrous. I have also known many such cases where entrepreneurs merely on the basis of gut feel ventured into the project , borrowed heavily than the project can sustain and ultimately  they had to sale their even their personal assets , faced legal battle to save their mortgaged home and suffered socially enormously.

Lenders and bankers are also not playing proactive and supportive roles while lending and during the tenure of the loan. They have access to the critical data and can very well play a vital proactive role more than just collector of interest and then filing suit when something goes wrong.  Prevention of foreseen disaster is a joint responsibility.

This kind of financial status is also very difficult to manage socially. There is a club run by a CA made up of entrepreneurs who are facing bank’s action and whose assets have become NPA. This kind of club helps their family members to realise they are not alone and learns how to face the reality and even come out of the same also.

Having a strong internal CFO is a must these days. I know many entrepreneurs in SME segment who do not understand the reading and implication of their balance sheet. Its very dangerous. Entrepreneurs must know their financial status i.e. actual and not fake as shown to bankers /tax authorities. Alternate MUST have CFO, absolutely dependable and proactive. He must see problem coming, warn the management /owner and know the corrective measures. SEBI is making efforts to spread investor education on a large scale but there is also strong need for entrepreneur education.  Everyone is working for money but ignorance about its PLAY is wide spread.

Last but not least, I do not know what is the brand value of the Raj Travels? Must be very high. Such a great asset could have been leveraged to taken care of liabilities, atleast some.  This is where CFO or Investment Banker can be of great help. Do you know what your real assets are !!!

This is written merely with the public information about Mr. Sheth’s grave financial situation we all have from news papers. No advice or analysis of his real situation. This write up might benefit some readers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who is Speaking ? You or Your work?

Either you or yr work has to speak up. Yes either MUST speak. 

There are two kinds of brand building for all : self and product / services. 

One is self promoter by its sheer nature or strategy. Aggressive advertising , marketing , self promotion , self talk etc. Making all out effort to be known among the target audience. 

Second way is to do a kind work that speak for it self. It also requires speaking but here work speaks. Users of the work will speak and spread the word. When a company creates scintillating customer experience, its customers speaks. There was a saying that it is the best selling author and not necessarily best writing author who sells. However in times of powerful social media its the best writing authors will become best selling. Only sellers without the best content will be difficult now. 

It is not always necessary that best sellers are not best content wise, however when users speaks rather than self /company , people believes most. Self sellers can be successful but when work sells - person and product not only reach up to the top but command respect also. 

We have two shining examples of person whose work always spoke more than the self and they are on the top of their class : Guess?  

Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Dr Manmohan SIngh. Both r introverts , speaks less but cud reach to the top , sheer for the kind of work they did. You may add examples on both side. 

Are you or your work speaks more than you? 

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Superstar & The Big B of Corporate World

Rajesh Khanna wud have very happy to see HOW countrymen who have forgotten him for last many many years do remember him in his absence. Kind of tributes flowing in even after 12 days on every channel , media and public shows indicates that as a nation all of us have lost someone special. Whose presence was not felt for all these years though his absence has created some vacuum in some-part of our life. Such was a power of the SUPERSTAR. Phenomenal = Unparalleled.  

Though it’s not a right time of comparison between him and Big B , but yet its d right time to know the difference in approach towards life & success for everyone. This applies to individual as well as to companies too.

Yes phenomenal success comes with its own challenges. Be it individual be it company. When success hits your mind , mind stops functioning and thinking in balance. It takes over the realities, I become real capital in place of i becoming more and more humble. 

Those who believes in rule of English language that I is always capital, often could not see changing world around them, forgets that the change is the only constant and his hampering of vision instigate creation of own world and vision of manipulated world.  Instead of focusing on his own work in sync with the world and consumer taste with changing times unparalleled success makes one believe that , I can be on top come what may and whatever it takes. 

Big B learned,  of course may be with the precedent of Mr. Khanna and it took him 10 years to adjust to the realities and to appear in his new avatar.

In business world also there are these two traits visible in many top companies. Consumer taste changes & unless successful companies are capable to offer the food for changing taste of consumers, companies are going to fail sooner than later. Samsung over Nokia is the recent corporate example. Colors/Sony over Zee Tv , Facebook over Orkut and there are many such examples.  

It happens if companies are not proactive but Challenge is how to bounce back once fallen from grace. However,  most companies are not reactive enough in their approach to the market. If u fall and fail , its fine, how you bounce back is the real differentiator.

At the end it’s the Consumer who is the king and service providers must align to the consumer taste be it actor or companies. Taste of the exciting consumers change and taste of new consumers is any way new. Big B could align to both.  Are there any examples of corporate Big Bs? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Are you mapping WOW!! on your Customer’s Face?

Customer Experience is the next new and now management practice. NEXT has quickly become NEW and NOW.
Commodity, Product, Services, Experience , this is the hierarchy of business offerings as defined by father of customer experience Pine & Gilmore in their famous book The Experience Economy. Most Companies struggle in 1st two categories , some reach to third level and very few reaches the 4th level. 
Companies like Starbucks , Virgin , Apple, Zappos, Amazon, Flipkart, Commerce Bank thrives on superior customer experience. There are unfortunately hardly any Indian brands which can be classified in the 4th category. 
Reasons may be that Indian Customers are either not demanding or there is no culture at the top of offering wow !! CUSTOMER Experience. Most management are so tied up in day to day affairs in managing quarterly results, no one in the organisation thinks long term brand building interest of the company.  As steroids they take shelter under extravagant advertising and media campaigns. Hardly anything changes however at ground level.  Everyone’s performance bonus is linked with quick results and not with sustainable results.
It requires culture of WOW !!! at the top , thinking on HOW ?  and  action plan (which may take longer time) to change the organisation culture.  Performance parameters MUST change and should be linked to increase of Net Promoter Scorecard (NPS) and not only financial performance. Financial performance today which is not guaranteed tomorrow is hardly of much use.  Linking it with NPS will ensure that long term interest of the company is also taken care of.
If your existing customers are promoters of your brand half the battle is won. Today hardly any Indian brands know what is their NPS , forget about action to improve the same.   Some customer sensitive companies have customer feedback system but either they do not know what to ask as their questions are irrelevant or do not know what to do after the data is collected.
However off late very very few companies have started appointing Chief Experience Officers (CExO).  It’s just a very tiny beginning. Still we have to see how they are able to improve their customer experience. One such company I know is Club Mahindra. However if you look at customer reviews on the Google/ it’s horrible. Customers are happy with their locations but not the way pre sales to post sales and actual stays are handled. Hope CExO will address especially pre sales ways, posts sales booking & at stay customer care issues asap.
Now when we are going to buy most of our products after reviewing online review, how important it is to offer amazing customer experience? Isn’t it critical?  No amount of smart advertising & smart sales person can replace culture of offering wow !! customer experience.   Are we working to see following expression on your customer’s face?
 If yes, its your market or work hard to transform Commoditised offerings into Experiential offerings. 
In order to bring wow !! culture in Indian Companies I have tied up with UK based Consulting firm Beyond Philosophy , customer experience focus consulting firm, as their India Associate.