Why Manage Better?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Poor Service Ruins Brands – eZone (Pantaloon Retail) and LG in India

eZone claims to be a leading retailer of electronic and white goods in India.  I though so too.  The customer service I have received is consistently poor and prompted me to think how brands are ruined by poor service.  

As a practice I don’t write on a specific experience on my blog – I do not want to be accused of generalizing a specific.  But, I am making an exception.

What is customer service?  I recently conducted a series of workshops and simulations for a services organization and explored this question with the participants using real customer stories.  Over 200 participants (in groups of about 20-25) came to similar conclusions:

  1.  Timely and sincere apology can save the day
  2. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
  3. Keep the customer informed and DON’T lie
  4.  The only customer you have is the one you are serving right NOW.

eZone failed on every account in my case.  In fact it has been so hopeless that I am forced to include it as an example that I hope no other retailer emulates.  It may not help anyone if I get into specifics – but in summary, we bought several items from the retailer before the Indian festival of lights, Diwali.  All items were promised to be delivered in ten days or so.  While other items were finally delivered (with some delay and lots of follow-up) a washing machine is yet to be delivered after over 45 days!!! 

In this time I have spent more time following up and losing my patience than eZone has bothered to spend on trying to deliver.  I pity the lack of creativity in making up stories – I was given same story twice.  Obviously they forgot what lie they told the previous time.  During this period I have asked for complaint process – there was none.  I have written on their website – no reply yet.  They have made it impossible difficult for a customer to complain.  Smart thinking.

While I still await the washing machine, I thank eZone and LG Electronics for giving me a wonderful story of how poor service can ruin brands.  Big brands.  I am a quality professional and conduct a lot of training sessions – I am always looking for a good story to tell.  Thank you eZone and LG India.

Update (Last week Dec) - Well eZone salvaged some reputation.  I sent this post to the CEO and he surely got the wheels moving. Washing machine was delivered, apology from store manager, money refunded, and a complementary gift (reluctantly accepted).  

I guess speaking up helped.  Lesson - don't tolerate poor service. Speak UP.  Chances are service provider is actually keen to listen.  We just don't shout often and loud enough.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saving the Baldrige – How to do it, if we have to?

I am a huge Baldrige fan.  My last two jobs were built around deploying the Baldrige criteria and I am certain I got my current job based on that experience (primarily).  I am convinced that it has done a lot of good not just to the American industry but to several companies across the world. 

What is happening and Why?
Is withdrawing Government grant a bad thing? Maybe not.  World over there is a strong move to remove government aid and subsidy in various forms.  Why should the Baldrige program be different?  If the program had followed what it preaches maybe it would have become self-reliant by now.  I am not being acidic here, just being a little blunt.  Don’t get me wrong – all I am saying is that the Baldrige program needs a dose of what it prescribes.

I have been actively using the Baldrige criteria and have some awareness on how it is run – and I am afraid, in all these years I have not yet heard of or seen a strategy document come out of the Baldrige program.  Apart from opening up the program to more categories there has been little change to the program (I mean the program, not the criteria).

I am not sure why the program needs government money.  It can collect fee from applicants and run the program like any other business.  I can understand government sparing money for research activities as part of the program, but program administration surely does not need government money.

What can we do about it and How?
Firstly, take the program international.  I work in India and am certain if reasonable fees are charged there will be several Indian companies keen to apply for the Baldrige.  The Deming prize is already an example of this.  100s of Indian companies use the Baldrige already – only the Baldrige program doesn’t know. 

Secondly, reduce costs.  Apply Six Sigma and Lean to administration processes and reduce costs.  Practice what you preach.  I understand the need to maintain quality and high standards but surely a disciplined application of Six Sigma and Lean principles can help the program.

Thirdly, develop a program for IT and ITES industry.  There is a huge global market for a Baldrige kind of product for the cash rich IT and ITES industry.  The competitive and offshore nature of the industry will ensure that there is an immediate market for the product.

Fourthly, develop a global communication approach about Baldrige and its benefits.  If possible fund or encourage books on companies that used Baldrige.  The program just does not reach out to potential markets.  If one applies Category 2 to the program, I am certain a good examiner won’t give more than 30%.

Summary – Practice what you preach.

ASQ’s Chief Strategy Officer Paul Borwaski, has raised the issue of potential withdrawal of government money in his latest blog post.  His concerns are genuine and anguish real.  I am in agreement with Paul when he says that those who are pushing for the cut have probably not even bothered to look at what the program does for the USA and world.  But then, if they haven’t bothered, what has the NIST and ASQ done to communicate the benefits over the years.  I am not saying it has done nothing – it surely has done a lot.  But like in Baldrige, results matter.  And in this case the people who matter doesn’t seem to know how good the Baldrige program is.  NIST and ASQ therefore need to improve their communication (to the right audience).

Also, if the government does pull the plug, why not call it the Juran award.  It’s high time we repay some part of our debt to the contributions of JMJ.  This may be our chance!

I repeat, I am not favoring the removal of grants.  I am only seeing some logic in reducing the grants.  And even more logic in the Baldrige program practicing what it preaches.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Raising the Voice of Quality – the New ASQ and what we can do.

By now many of you would have been hit by the new branding ASQ is pushing – The Global Voice of Quality. Based out of India and being a strong critic of the very American nature of ASQ, I am delighted with this change. I speak for many members from India when I say that this was overdue. Better late than never.

For me, ASQ was already global and only needed to recognize that it had more reach and influence than it thought it had. A part of this change is ASQ reaching out to its global members via a blog hosted by Paul Borwaski, Chief Strategy Officer of ASQ.

In his first post, Paul highlights a universal truth - Quality really does offer answers to what organizations most need. And then he raises a critical question:

What would it take to get the world’s attention to focus on that truth? What would it take to have the world realize the full potential of quality?

First things first – getting the world to sit up and adopt quality much more than it does is going to take time. And it won’t be done by one person, a few people, or ASQ alone! It needs consistent and persistent effort of millions of quality zealots. Like you and me.

The primary and perhaps the only way to make quality a priority and way of life globally is to be a role model ourselves. If we live a life around principles of quality, and encourage others to follow, chances are that more people will adopt quality principles. Very often when faced with moments of truth we desert quality principles. It is in these moments that we defeat years of hard work of people who believe and live a life of quality. Don’t accept poor quality and make enough noise when you are at receiveing end of poor quality. Also, don’t deliver poor quality as well!

I am not a preacher and will stop my discourse here…and turn to the question of how ASQ can become the global voice of quality.

To be honest, I don’t know the answer. I know maybe parts of the answer. ASQ will have to engage more people with better ideas to learn what it can do to become the global voice of quality. And I think by hosting this blog Paul is trying to do just that.

Global Voice of Quality – has three main pieces. Global, Voice, and Quality. The third piece is more clear to ASQ and its members than the first two. I will try to address the first two.
Global and Voice – ASQ should be known and gain influence the way it does in the USA. How? By doing what it does in the USA? NO!!!

By being present in key global countries and workgroups and understanding what will it take to be the Voice it wants to be. Talking of India, we have one of the largest trained quality pools globally (atleast I think so). ASQ could aim to be the face of this workforce by being their voice first and they will reciprocate by being the voice of quality. To start off – ASQ can consider the following:

1. Have more organizational members and drive opinion through companies
2. Make certification more important and appealing to individuals
3. Fill the gap of a credible local Quality publication.

I can list a lot more and I am sure you can list a lot lot more. In terms of priority I think these three will help immensely.

ASQ needs to evaluate how global its current publications are. I did a quick search and find that Quality Progress publishes an article from an international member only in one in three issues. This can easily be corrected. QP can look at an International section. I would like to see a QP Asia or India one day soon.

ASQ can and must look at an India conference soon. Quality is a big community in India and has very few credible conferences or events. It’s a space begging for action.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this…and nor can there be one. We collectively can be. I welcome your ideas on this post. Will relay them to ASQ and be your voice with ASQ. That assurance you have from me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A View from The Q


So, what's new. A lot, if we are talking about ASQ. A major re-branding with a goal for 2015, ASQ is poised to The Global Voice of Quality. The make-over is on and will soon be unveiled to the world.

Part of this makeover is a new blog - A View from The Q. On this blog Paul Borawski, Executive Director and Chief Strategic Officer at ASQ will work with 22 select bloggers to raise the voice of quality. In this unique effort all bloggers on the panel will blog on select topics and invite comments. At the end of the month, Paul will summarize and create and ASQ point of view. Sounds cool!

So why am I excited? I am one of the 22 selected for this experiment. Hopefully, this will push me to write more often. If you are reading this, try coming back in about two weeks. Thanks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Leadership is Overhyped

Problem with Leadership is - it is overhyped. It is 'sexy' to talk about it. In the guise of being a leader people stop managing or even worse working. I find that a major worry. Good leaders work a lot themselves. And they are good at something...even if it is one thing. Not just making speeches and reviewing plans.

IMHO when leaders are respected for what they know and do and what they stand for, their people can take a lot of nonsense from them. Good behavior based leadership styles are not only fake they are plain ineffective.

Good managing is more a need of the hour than good leadership. If at all there is a difference. Henry Mintzberg has a written a classic on this – Managing. Even Ram Charan and Bossidy’s Execution is a classic leadership work that drives the point that working and finishing off is important.