Friday 26 May 2006

Celebrating success yet again

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done my best to identify those aspects of business process that really contribute towards customer satisfaction, repeat business and profitability. Those things that make a business successful, that make a store or restaurant popular and above all those that really become a customer service “brand”. I’ve given some real tips and last week even decided to give some ridiculous ones.

Sorry, it’s only been one paragraph so far and this is far too boring already. All this talk about brands, profitability and business process is just hugely dull. Particularly when there is a customer service issue that is WAY more important.

The Zebras won!!!!!!

Bafana Bafana lost!!!!!

Heroes, that’s what we need. We need them in sport, in politics and in customer service. People we can look up to, people we can admire, people we can show our children every time they appear on TV. I know it sounds VERY contrived but I think the Zebras have given us a great example. Their achievement didn’t come easy, it wasn’t something that they did first time they tried but they stuck with it, had their ups and downs and finally achieved victory!

Yes, I know that this argument seems artificial and is exploiting the Zebra victory to make a journalistic point but who cares. They won and I think we have a great opportunity to think about winners and losers as a result.

Like a sporting victory getting customer service right isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s very hard work to get performance up to the level you want. In fact it’s almost always extraordinarily hard work. It takes concentration, team work and a firm conviction that it CAN be done.

Just as importantly it takes vision. Now “vision” is one of those words like “mission” and “re-engineering” that’s horribly over-used in business. However it need not be so. It can be as simple as saying that you want to win, to win against the competition and to be seen to be triumphant. As a mentor of mine once said “If you can conceive it and believe it then you can achieve it”.

Critically it also takes leadership. Leadership is another of those things that is sometimes over-emphasised and even misrepresented. It isn’t just about running around shouting at people, bossing them around and having an inflated ego. It’s more often than not about decision-making, leading by example and having a healthy dose of humility. Just like Jelusic Veselin led the Zebras to victory by guiding them, training them and giving them confidence and pride in their efforts a manager in business can create a well-formed team that can beat the competition very time. If you look at a well-run and profitable restaurant for instance you are pretty much guaranteed to find a group of people that look and sound like a football team. They all know their positions, they know each other well and know the rules of the game. They are all being led in the same direction and they know the rules. And they look and sound like winners.

Let’s be frank. It also helps if there is a competitor who is failing. Clearly in sport as well as in business there must be losers. Just as we beat our South African cousins in the match in business we need to beat our opponents. Particularly in Botswana where the market is small and competition is increasingly fierce we need to begin to understand the nature of competition. We need to understand how our opponents work, learn their strengths and weaknesses and exploit them. A football team will identify weak players or game plans within the opposing team. In the same way in business we need to see what our competitors don’t do well and then do it much better ourselves. If the restaurant you compete with doesn’t offer flexibility then you should. If the superstore doesn’t offer extremely fresh food then you should. If your bank doesn’t offer discounts for good customers then you should.

A few weeks ago I suggested that managers should run their business like a general runs an army. I think exactly the same thing can be said about a football team. I also think that given the fantastic example that the Zebras have given us should inspire us all.

So, a final message for the losing team. To Bafana Bafana. We were delighted that you came, we hope you had a great time and that you were shown the hospitality, courtesy and welcome you so richly deserve. We also hope you can come again very soon.

Oh and by the way?

We won!!!!! You lost!!!!!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

This week’s stars!

  • Who else but the Zebras, all of them, and Jelusic Veselin who helped them to get it together. They are stars and they deserve our respect, our support and our pride.
  • All the guys at the BotswanaPost filling station in Fairgrounds Mall for friendly and efficient service. They even sing and dance we’re told!
  • Moses at BotswanaPost (again!). We are told that he brightens up the day when you call them.
  • Mogorosi at Standard Chartered Bank for resolving a very serious problem effectively and with respect and sympathy.

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