Saturday, 16 August 2014

Dare to be different - the conference

It’s been more than a week since the 2014 Consumer Watchdog conference and we’re still recovering. It’s not the tiredness or the stress we need to recover from, it’s the excitement and the fun we had.

We did our best to construct a conference that illustrated a number of things about excellent customer service.

It started with a desire to have fun. Here’s a secret about conferences that traditional conference organizers don’t want you to know. Conferences are staggeringly boring. A seemingly endless parade of speakers present monotonous Powerpoint presentations (that they often insult delegates by reading out loud) about boring subjects the attendees frequently couldn’t care less about. More often than not the people attending the conference are only there to have a day out of the office at someone else’s cost.

But delivering customer service should be fun as well. I know it’s hard sometimes to look happy when you’re managing long queues, have impatient customers and your boss is being an ass but it’s still possible to at least present yourself as being happy if you choose to.

That’s why we wanted to make our conference fun from the moment every person arrived. If you take a look at our blog you’ll see the results of the videoed dance session we held before people even entered the conference hall. I guarantee that if you watch you’ll have a smile on your face for four minutes.

However, even though we wanted to present a conference with a difference, conferences are nevertheless about speakers and that was where we triumphed. We had the best possible speakers and they all had one thing in common with each other.

Every one of them is someone who is prepared to be different.

It started with Stuart White from HRMC who we’ve known for years as someone who thinks about recruitment and people in general in novel, creative ways. His talk on the Johari Window and how it can be used to think better about working relationships made everyone think again about such things.

He was followed by Jitto Kurian from BancABC who has a great story to tell. I’m fascinated by the role played by smaller organizations like BancABC who have entered existing markets dominated by much bigger players. Their ability to be a bit more adaptable is something you should be watching.

Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele from Botswana Life was next one, talking from exactly the opposite position. How can organizations like hers, that currently dominate the market, still be reactive and flexible? She spoke from personal experience about how she, as the CEO, can “make an elephant dance”.

If you don’t know the next speaker by now you should do. Adam Jones from Wealth magazine is an inspiration. His energy, passion and drive are astonishing. On stage he was more like a motivational speaker and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you he had delegates dancing. Honestly.

Pinkie Setlalekgosi from Sprint Couriers then told their story. After a mere eight years of operation, Sprint is now the largest courier company in the country. This local company, started by women, is an astonishing thing to hear about. Then we had a first. In almost 30 years of working I saw something I’d never seen before. Pinkie received a standing ovation as she left the stage.

That simply doesn’t happen. It says a lot about Pinkie, Sprint Couriers and their team that it did.

Kabelo Binns from Hotwire then did some more to make us think about the things we take for granted. Are the things we think are true really true? He pointed out that science is a very strong metaphor for our approach to service. The laws of motion, even of quantum physics are very good analogies that we can use in business. And he did a strip show. With babes. Yes, really.

Then we had another big one. Pele Moleta, the CEO of BotswanaPost has a real story to tell. A decade ago people like me didn’t believe that postal services had a future. We didn’t believe that BotswanaPost would still exist but we were completely wrong. When they hired Pele to take the reigns I wonder if the powers that be realized quite how much he and his team would transform the organization. Posting letters is just one of a multitude of things they now do. Pele’s achievement really is extraordinary. Hearing him talk about it was a treat.

Finally we had another powerful woman. Rose Tatedi from Symphony Health is another business leader who has had the courage to enter an existing market dominated by big players. Her passion is astonishing to see.

As well as thanking all these speakers I have to thank our incredibly generous conference sponsors who made it all possible. Our Gold Sponsor, Sprint Couriers really are stars and made a real difference. The Silver sponsors, Botswana Life, FNB and Mascom all deserve a huge pat on the back. Our Bronze sponsor, BancABC were superb. The other sponsors and supporters, CEDA, Showgroup, Milky Lane, Legola Media and Kgale Spar were fantastic.

As well as companies there were certain people who were invaluable. The talented JP Glanville and his team from Showgroup, our national treasure Aldo Brincat, the magnificent and gorgeous Ithabeleng Letsunyane from Reussite, the fantastically creative Irfan Kokabi from Citizen Design, Martin Dube and our very own force of nature, Bonni Dintwa, were all superstars.

You can see a lot more about the conference if you visit our web site, blog or Facebook group. You can see pictures of the event, the wonderfully uplifting service star video and even a video of what happens when you expose senior business people to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy”.

So what about next year’s conference? All I can promise you is that it’ll be bigger, better and even more amazing.

Are you going to be there?

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