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Don’t Forget to Connect Customer Service Week with Strategy

This week, thousands of organizations around the world are recognizing Customer Service Week. It’s encouraging to see companies across all types of industries make an effort to celebrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, many leaders are doing their organizations a disservice by not using Customer Service Week to its fullest potential as a platform for employee engagement that fosters a deeper culture of service.

There’s not a single customer service professional I know who wouldn’t agree that employee engagement is critically important to the service a company ultimately delivers to its customers. As reaffirmed in Gartner’s 2015 report, How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer, research shows “high levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction.” Yet, Customer Service Week – a time so clearly and publicly dedicated to recognizing customer care – is far too often overlooked as a critical opportunity to strengthen an organization’s relationship with and among its employees. It’s often swept aside as a ‘check-the-box’ activity fulfilled by simply giving staff members branded chotskies. Or it might be five days riddled with a host of activities that have been carefully planned but focus more on the fun than the functional. In many cases, Customer Service Week falls flat on strategy.

As you celebrate Customer Service Week at your organization, ask yourself these three questions to help ensure your initiatives are connected with a larger strategy. Use these considerations as a guide … and you may discover enhancements you can make on the fly to make this important week even more meaningful.

Are your planned activities fun and functional?

Of course, Customer Service Week calls for celebration. But the festivities should go beyond being simply fun and simultaneously serve a purpose that benefits the business. This doesn’t mean you have to cut your creativity short or make what should be lighter, enjoyable activities feel like they’re work. It does, however, require dedicated thought about how to make surface-level initiatives more impactful.

For example, consider a ‘Superhero Showcase’ dress-up day – a nod to the heroic feats customer service representatives are known for pulling off. Beyond building camaraderie by having staff members sport their favorite costumes or t-shirts on a designated day, use the opportunity to have each person share how the traits of their assumed characters relate to providing extraordinary service. This sharing will open up a meaningful discussion about what it means to embody service in its various forms and challenge professionals to think beyond traditional notions of customer service.

Do the activities engage other parts of the company?

The importance of service is hardly limited to the customer service department – and Customer Service Week activities shouldn’t be either. There’s no better time to educate others within the organization about how customer service impacts the business, so use this week (and the weeks that follow) to connect with colleagues in other departments.

One way to do this is by providing employees with a “passport” and including an insert with different missions – such as spending time with peers across the organization – that need to be completed. During those visits, employees can learn about each other’s job functions and how they deliver service to their customers, then report back to their respective teams for broader knowledge sharing. Not only does this exposure enhance employees’ perspectives and further their professional development, it also helps to fortify a consistent company-wide culture of service.

What’s next?

The spotlight on customer service recognition during these five days shouldn’t just be a moment in time. Rather, look at it as a jump-start for longer-term or ongoing initiatives for engaging employees and strengthening the service culture. Use this week as a learning opportunity to determine which approaches and tactics were most successful as well as those that weren’t as well-received … and plan for the future from there.

Did the team have a blast with the superheroes? Keep their enthusiasm going by creating a ‘Superhero Shout-out’ bulletin board in a high-traffic area where they can publicly post and share kudos for their colleagues. Were the passports a hit? That’s your cue to organize more frequent peer-to-peer exchanges among different departments.

Regardless of your approach, keep strategy central to your Customer Service Week celebrations to make them count. For more ideas or to learn more about how you can deliver outstanding care to your customers, visit www.staffcom.com.


About the Author

CJ StaffordCJ Stafford is president of Stafford Communications Group Inc., a boutique company with three distinct, yet complementary, lines of business: outsourced call center services, customer care consulting and marketing services. Stafford works with pharmaceutical, healthcare, food, consumer packaged goods and beauty care companies – ensuring their customer service initiatives are aligned to their marketing programs so they intrinsically support each other.

Four Questions to Ask Before Scaling Your Business

“Things are either growing or dying” is a famous quip. While it’s unclear who said it first, it’s been used regularly at business conferences to fire up audiences over the last few decades. The speaker often follows it up with a list of suggestions like “five tips to start scaling your sales”. However, it turns out one of the most dangerous things you can do is to prematurely start to focus on scaling.

This may seem like an odd statement coming from a entrepreneur turned venture capitalist and professor who has spent the last few years in my role at Carnegie Mellon studying scaling startups and teaching a popular graduate course titled The Science of Growth that was recently turned in as a book.

I’m a big fan of scaling up innovative ideas and making sure they have as much impact as possible. In our research, to try and understand the critical success factors of scaling a startup, we followed the journeys of 10 well-known companies, ranging from modern marvels like Tesla, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn all the way back to the retail juggernaut McDonalds – and then contrasts each story with that of a lesser-known startup that was created at about the same time, with a similar product, targeting the same market.

From these cases, we came to appreciate that there were a set of four what we call ‘prerequisites’ that startups needed to focus on BEFORE growth. Just as you can’t take calculus before basic arithmetic, these are the essential foundational elements of any startup before the entrepreneurs turn their attention to growth.


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About the Author

Sean AmmiratiSean Ammirati is a partner at Birchmere Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Pittsburgh, PA, and Palo Alto, CA, and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, he was the COO of ReadWriteWeb, one of the most influential sites about the future of technology and innovation. Sean was previously co-founder and CEO of mSpoke, a big data SaaS company that was the first acquisition of LinkedIn.

Products and Services that Address Deep Rooted Social Problems

Perhaps you’ve read the game-shifting books The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, by C.K. Prahalad or The Business Solution to Poverty by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick. They prove that the most economically disadvantaged people on the planet create a great market for social entrepreneurs – AND provide a terrific testing ground for innovation and cost control. This can be part of your strategy.

These products and services become even more powerful through a lens of deep sustainability, co-solving multiple problems and incorporating multiple benefits. Two examples:

Let There Be Light

d.light’s simple three-item product line simultaneously addresses poverty, education, air pollution/toxic fumes/health risks, energy savings, carbon footprint, and more—and makes a huge difference in lives of its customers. d.light’s deeply holistic analysis of the problems faced by people in poverty led to developing inexpensive, durable solar-powered LED lanterns (sold on time payments) to replace kerosene, open fires—or darkness.


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About the Author

Shel HorowitzGreen/social change business profitability expert Shel Horowitz, “The Transformpreneursm,” shows you how profit by greening your business, turning hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. Shel’s 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, highlights profitable and successful socially responsible strategies used by companies from Fortune 100 to solopreneurs.

New World Companies: The Future Of Capitalism

How does a good company generate value in society? How do the leaders of these new world companies reshape and remake our families’ available goods, our friendship networks, and the many smaller firms that support them?

As a management consultant to over a hundred firms in the last thirty years, my team and I have worked with global companies such as Toyota, Suncor, Siemens, and FedEx, to name a few, to help them transform into new world companies – companies ready to take on the challenges of today’s global economy. In doing this, I derived a way to describe how companies mature by seeing the process as a symbolic clock of corporate competitiveness. As this concept evolved, I came to focus not on the clock itself, but on what it represents: time. Furthermore, I’ve broken down the time periods into segments that represent significant stages in the life of a global business. I often refer to these timeframes as “urgencies,” because, as I view it, corporations must accomplish the business goals outlined within each time period if they are to be successful.

Throughout the years, I have revised my description of these timeframes in a company’s life to take into account the emergence of what I call social response capitalism. I became increasingly aware of the financial ramifications of social response capitalism while working with new world companies. I came to see how each company contributes to this most important new business movement in decades, and why this evolution is crucial to the health of any company – whether a large global corporation or a small regional family business.


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About the Author

Bruce PiaseckiBruce Piasecki, PhD, is president and founder of AHC Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials, and environmental corporate matters, and is author of New World Companies: The Future of Capitalism. This article is adapted from material in his new book.

For more information visit ahcgroup.com.

Follow the Green Lights – Small Business Success is a Mixture of Strategy and Intuition

Work is life and life is work for small business owners. The lines are blurred between work and everything else — family, friends, faith and self. It is not always easy to balance the demands of business ownership and living a powerful purpose driven life. To have the best of both we have to rely on our resources, our experience, our talents, skills, and take advantage of all our opportunities. Yes, it’s that simple. To succeed as a small business, simply engage a few basic strategies and follow the ‘green lights’.

Of the approximately 543,000 new small businesses that start each month, only 50% will survive 5 or more years. Small business ownership is a life and a lifestyle that the owner chooses. It offers everything they want in a career, and it is an opportunity to create income and security for today and tomorrow. So, why do they fail? The most common reason is the owner does not have the business knowledge and experience they need to run the business. They know what they have to offer but not how to do so fast enough, efficiently enough, or as profitably as is necessary to maintain a healthy business. As the business struggles, so does the owner. Personal satisfaction is almost always tied to business success for the brave individual that risks it all to have the work life they want most.

So, what does it take? It can be challenging, but any business owner can deploy the strategic and practical aspects of small business ownership. Simply:


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About the Author

Sherry B. JordanSmall business consultant and expert Sherry B. Jordan has spent the past 15 years working to develop ways to help small business owners move from making a choice to own a small business to living a lifestyle they love while making a living. Her new book, Plan It! Do It! Love It!: Be Outrageously Successful in the Small Business Lifestyle, captures and shares an arsenal of strategic advice on how to plan and execute a successful business strategy. The advice that may be most valuable is that which she offers on how to engage the tools you are born with to get what you expect and deserve without sacrificing joy and fulfillment of a rich personal life.