Loaay’s Two Cents
Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Q: A prospect called asking for an urgent quotation to be emailed to him on the day, as they had to make a decision on which provider to go with for their client’s business. After sending the quotation, we found out that they are newcomers to the market and played this game to know the competition prices and proposals. Is this a dirty or fair game to play?
What you shared with your competitor is nothing you wouldn’t give to any prospect or an existing client. You know that once a document leaves your office or outbox it’s not under your control anymore. Can you guarantee that none of your clients have already shared details of your business with a friend or a relative for one reason or another? Companies in Europe, North America and many other markets around the world share their vision, mission, strategic direction going forward, benefits, earnings per employee, and much more on different channels such as TV interviews, online and the press. So, as far as sensitivity of your operation is concerned, no harm or damage is done. It could’ve taken your competitor longer to obtain your documents indirectly, but it’s just a matter of time.
The annoying part is that you feel played – otherwise, you wouldn’t write about it. Yes, you were played. Dust it off and move on. What you should focus on is activities that make it extremely hard for your clients to consider any competitor. Whether or not their approach was ethical is debatable. Is it unethical if you want to open a restaurant and had dinner at a famous restaurant to check out their menu, quality of food and the look and feel of the place? One could argue that it is because you concealed your identity and intentions. Business Intelligence units exist in many companies and it became a regular weapon used in corporate wars. Bottom line, while you can’t stop competitors from entering the market, you can improve your customers’ experience to retain them and sustain your business…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: Occasionally, I delegate certain tasks that require some technical know-how to one of my employees. Should I give broad guidelines on how to get it done and see how they handle it or should I encourage them to figure it out themselves so they can learn from the experience?
Orchestral musicians, Shaolin monks and the Marines, just to name a few, practice every day for long hours so that they’re ready when real performance is required. Imagine if an orchestra was given the notes for a new symphony that they’ve never rehearsed before and were told to ‘figure it out’. With all their acquired skills and talent they won’t perform collectively with great harmony. You wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving your car with a garage knowing that their staff is not technically trained but is encouraged to wing it. If you want to delegate tasks to your employees you want to give them hypothetical exercises, case studies and real projects (with support and coaching) where they can learn and develop their own style and be prepared for bigger challenges.
There has to be a balance between allowing them to solve problems on their own and producing the results your organization seeks. To achieve this, first, give your employees all the technical skills they need. Having said that, know that you’ll never cover all the possibilities they may come across. Nevertheless, you want to get them ready as much as possible; the more they know the better prepared they are. Second, any time you delegate a task you want to be crystal clear on the success criteria. For example, “I need you to introduce the new range to our top 20 customers by next week.” As long as they informed the chosen segment they did their job. You wouldn’t worry about how they’ll talk to your VIP group because you covered that during the training and coaching…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: We started a loyalty program where for every 10 purchases the customer would get the next one free. What we never expected was for most customers not to bring their cards with them when they shop. How hard is it to keep a small card in your wallet or purse? How can we turn the loyalty program around?
In the late 1990s, you had to wait in line at a crowded telecom branch to pay your bill. Telecom providers realized that customers delayed payments to avoid the negative experience. To solve this problem they launched promos where you could win prizes, points and/or cash for paying your bill on time. Offering incentives using one method – and an annoying one, mind you – didn’t work because the channel itself wasn’t worth the extra effort. Nowadays, you can pay through a mobile app, on the company’s website, a network of certified dealers, an automatic monthly credit or debit card deduction, or e-kiosks. With the variety of payment options the incentive became a lot more attractive.
Keeping a loyalty card in a customer’s wallet might not sound like a big deal to you, but things don’t have to be a big deal for someone not to do them. Small reasons matter as well. It could be that their wallets are already bulging like a supersized burger. It could be that they misplaced the card. It could be that they didn’t like its design. The point is not to force your customers to carry the card; the point is to give them a reason to stay with your business. Limiting the way they can receive more value won’t generate more loyalty…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.