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: Why do we feel that something is missing when we shop at any international brand store represented in Kuwait?
The first impression that might come to the minds of many readers is that the staff is under-qualified. Often the perception is that showroom workers demonstrate uninteresting personalities and attitudes and are less knowledgeable than the customers in the products they sell, which gives the impression of a lifeless service. While this could be true to a great degree, we need to pay attention to the mindset of customers when shopping in Kuwait vs. abroad. The mood of travelers is more pleasant and open to interactions. When people are on vacation they could be more forgiving or less analytical. In contrast, when routine kicks in and life adds a bit of pressure, stress, bad news, bad weather, and so on, shoppers tend to be less tolerant in general. So, let’s remember that it takes two to tango.
Employees and customers aside, most employers are not working hard enough to hire the right staff and designing employees’ retention roadmaps. To hire the caliber of employees that customers would be delighted with, employers have to pay more salaries and benefits and to provide a better working environment. That means prices of the products and services would increase; and that’s something many customers won’t be happy about. So, when employers shape up and customers are willing to pay for positive memorable experiences generated by engaged employees balance will be restored in the local retail therapy scene…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: A good acquaintance of mine is in need of a job. He asked me to hire him in my company. I asked him to give me time to see what I can do. Should I hire him for the sake of all the favors he did for me in the past or be blunt and tell him that there’s no suitable job for him at the moment?
Can you put a price on relationships? Sometimes you can, but that’s not the right question when assessing whether to keep or damage a business relationship when a risky situation like this arises. A more relevant question is ‘What’s the value of the relationship to me and to my business?’ The favors you mentioned in your email were all business related and did your business good. Therefore, when considering such a request keep in mind that this is a professional acquaintance and not a friend. That means there has to be a value for the business for accepting to hire this associate. This value could be something positive the business would benefit from or something negative that the business may avoid. Otherwise, you’re just helping out a friend, which is not the case here.
Having said that, there’s another layer of complexity that you need to be alert to with matters like this one. If you give him a job in the company just to keep him happy or because you want to protect your image of being someone who knows how to return favors in the market, don’t give him any job. It has to be something he can be good at; otherwise, employees in the company will question the standards by which performances are rewarded. Also, make sure that the position isn’t denied to someone internally who’s been waiting for it, as nothing can be more demotivating. If you don’t want to offer him a job, find him a suitable job through your network and explain to him how this is a better a fit for him, for his career and for your relationship. This way, you didn’t burn your bridges…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: Following up with existing customers on new purchases is a pain. They’re always busy or they get relaxed and don’t answer me quickly because we’ve known each other for so long. Why is this happening to me all the time?
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. From the way you wrote your question I can tell that you’re getting closer and closer to frying your brain cells. You know how in countless comedy movies and TV shows when one person wants to break up a relationship with another somehow the line, “…it’s not you, it’s me” comes up? Well, if lack of response or slow ones are happening to you all the time then I must say ‘it’s not them, it’s you.’ Any given working day for any of your customers’ will most likely have meetings followed by more meetings–that’s not counting unplanned short meetings. What about the few minutes in between? They’re usually filled with phone calls and text from their own teams, clients, family, the kids’ school, friends, the vet, you name it.
Professional, nonetheless mindless, dry and mechanical, sales follow-ups are the last thing your customers want. Can you blame them? It’s time to spice things up. Nothing evokes a response like a sense of humor. Send them a text writing something unexpected that will brighten up their day and put a smile on their face. I don’t mean silly knock-knock jokes, but something that will encourage a response. For example, if you emailed, called and are not getting any response from a client you know very well, text them something like, “Call me back, I know what you did last summer” or “Call me back on your way home or I’ll kidnap you and you won’t get any work done this week ;)” Using humor increases your chances of getting a faster response. However, if you abuse it, the joke will be on you…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.