How Not To Fret And Provide Unified Customer eXperience

Every single day, people, at the top or who are responsible to make a brand name, wish that the world out there is not staring at them or taking a dig at their brand’s inconsistencies.

 

For them, there’s a never ending tussle ensuring their employees, existing and potential customers and partners, investors, and influencers are getting one impression about the brand. And there is no brand confusion or conflict, arising from how few things turn up.

 

And, with millions and billions of people across the world connected via social media, words spread like a wildfire.

Brands Are Not Built Overnight

Brands, are not built overnight, nor are they built by the effort of a few people; it’s built by the efforts of every individual, as an on-going process.

 

If you, as an employee, want to convince me to something then you ought to believe in it before you can sell the idea to me, a customer.

 

Imagine you working for an airline or restaurant brand which puts customers first, but you, as an individual employee, fail to keep the customer happy either by providing the best possible service or by not listening to what the customer is asking for, then you have failed not only the customer but the brand as well.

 

Well, the customer would think the policies to be contentious and feel cheated by the company/brand. And, with the access to smart phones and social media, we all know what can happen next.

ONE Brand, ONE Journey

A brand experience should be like a process, a bond, a commitment across the organization which every individual must invest in and live up to.

 

Irrespective of there being multiple divisions, subsidiaries, acquired or merged business units, the primal focus should be to integrate this to form ONE brand.

 

The joining of forces should mean defining everything for that ONE brand – the vision, the organizational structure and its diverse culture, the brand values and market positioning.

 

One should understand that the company’s ultimate goal is to grow and fulfil customers’ expectations, as one entity.

 

If the business units continue working as individuals then the first and foremost challenge would be the management of cross multi-functional units, which could and, to some extent, would result in confusions, miscommunications/overlapping roles & responsibilities, and unnecessary hold-ups – not only for employees but for the customers as well.

 

To enable business units to deliver unique brand experiences, which is aligned with the stake-holders’ demands and expectations, it’s imperative to have a command centre or a centralised controlling unit which manages and directs every other business unit.

What Do We Do Now?

Well done! All you have managed to do by now is put together the engine from a Ferrari, tyres from Michelin, seats from a Mercedes, body from Rolls Royce, and similar things.

 

The restructuring was like putting all the part together for a concept car. However, the test drive and customers reviews is what you need to fine tune your car, before you can mass produce it or call yourself a premium brand, and be really proud of what you’ve created.

You get the idea, don’t you?

Oh silly! You need the customer feedback and success stories from each of the units integrated and then use them to define the common policies and work culture which will drive your business.

 

While you’re at it, don’t forget to reassure your stakeholders that the combined entity will only work towards improving the collective strengths and will focus on reducing the pain areas.

 

Remember that customers are like audience members at a show. They don’t see the lighting director or the makeup artist at work behind the scenes; they only see the performance on stage. Processes and procedures are just as integral a component of brand experience as the final product.” ~ Jason Cieslak

 

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Why Every CMS Beginner Should Start With A Content Project

CMS or a Content Management System, as we know, is a collection of basic building blocks which we call as ‘components’.

[Read More – What is CMS?]

There are components which are provided as part of the tool package – also known as ‘out of the box’ components (OOB components). Then again, there are components which are built to server specific needs, perhaps from scratch or on top of existing components – also known as ‘custom’ components.

Now, you’d be surprised to know that most of the existing (OOB) components, if not all, can be customised or configured in many ways.

You need to see it, to believe it.

Once you start going through multiple websites, you familiarise yourself with the components which are used, and the layout or different ways in which they are used. Just like the Lego blocks, which have different shapes and colours.

Then you start formulating your own ideas to how these can be used – some of these components are so rich with features that it takes a while to unlock the potential and explore them.

A little more digging will help you map the components to the current work you will be doing – either you’ll get help from content experts or you’ll find out the hard way (doing yourself).

This wouldn’t come naturally, unless you actually start creating content on your own – which is not as easy as it may sound. I’ve seen people struggle so hard with putting the content right and aligning all the elements together.

I don’t know about others, but I certainly felt good when I authored a page and previewed it. And, when the whole site was created, it almost felt like it was me who created it (although, it was a team effort).

Oh, it is such an exciting and rewarding experience, a sense of accomplishment and learning.

Not that you’ll get bonus for doing that, but just think about the world of possibilities it opens up for you.

Still don’t get it, do you?

See, working on those components can give you an understanding to the system (let’s say Adobe AEM, or Sitecore) – first of all.

Then, you get yourself at ease with the components and the common mistakes a rookie would do, like the related configuration, linking to areas within the system, and gaps left behind by the development team.

This, will give you an insight in to the areas which can be improved upon – be it your learning or the recommendations you could make.

Most importantly, you will get to look at the bigger picture rather than being limited to the components or areas you would work on otherwise.

At this point, it will matter less if you were from a development background, a testing, or any other area of expertise.

What matters, would be what you can or want to do now!

The knowledge and experience, while working on different components,

  • Would help to find the gaps, ask more questions to get clarity
  • Can be used to suggest better user experience, suggest optimal way to use a component, or suggest an alternative
  • Will equip you to develop components in a better way – don’t forget the scenarios you came across to configure a single component.
  • Will lead you to provide a better solution

All the things you can and must do, during the initial phases of the project, to reduce the loss of effort during the later stages.

It’s your choice now, if you wish to work as a technical person, a business analyst, or a quality analyst – the possibilities are never ending.

And if you thought otherwise, no one can limit a BA or QA from proposing a technical design (not literally a design document though).

Reflecting upon, would you have had so much clarity and vision of what you wanted to do or could do, had you not gone through this route?

May be… But, you can’t leave things to “may be”. It’s better to be informed, if you ask me, at least then it’ll be your choice and not something enforced upon you.

At the end of the day, it’s not only about doing right by the customers and delivering what’s best for them, it’s about doing what’s right for you and learning to become a better person and a professional, as well.” ~ P.R.

 

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Video Marketing Has-Been and Will-Be Around

It’s funny, how small things in life don’t make any sense when they happen, but you could relate them, years later.

My younger brother learnt playing games and counting number even before he went to school.

In those days, gaming was not as popular and a limited number of companies manufactured such units.

Era Old Gaming…

If I remember correctly, it was a stiff competition between Atari and Nintendo. Atari being famous for their joystick controller and Nintendo for better graphics.

Anyways, the crust of the matter is that my brother would play these games or watch me play, and then learn where things needed to progress were, try to find different things he could do, and learn alphabets and numbers to track game progress and password to continue from a saved timeline.

Considering the age, less than 3 years, no one actually thought it was that important or was helping his growth. In fact, we were scolded for spending too much time playing video games.

Fast forward x 20, to this day. Thinking, out of the blue, I realised the impact those games had and can have. A little more analysis, and I was quick to spot the visual aid in learning.

Do You See The Connection?

Don’t worry, you will, soon.

Rather than going through the books or listening to someone telling you, a person is able to grab things when assisted with visuals. The vision, through eyes, gets registered in the mind, faster than we know. Weird, ehh?

Adding Life To These Visuals…

I wouldn’t even ask you to select between a series of print outs and a video, to present something. Guess, you know which is better.

The idea of watching something as against images, is always luring.

The voice, the tone, the music in the background – could be used to create a situation, relevant to the content. The voices, indicate our mind to put more focus, and can pump the heart rate – think of a horror movie or an action sequence.

Ever watched a drama or an intense movie?

The voice and the way in which the actor delivers the speech, gets us involved and we feel we are part of the happiness or the sorrow that actor is going through. It hits our emotional chords.

Tell Me A Story…

That’s the power, you can create with a video.

The content, the sound, the linking – the broader story; that’s what gets to your customers.

There is so much you can say and tell, with advancement in technology – you can use various graphics and sounds.

The same video can be transmitted over multiple channels to reach millions of people out there, worldwide.

To connect with customers and to create an impact – create an awesome video. But first, create a story to show in that video! ~ P.R.

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4 Steps: How Not To Stick Your Face In A Piece Of Cake: Content Migration Strategy

What is the most common or important thing any marketing person would tell you?

If you want to have a greater reach, have a great content!

In an age of #DigitalTransformation, we all rely on the browsing patterns, customer behaviour, and similar giveaways which help us define our strategy.

However, the customer engages only when he can relate to what you present.

Your content speaks for you, where you can’t be physically present.

Most of the organisations think a lot before chalking out the IT budget or roadmap.

A bulk of them, start small, migrate a section of their existing site on to the new Content Management System (CMS).

The size of this content migration may vary!

There are sites which have informational content only. Then again, there are sites which have certain level of user interactions.

From a 100-200 pages to over 5000 pages, there is no limit to it.

It depends on the products are services you provide, the customers who actively use them and would need information about, and the driver for you to be online, in the first place.

How to prepare a strategy for content migration?

Well, if you thought it was as simple as any content editor or content specialist or any person with such a role copy pasting the content and be done with it, then you wouldn’t possibly have worked on such a project.

The fundamentals never change – the planning, the design, the implementation, and the delivery.

1. The big plan!

Planning should have been the phase where most discussions happened; only if we were not in so much hurry to deliver!

The approach, of how you would present the content, the related information you would need, and whether it’ll be across multiple break points, is all to be given a deep thought.

The separation of role; people who could put content, from people who could verify the content, to people who can do both.

Which ones do you have, you can afford to get, and you would need to outsource.

Oh! And, before you forget – do plan who will be doing what and with what approach.

2. Getting the design right!

Set sail when the storm hits the shore!

No, we don’t want that!

So, create assets which can be re-used on similar break points.

Have a consistent layout for pages, which don’t need much modification and look almost the same across devices and platforms.

Do don’t wanna end up creating one page for each of the breakpoints/viewports (desktop, mobile, and tablet).

Decide upon the styling (the font style, size, colour, the heading group, and so on), the icons, and other elements of accessibility.

3. Putting the pieces together!

With the required elements in place, now is the time to put them all on the page.

Know the hierarchy, create the page, and check how it looks on different viewports.

Implement one page at a time, from initiation to completion, and keep track of your progress.

4. Your order is ready for Delivery!

The pages are done, grouped neatly based on the hierarchy, and compared against the existing site.

The viewports are checked, and so is the linking of pages.

If, there is any information which is needed for the tracking or marketing purposes, then ensure you have provided all the information.

If you are not sure, make use of any tools which are readily available to get you that information.

Just when you think you are ready, open it for an in-house verification session.

Limit the time and keep the intended purpose clear.

Walla … You are ready to go! – hand the site over to the customer.

 

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HOW-TO: Leverage Tech Initiatives To Provide Exceptional Customer Experience – Travel & Hospitality (T&H) Industry

Whether you want to tick that item on your check-list or cross a pending item off your bucket list; whether you have to go for a business trip or take a break from that business; whether you have a reason or you want a reason; we all need a lil break time!!

It’s not always about travelling, not about making time for your family; maybe it’s only about seeking serenity or time-off from that monotonous work.

As much as we would like to plan them in advance, we never really get to it. And, most of the times we end up making plans – impromptu.

That suddenness, that itch, that adrenal rush – isn’t it exciting; too overwhelming?!

Well… it’s just the beginning of that holiday which we could do away with.

Price comparison sites, individual booking portals, and third party site and apps are always there to help us make these bookings.

With more and more people hooked on to internet, it is becoming a challenge for these companies to be competitive.

Why is it a challenge?

To start with,

  • There are so many sites and apps available to choose from
  • Then there are promotional offers provided by each of them, which leads to a price war and the need for further discounts by mainstream players
  • Of course, with many competitors lining up one needs to reduce the operating margin
  • The limited budget means there could be small or no upgrade to IT dept.

Don’t stress! Let’s take a practical scenario to understand where we are and where we could be.

Considering, I have to go to a place (like New York) and I’m currently in Miami. Now, all I have to do is open a travel booking site to select an airlines of my choice and a hotel. Alternatively, I can select the hotel from a different site or from the site of the hotel which I generally go to.

This is pretty straightforward as most of the sites have similar flow, user experience. The only different would be in cost.

Most of the hotel sites have content which is static, with an exception of booking rooms, which has dynamic data and involves some user interactions.

How can brands use wearables to improve customer experiences?

How can I bring innovation to this?

Let’s rewind this a bit, shall we?

The moment I had to plan for a booking, I would like to initiate the voice assistant on my phone (like Siri) and say something like “Let’s plan a vacation.”, and Siri would reply, “Which app would you like to access?”

If I have set a preferred app already, then this would not be asked and the app would be launched.

The moment that app is launched or the website is pulled up, the chat bot on the site should ask certain question like, “Where are you headed?”, “When are you leaving and returning?”, and similar question but keeping the interaction to bare minimum and fetching the best results. Then, of course, the data could be filtered out to make a selection.

With my booking done for flight and hotel, I’m all set to go.

Now comes the futuristic bit.

The smartness of these chat bots or voice assistants comes in, when they book a cab (or suggest to book) since I would be needing it, both from current location to airport or train station, and then from destination airport to destination hotel.

Right from reminding me that I’m supposed to leave that day, to my cab approaching in 15 minutes, to route to airport. And then, flight number flashing on my smart watch or the mobile app, to taxi number and contact details of the driver waiting for me at the destination airport, and the route to destination hotel – engaging, informative, relevant, and unique experience.

The taxi could be booked by the person or provided by the hotel, but the door-to-door updates, information received would be such a different and refreshing experience for the traveller.

All along the way, give out vouchers, discounts, conduct surveys, promotional events, or whatever way you can think of engaging and rewarding customer.

I will talk about more of these in my next blog, so keep reading…

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How To Eliminate Competition: From Flipping Karts to Flipping Bay

When Flipkart started the online furore, selling books, no one had thought where this company will head. The market was raw, in this part of the world, and the gold was there for digging, for early birds.

 

Since then, the company has come a long way, surpassing the expectations of veterans and market pundits, and raised some serious money.

 

It must have been a fairy tale when the company grew to where it is now, in terms of size and valuation.

 

At the time, there was a big market pie, which was untapped, and for a company like Flipkart – it was huge potential for a foreseeable future.

 

Once you tap on to something new, you can’t hide it from the world. Gradually, other companies started bidding on this new trend, as well.

 

Within a few years, the pie not left solely for Flipkart, but other players like Amazon, Snapdeal, and others as well.

 

Interestingly, ebay had operations in India long before any other big market player, we know today, had put steps here.

 

However, they failed to make that much of an impact or control the market share.

 

A decade in to existence and operations, Flipkart has now taken control of ebay’s India operations, which was unexpected, but is a smart move!

 

Why Now?

The timing couldn’t have been better!

 

Just last year, there was so much going on with the company (Flipkart), in terms of losing valuation, reshuffle at the top layer, and constant fight to remain market leader; with Amazon keeping them on their toes.

 

Why Do It At All?

If you are aware of the subject: Mergers and Acquisitions, then you would be able to relate this move.

 

  • Synergy: Since both the organisations were operating in the same field, with different associations with vendors and different strategies, this move would give them a platform to mix the best of both.
  • Growth or Bigger Market Share: Without having to make those transactions, efforts from sales team, or any other resource utilisation, they’ll get a bigger market share to operate in; both vendors and customers.
  • Increase Supply-Chain: The workforce could be combined to restructure the supply-chain mechanism and deliver the products in much organised fashion. Thus, improve the customer satisfaction and increase the customer retention/loyalty.
  • Eliminate Competition: With one less enemy to look out for, the competition just got smaller. However, the increased forces would be enough to fend off challenges, or perhaps, go on the offensive for a while.

 

ebay, was not going to be profitable anyways, as we have seen for so many years. For them, hooking on to a better ship should look like a saviour in sight.

 

However, with another merger (Flipkart-Snapdeal) doing the rounds, the future holds ontogenesis or decay, it is to be seen!

 

How do you make money? Spinoffs, split-ups, liquidations, mergers and acquisitions. ~ Mario Gabelli

 

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5 Tips Gummies for Dummies on Marketing

You might be a marketing professional, an entrepreneur, or an enthusiast. Even if you are totally unrelated to these fields, yet want to make a social presence – so what do you do?

You browse the internet for information, reading endless blogs or stories, and imitating or following endless people. Then you embark upon a journey which turns out pretty depressing, pretty soon. Alright, maybe not as quickly as I may have sounded.

You think your marketing strategy works?

You do get some response, like a few likes or shares, and maybe a few comments as well. Then you read more, try to plan your working strategy, and follow it to get a few more followers.

After weeks or months of following the routine, planning and re-planning, you are nowhere near to the figure or reach you though you would be.

I, personally, have been a member of these social platforms for nearly a decade now. But, I started seeing the potential or utility of them, and be regularly active on them quite recently.

I’ve had some success, but mostly disappointment. To be fair, I must call it a learning experience than a failure.

If you’ve been paying any attention, from your own experience you would’ve realised by now that until you are known to the world otherwise or you are obnoxious enough to create a furore, you wouldn’t be someone whom the world would follow.

There goes your reach, organic or not, out of the window!

Does it have to be really that way?

In life… There are no shortcuts! Couldn’t seem to remember where I heard that before. Anyways, the point is – you can’t possibly think of making a huge difference, overnight!

Check out the profile of most followed people, within the industry of your choice or any other. They did not plan for any of it, rather spoke their minds out. And they did not stop!

1.      Be Original, as much as you can. Least, you can paraphrase it!

2.      Trending topics, discussions, world events, breaking stories – choose variety to spice it up

3.      Take advantage of creative team, if you have that option, to bring some infographics or banners for campaign

4.      Tell a story or be part of it, get involved

5.      Break the monotony; challenge the normality – Be different otherwise there are many others like you

One last thing, which no one would tell you is to be unconditionally charitable. No, I’m not talking about donation (in any form) or money. Be open to support people, follow them, promote their work, write appropriate comments, and be creative with your language.

A social or online deed is like a boomerang and comes back manifolds, when it does. You just have to be patient!

 

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How Not To Follow A Humdrum Strategy

On the night of March 08th, 2017, the football world saw one the major upsets of the tournament; at the highest level.

The #ChampionsLeague is no small town kid. It’s the crown which every European football club yearns for. It’s a show of strength, desire, and something to kill for.

A giant club from France (Paris St Germain or PSG) battling it out with another giant from Spain (Barcelona or Barca).

Those Petious Six Goals (#PSG) changed the way world looked at #Barcelona; for those who still had any inhibitions about this club.

For those who don’t know, there are two fixtures between the same two teams, in this tournament – one home game and another away game.

During the first meet, PSG knocked a heavy blow on Barca, leading the night 4 goals to nil.

Very few people would have thought that Barca would be able to overcome such a mountain of a task.

Plain and simple, it was impossible.

Well, those of you who don’t know Barca’s might would not know that they don’t give up till it’s the end.

So, all they did was to make impossible to I’m possible!

HOW?

You have to watch it to believe it.

The energy they had, they pace with which they moved, and the rage which was evident from their body language. They could kill, if they had any weapons!

Was it enough to make such a comeback?

Absolutely not!

These are key ingredients which you need, but the ingredients don’t mix or bake on their own.

They need a binding agent, a purpose, and a role which each of them plays.

So, after their defeat in the first leg, Barca made changes to the team. The coach started mixing his strategies and kept his opponents, guessing!

The two things which stood out for me: Reorganising and Rotating.

When to tame the opponents and when to go for the kill – know that and all you have to do is wait for the right time. Wait for the opponents to make a mistake and present you with a weak spot.

You don’t always get a high ground, and you don’t always win from a high ground.

Agility, which comes from challenging and perfecting different scenarios, giving yourself more data to prepare, and a cutting edge!

The next thing, is to know who could make that killing. It’s not always the sniper who has the best spot to kill.

Sometime, he could be there to cause a distraction or make you run for cover, while the man with the knife waits for the opportunity and makes the silent kill.

Never let your work be monotonous, have a thorough SWOT analysis, keep more information, and know what works for you and what not.

When you put yourself in different scenarios, you will know the weak areas. And, if you could stumble upon those then others could, as well.

You have to try!

Take a calculated risk!

Or, go blind!

You’ll learn something out of it, for sure.

But, eat only what you can stomach.

In between, the first match and the return match, Barca played other games and corrected their new ways of working.

When the time came, they were better prepared!

 

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How Not To Fall For The Online Marketing Trap

Yeah.. yeah.. Knowledge is power, we all know that and heard it several times. But, in order to gain more knowledge what do we do? We speak with intellectuals or read about the area of our interest. The information is widely available over the internet, look where you know must!

What is the most common thing which you hear from the experts?

First of all, there are no experts on the matter. Whoever go where they are now, never thought they would reach there. Well, they must have hope for it for sure.

They all will tell you to follow what they have done. Have you come across blogs or articles which say, “5 step to achieve this” or “3 things you have been doing wrong” or “How to make money quickly”?

The internet is flooded with such trap doors!

Why do I call them trap doors?

  • First and foremost, they all have similar information, just paraphrased or tweaked info-graphics.
  • Secondly, it’s a marketing pitch for the author, if only you could understand.
  • Thirdly, somehow it worked for the author, but do you have any way to validate it?
  • And lastly, isn’t marketing all about being able to convince the potential customer. And, in this case the author convinces you that his method or write up is pretty useful to you.

The more you are convinced, the more chances you’re going to like, share, and/or comment on it.

Now think, who is benefiting from it eventually?

Who is getting famous, getting more followers, and eventually making money?

I bet you knew that already, just didn’t want to admit you were falling for the trap as well.

There is nothing to be ashamed of or denying the fact. Look at the bright side, it was not a complete waste. Every bit of hearing or reading tells you something, gives you a different perspective which you can plan to use it to your strength, your strategy.

You Still Don’t Believe Me, Do You??

OK .. Tell me, what do you think about this?

Can you tell me which strategy worked here and in which article have you come across such a scenarios which fits the bill?

Let me tell you – NONE!

For Chris sake, if people knew what would work for sure, wouldn’t all those people who read those (marketing) articles be famous already?

And, if that were true then you wouldn’t be writing any articles any more since you would be flocked with curious people wanting to know how you did it?

Wouldn’t your mind be like a supercomputer, predicting human behaviour?

More than information, current events, or any other guide people are interested in bold and obnoxious content. You start sharing your sensual photos and you are a hit overnight.

Then again, events like Football World Cup was enough to crash the social media.

If only human minds were predictable, any strategy you followed would have done wonders for you.

Till then, the only thing you could do it read, plan, execute, and have patience.

Unless of course, you are willing to showcase your ugly side and cause an online stir; but never fall for such traps which guarantee you success, overnight!

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Mistakes Can Be Costly, We All Know That. Don’t We?

It must have been like any normal day in the office with people heads down on their computers, stroking the keyboard hard, and trying to finish what they started. I could only imagine the manager walking down to the team area and calling for an emergency meeting, only to announce that the organisation was just fined a couple of million pounds and they need to find a root cause for the issue.

Startled with what they have just heard, the room got filled with hissing and murmuring sounds. “Let’s discuss this together”, said the manager in a commanding tone, slightly agitated at the same time as he and his team were responsible to prepare a report.

It was indeed a bad day for the organisation, a telecom giant, who had been fined by the regulators for overcharging the consumers due to discrepancies in the billing system. Going by the news doing the round, the impression one gets is that the customer care department did a pathetic job at dealing with complaints. But, on a deeper analysis of the situation the flaw seemed with the software which dealt with consumer billing.

Back in the meeting room, fingers were being pointed and heated exchanges were a common sight. However, it was a collective failure of sorts. The business analyst failed to identify the use case, the development team did not cater in the specific conditions, and almost all the teams involved did not ensure the right checks were enabled.

I really can’t and should not be commenting about what went wrong cause I was not there when this all happened. However, what I can do now is to highlight the importance of what I’ve been learning since the day I started my job – capture the gaps and potential bugs as early in the development cycle as possible. Even if there were no gaps, the use cases should have been verified thoroughly when the system is made live. If the billing rates had to change from mid of December then how could they not till mid-January? If the person is calling from EU zone then how could he be charged like he was calling to the US?

I’m not sure if these were specific scenarios or if they should have been captured. I can’t even tell if these scenarios were captured indeed. However, the teams involved did overlook the changes and for a long time (about a month). While the customer service failed to act on complaints or feedbacks, which is the most important phase in any service industry. Was the organisation bit lazy to act or was daring to challenge that nothing could happen to them? Whatever it may be, they paid a hefty price for their actions.

Alienate your customers from the business, and soon you’ll have no business to run.

 

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