Thursday, February 21, 2008

The value of human contact in branding and marketing

There is a lesson to be learned by examples set by some of the larger companies who have forgotten the value of human contact in branding and marketing. There is nothing like getting an automated system when you call a company verses getting a real person. I know of some companies that have lost a lot of customers, like me, this way. All you ever got was a machine you had to fight with it to get an answer or directed to the right department, then maybe you might get a real person. I am now dealing with a company that advertises that they have real people answering the phones. I know that a lot of companies have re-evaluated the cost savings of automated systems verses customer loss due to perceived poor customer service. Quit a few companies now advertise the fact that you reach real people when you call.

If you have a store and your customers spend more time looking for some one to help them then looking at products you have a problem. If the staff they find tells them it is not their department so they cannot help, you have a problem. Every thing people do or do not do when representing your company affects how people view your company. If some one gets poor service in a restaurant, they are not likely to go back. It’s the same in any area of business. Word of mouth is one of the strongest marketing tools out there; the people working for you have a direct influence on what is being said.

If you don’t have good people in contact with your customers you will not have a good relationship with those customers. This goes from the person who answers the phone, to taking orders, or resolving issues. If you are not going to take the time to help me I will take my business else where thank you. To day the customers control where they buy from, and if you don’t meet their needs and wants they will find some one else who will.

There are more companies out there succeeding because they know how important any and every contact with a customer or potential client is. People are willing to pay more when they get good service. People judge your company on how they perceive their treatment and the quality of your goods/product. I don’t care how good your product is, or what a great deal it is price wise if your employees treated me poorly.

The bottom line is customers want to feel valued. Having a person willing and able to help resolve problems effectively and efficiently makes some one feel more valued then having to fight with a phone system, or search on a web site for answers or dealing with an unhelpful person. Every person who works for a company represents that company when dealing with others, they are branding your company no matter how much marketing you do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Should you butter up your boss?

It seems like such a good idea at the time. Maybe if you butter up your boss they will remember that next performance review, job assignment or promotion. It cannot hurt to try, right. So how do you butter up your boss?

The whole point of butting up your boss is to get on their good side. You want to be well thought of by your boss and get some sort of benefit as a result. Are you doing this as a short cut, to bring positive attention to yourself, or deflect their attention from your work? Unfortunately how we do our job is not always what gets the promotion or raise.

There always seems to be some one who gets away with all sorts of things just because they are "friends" with the boss. As an extreme example, I remember one who would come in, sit at his desk and spend his shift on the phone with his friends and doing artwork. Some how he never had any problems keeping his job or meeting his quota. That was until the people above his supervisor noticed a change in staff productivity and retention. No one wanted to work when he did not, and some how he was reaching his quota but other people got fired for not reaching them. Lots of questions about what was going on. Turns out he was the supervisors boyfriend and they both got fired.

Now I would not recommend going to that extreme, but we all know having a friendly relationship with the boss can have its benefits. Another extreme example; at another job all of the long-term employees in the department were "friends" of the manager and supervisor. Some had started as school friends but all the long-term staff was a tight nit group who spent evenings and weekends hanging out with each other. If you did not have the time to hang out with the manager after work or go to their parties then you did not fit in and it showed in your job performance reviews. Several of the people would even bake and bring cookies or cake in to share with the department every week. The manager had a sweet tooth. You either conformed to fit in or lost your job or you found it so difficult to work with them you looked for other work. This resulted in the loss of quite a few skilled and educated employees and the retention of people who had on the job training but not the education.

In most places of employment things are not quite that bad but there is usually some one who goes out of their way to cultivate a "friendship" with their boss. They can be seen doing any number of things to get an in with the boss. Buttering up the boss with complements, gifts or finding ways to socialize outside of work. They always seem get the good assignments, or raise and some times the promotion.

Some people can argue that their work performance is what gets them the good assignments, raise or promotion and that buttering up the boss only gave them an edge. We know it works with some bosses, the question you need to ask before you try to butter up your boss is, will it work? And then figure out what will work with your boss without alienating your coworkers. Bringing in a batch of brownies for the whole department, not just the boss is a good way. In the long run though only you can see what will work with your boss, or if it will work at all. However, being friendly and helpful with your boss and co-workers should not hurt their opinion of you and may open up some opportunities for you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to avoid sabotaging your career

There is nothing like the fear of success. So how do you avoid sabotaging your career? There are a lot of ways to sabotage a career. Don’t think that just because you have the job that’s it. You still have to keep the job, work with others and survive the politics. Being able to do the job, and doing it well is not enough.

There is nothing that destroys a career faster then alienating your co-workers. Trust me, management notices when some one does not fit in, or work well with others. No one likes some one who is disruptive to the harmony of the work place. If you don’t fit in will anyone recommend you for a better position, or more responsibility? You may even find yourself with out a job. Working as part of a team toward a common goal looks much better.

Take all jobs seriously. Doing poorly at one job can have a long-term affect. If you are looking for a job would you be able to use that job as a reference? Even if you'r boss gives you what looks like a make work job still do the work to the best of your abilities. If you don’t then how will that look, will they trust you with other jobs, more important ones if you slack off on this one.

Follow through. If you commit to doing some thing, do it, even if it is just picking up coffee. Other wise you are just full of empty promises and are not to be trusted. Not following through means you are not dependable or reliable.

Be truthful. Take responsibility for when you make a mistake. If you don’t know some thing then be honest about it and ask for help. Don’t hid it, dishonesty in any way will always come back to haunt you.

Be on time, both getting to work and completing your work. It is a sign of disrespect when you do not show up on time. Not showing up for work on time means you do not care about the job. Not getting your work done on time can be seen as you are unable to do your job.

Dress appropriately. Appearance does affect how people perceive you. If you dress like a slob, or like you don’t care it does not create a feeling of confidence in you or your abilities. If you don’t show that your respect yourself, why should others respect you?

Don’t make work your place to socialize or over share you life. There are times and places to make friends, and share what ever you want with them. Work is not that place. It is not professional for one; you are there to work. Being friends with your co-workers is fine, but do your socializing and chatting outside of work. Never say bad things about co-workers and keep your personal life private. You never know when you tell some one some thing if it can be used against you. It is office/work place politics, never give people ammunition.

Treat others with respect even if you don’t like them. You never know how you deal with some one is going affect how people see you. If you blow up at some one then you are a hothead, unstable and untrustworthy. If you keep your head, be polite, use your inside voice for what you are really thinking, it looks like you are diplomatic, a team player, and dependable.

Don’t take a job just because it is offered; make sure it fits your needs. There is nothing like a bad fit. If there are no growth options then how are you going to move your career up the next step? You are going to have to look out side of that company or be stuck in the same position. So you have to spend your time doing the job searching, find the right job, and establish yourself all over again.

Most of this is common sense. When you are stressed, or unhappy at work or with work it is easy to forget how this job can affect your long-term career. How what you do and say today can haunt you or help you. You never know when some one in your past can be part of your future, or how they can affect your career.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The pitfalls of telecommuting jobs

I work from my home, or I should say I have a home business. How much work that actually gets done depends on the day. There are a lot of pitfalls with telecommuting jobs and I fall into every one. The great plus about working at home is the flexibility. Unfortunately that is also the biggest pitfall out there. It is too flexible, you ether do nothing but work all the time or never get any work done. You’re never away from your work; it is always in your home waiting to be done. It is easy to get caught up in what you are doing and loose track of every thing else. Or you get every thing else done because you can always do your work later and nothing gets done. You want to sleep in, go ahead, you can just work latter. You can fit appointments in any time, but then you find your day is full of nothing but appointments.

Working from home can be very rewarding or the most frustrating experience ever, or both at the same time. To be able to work at home you have to be a self-motivator, police your self, be very organized and get the work done. There is no one to help you when you have problems; you have to rely on yourself. Sick days, what are those? People also expect you to be working all the time. So its 6 pm your at home so it is ok for me to call you about a job or to give you more work. What do you mean you have a life out side of work, other commitments? You work from home you should be available all the time.

People do not treat you with the same respect as they do people they see as having real jobs. You know, ones you have to leave the house for. It does not matter how successful you are or busy, you stay at home so you don’t have a real job. Friends or family call or drop in any time, they know you are going to be home. Do they respect the fact that you are working? No, you can make time for them. It is not like you have a real job where you have to go to work. If your kid is sick, you end up taking care of them at home. Why, well you were going to be home any way. How hard can it be to get your work done at the same time as taking care of your child? So what if you have a deadline or have to run around to get some things done. You work at home, so work around having to take care of your child.

For me I am lucky in that both my husband and I work on the business together. How well the business does is up to us. We help motivate each other, and help each other from falling into the pitfalls. It took some time because when we first started it was too easy to find the day gone and no work done, or we just worked 12 hrs non-stop. But we learned that we had to have an area that was just for work. It keeps our work life apart from our home life. Our commute may only be to the basement but it is still a commute. If I don’t make jewellery we don’t have any to sell. If we don’t put the items on our e-store we cannot sell it. If we don’t ship ASAP our customers are not happy and we lose sales. We control what we do and how we do it. We don’t have to answer to any one but our customers. We love what we do so the work gets done. That all said and done, I have to get back to work.