Forward Pass

Forward Pass

Try this. Say instead of zipping past a car on the opposite side of the road waiting to make a u-turn, slow down (of course, look back first, to make sure you don’t cause a pileup) to ’em make the turn. The driver will be pleasantly surprised. They don’t expect it. Nobody does. And that’s what makes it even more worthwhile.

Or for that matter, let the lady with kids, or the old folk cross the road. Without having to hear the roaring of menacing engines revving impatiently for them to dive-out-of-the-way. Or even just random people who are already on the road (provided you aren’t already going too fast), let them pass.

Try it once or twice, and you’re gonna love it. If not for the good feeling of doing a lil good deed, at least for the surprise you’ll be giving these folk. It’s worth every moment.

And with everybody doing this at least a few times a day, imagine just how much more pleasurable driving could become.!

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The Fire to Hire

Start-ups and many small to medium sized companies often think that costs can be saved by hiring poor to average quality candidates, thereby being able to get the adequate “number” of manpower and be able to scale up while keeping salary expenses down.

However, what many of them fail to realize is, that for every average, lower salaried hire, either they or someone from the top team is, indirectly contributing a part of themselves to that new hire’s role.

Because the average candidate will not be pro-active, determined, or have the fire in her or him to do that little bit extra, or for that matter, even just do what is expected, in the right way. They would need to have a baby-sitter to constantly monitor them and keep checking if they are on track from time to time. More often than not, you would be thinking of their action plan and communicating it to them, instead of them thinking of the best solution and suggesting options to you.

So, with each new ‘average’ hire, not only do you compromise on the tasks you assign to them, but your company too gets lesser and lesser of you, since increasingly greater portion of your time and efforts start getting diverted to managing your ‘average’ team’s planning and execution.

Instead, spending more to get a ‘better than average’ dynamic and enthusiastic hire will not only leave you with more time and less tensions/ responsibilities towards them, but they will also contribute in terms of figuring out better/smarter/ cost-effective ways to doing things, thus taking the business forward.

Another way the business would tend to grow multi-fold with such hires is, that you start thinking bigger, thinking more, to keeping such capable employees busy and on their toes. Because they can. Because they want to. And fueling their growth in turn, fuels your business.

So, while a ‘better than average’ hire will always cost more, she or he would more often than not prove more cost-effective in the long run.

Layers of BS

Ever realized how much time we spend each day either building a thick layer of ‘unnecessary’, and/ or scraping a thick layer of it.

Rather than build quality products and services, we tend to build our own imaginary features, declare our products/ services to be the absolute best without the real stuff to prove it. Facts are covered up, hyped, or even distorted.

And customers on the other hand, while listening to people brag about their ‘best-in-the-galaxy’ offerings, have to spend most of their waking hours in a state of suspicion, of products and services they buy, of people they interact with, of ideas and suggestions they are given. Because, more often than not, there’s always a layer of bullcrap that customers are mentally scraping and making their own deductions. And usually, the more the BS, the poorer the impression they have of what you have to offer.

Sellers will ridiculously inflate prices. Buyers will be aware to some extent, and both will go through the motions till they arrive at a common ground. And it isn’t just about price. It’s the same with quality, safety, and a lot of such critical factors. One hypes it, the other either falls for it to whatever extent, or doesn’t at all.

Rather than spend time in building quality products and services, we have come to rely more on confident BS based on an illusion of supposed facts that we have created, and what we pass on to every new employee at most companies.

More emphasis is given on teaching the shortcuts, rather than on the product/ service or business know-how. Employees too would rather learn some quick fake facts about something they’re trying to sell, rather than know what they offer, inside-out; so that they could perhaps better understand it, better understand the customer, and help build an even better product/ service.

Guess the meaning of ‘learning the ropes’ has, over the years, slipped down the very same ropes.

Our innate attitude is towards avoiding that extra mile, towards quick fixes, rather than in the direction of building something that lasts.

The way I see it, that extra mile today usually saves several hundred extra miles in the long run.

Fly-by-satire

Today, another MIG-21 crashed in Haryana. Thankfully the pilot was safe and apart from a big ass crater in a field, there was no major damage.

With 6 MIG-21 crashes in this year alone, the IAF has lost over 100 pilots in 283 accidents between 1993 and 2002. Till date it has lost over half the 976 MIG-21 fleet in air crashes. The Indian Air Force seems to have an innovative method of retaining only the best pilots. Send them all up in MIG-21s, if they survive, they must be damn good or bloody lucky.

The world has moved on to the fifth generation fighters with Short Take-off & Vertical Landing, Stealth, Internal weapons, the works, and yet we’re hell bent on sticking to flying coffins from the 1960s.

Multiple Copy Paste

Multiple Copy Paste

Ever felt the need for a double or second ‘Copy-Paste’ option on your computer, tablet or even mobile phone? That is, when you could copy 2 different things one after the other, and then paste them back in sequence. As opposed to doing a copy-paste and copy-paste.

I’ve seriously felt a desperate need for it on several occasions, like say when you have to do multiple copy-paste from and to different locations (say different word files), or more importantly, when say you wanted to type a really funny message and be able to send it in 2 parts, with just that fraction of a second of time interval between them to have that killer punch. Instead we’d have to either send the whole message together, or take a while typing out the second half by which time the joke would’ve lost half the effect.

Is it so difficult to have a double ‘copy-paste’? Perhaps a <Ctrl-C-1, Ctrl-C-2> and <Ctrl-V-1, Ctrl-V-2> or whatever other simple easy-for-your-fingers combination (you’d have to figure it out on touchscreen devices). Of course, more than a double copy-paste might get a little confusing to work on. “Where did I have to paste ‘Copy 4’ now?” Or “Say, what was ‘Copy 4’ about?”  😉

But imagine the benefits, the little bits of time and effort we’d save,  and how we could make chat a little bit more fun.!

Work Smarter, or Work Longer?

I guess the longer working hours became more and more common only in the last decade or slightly more, but it’s quite surprising that it seems to be going strong even to this day in many companies.
And not only do companies demand more of the employee’s time, employees surprisingly take pride in claiming they work anywhere for those 15 or 18 hours a day, day after day.

Now, I don’t know about other educational courses, but anyone who’s done their engineering, or even sat through a 3-4 hour management ‘discourse’ would know how the brain just shuts off after a bit.
Or for that matter, even if you were busy working on a school or college project on a tight deadline, after hours of continuous work, am sure you would have realized that while it was perhaps possible to continue doing some monotonous mindless repetitions (say copying full paragraphs from one document to another), it was near impossible to do something creative or something that required you to reason.

I know for sure from personal experience. During engineering, I was up for 2.5 days straight during a week-long cultural event at college. And somewhere towards the end of that 2.5 days, some genius put me in charge of handling music for a group dance. And at any other time, I could operate the Winamp shortcuts blindfolded, but right there and then, I goofed, and stopped instead of pausing a track. Thankfully the highly skilled bunch of girls picked up from some random music position I started again, and they were big-hearted enough to spare me later too.
Anyway, so how is it humanly possible to go through those extra long work hour days without losing out on productivity and creativity?
Sure you’d probably manage to impress a superior who thinks ‘long work hours=value for money on employee salary’, but am sure others would realize what they are losing in the bargain, the purpose for which they had hired you in the first place.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

There is this shopping place close to my office (don’t know if it would qualify as a mall, cause even though its got some of the characteristics of one, it does not feel like one). Anyway,I drop in there sometimes to grab a bite at a restaurant there. So once I enter the main gate, there are a bunch of security folk who may or may not check the boot and glove compartment of your car, but more often than not, they will still make it a point to ask you 2 things, your name, and where you stay.

They seem to have cracked the code to a better and safer security process. These folk are skilled enough to supposedly be able to tell the good guys from the bad just by knowing the name and area of residence. Isn’t that terrific?!

So I guess it is safe to assume that all the bad elements usually stay in the same localities.

And that the mall folk know where those places are while our police don’t.

And ol’ Shakespeare was confident enough to say ‘what’s in a name?…..’.

We seem to take absurdity to unimaginably new heights everyday. That, or there is some reasoning behind it that makes this a far more effective tool as compared to searching the car. I don’t know.

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Google, Search Better

Google, Search Better

You know how you sometimes Google something, but the results are random or irrelevant.

And you know how Google has the +1 recommendation option on search results.

Now, here’s a suggestion that should be considered for Google, shopping sites, and those offering search directly via Google. How about an option similar to the FB ‘Like’ button? Individuals who have entered a search, can click on results that they feel do not match the search query. That way, after a listing hits a predetermined number of ‘clicks’ on the ‘wrong result’ button, it would alert the IT/ admin folk, who could then verify and accordingly change tags, etc. to improve all future searches progressively. Alternatively, the Google algorithm could rework the search results based on user input. Even though their algorithm already factors it in some way.

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Who’s the Richest?

Howdy folks.! Not sure if you missed the reading, I sure missed the writing though. And after a fabulous month-long vacation, I’m back to what I’m told is, the grind.

The office complex I work at has an elderly (67 year old) watchman who also oversees the parking lot at the back of the complex. Now the outskirts of Pune, as some of you may be aware, is not the best place to drive/ride. You have vehicles of all sizes coming from all possible directions. It’s the law of the jungle on the road, and its free for all.

You could be driving to work on a cold morning, your head still waking up, when you see a pair of headlights blinking at you. Your eyes re-focus and now they see a huge truck right behind those lights, and it’s headed for you. It takes a while to register, and by the time you swerve to avoid him and he whizzes past, you wonder if there was a truck actually driving on the wrong side of the road, or you just imagined it.

Anyway, so one afternoon, when I was driving back into that parking lot (which has 2 parallel rows of parking), it so happened that while there was ample parking in the row at the back, smart locals had left little or no place for you to reach there, by filling up the row of lots in the front. Talk about brainless people. And by that afternoon, I had already had my share of whizzes, and near hits (I still wonder why people still call them ‘near misses’. Not like you wanted them to hit anyway).

So when I saw the hard to access parking, it took my patience right over the hill. I parked, and went looking for the watchman in charge. And there was Mr. Albert John Anderson. He’s a 67 year old watchman with more than half his teeth missing. He was sitting calmly on a stool in a roofed parking lot, chatting with 2 drivers. I walked upto him and proceeded to give him a small dose on how he should have told people to leave empty spaces for cars to get into and out of the back row. He, in turn, proceeded to calmly explain to me that people in the area are, well, what they are, and how much could a 67 year old fellow request them. He said it was pointless reasoning with most people here. We then saw a group of 3 men entering the parking lot. Mr. Anderson asked me to observe how they sped out of the relatively tight parking lot, with little or no concern for people are cars around. So, the 2 drivers, Mr. Anderson and I turned to watch the 3 men get into the car, and zip out, literally like Mr. Anderson had said they would. We all burst out laughing.  From that day on, Mr. Anderson has the biggest smile on his face whenever he’d see me pull into the parking. I take his advice on where and how to park. He even asks me to pull up into a roofed lot in case one is available.

Today, being a Sunday, and a working day for me, I drove into the parking lot and found myself a nice sheltered spot in the surprisingly deserted lot. I was hoping that the continuous rain had washed off most of the mud and dirt on my car, that made it look like a serious 2 colour paint job. I nodded a hello to Mr. Anderson and proceeded up the stairs to work. Later today, when I got down to head for a quick lunch, I noticed that the car appeared to be spotless clean. I wondered how the rain could have possibly done that. Right about then Mr. Anderson walks up to me and says that he had washed my car. I thanked him a few times, which he brushed off with his big smile. I then proceeded to lunch. When I got back, I walked up to Mr. Anderson who was still on his little seat, and I thanked him again and gave him some money, which he gratefully accepted. We then spoke for a bit, and he told me that he was brought up at an orphanage, and that he now has 3 children who are doing well for themselves. I also found out that his monthly salary was a paltry Rs.XXXX/-, of which he spent Rs.300 on his bus pass. Now, that salary, is quite low a sum, with a large number of people earning that amount in 1-2 days, But yet, he appears so much at peace. Which is surprising, considering that monthly salary is low enough to give people many a sleepless night.

With all the money we make in today’s growing economy, the tens of thousands or more; all the luxuries we live in, and our never-ending desire for more; I am yet to find someone who can smile so contently and genuinely, as Mr. Anderson can. And if you think about it, don’t you think he must be the richest of us all.

Time for the rest of us to re-focus our priorities, and our lives. To live with what we have, live for  good times, live for people, live for the moment.!

We Deliver.!

We Deliver.!

Several years back, I used to work in the ever so famous BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry in one of India’s IT hotbeds, Bangalore. My job involved providing technical assistance to North American customers of our pretty impressive all-in-one printer range.

There was a time I wondered if the monotony could leave me permanently depressed. Or worse, brain-damaged. But right then, I received an email from my boss. He was forwarding an email from a customer I had assisted a few days before. The customer had needed print cartridges urgently. For some reason unknown to most of us, it took about 3-4 days after placing an order, for the cartridges to actually reach the customer. (And in case you wondered, ‘no, the cartridges weren’t shipped from India).

While this was a free delivery, there was a 1-day shipping for some charge. I was aware that in some special cases, I could request a senior colleague to waive off the charges on the 1-day fee, but it was not a luxury I’d like to take for granted. So I promised the customer a 3-4 day delivery period and that I would try to have the cartridges delivered earlier if possible.

Coming back to the email the customer had sent, it read something on the lines of  – I would like to thank XYZ for the quick shipping of my print cartridges. He said it would take 3-4 days, but when it arrived the next day, I was thrilled. He has done what we in the customer service industry call ‘under-promising and over-delivering’, the surest way to win a customer and a little more to that effect.

That was my first lesson in customer service; ok maybe not the first, but certainly the one with the most impact. It has been a while since that corporate ‘high’, and since those technical support days, but that feedback has stayed on with me. While I’m no ‘pro’ at customer service, I do understand its ever-increasing importance in any business, and I constantly try to figure ways of improving the customer’s experience.

And I have found many an Indian BPO employee, or for that matter, even your average sales or service staff at any retail outlet or business centre, bubbling with enthusiasm to cater to the customer’s every demand. And while this is a great thing for customers, there are 2 key ingredients missing in many cases. Those being  Planning and Communicating. A simple equation of their effect on customer experience would look something like:

Customer Experience = Communicating (Planning+Commitment+Delivering on Commitment)

Most of us are great at committing, but tend to fall a little short when it is time to deliver on the commitment. And this causes unnecessary customer dissatisfaction.

In our endeavor to give the customer that little bit ‘extra’, we often miscalculate delivery or commitment deadlines. And this ends up causing the exact opposite of the effect we had planned for.

If we were to take into account all possible influencing factors (Planning) and build it into a commitment or delivery deadline, and perhaps even throw in a little buffer if we have a gut feel about possible delay, we would be giving the customer a more realistic picture. And of course, nothing beats plain old ‘Communication’. It is extremely important that we communicate with the customer. Even a call or message updating them the moment you see a deadline getting stretched, does wonders. You cannot imagine how much customers appreciate that phone call informing them of a delay. It beats them arriving at your doorstep on D-day only to be asked to come the following week.

To my customer.
I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.
-Unknown

Then of course, nothing beats delivering on a commitment or deadline.!

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