Satisfaction guaranteed!

My Office magazine’s simple guide to giving – and getting – great customer service.

Giving great customer service

If you’re in the business of selling products and services, a content and loyal customer is worth their weight in gold.
However, as technologically-enhanced, real-time communication grows, a dissatisfied customer can be a ticking time-bomb that can do significant damage to your brand’s reputation.


Choose the right medium

It’s vital to know when to use technology-based services and when to rely on human interaction. An online form or automated response might work for a customer who’s looking for efficiency and a quick fix, but someone who’s desperately seeking consolation, advice or assistance won’t react well to a machine. Train service agents to know when which form of service is most appropriate.

Streamline consultancy

Working with one consultant is invaluable for customers. One point of contact simplifies exchange, makes problem solving efficient and decreases frustration levels. This system also allows consultants to build strong and lasting relationships with clients.

Reward valuable customers

Tailored services for long-standing clients, as well as new and existing “big spenders”, are a useful value-add – whether it’s additional or personalised services, or exclusive benefits. This can result in significant growth and investment from the customer’s side.

Listen

“Customer service” often drums up images of sub-par call centres, but valuable support can be offered in so many ways. Social media, if used properly, can be a powerful tool to gain insights from customers to improve service. Feedback is never diluted and happens in realtime, which is a huge asset if managed properly.

Offer specialised support

Effective communication is the first tenant of great customer service. This means if your customer service support team isn’t speaking the same language as your customers – literally and figuratively – you’ll never be offering the best service possible. Make sure your support team is tailored according to region, accents and even vernacular, to ensure a fruitful exchange.

Fix issues quickly

As far as possible, make sure customers’ issues are resolved the very first time they complain, so clients experience the least downtime and maximise efficiency. First time fix (FTF) is a sure-fire way to get repeat business.

Follow up

A customer scorned once is dangerous; a customer scorned twice is fatal – and they will not hesitate to make their plight known. Even after the resolution of an issue, there should always be some kind of follow-up communication to check the problem hasn’t returned, and the client is happy. It never goes amiss.

Getting great customer service

Have you ever wondered how some people always seem to get the best table, the upgraded room or the best piece of meat at the market? Conversely, others seem to continually get the surly waiter, the lazy clerk or the indifferent bellhop.
Great customer service is no accident; there are things you can do to get it. Indeed, those who receive the most professional, courteous and friendly service follow a deliberate recipe that turns even a cold and raw initial encounter into a warm and delicious experience.

Here are six tips for almost always getting great customer service:

Be positive

Enter the scene with the expectation that greatness is about to happen and that it should happen to you. Visualise being served well. Then let your obvious positive attitude and confident expectation come from your terrific mental picture. Avoid making demands. Instead, put your energy into creating early, light-hearted vibes.

Make a good first impression

The first 10 seconds are vital to shaping the reception you are likely to get. Aim your eyes and best smile at the service provider. Deliver a friendly greeting. Be confident, but not aggressive or pushy. Optimism and joy are generally infectious. Remember, servers favour customers who are a pleasure to serve.

Lend a hand

Most service people really are eager to give great service. But sometimes barriers can make it difficult. So, be a willing helper in clearing those barriers away. If the barrier is the server’s foul mood, try a quick tease or sincere compliment to turn sour into sunny. If the barrier is an absurd policy, offer a novel suggestion that helps you get what you want without putting your service person at risk of managerial disdain.

Be respectful

No matter how determined a service provider seems to be to provide the absolute bare minimum, always treat them with respect. Sometimes a “no!” is an unshakable “no”.
Always use your very best manners: “please”, “sir” and “thank you”. Remember that a chilly initial reception will generally thaw if you are persistent in your cheerfulness. Your server just might surprise you with a turnaround attitude late in the encounter.

Be playful

Use a playful style that lets the service person be a bit mischievous. Instead of announcing: “I’d like a no-smoking table with a view”, try: “We’d love to get the table that you would want if this was your special night. I know you can get us just the right spot.”
If you help make service delivery feel fun, you’ll have servers wanting to join you on the playground.

Be generous and thoughtful

Never view a service encounter as a single transaction, but rather the start of an important relationship. Assume you’ll be back, and be generous in expressing your gratitude for great service.
Praise service people to their superiors. Express your compliments to great service providers with a follow-up note or call. The next time you return, you’ll get their red carpet best.

Don’t wait for great service to come to you. Take charge of elevating the encounter from a “pretty good” transaction to an “I wouldn’t go anywhere else” relationship.

Service people enjoy great customers just as much as customers enjoy great servers. So, “serve” from your heart and you’ll be served in the same fashion.

What is a millennial? Commonly defined as a person who was born between 1980 and 2000, the term “millennial” is at its heart a generational marker. There is another side to it, though, one where the phrase broadly encompasses a mark of behaviour. At least it has become common place to identify certain behavioural traits when referring to millennials.

Unfortunately, not all characteristics associated with this generation are perceived in a positive light. Described aptly by Chelsea Krost, 24, co-founder of MPulse a Millennial-focused marketing agency from Forbes article “Is Millennial a dirty word?” written by Samantha Sharf, the word millennial has previously perceived connotations:

“To set the record straight the word Millennial is NOT a dirty word. Unfortunately, the Millennial Generation has been labelled with stereotypes like lazy, entitled, and narcissistic, which has created confusion and frustration amongst many Millennials and generations prior. This generation is often misunderstood and the ‘Millennial Hustlers’ of today don’t always get the recognition or credibility they deserve because we tend to fixate more on the negative than the positive about this demographic of people. Millennials are a generation unlike any before and we are pioneering new methods in the workplace, technology and ways of communicating that will have a great impact on our near future. It is crazy to me to think that we can define 80 million people with three negative stereotypes. Instead, I believe many Millennials are entrepreneurial, innovative, liberal and charitable.”

However, there is a common thread that is definitely associated with this generation and that is that they are redefining the workspace. Millennials are no longer happy with the typical nine-to-five day. To many it is regarded as an outdated notion, and that the best delivery of services no longer come from working in your typical office space environment. Instead, flexibility, the room to grow and engage with others in the workspace and the use of technology slowly become the prime factors when deciding where to work and who to work for.

Responding to a US survey by Steelcase, when asked to select two words to describe their ideal workplace, millennials chose “Active” (62%) and “Flexible” (54%), while Gen-Xers chose: “Fun” (56%) and “Creative”, and baby boomers selected: “Spacious/Inspiring (57%) and “Active” (53%). Peter Townshend, Managing Director of workspace researchers, Know More, says that the situation is very much the same in South Africa: “The call for flexible, active workspaces is high,” he explains. “Yes, this call comes mostly from millennials, though we are seeing all age sectors desiring, especially, more flexible workspaces that provide them with specific areas to do specific tasks. Millennial are tech-savvy, innovative and motivated and their way of working is person-centred, not place specific and because of this, we need to rethink how we see workspaces that enhance productivity. Giving a millennial a desk is the worst thing you can do – they want to sit with their entire team in highly collaborative areas, and be able to come and go as they please … especially when they need to concentrate and focus. From all the observations that we have made on South African millennials when it comes to designing workspaces to enhance their work styles, one word comes to mind: choice. Give them choices and watch them grow – Peter Townshend, Managing Director, Know More.

It is worth keeping in mind that you aren’t only building a workspace that represents the brand, but also a space for the people who work there. Companies, such as Giant Leap, know that when it comes to the office, not everyone prefers the typical desk and chair set-up, but rather open workspaces which allow for collaboration and retreat rooms for quiet time.

Integrating technology into the workspace is important. With the millennial generation being constantly online, and using technology both as a medium to increase productivity and enhance one’s skill set, it’s no longer a surprise that the working environment should be technological friendly.

This means creating integrated technological workspaces. Rooms where one can comfortably have a skype call. Office spaces that make sure connectivity is possible and that you don’t necessarily have to be at one specific station or desk to achieve this connectivity.

Giant Leap takes all of this into consideration when planning and creating a workspace. It’s no longer just about the architecture, the colour schemes, the beautifully crafted furniture or the eco-friendly materials but it’s also about the people. The roles they take on, the preferred environment, the way they engage with the space and ultimately how all of this can be used to enhance productivity.

Are you an early riser or do you hit the snooze button until it can be hit no more? Or are you one of those who prefer to work while the rest of the world sleeps?

Although there are exceptions to every rule, overwhelming evidence seems to indicate a consistent correlation between early risers and successfully engaged leaders.

Many in leadership incorrectly assume their most important asset is their time; an assumption based on the premise that because people are always clamouring for it, it must be extremely valuable. While there’s no doubt that time is precious, it’s by no means the only significant asset. If fact, when it comes to leaders, energy and ability to energise others (the vision, values and culture of the team) as well as the energising of new initiatives, is top of the list. Quite simply what’s truly special in a great leader is their ability to mobilise others.

Early to bed – early to rise
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Giving credibility to his thinking – to this day, some of the most successful and honourable people in history across the business, political and sports world have all publicly stated that getting up early is one of their keys to success. People like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison and Nelson Mandela were all early risers. It’s no coincidence that so many successful people get up early rather than work late.

Mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules and if we use them wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead more productive and ultimately happier lives.

Besides the obvious benefit of missing the traffic – this morning time allows us to gain control and to plan how to get ahead. Without exception great leaders create time to be alone in the morning. Former PepsiCo chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund would rise at 5:00 am, run four miles, pray, and eat breakfast with his family before heading to work to run a Fortune 500 company. Richard Branson confirms that he wakes up at around 5:45am, even when at his private island, using those early hours to exercise before breakfast, and then doing his best work of the day.
So while many of us are still in bed, leaders are scoring daily victories to improve their health, careers, and personal lives without sacrificing their sanity.

Early mornings and exercise

Many leaders use this early morning time for exercise which boosts mood, fitness and energy (further energising through the creation of deeper sleep cycles). When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.

Early mornings and attitude
Not just a theory, Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive. His research indicated that “morning people” are more likely to anticipate problems and minimise them efficiently, which leads to more success in the office. Interestingly various studies also reveal that morning people tend to exhibit character traits like optimism, being agreeable, satisfaction and conscientiousness. Just what a leader needs to energise ideas among teams.

For some leaders routinely meditating as part of an early morning routine is what helps them keep perspective. They even see it as a way to develop patience and improve work performance. For others it’s a combination of things, including practising a digital detox over weekends to ensure the brain and soul have time to reboot – thereby returning to work calmer on a Monday.

Regardless of how leaders choose to energise, there is no denying that leadership is demanding; there are always fresh challenges that need time, focus and attention. This calls for a game plan that allows the leader the time out to re-energise for optimal long term performance.

So if you, like every other leader, wants to be a better version of who you are, the rule of thumb says get a head start, literally, every day, by training to be an early riser and in so doing manage your output better for greater success.

By Lauren Durant, director of Isilumko Activate Director

Choosing a digital HCM solution

Five years ago, industry leaders questioned whether payroll, accounting or any other business software service could be delivered in the cloud. Questions raised at the time were around security and efficacy benefits.

Based on an article by Louis Columbus on Forbes.com however, PwC is predicting that by 2016, investment in SaaS (software as a service) solutions will more than double to around the $78-billion while traditional HCM (human capital management) systems will decline over 30% to less than $15-billion. So what does a cloud based HCM solution look like versus the traditional HCM model?

Let’s first take a look at what an effective HCM business solution can do – among other things, it needs to run your monthly Payroll and Human Capital Management, including Leave Applications, Succession and Talent Planning, Training and Skills Management, Business Process Workflow and Performance Management. The resource efforts, time and financial support required to manage this function without the correct solutions in place, are often the reason a business may not run efficiently.

Delivering a HCM solution that offers all of these features and more is one thing; being able to deliver this in a real time, cloud-based, operationally efficient solution is genius and will become the status quo of the future.

  Cloud Based Solution Web Enabled Solution
Design A cloud based solution is designed with scalability and usability as a key element of its architecture A web enabled solution is developed for limited access and requires PC installation which becomes available via a web browser for remote access
Installation There is no hardware or software installation required with a cloud based solution and it is accessible through a standard web browser A web enabled solution may require VPN (Virtual Private Network) or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) access which will need to be installed per client and makes access tedious and technical
Updates/Management With a cloud based solution, regular updates are rolled out instantaneously via multi-tenancy configurations that can be managed at no additional cost by the vendor Web Enabled Solutions require manual administration for each instance of the software which leads to delayed updates and upgrades
Flexibility Cloud based solutions are highly configurable due to its intended purpose of serving a wide spectrum of client requirements Web enabled solutions require customisation in order to cater for certain requirements. This is costly and makes upgrades technical and tedious
Accessibility As Cloud based solutions are built on an open API platform, it allows for any 3rd party product to integrate with ease Web enabled solutions do not lend themselves to integration options which results in complex projects to extract people related data
Security Reliable SSL Connections and data encryption at rest (protecting data which is not moving through the networks) ensure security across Cloud based solutions ‘Installed’ solutions cannot easily satisfy global security best practice requirements
Business Continuity Cloud based solutions ensure that disaster recovery is part of their delivered solution Web enabled solutions do not provide disaster recovery options and need to be manually designed

The effects these differences can have on business HCM solutions are obviously huge. Clients can work from a single instance, multi-tenant, real time platform that offers consolidated payrolls and HR data – in PaySpace’s example – across 37 countries. Support for a cloud based solution is instantaneous without the time and resource requirements which mean quicker product and feature dissemination, regular updates and solution enhancements and lower operational costs. All-in-all, cloud based solutions offer a far quicker turnaround time end-to-end without the financial burdens traditional models may incur. Features also grow organically based on the consistent client interaction, so like with the African tax example, opinions and regular updates improve tax attitudes and interpretations.

A cloud solution should be able to give you instant updates with no annual license fees (as software nor hardware needs to be purchased therefore alleviating the need for exorbitant up-front set up fees), automatic system enhancements, in this case, specifically around legislative updates, be cost effective and offer real time solutions that are accessible from any mobile device (smartphone or tablet) that is backed up. cloud based solutions can attract and improve staff retention, improving business output, encourage better resource usage by focusing on more advanced areas of business growth and of course, increase the bottom line.

PaySpace, a Frost & Sullivan 2015 South Africa award winner in Product Leadership of the Year for Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, says their cloud based application has benefited their customers by being scalable, meaning their multi-tenant infrastructure makes is easy to increase computing capacity for the entire environment. The performance or nature of the multi-tenant architecture of the PaySpace solution makes it easier to maximise the performance of different elements built into the technology that ensures optimum and reliable output at all times. PaySpace’s upgrades are simple and instantaneous as they are disseminated from a centralised location and because cloud based service providers have a vested interest in ensuring successful usage; accountability becomes an attractive product feature. These updates ensure PaySpace customers are always fully tax compliant, with all legislative checking processes stipulated by the 37 countries in which they operate.

“PaySpace has positioned itself as a leading end-to-end human capital management (HCM) software developer and provider. Owing to a pay-as-you-use model, its customers have the flexibility to readily change their payroll and HCM as the need arises,” says Frost & Sullivan best practices analyst, Fadzai Deda.

“With the increase in spending budget on HCM solutions forecasted by Frost & Sullivan to increase at a compounded rate of 11,6% between 2013 and 2017, slow adoption and understanding of cloud solutions by business entities due to information security concerns will continually be a challenge industry participants will need to face despite positive growth prediction,” says Warren van Wyk, Director of PaySpace. “It is imperative that businesses understand cloud based vs web enabled HCM solutions so business decisions today can positively influence the technology need of tomorrow,” concludes van Wyk.

We have all heard economists warn of “tough economic times”, in preparation for which consumers must “tighten their belts”.

But for the over-indebted, whose belts are already pulled as tight as can be, the rising cost of living is an extra strain that puts them on the precipice of financial ruin.

The challenge always is knowing the difference between what you want and what you need, and living within your means.

The following habits can be used as the basic structures of smarter money management:

  1. Know how much you make and how much you spend
  2. Keep track of your spending so that you are always aware of where your money is going. Drawing up a budget helps you identify areas where you are throwing money down the drain and areas in which you can cut down.
  3. Make savings and investments a priority when you draw up a budget. These should be way up there with your rent or bond payments, insurance and medical aid.
  4. Spend less than you earn and save the difference:
  5. This means that you should live below your means, and try to save (invest) as much as possible.
  6. Have an emergency fund and keep a close eye on it. Get life cover, draw up a will. Start thinking about retirement now. Do not leave anything to chance; be prepared because you do not know what might happen tomorrow.
  7. Take good care of any credit accounts you have. Always pay your balance in full, do not max out your credit cards, and never use debt to pay off other debt. Try to save for items instead of turning to credit. If you are struggling to manage your debt, stop taking on more credit.
  8. Write down your financial goals and review them regularly. Whether you want to travel, buy a car, or are saving for a deposit on a house, always record what you want to achieve. The goal may not necessarily be a financial one, but realising it may hinge on your financial planning. Either way, having goals you can review regularly will keep you focused and on track.
  9. Always take the long view. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes. Make it your business to understand how wealth is created. Whenever you have money to save or invest, think long term.

Sticking to healthy money habits is difficult but not impossible.

Make it your business to understand money. The more you understand it, the better you will be able to use it to your benefit. The business of money does not have to be complicated or scary. A little education will go a long way.

For the overindebted, saving and investing might take a back seat as it is a struggle to keep up with monthly commitments. The following tips may help you stay afloat:

  • Face your debt: Avoid paying ridiculous amounts in interest by sticking to your monthly payments.
  • Speak to your creditors: If you are unable to make the agreed payments then negotiate the amount you can pay before your account is in the red. You will also avoid having your account handed over to a debt collection firm.
  • If your account has been handed over: Negotiate payment terms before you attract more administrative costs and interest than necessary. Avoid being hounded and charged for it too.
  • Get professional help: The National Credit Regulator is available to assist you with debt counselling should you find yourself unable to cope with the amount of debt you have. This process will have a massive effect on your access to credit and should be the very last resort.

Source: www.timeslive.co.za

Highly-engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts, according to research conducted by Officevibe, a Canadian based organisation which provides methods to measure employee satisfaction and tips.

The research also found that companies with engaged employees typically experience 2.5 times more revenue than competitors with low engagement levels. These statistics show that creating a workforce that engages with its employees to ensure they are in sync with the organisational culture is becoming increasingly important, to not only retain staff but to ensure a healthy work environment.

This is according to Marieta Groeneveld, consulting psychometrist at Work Dynamics – a leading HR consultancy in the country, who says that the first and most important step is to establish an identifiable organisational culture. “It is crucial for businesses to have an organisational culture in place that supports the company’s objectives and enables its employees to deliver on the organisational goals. In addition to this, organisational culture can be a key source of competitive advantage and must be maintained and managed effectively.”

She adds that a good tool to use when determining the culture of an organisation is the Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), based on the Competing Values Framework of Cameron and Quinn. “This assessment is used to indicate the current and preferred culture along four culture types, namely Clan (people focused), Adhocracy (entrepreneurial), Market (competitive) and the Hierarchy (process driven). Then through workshops the underlying values are identified.”

There are various ways in which an organisation can measure whether employees and prospective employees fit their culture, says Groeneveld. “One of the most widely used methods involves workshops and culture surveys to determine a broad and efficient examination of prospective employees.”

The next step involves recruiters and interviewers, as they need to understand how the culture fit, or rather culture misfit, translates into the screening questions, explains Groeneveld. “These screening questions help to screen out, for example, individuals who are too aggressive, rude and individualistic when the dominant culture is a clan culture and requires collaboration, respect and teamwork, regardless of their expertise. The culture fit of a person is then determined by calculating the correlation between the profiles of the organisations values with the profile of the individual’s preferences.”

Groeneveld warns that the situation needs to be approached with some caution because culture fit procedures should not instantly restrict entry for people with oppositional values. “This could result in insufficient diversity in an attempt to maintain the current culture. Carefully examining the current versus desired culture as measured by the OCAI provides invaluable insights.”

“It is therefore advisable for organisations to partner with an independent service provider who can objectively judge the suitability of a potential candidate and who can identify the need for organisational culture to be re-evaluated,” concludes Groeneveld. In order to build a resilient organisational culture, businesses must not only hire employees based on stability, but must focus specifically on adaptability. Additionally, it is important to hire a diverse group of people. If everyone in the organisation thinks the same, there is little room for innovation. On the other hand, if the organisation only hires innovators, who would bring stability and act as the voice of reason?”

Dealing with office politics

A simple guide to dealing with office politics

Office politics is defined as the tactics that people within the work environment use to gain an advantage in order to further their own goals. Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is part of life in any organisation – and it needs to be understood and mastered.

The term often has a negative connotation, in that it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good, and is seen as something to be avoided.  However, “good office politics” helps people to promote themselves and their cause fairly.

Denying the existence of office politics may cause you to suffer while others take unfair advantage, or you might miss the opportunities to properly further your own interests.

Accept that office politics exists

Accepting the reality of office politics is the first step to dealing effectively with it. Develop strategies to deal with the political behaviour going on around you. Observe these behaviours and then use the information you gather to build a strong network to operate in. Do this by:

  • Observing company interactions for a while, to re-map the organisation in terms of political power;
  • Find out who the real influencers and mentors are;
  • Find out if there are any social cliques, interpersonal conflicts or difficult people in the office;
  • Build relationships in your office that range across the formal hierarchy (from peers to executives).
  • Build real relationships based on trust and respect instead of false flattery; and
  • Be friendly to everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.

Neutralise negativity

Steer clear of negative politicking and promote yourself positively. It is up to you to communicate your own abilities and successes to the right people through positive political action. When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say something inappropriate. Get to know the negative politickers better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them. Try to understand what motivates them, thereby learning how to avoid or counter their impact.


Govern your own behaviour

Observation will help you better understand what works in your office. Watch other people and identify successful behaviours that you can imitate. Ensure that you:

  • Don’t pass on gossip or spread rumours. If you hear something, take time to consider its credibility before reacting.
  • Rise above interpersonal conflicts. Do not get involved in divisive arguments with colleagues.
  • Always remain professional and remember the best interests of the business.
  • Maintain a positive outlook, and avoid whining and complaining.
  • Are confident and assertive but not aggressive.
  • Do not take a personal view when voicing objections or criticism. Keep the organisation in mind.
  • Always assume things will be disclosed rather than kept in confidence, and decide what you should reveal accordingly.
  • Lead by example in your office or team. Be a model of integrity.

Positive or negative, office politics is a fact of life. Refusing to participate in it means that you run the risk of having no say in what happens to you, while people less qualified than you make the decisions. Learning how to use the power of office politics positively, while diffusing the efforts of those who abuse it, will make for a happier office.

 

Strong leadership skills are widely acknowledged as vital tools in providing companies with a competitive edge in today’s business environment. Quinton Douman, MD of 212 Business Consulting, explains that if you are a leader – be it of a franchised business, a global corporation, a family or a country – it’s always decision time.

The role of leadership, by definition, means that the weight of decisions falls onto your shoulders. Should your business purchase more stock despite a downturn in demand? Can you really afford to send your daughter on that school trip? Should you be making that particular amendment to this specific charter?

The art of decision-making doesn’t have to be a continuous cycle of “what ifs”; when it comes down to the core of any matter, there are three questions that need to be answered before you can identify the wisest course of action:

  • What should start?
  • What should continue?
  • What should stop?

The quality of your decisions as a leader is predicated by the quality of your diagnosis. The answers to these questions are what you need to put your time and effort into defining.

Let’s use a small sales team as an example. The leader notices that the performance of the sales team is down, so she immediately schedules a team-building event and hires a motivational speaker, and then spends money on good food and a great DJ.

The result

Everyone is happier than they were a day before, but the reality is that a lack of motivation wasn’t the true cause of the issue. Even though the short term morale will be significantly better, the problem of poor performance will probably not be solved.

While some people in the sales team may need motivation, team building could work for them, while others may lack resources, or the knowledge or skill to perform at an optimum level. Some may be falling foul of a flawed sales process that has been systematically breaking down productivity over many years.

From this example, we can see that, before making any decision, the first question should not be “what do we do?” but rather “what do we know?”.

In order to accurately define the problem and, therefore, the solutions, the leader must ask questions about the past, the present and the future. This may seem like an unnecessary effort, but without a good understanding of every lever, the quality of the decision will be compromised.

Think about something as simplistic as going through a menu at a restaurant; the people who are clear about what they value and what their lifestyle goals are don’t spend much time looking at the menu because they have already made clear decisions and formulated values that dictate what they will or won’t allow into their bodies.

For a leader who is making decisions on behalf of a big organisation, or on behalf of the shareholders who he is accountable to, or on behalf of a country that he serves (having a comprehensive decision-making framework is non-negotiable).

Even in times of uncertainty, great leaders have to be decisive. By using the tools outlined above, they can become strong and resolute leaders by really delving into the heart of any issue, then using their own personal vision and values to lead them to the right path.

The importance of your reputation

 

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. ~ Warren Buffet.

If you’re in any doubt as to the cogency of this statement, just think Volkswagen, Malaysia Airlines, FIFA, SAA, Bill Cosby, Sony, Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart and Nicole de Klerk. All have taken an absolute beating in the court of public opinion. Some have limped to some semblance of recovery with the help of reputational communications and management specialists, others never will.

For corporate brands that lose their reputational lustre, the impact soon manifests on the bottom line and in the share price – consumers vote with their wallets. For individuals, prospects for employment after a public blunder on the scale of Penny Sparrow’s reprehensible racist rants, amount to exactly zero.

In the digital age, nothing ever escapes Google search or the speed of social media. We’re seeing employees sharing controversial opinions on social media channels that are increasingly putting employer brands in the spotlight. Employers now pay close attention to the company they keep – no job interview is likely to go by without a thorough interrogation of your online persona.

Social media and employees aren’t the only ways that inappropriate remarks can wreak reputational havoc. I have seen countless executives making the most extraordinarily stupid statements in media interviews, and no amount of media training can save them from themselves. Who can forget the ghastly vaseline remarks made by Macintosh Polela after the JubJub trial? The spokesperson for an elite police made an utterly ill-conceived tweet about prison rape as if this was perfectly ok. It cost Polela his job, his reputation and left the Hawks credibility in tatters. Anyone seen or heard from Mac lately?

Anyone drive a Volkswagen? In the heat of the emissions “dieselgate”, the once trusted car brand was forced to recall 500 000 vehicles and slapped with a potential fine of $18billion by the US Environmental Protection Agency (does this hurt yet Mr Financial Director?). VW issued all measure of statements with little solace. Volkswagen’s stock price fell in value by a third in the days immediately after the news broke, its group CEO resigned and it was claimed by Der Spiegel newspaper that at least 30 people at management level in VW knew about the emissions deceit for years – something that VW denies.

Amidst all of this, Wheels24 reported that Volkswagen SA was not “affected by the emissions saga”. VWSA said at the time: “South African VW/Audi vehicles are not affected. South Africa does not have a legislative emission standard so this issue does not apply locally. We meet the CO2 emissions as published in our official specification sheets for all our vehicles.”

Really! So the mere fact that a global citizen like VW lied to the public for six years and intentionally used a device in its cars to evade clean air standards, which are a threat to public health, should not matter to me here in SA? Reputation 101 – just like pandemics, screw ups on this scale know no geographic boundaries. And know that a multi-national reputation brings with it all measure of complexities and multicultural nuances to consider.

Given just how easy it is to send a hard-earned and expensive reputation up in smoke, it really is not surprising that damage to reputation /brand has emerged as the #1 risk facing companies worldwide according to Aon Risk Solutions. The global risk management business polled CEOs, CFOs and Risk Managers in it’s 2015 Global Risk Management Survey, providing comparative insight into different perceptions of risk.

The Aon report goes on to add that with the rapid development of media technology and heightened awareness of multiculturalism, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of ways a company’s reputation can be damaged. However, the tools and levels of effort business leaders use to manage their reputations are lagging, heightening such risk. Despite the fact that damage to reputation is cited as the No.1 Business Risk, the survey shows that 40% of businesses are unprepared to deal with a major reputational crisis.

While some brands may have cookie-cutter plans in place for dealing with a crisis of reputation, few have thoroughly interrogated and documented all the potential risks and scenarios they could face. In fact, few have made a distinction between crisis communications – the what is said, to whom, when and why and managing stakeholder perceptions – versus crisis management – the all-important logistics and background work across multiple departments to sort the mess out. Most simply view crisis communications and management as one big amorphous mass.

For those endowed with a greater appreciation of the power of words and communication, they’ve intrinsically known the value of reputation since forever. But it took a few monumental gaffs to make financial executives realise that there simply is no line item on the financial statements that can calculate the true monetary value of trust, which is after all what reputation is about. Until the paw-paw hits the fan, that is! Then the realisation that broken trust equates to lost sales and dismal turnover manifests faster than a VW can dodge an emissions test.

The reality is, in our hyper-connected society, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of ways a company’s reputation can be damaged. But none of these should come as a complete surprise. A tsunami might be a surprise because you were expecting fire and brimstone instead, but then, you would still have your natural catastrophe recovery plans in place which would work for either scenario. However, product recalls, data breaches, offensive language or slurs on social media, in the workplace or customer communication, fraud, money laundering, system crashes, inappropriate remarks or behaviour by company executives and supply chain disruptions cannot be on your list of unexpected incidents.

And yes, there is insurance cover available to manage such a reputational crisis, but insurers expect clients to have proper plans and resources in place at the outset. The reality is that while insurance can cover the immediate costs of resourcing the response and crisis management campaign, can you really quantify the value – current and in the future – of lost clientele, patronage and respect from public, shareholders and the media?

As Aon says in its risk report, companies need to treat damage to their reputations as understandable and even predictable challenges that one should expect in today’s business environment.

As a final parting thought, there are more than enough factors outside of your control that can impact on your brand’s reputation that will demand your attention and resources. So walk the fine line, keep your promises and always behave in an ethical manner towards your clients, suppliers and stakeholders. Do that and you will have removed at least 80% of the serious risks that can blow your hard-earned reputation to pieces. Behave like a rogue and no amount of reputation management is going to save you from a public execution.

By Teresa Settas, founder and MD of  Teresa Settas Communications

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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