We recently had an experience in which a printing company had sent us a number of direct marketing emails looking for new business. Around the time we received the third of these we were about to undertake a sizeable printing job, so I clicked through from their email and filled out the ‘request a quote’ form…..and waited for a response. After 3 days I hadn't heard from them, so I gave them a call and was put through to a sales representative who, whilst friendly, had no interest in finding my request for a quote. So we went over the details again and I was assured they would call me back within the hour. I never received that call and we won’t be rushing to do business with them.
This experience was a beautiful example of the disconnect that can occur between marketing promotion and the sales team. So where's the problem and what would you do about it?
Before rushing to blame the sales staff, disconnects like this can too often result from management not paying attention to the process, from lead generation to sales conversion.
So management attention, follow up and action is priority one. If you’ve got that solidly in place then you need to look at what other factors could be contributing such as:
- People - are there enough, do they have the right skills, is the culture/attitude/environment right? Be especially mindful of ‘consequence imbalances’ by which negative actions are not addressed or worse, condoned by being ignored. Equally be aware of positive actions that are not being recognised and reinforced.
- Process – is it deeply understood by all, what are the key activities and in particular the handoffs, where are things breaking down? Imagine you’re a customer being carried across the process; who’s dropping you on the floor, ignoring you or being slow to respond to your needs?
- Tools - is there ‘task interference’ occurring by which the tools the team have to work with are inadequate for the various tasks they need to complete? Is there a CRM system and is it being used effectively or being by-passed? Every business or organisation, of any size, needs one and can afford one.
- Standards – have these been established around quality, quantity, cost and timeliness? Do you have something like a ‘sunset policy’ in place by which every new prospective or customer enquiry must be responded to before the sun goes down?
These are just a few of the possible factors you should evaluate. However in our experience, the single greatest detriment to serving an external customer is the existence of a ‘we/they’ attitude internally. We should all be very clear that if this syndrome exists, it exists because management is not paying attention!
I was reading an article the other day on businesses and teaching institutions that have a culture of highlighting weakness. It was found that when this 'name and shame' occurs publicly with no regard to informing the employee/student about how they could overcome their weakness then it can cause the person to simply say "I'm just not that good at it".
When management uses this method of humiliation in the workplace they create an environment where people are no longer willing to try, or take risks or make decisions on their own. This is because they feel they are 'not good enough', no matter how much positive reassurance you try and give them later. The employee will eventually leave your business, maybe not physically, but certainly mentally, and you're unlikely to see it. They turn up for work every day and appear to function normally but they're not really attached to the business anymore.
One way to overcome this is to encourage people, even when they do something wrong, and empower them to find a better solution. Although this may 'feel' counterintuitive, by treating the situation as a learning opportunity you will further develop your employees because growth means trying. And through this respect you show them, they will have a greater appreciation for you as a manager and their engagement with, and contribution to, the business will improve. It relates back to a fantastic insight provided by Henry Ford: "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right".
In your business, would it be beneficial to create an environment where staff want to do well by the business? The article calls this "discretionary effort", when a staff member can say "I am so happy with you, how can I make you as happy with me?" Good fuel for any business, don't you think?
Over the last few months I've seen evidence of more and more businesses utilising video games as a form of business training. This was most recently confirmed for me in the article Game Theory, which cites statistics that 70% of major American employers currently use interactive software and games for workplace training purposes.
So are video games the future of professional development training? How seriously should businesses consider implementing them?
To us at Fortune, video game training has its benefits. And those are especially pronounced when comparing it to education and lecture-based learning, as the article does. The interactive nature of video games alone, regardless of the additional benefits of cost efficiency and ability to customise, will make it more effective than a lecture. As Ben Franklin famously said, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn."
But while video games may involve you, they won't involve you as much as an effective facilitator will. So by extension, you won't learn as much with video games as you will with a good facilitator. And that's because an effective facilitator will not only customise content to a job, an 'environment' or a set of skills, but by creating a whole persona through effective questions and strategies, they can customise content to each and every participant. We each have different behaviour styles and learn differently, so this is a crucial additional element that ensures key information isn't just received but is also personalised, thus increasing the likelihood that the training program will positively change behaviour.
The bottom line: If you're looking to educate your employees, then you should absolutely consider video games as an alternative. But if you're looking to train your employees, so that you can enact positive and ongoing change, then it would be hard to recommend video games over the personalisation and teamwork that comes via facilitator-led training.