A Business Technology Place

Where does meaningful dialogue start?

A couple of weeks ago Mark Zuckerberg announced he is changing the mission of Facebook. He wants to move beyond connecting people and more towards connecting groups of people in community. I commend Zuckerberg for establishing a written mission statement that aims to be something more than growing big and making lots of money. Although I do wonder what the shareholders of Facebook think about the new mission. After reading his statement, the question is in my head was, can an online forum bring community together in meaningful dialogue that promotes better understanding of opposing viewpoints?

Creating a place for a public forum is easy. Changing behavior of individuals to have an effective forum, not so much. I thought of two recent examples:

  1. NPR.org, a large well known media outlet for local, national, and world news discontinued public comments in 2016. Why? They described it very eloquently as “the c comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users.” I personally read comments prior to their decision and I can affirm they are correct. The comments section was intended for readers to pass along further insights or even ask questions about the topic of the article. Unfortunately, the public comments section was mostly a shouting match and full of hateful words. It wasn’t even close to meaningful dialogue.
  2. During the past presidential election, political posts on Facebook were common. The dialogue became so charged that in the days leading up to and after the election there was quite a bit of ‘unfriending’ happening as people looked to silence and rid their daily feeds of political bickering.  I’ll admit it; I muted quite a few people during the presidential process.

Online community groups and interest pages are not new. Just look at twitter hashtags, Google+ Collections and Communities, or even online blogs. Getting people to engage in an online interest community is an easy connection to make. Members participate because they share a common interest. They share a common viewpoints or interest.

But beneficial discussion with true debate and openness around opposing viewpoints has become problematic in our society. This isn’t a technology problem. It’s a heart problem. For Facebook, or any online community, to create meaningful dialogue around opposing viewpoints to succeed, people must first choose to behave with common courtesy and respect towards one another. Here are some courtesies: Listen first, smile often, apologize, speak in a conversational tone, and share. Sounds alot like love your neighbor. We would all do well to start on this foundation.

Onward and upward!

 

 

The purpose statement – etched and forgotten?

The Purpose statement.

Does it answer the why question? Is it simple and easy to remember? Does it motivate and rally people to a common cause? Does it provide long term direction?

I’m a believer in purpose statements for organizations. But I haven’t always seen them worked, presented, discussed, referenced, or memorized.  Writing a purpose statement is hard work. So why do so many organizations just put the statement in a document and rarely reference it again?stone

The next step.

I’ve been a member of two organizations that kept the purpose statement in front of members.  Both of organizations were churches. The statement was both printed in the weekly bulletin and referenced when the church performed activities. The statements were simple, concise, easy to memorize, and actionable. They just worked.

But I’ve been in other organizations that either didn’t have a purpose statement, didn’t publish it, or had one that was almost half a page of jargon and corporate speak. Putting a purpose statement into circulation and practice is hard too. It requires intentional actions. It requires consistent application. In a word, it requires purpose.

Some practical steps to put the purpose statement into circulation.

  1. Ask group members or employees if they identify with the purpose statement. Does it motivate them and help them feel like their work contributes to a greater whole.
  2. Start placing the purpose on documents used for employee communications. Keep it visible and not just hanging on a wall.
  3. Reference and align the purpose statement when tactical decisions are made. Explain how activities, projects, and decisions align to the purpose.

I need to follow my own advice on this topic. It’s a wake-up call to keep thinking with long term purpose in mind.  Otherwise we might just go the direction the wind blows.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

– Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

 

Onward and Upward!

 

What your company website is about and what it is not

Company websites are an opportunity to create solutions for a customer.
The website is not about your products/services and how great they are.
The website is about how your products/services solve problems/needs for customers.

The website is not about your many awards and achievements.
The website is about the customers that were satisfied to win those awards.

The website is not about keeping customers away from you by having a generic set of FAQs.
The website is about getting customers in touch with people that can answer questions.

The website is not about public relations copy and marketing spin.
The website is about communicating in real language with real people.

The website is not about company executive profiles.
The website is about reviews from your customers.

Company websites should be an eCommerce engine first.
If you have products to sell then they should be the lead on your website. The corporate stuff is secondary. I’ve seen some well known B2C brands use their brand name for eCommerce while the corporate site is linked and uses a different domain URL. The point is don’t make your customers have to find the shopping cart. Give them a shopping cart at the door.

Company websites should be simple but engaging.
The website is not about rows of words from your best copywriter.
The website is about delivering a message in a concise and simple way.

The website is not about layer upon layer of pages.
The website is about making solutions findable.

There is no cookie cutter template for the design.
The bottom line is that web site is your unique voice to your chosen audience. It’s about engagement, not broadcast. It’s about eCommerce, not prohibitive rules. It’s about solutions, not advertisements.

What’s a company website to you?

*note to readers and myself. I wrote this post as a collection of my thoughts and learnings about business. The website is just a tool and touchpoint that shows the beliefs a company has about it’s mission. But the post is about business not about websites. After I re-read my words I thought some might interpret this as a negative rant. But it’s really not. The post is collection of contrasting thoughts about a better way to make a connection with customers.

Employee engagement through connection and meaning

It’s true. I do still read print newspaper. It’s not so much by effort as it is by convenience and simplicity. I receive a subscription to the Gwinnett Daily Post as free benefit of continuing to pay Charter Communications a small ransom each month for cable TV.  The paper covers local news for the county I live in and picks up some AP stories for national news. What I like about it is it’s small and something I can scan quickly for news of interest to me.

This past Saturday, they published a column article from Lisa McLeod entitled People don’t like their job due to lack of connection.  Lisa points out that statistically, many workers are disengaged from their workplace because they don’t have the connection and meaning they want.

It was a timely article. Just this week I met with a co-worker on his last day on the job after he resigned two weeks earlier. Through the course of our conversation it became apparent that he didn’t have a good connection to those above him in the organizational chart and he was not finding meaning within the organization. Now understand, he’s a bright guy and a hard worker. But he wasn’t fully connected to the where the organization is headed.

I believe the point of Lisa McLeod’s article was spot-on target with what I observed from my co-worker. I don’t blame him for feeling unconnected and disengaged as I think it’s a dual responsibility between the manager and employee to find connection and meaning at work.

Since I’ve worked in IT and now marketing during my career, I have seen how business engagement works within the two organizations. In marketing and sales there emphasis is on company strategy, revenue, sales, and client resigns. In IT, the focus and business engagement is usually around systems, costs, and processes.  This creates an opportunity for IT organizations.  People value meaning in their work effort, and true business meaning comes with understanding how the work they are completing drives revenue, reduces cost, and enhances customer relationships.

Something I did recently when I was asked to manage a team at work was to define mission and purpose of our group as a piece of the larger the organization.  My intent was to provide the team with connection to each other and a connection to the work of the organization. Here’s an edited version of what we created:

Mission (why our organization exists):

Enable the value drivers of the organization to help clients:

  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce expenses
  • Enhance their customer relationships across internet, phone, and client channels.

Purpose (why we exist within the organization)

Create revenue by:

  • Enabling customer self-service web and phone channels by selling, servicing and managing company products and services.
  • Enabling clients to be more effective  and efficient when making product and service choices on behalf of their customers.
  • Helping internal stakeholders to be relevant and credible to company clients by guiding, recommending, and enabling technology that produces customer interaction.

If you’re a manager leading people, I’d be interested to know how you create connection and meaning with your employees. Is this something difficult or easy for you?

 

Don’t undervalue your services

Several weeks ago I filed a request for an account credit with a strategic partner due to violations with our service level agreement (SLA).  During the previous months, this partner had failed to deliver its contracted service at levels noted in the SLA for availability.  My team and I had access to a website with information, but the information was not updated in a timely manner. undervalue quoteWe use the data from the partner for research and reporting that give us a basis for decision making. The penalty for SLA violations, as is common, is financial in nature and specifies a percentage-off our monthly contracted price for the service.

After reviewing my request for credit, the legal group of the partner organization indicated that they were not in violation of the agreement by the written terms in the SLA.  Essentially they ruled that the SLA stated they were to provide an accessible web site to my company regardless if it contained updated data.  After trying to offer me credit for future services they decided to “compromise” and offer me one month of the service penalty instead of the two I had requested.

Now, I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed with their answer. My response to them was not in anger however. Instead I referenced the mission statement of their organization. I reminded them that my company contracted with them to provide a valuable service that helps us to understand our customers better. By interpreting the SLA as a simple on/off matter they had undervalued their service to the market. You see, if I just needed a company to host a web server and storage I could pick from hundreds of web hosting companies. Their interpretation of the SLA had essentially put their service on par with a web hosting company and their service is much more valuable than that. So I politely told them they should reconsider their response as it didn’t align with the stated objectives of their business.

In the end, I’m happy to write that they agreed with my logic. They will issue a credit in the full requested amount. The bigger lesson here is not about placing blame or finding fault. It’s about not undervaluing your service or products in the Marketplace. It’s about maintaining customer focus above all else.  That’s a great business lesson for all us.