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Lessons from Toyota

The recent spate of problem with Toyota caused me to think. While the news is still coming out, it does seem that the folks at Toyota were not as forthcoming as they could (and should) have been about the problem with the accelerator pedals. It is also clear that the company may have been so focused on keeping costs down that they may have lost sight of their strong commitment to quality. No matter what, I do think we can learn something from the Toyota experience... Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

Worry about complacency. Complacency is your enemy. When things seem to be too good to be true, that may be when you need to be most on your guard. I think Toyota was complacent and that allowed them to become lazy about their legendary quality and customer standards. It is interesting that both Tom Peters and John Kotter also speak about the perils of complacency (in a number of different videos, book and articles). You need to be on your guard and always be asking yourself, "Are we living up to our highest standards - and upholding our reputation?"

The bottom line isn’t the bottom line: The true bottom line is the customer. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have anything. I think that Toyota may have become so focused on keeping costs down that they may have compromised quality. The American car companies had this problem in earlier decades (and we know what happened to them). It is important to focus in the bottom line, but you also need to be equally committed to maintaining your standards. If you compromise your standards for short-term gain, you will suffer... eventually. It might take some time, but the problems will arise.

Reputations are hard to build and easy to lose. Toyota has taken a big hit in the press. For decades they worked very hard to maintain the highest standards. They had an iron clad reputation. And the barrage of problems with car mats, accelerator pedals, and runaway acceleration (compounded by the reporting delays) has hit them hard. They are the butt of jokes on late night television. Sales are down and people are concerned. All of this happened in a matter of weeks. Think about it: Decades to build a reputation and weeks to damage it. Toyota may (and most likely will) regain its reputation, but it will take the company a while to do it.

Posted under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Leadership, Management, Corporate Strategy by Stewart on Apr 16, 2010 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Happy New Year! Lessons from 2009...

2009 was a challenging year for most of us. I know that we (and all of our customers) were challenged with tight budgets, slow business, and lots of generally unpleasant news. This morning, Amy sent us an e-mail that was a reminder that even though 2009 was a difficult year, we did learn a lot. So, without further ado, here are the things Enterprise Media has learned from 2009...

"Recession" doesn’t have to mean "depression."

Despite your best efforts...some people just want to be sad.

Despite their best efforts...some people refuse to be sad.

Smiles are contagious!

Customers will buy what they need and pay a fair price for that. Supply them with the information and a pleasant conversation and you’re there.

Necessity is truly the mother of invention...and creativity...and resourcefulness...and ingenuity. People want to be happy and they want their group to be happy.

Encouragement doesn’t have to entail a full-scale rework of an employee’s day...a compliment, recognition, and "job well done...I know it’s been difficult" will do.

When times are challenging, you are even more grateful for your customers, coworkers, and vendors.

So, Thank You for Everything in 2009 - and I hope that 2010 will bring you happiness, health, prosperity, and success!

Posted under Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Jan 05, 2010 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Lessons from my favorite Christmas movies!

I love Christmas movies. Every year I watch them with my family... and every year I still love them. But did you know that you could actually use these movies to help with your leadership, management, and customer service? Well you can... Here’s a sampling:

Miracle on 34th Street

Everyone seems so focused on the "commercial" from Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel all the way throughout New York City... But Macy’s Santa, aptly named Kris Kringle (and wonderfully played by Edmund Gwenn) really gets it. He helps customers get what they want - even when it’s something that Macy’s doesn’t carry. Customers are so delighted that they become loyal customers of Macy’s. Now that’s customer service! Couldn’t we all learn from Macy’s Kris Kringle? Give it a try!

Love Actually

I love this newer Christmas movie. In it, we hear a lot of stories about love, the holidays, and people. But it is the opening of the movie that gets me. In it, we hear the voice of the Prime Minister of England (played by Hugh Grant) saying, "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love. lf you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around."

It’s a great quote, but it also got me thinking of the interview I had with Herb Kelleher (for the film "The Excellence Files.") Herb said, "We’d rather be a company motivated by love than fear." You don’t often hear CEOs speak of love, but it is hard to argue with success. Herb Kelleher built the most successful airline in the world. And he did it by empowering, respecting and valuing (or even loving) his employees. Maybe it is all about love! (By the way, if you watch this movie, make sure to watch the deleted scenes, they’re funny and heartwarming).

It’s a Wonderful Life

OK, there are so many wonderful lessons in this movie it’s hard to focus in on one. The one I like the best is that you can’t do it alone. As many of you already know so well, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is in a pickle. He thinks he has to solve the problems on his own and even considers suicide... But the town comes to the rescue and helps George out. I love the scene at the end when everyone from Bedford Falls gathers in George Bailey’s living room to show support. I also love it because it reminds all of us that we can’t do everything alone. It is the collaboration of groups that make a difference. Teamwork really does matter - at work, at home, and in the community. It’s a nice lesson to remember at work - all year long.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph doesn’t seem to "fit into the crowd" because he has a red nose. In fact, there is an entire island of toys that seem to be ignored because they don’t fit in. But, as we know, Rudolph’s nose turns out to be a huge asset to Santa during the "Storm of the Century." Well, we know through research that diverse teams perform better than the teams that are all made up of the same kind of people. Maybe we should be looking for the "misfits" and the Rudolph’s for our next team at work. You never know, it might make the difference in your next project.

So, next time you watch your favorite Christmas movie, remember: There may be more to the movie that you love than you think!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I hope that the New Year brings you much joy and success.

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Training Ideas, Leadership, Management by Stewart on Dec 17, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Feedback!

I am not sure if we are supposed to be "tooting our own horn" in a blog, but I confess it is great when we get feedback (positive and negative) from customers. I wanted to share some of the positive feedback that we’ve received recently. As Tom Peters says in one of our new videos, "The brand of a company is directly related to the quality of the talent." We are very lucky to have such a great group of talented people here... and, as you can see, many of our customers think so, too!

Here’s a sampling of what we’ve heard:

1) Thanks for the follow up. Of all the media companies we have dealt with, you have been the most customer focused. It’s greatly appreciated and encourages me to go your direction in the future. Needs are fulfilled for now. Will look back to Enterprise Media again when the need arises. Thanks again for all of the wonderful support.

HR Executive
Manufacturing Company

2) Just wanted to let you know that the DVD rental I ordered late yesterday afternoon arrived just moments ago. You saved my meeting!! And I am sincerely appreciative of your quick response to my last minute request... Thank you again. You have made this HR Director a loyal customer of Enterprise Media for life!

Senior Director,
Human Resources

3) Since I am now convinced that you are a real person and not an e-mailing robot (although that is a very marketable skill) and given that you actually wrote me back I am going to be even MORE serious about thinking of you for future training needs. I will be so bold as to say that I have added your contact information to my small but highly effective box of contacts (cleverly disguised as a box of business cards) - although I had to fill out a blank business card by hand. It’s the personal touch, I suppose. But you are worth it.

Thank you for responding!
Manager, Financial Institution

4) Thank you for the follow-up e-mail. I am very impressed with your customer service. Not only did you make my return process painless, you have continued to follow-up and make sure I am happy with the process and the products. You definitely have our future business when it comes to employee training needs/products. Again, thank you, for your efficiency and your professionalism.

Executive,
Medical Organization

5) Thank you so much for your quick response and wonderful customer service. It’s refreshing after working with some of the vendors I have had to deal with.

Have a wonderful day!

Reference & Management Librarian

6) Thank you so much for the great customer service that I have received.
You have made it very easy to do business with you and you answered all my questions! I really appreciate all of the work you have done!

Manager,
Non Profit

Finally, here is a great story we received a few years ago from one of our customers, Chip Bell. Here is a story he posted on his website (http://www.chipbell.com/index.html):

Great Service Recovery Stories

We ordered a new VHS training video from Enterprise Media in Cambridge. Putting the brand new videotape in a VCR, the sound was great but the picture fuzzy. We concluded the videotape was defective. We returned it to Enterprise Media with a note of explanation. Immediately, we received a note back from one of the company owners sincerely apologizing for the problem. She also indicated a new copy was being overnighter that very day (even before receipt of the "defect"). Additionally, we were given a complimentary copy of another video in the same series. Enterprise Media turned our disdain into delight.

Postscript: When the new videotape worked perfectly in the client’s VCR, we began to wonder if we had been the problem. Since we have all moved to the DVD world, we had forgotten that many VCR machines might require adjustment of the tracking to make the picture clear. We obviously never adjusted tracking which impacts the quality of the picture.

Lessons learned from the story: Assume your customer’s explanation of the problem is fact. Respond with great urgency. Apologize, even if you suspect you might not be the source of the problem. It shows customers you are concerned about their feelings not just their issues. Offer some symbolic gesture or atonement to demonstrate your sincerity and sorrow. Follow-up to make sure your recovery solution was satisfactory to your customer. Look for ways to give customers a chance to try you again after recovery-turn an "oops" into an opportunity.

Recommendation: For all your video needs, contact www.enterprisemedia.com... I guess that is a plug for us! ;)

Posted under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Tom Peters by Stewart on Nov 19, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Fun REALLY Works!

This week, I read a small article in Business Week. The article described a project where they created a "musical" staircase (and painted it to look like a piano keyboard). The idea was to get people to climb the stairs instead of riding on the escalator. It was a HUGE success! Here is the clip on the piano staircase.

Piano Stairs

I then visited the website (http://www.thefuntheory.com/). And there are even more examples of fun. I particularly like the bottomless garbage bin.

Bottomless garbage can

For years, we have seen that fun makes a difference. Our customers have seen this in the "Fish! Philosophy" videos as well as our new "Attitude" series with Sam Glenn.

Fun does make a difference and we’ve seen it at work. For example, we found it when we filmed at the company Life is good and at the HealthWorks Kids Museum (which is part of the Tom Peters Re-imagine series). We also found it when we filmed Herb Kelleher and the folks at Southwest Airlines.

So what does this mean for you and your work? I think the lesson is simple. People are motivated by fun anywhere: In the subway, walking in the park, recycling bottles, and even at work. Think about what you can do to make work more fun. How can you engage people? How can you stimulate them to do more by making the experience fun? I know it will make a difference (particularly when times are a little tough) and that you can think of fun things to add happiness to your workday!

Posted under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Training Ideas, HR and Training by Stewart on Oct 30, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

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