Guest Post Guidelines

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-image32727886

In the past, I have been asked to contribute articles to other people’s blog posts.   While I have always been open to offering my readers the similar opportunity to read guest posts from other authors, I have never fully communicated my policy to the public. After reading a blog post from Michael Hyatt about his Guest Post Guidelines, I was inspired to write my own.

Effective immediately, I will accept guest posts. Currently, I do not plan to publish more than one post per week. These will likely appear on Tuesday each week.

Content

Your post must be on one of five topics:

  1. Strategy
  2. Technology
  3. Leadership
  4. Sales & Marketing
  5. Operational Excellence

Your post cannot be an advertisement for your product or the equivalent of a sponsored post.

Guidelines

If you would like to submit a guest post to this blog, follow the instructions below for consideration. Only guest posts that meet these criteria will be considered for publishing.

  1. The post must be useful to the readers of this blog and deal with issues that are relevant to Hardware Maintenance, Service Lifecycle Management, Reverse Logistics, and Field Service professionals.
  2. The post must not criticize or condemn software vendors, hardware manufacturers, or service providers.
  3. The post must be grammatically correct and well-written.
  4. The post must not include marketing-related links and must not be self-promotional or sales oriented.
  5. The post may include up to three byline links: one for your blog or Web site, one for your bio or “About” page, and one for your Twitter username (optional).
  6. Guest posts must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online.
  7. You agree not to publish it anywhere else, including your own blog or Web site. You may, however, post a brief “tease” or summary on your site that links to the post.
  8. Guest posts should be at least 500 words long and no more than 800 words.

 

Editing

  • I will likely copyedit your post for grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. If I make substantive changes (unlikely), I will email the post back to you for your approval before posting.

 

  • I may provide a short introduction or conclusion to your post to provide context or the rationale as to why I think the post is important. I will make sure that my comments are set off from yours stylistically, so that my readers are clear that these are mine and not yours.

 

Disclaimer

The fact that you have written a post and submitted it to me does not in any way obligate me to publish it. I will only publish guest posts that in my sole judgment add value to my readers.

Furthermore, if I do not approve your guest post, I will not explain why I did not approve it or provide any detail.

Submissions

If your post meets the above guidelines:

  1. Please email it to me for consideration. It may take me 2–3 weeks to respond.
  2. Please include a one to two-sentence byline that includes what you do, along with your blog address and your Twitter and/or Facebook address.
  3. Please confirm that you are willing to engage with my readers in the comments about your post. This is hugely important and a non-negotiable. My readers have come to expect this.
  4. Please include the post in the body of the e-mail. DO NOT include it as an attachment. Also, please do not include HTML coding.

 

If I reject your post, you are obviously free to do whatever you want with it, including publishing it elsewhere.

A framework for a creating a Performance Driven Company

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune of attending a Service Industry Association Roundtable. These roundtables are held every couple of months and they are typically hosted by a member firm. This particular roundtable was held in Grand Rapids, MI and hosted by Service Express, Inc. (SEI). One of the highlights of the event was a presentation delivered by Ron Alvesteffer, SEI’s CEO.

SEI provides Data Center Hardware Maintenance and has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past ten (10) years. The company has recently been acquired by the Pamlico Capital, a Private Equity firm focused on the Lower Middle Market. Ron’s presentation offered insight into the tremendous growth the company has experienced and will continue to experience under his leadership.

It is not just their financial performance that makes them a great company. It’s the culture and values of the company that make it a great place to work. Indeed, SEI is a proud winner of the “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” in West Michigan, Chicago, and Metropolitan Detroit each year since 2005. The company was also named on of the  “101 Best and Brightest companies to Work For in the Nation” in 2011 and 2012. Inc. magazine  named them to their “Inc. 5,000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies”, an honor they have held since 2007

A great deal of the company’s success is due to Ron and his management team’s ability to build a performance driven organization. This strategy has enabled the company to grow through a combination of geographic expansion and new product/service development. The management team diligently follows a process centered business model that Ron developed. The model involves managing each business function, department, and line of business like a franchise. More specifically, the model is comprised of these four (4) building blocks:

  1. Vision: Ron refers to this as his “why”. Indeed, having a strong “why” is the basis for all successful endeavors. In essence, you need to have a compelling reason why you want to achieve any goal if you are ever going to achieve it. The reason why SEI exists is to “work with employees to help them achieve their personnel, professional, and financial goals”.
  2. Core Objectives: SEI has four core objectives these are 1) employee engagement, 2) excellent customer service, 3) margin retention and growth, and 4) revenue growth. These core objectives answer the question “how”, how does SEI achieve its vision.
  3. SR5 Performance Measurement: This is a performance measurement system that SEI utilizes to track results. Although, “SR5” sounds a little complicated, it’s really quite simple. It stands for Scorecards, ROIs, and 5/15s. In case you are wondering, scorecards are used to track goal achievement at a company, department and regional level. ROI stands for responsibilities, objectives and indicators. The 5/15 is a personal development plan created by each employee. (It originally got its name from the fact that it takes five minutes to read and 15 to prepare.) The SR5 system helps SEI personnel see trends and avoid emotional reactions to movements in company performance. As a result, management and employees view their performance objectively rather than emotionally.
  4. Business Focus: As mentioned above, SEI’s business focus is on Data Center Hardware Maintenance for mission critical servers. Ron’s perspective is the business focus answers the question “what”, what is it that we do here at SEI? Ron also believes that while this question is important, it is less important than the other three building blocks mentioned above. This makes a lot of sense, don’t you think? It often doesn’t matter what a company does as long as they have clear vision, core objectives, and an effective measurement system in place.

These building blocks serve as a great framework for how to build a thriving, performance driven company with high levels of employee engagement and morale. In addition to the awards and accolades that SEI has received for being a great place to work, the company has experienced an average revenue growth rate of 20% over for the last 10 years.   Ron refers to this framework as the “SEI Way”. You can download a copy of the free e-book that explains the concepts in more detail by visiting Ron’s blog site. http://ronalvesteffer.com/theseiway/

4 Ways Service And Support Adds Customer Value

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This is a guest post by Sam Klaidman. He is a consultant focused on Service Marketing and Customer Experience. You can read his blog and follow him on LinkedIn. If you want to guest post on this blog, email me at michaelb@blumberg-advisor.com and write “Guest Blog Guidelines” in the subject field.

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service and support

Today, customers are looking to receive more value from their partners than ever before. The two primary reasons are:

  1. Customers are “crazy busy” and need relief because they are drowning in problems, opportunities, issues, and challenges. This relief is one form of value added by the supplier (partner).
  2. Partners see many “similar” situations at their customer’s locations and so should have a good idea about what will work to help the customer and can be implemented with little effort or risk, with a high likelihood of success.

Almost sounds like the customer wants the supplier to solve their problems and expect no more that a “thank you.” The first part of the sentence is correct but not the second part; smart customers are perfectly willing to pay for value added services if they understand the benefits they will gain.

Who is best suited to deliver value-added services?

For a number of reasons, service organization are best situated to deliver value-added services to existing customers. Here’s why:

Of the two primary customer-facing organizations, the “sales” department is generally charged with selling products. Their compensation plans are based on closed business; they have marketing breathing down their necks pushing them to turn leads into orders and their nature is to be hunters.

The other group, services, is totally different. Their role is to make the customers successful; they enjoy helping customers, frequently have little or no revenue objectives, are totally familiar with the products and, organizationally, have seen all the customers and how they have attempted to solve their problems

How can Service and Support add value to customers?

  1. Technical people understand their product’s capabilities and limitations. When they are talking with individual customers they should be asking questions like:
    1. What exactly are you trying to do with our product?
    2. What do you wish it could do but have not found a way to do it?
    3. Where in your process is our product helping you? Slowing you down? Making it impossible to do everything you need to do?
    4. Do you know of any other products that help you do your job?

 

As they get a better understanding of the customers jobs-to-be-done, they frequently can teach the customer how to use the capabilities they already paid for and did not know existed.

  1. When we see how our product is integrated into the customer’s job stream, we frequently can identify unnecessary steps. By sharing this with the customer, we add value because we help them do their job quicker and easier.
  2. Many hardware owners are totally concerned with uptime; they bought our product because they needed to use it when they needed to use it. However, the person who sold the service contract, or the one who actually purchased it, may not have discussed the critical uptime requirements and so only discussed the standard plan. When the Service Marketing person works closely with the equipment owner, there are frequently creative ways for the customer to increase uptime (for an additional price) while the service group provides unique services that can be integrated into their workflow.
  3. Finally, if your service and support people identify a value adding opportunity but do not know how to actually accomplish the customer’s needs, they should get the case into the hands of the product manager. He can then research the feasibility of adding the feature, assess the market size and implementation cost, and potentially move ahead in a future upgrade.

 

Your service and support team has a number of separate roles to play. Here they are:

  1. Fix the customer’s problem. This is Job #1. Helping them get full value for money for their purchase is critical; without it there is no business relationship.
  2. Collect information about product performance and put into a useful format for your Engineering or Manufacturing departments to use to improve the products.
  3. Identify opportunities for the business to add additional customer value. The front line service and support professionals should always be thinking about ways that your customers can squeeze additional value from their purchases. When they find opportunities they must not only help their immediate customer implement changes but must also spread the word throughout your company so other customers can take advantage of these new findings.

 

If not already in place, these behaviors must become part of your company’s culture. People must be able do these things as though it were it standard operating procedure so that everyone wins!

Strategies to make service more affordable

strategic service pricing

In my last blog post I discussed the strategic importance of continually finding ways to reduce cost of operations while enhancing service quality. A company can benefit from their cost savings in the form of higher profits or by passing them on to customers in the form of lower prices. Most rational business owners and executives would probably choose higher profits over lower prices unless of course lowering prices is a matter of survival. However, cost reduction is not the only strategy for achieving this outcome.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a number of market focused strategies that a company can pursue that can result in offering customers services at a more affordable fee. Let’s examine them:

  • Standardization The establishment of standard, well-defined service modules or portfolios can lead to reduced cost through the ability to control the human element and ensure consistency in the service delivery process. McDonald’s is a good example of a company that employs standardization in their service strategy.   In the High-Tech Service & Support Industry, standardization may take the form of offering the customer a bronze, silver, and gold service package.
  • Use of alternative delivery systems To reduce investment and operating costs a company can find alternative ways to deliver service to their customers. In other words, they can make it possible for customers to be more involved in the service delivery process. Electronic banking, including bank-by-phone and the use of ATMs, are examples of this type of service strategy. In the High-Tech Service & Support Industry, this may take the form of an internet portal that allows customers to issue work orders directly to Field Service Engineers or perform troubleshooting on their own.
  • Market segmentation and focus on price sensitivityThere are, of course, significant service sub-market segments, some of which are price-insensitive. However, price-sensitive service market segments also exist. In general, those customers who are more price-sensitive will tend to do a greater portion of the service themselves, including self-maintenance and delivery functions, which might normally be done by the external service vendor at an added cost. IKEA, a furniture distribution organization, is an example of service directed toward the low-priced customer base. As such, they leave services such as picking, delivery, and assembly up to the customer. Medical Device companies do this by offering parts only service contracts.
  • Changing service response and completion times. A final tactic that could be utilized to reduce costs or increase margins is to change or lengthen the service response time and delivery characteristics. In essence, some customers are simply willing to wait longer to reduce service costs), than others. (Some customers want and need rapid response and are willing to pay a premium for such service.

 

Companies seeking to make service more affordable to customers can pursue any or all of these options and still achieve healthy profit margins. Now it’s your turn. Do you have a segment of the market that is price sensitive? Which option would you implement to better serve them? Please share with me you thoughts or experiences you’ve had when it comes to this issue. Still searching for answers, schedule a free consultation today.