Saturday, September 4, 2010

Treat me as cow, I’ll treat you as bull(shit)

I used to be avid reader of Sramana’s blog but of late there seems to be an ostentatious drive to increase the hit count for the website. I feel being milked and exploited daily.

These days the blog primarily contains interviews of entrepreneurs/CEOs. Every interview is split in 6-10 parts and posted on daily basis for 6-10 days. Reader do like to read about experiences of entrepreneurs/CEOs and their stories but if I am interested in some interview I want to read it all today, in fact Now. If you are acting as a platform to give right diet to readers then give them the total diet when they want to gorge it and not just show the bait and lure her to increase your site count by coming everyday to you. This might work for soap operas but definitely not for blog. There are few good posts too on the blog but they seem to be drowned in flood of interview parts.

To make the things worse, there is glaring struggle to commoditize this blog. A couple of people have been recruited and been asked to do interviews. So multiple people posting multiple parts of multiple interviews on any given day. This seems like mess to me. There seem to be a race amongst the interns to churn out more content than others on daily basis so it’s quantity replacing quality (as applies to any commodity). Dear Sramana, A blog is one’s signature but you made it a rubber stamp and gave it to other people to use it and monetize for you.

No doubt that most of the articles doesn't have even a single comment. Don’t milk readers. You treat her as cow she’ll treat you as bull(shit).

Bye dear. You just lost me.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Assumptions are good

Assuming something is absolutely fine. In fact astute and calculated assumptions help us in moving forward with greater agility. Assumptions are made based on prior experience and from information currently available at hand. Gut feel, rough estimate and assumptions strongly twine with each other. When people say ‘don’t assume anything’ they are downplaying the power of assumption.

Assumption needs to be verified against data asap so that sanctity of assumption can be checked. If assumption is found to be wrong then the premise which helped in reaching that assumption should also be checked so that we won’t use that premise in assuming something else. If assumptions are not cross checked then human mind will take those assumption as base facts after certain time interval and assume something on the top of the existing assumptions. Then deviation multiplies and probability of entering into dangerous assumption zone increases.
Go ahead and assume. Then verify.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No Limits

There are few statements/events that hit me like a thunderstorm. They happen  once and come back again and again in various manifestations. One statement of that calibre is: “Limits, like fear, are just illusions” said by Michael Jordon in his Hall of Fame speech.

I play football on Sundays and generally gets tired after 45 mins of game. But one day I promised a friend that I’ll score one goal. I couldn’t score even a single goal that day but i played with extreme fanaticism. After 45 mins my mind told me its time to get tired but I smothered that voice by saying, “Not yet, still not done for the day” and to my surprise that voice never raised it ugly face again. We played for 1.5 hours and concluded the game but i still had the vigor to play for some more time: time till i score, time till am done for the day. I realised that limits are just mental, they don’t exist. When you are on a mission then time, pain or any other hurdle in the universe ceases to exist.

Go find the cause for which you can run, find your mission because once you get that everything else will fall in place on its own. You will find time for it anyhow and you won’t feel pain when you are running towards it. Steve Jobs has rightly said, “ If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don't settle.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ocean of Comments

“Its nice”, “Good one”, “great job”, “fantastic”, “congrats” and other  similar appreciative comments currently forms majority of the comments on web. Appreciation is a great way to encourage people. These comments give feedback to the concerned person so play a vital role in talent recognition ecosystem. But when appreciations just flood a website and drown other useful information then it is injustice to the website users (including the same appreciative people) because other useful information comments got buried under  'good job' comments.

Possible Solution: An app (or a  browser addin/plugin) can be created for filtering comments. App can process all the comments on a webpage and filter them in 4 major buckets namely appreciation, critique, 'related info' and spam. 
Appreciation bucket can club all the congratulatory comments; critique bucket will contain critics’ comments; spam bucket will club junk comments and totally non related info, and 'related info' bucket (the most important bucket) can contain comments where other users have added their own opinion and extended the discussion to higher level or some user commented other contextual useful info. 

Let’s give people whatever they are looking for. In today’s Google-world when people don’t want to waste even a single second in scanning non-useful information and search even for smallest thing, comments should also be filtered to let people read whichever bucket they are interested in. 

Once we started filtering comments this will impact the comments writing behavior as well. People interested in the real discussion will  feel  encouraged and will participate more as they will know that their opinion will not mobbed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hiring or Creating Tribe

You sell coffee and if your salesperson is drinking Tea, that too from other vendor, you need to speak to your hiring folks, Now.
You sell chocolates and if your salesgirl --on being asked which choc is best--says, “you can take anyone, they are all chocolates after all” then you are not going too far.
Your salespeople are your face to the customer. They are the real brand and create far more impact than your brand marketing gimmicks. Customers perceive you as they perceive your salespeople and subtle signals (watch salesperson not wearing watch) are not so subtle as they create long term impressions.
Find people who love what they do and give them reason to join you and be your advocate. Don’t just recruit based on economical bargain.
Advocates create Advocates.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Data god

Data is omnipresent and omniscient, we just need to collect it and decipher it to make fruitful use out of it. Data is still collected and used but currently people treat data as sacrosanct and gather it only for valuable and important functions. This is because data collection and data mining is still a costly affair. Competition in this area will soon make it economical, in fact dirt cheap and then Data will take seat of 'The God'.
Someone rightly said anything that can be measured, can be improved. Let's drop the sacrosanct aura behind Data and make it widely available, reliable and widely used. Data needs to be collected for every possible measurable thing. Let's collect it for time-cost usage of toll bridge, usage of a particular road lane wrt time, traffic pattern, ATM usgae, stationary usage in a company, usage of a company pantry, productivity pattern wrt to days/months/festivals/mood, and data for every other imaginable thing. The more you collect data, the more you analyze, more you implement, and the cycle goes on. Collect data in your daily personal life, collect it in your business, urge your employer to do it.
Though Market forces (primarily demand and supply) will weed out or flourish products/services but market forces are continental drift slow. Data will prevent mistakes or make amends faster by highlighting the glitches asap.
Data should and will be widely published and should not be stashed by some proprietary behemoth. Now Atheists and Agnostics have something to believe in.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Create Advocates

Last week I bought a Reliance Broadband Data card and immediately encountered some issue with its activation. I called their Customer Support Representative (CSR) (aka Call Center folks). The support representative listened my problem patiently and asked few probing questions. Then she had conference me with various stakeholders (Sales Person, who sold the data card to me, and Field verification person, who has to verify my Address) and solved my problem within 30mins. I was ecstatic!!

Involving your customer in problem solving and making your internal workflow transparent to them will make your customer believe you. Shroud of secrecy and keeping everything hidden from customers didn’t help companies much till date. Empower your CSR with requisite knowledge and skills and give them authority to make decisions. Zappos gives full freedom to its CSR to decide whether to give replacement shoes or not. CSR is your front end to customer so they need to be empowered to take timely right decisions and hence kindle trust in customer. Customer doesn’t like CSR who just reads out brochure and fail to make any decision for them. CSR folks should be aware of the bigger picture of the company. They should be aware of all workflows in company, scope of various Business Units (BUs) and which responsibility lies with whom. Awareness will help them to make right decision and Authority will allow them to make things happen with people from various BUs. CSR are generally seen to pass buck to other BUs and just acts as mundane information providing centers. They generally crib about not getting proper proactive response from other BUs. Customer is not bothered about what your internal limitations are and why things are not working at your end. They just need solution.

CSR should be customer focused and should have conscious inclination towards customer. This will help them in understanding customer’s pain points better. CSR, in addition to working as problem solvers, can also act as consultant to the company. They can give feedback to management on areas that can be improved. Feedback would be more precise and holistic if CSR is aware of all workflows internal to company. CSRs continuous feedback will smoothen various business units’ integration and inter-BU communication.

In case of customer complain, CSR should pull in all stakeholders in a conference call, find out the root cause of the problem, assign action points to concerned stakeholders and then follow up after expected closure. In case they find some process flaw\blip they can give feedback to concerned person so that problem can be eliminated for all future customers.

Transparent processes will make all stakeholders accountable in product servicing. A product manager told me once that key to success is to make every stakeholder accountable (in success as well as failure). People are more responsive when they are accountable. Various BUs act as if to do their mechanical work and push the work to next basket so that they can say my job is done. They are more focused on avoiding any possible blame rather than focusing on delivering right service. Once responsibility of delivery is shared amongst various BU they will act more coherently and with enhanced communication. Stakeholders should be properly trained for this transparency and they should be made aware of various dynamics of other interfacing BUs. People generally think that things are too complex so they can’t do anything about it. But if things seem complex then it means that you still have not understood them logically.

Once the things are transparent Customer will start to gain faith in you. And faith is far more valuable than, usual, customer delight. Faith makes your customers as your advocate. They will be able to vouch for your service in front of anyone. An advocate is even more valuable than Sneezer as Sneezer only spread information but Advocate vouch for you along with spreading information.

Transparency should be practiced with utmost caution in the beginning. When you are becoming transparent you are exposing your flaws to customer and few customers might not act in very genial manner if they are aware of flaws. Also stakeholders should be proactively responsive to CSR. CSRs should also act as moderator in stakeholders’ conference to facilitate resolution.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yes, it’s a thin line

There is always a thin line between:
  1. confidence and arrogance
  2. dressing smartly and overdressing
  3. pointing out the details and nitpicking
  4. loosely coupled business unit and emergence of chaos in company
  5. spending on comfort and spending on luxury
Different people will see you on different side of the line for any of your action. Judging people is highly subjective and depends primarily on evaluator’s perception. Whichever side of the line you are, you are better off there instead of moving to other side of the line just for people’s sake. So do what you feel like irrespective of what people might perceive which side of the line you are. Because, always, few people might feel you are wrong and few people might feel you are right.
An organisation should always seek feedback continuously, reassess its stance and act judiciously. But don’t give too much importance to people’s perceptions; if you feel you are doing it right just carry on. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last week I happened to visit a hospital’s waiting room. There TV was not working. Everybody in the room was clueless whom to contact. It seems to lie outside everyone’s domain of responsibility. Nurses, housekeeping staff, electrician et al were either nonchalant or busy with their daily chores. How great it would have been if some trigger\feedback was sent to maintenance folks automatically!

Feedback is necessary and does add value. Either we act on received feedback or not but one should actively seek feedback so that we are aware of diverse opinions. We generally tend to leave it to people (either our customer or client) to give feedback. But as nearly all of us are in crunch of time not many people takes out time to give feedback. People are more inclined in finding other option than mending the existing option. We can’t depend entirely on willingness of people to get feedback. Create processes that either automate feedback capture or prods people to give feedback. When ATM machines stops working some trigger should tell maintenance folks to act on it. Historic trend (per hour or, better, every ten minutes) can be collected for every specific machine based on its usage. Once that’s historic usage trend is violated system should flag that as discrepancy and highlight this to maintenance folks. They can validate whether it’s real discrepancy or just a blip. It will lead to decreased maintenance turnaround time and will lead to increased availability of machine hence enhanced customer experience. For how long banks will depend on security guard at ATM or unhappy customer to report ATM's malfunctioning to bank?

Any machine that can capture data should be used as feedback mechanism. The machines that don’t capture data should be modified to capture data and send it to right people for their processing.

If you are dealing with people then don’t rely on people proactively giving feedback. Make processes so that process prods people to give feedback. Like don’t let your waiters to decide whether to take feedback from customers or not. They might shirk from their responsibility many a times. Make this a process that every time some customer is billed, waiter has to mandatorily collect feedback while giving the bill to customer.

Right interpretation of feedback is also very important. Sometimes if you coerce people into giving feedback they won’t tell you the right thing but they will tell you the thing that is easiest\fastest for them. So do give leeway to people whether they want to give feedback or not. Always look for dissenters\outliers while analyzing feedback. Dissenters are the folks who will give you different feedback. Whatever that may be, right or wrong, but you will get different feedback from them. In this world of ‘schedule adherers’ or ‘people blabbering niceties’ or ‘intentionally vague people’ dissenters are rare breed so they must be appreciated for their thinking.
Actively collect feedback, improve, collect feedback, improve……..

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Are you ready for the big day?

We are always told that failure is fine. We can learn from mistakes, improve and carry on. But what if you fail on your BIG day, the day you are most expected to deliver? 
Many a time famous bloggers refer or point out something in their blog and add web link to something interesting. The server hosting newly recommended thing crashes because of huge number of hits that day.
This not only make you lose your probable customers but also give them a negative first impression. In case they hear about you again from some other source next time, they might not turn up.

What if one day you get 20 times more customers?
What if your company gets a big proposal today?

Plan for the big day (when it’s about to come you will know that it’s coming; gut feeling?). Get ready and deliver that very day. Because some mistakes pushes you back few years.
Someone rightly said that “it takes 20 years to become overnight success” so that night you need to deliver.
And if sudden rush flummoxed you, recover fast and deliver.
It’s all about delivering at right time. And nothing more right time than Big day.

Can you call me back, please?

Nearly entire world whines about customer support call center’s long waiting period. But not many organizations did anything substantial regarding this. Companies still have average waiting period of 10 plus minutes before they entertain customer. 
When customer wants to speak to support staff of a product or service it means either she is in need of some info or some action from support team. And most of the times it is urgent. When customer is calling you with utmost urgency and you want her to wait endlessly and force her to listen to your promos or on-hold music then it means you don’t give a damn about customer and you are making her irritated.
Automate as much responses as you can for the customer. Take care that just for the heck of automating responses you won’t let customer travel in zigzag fashion (like press 1, now press 7, now press 9, now…). When customer has chosen one particular selection where the end point is speak to customer representative give option to end user for call back service. As soon as your support staff is free they can call back customer and handle query\issue.
Call back facility will make customer feel special and will obliterate the need of irritating waiting period. You value your customer, customer will value you back.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So Right yet so wrong!

When I was reading NYtimes today I realized that when you reach end of the page one slider box slides into the page to give reference to another article. A very novel and breakthrough idea! As soon as reader reaches end of the page suggest her something more so that you can retain her for longer time on your site. These days people are getting routed to websites through some referencing links (either referred by some blog or website or mail etc) for some specific interesting article. So as soon as article is done reader will close the webpage and move on. But if you refer something when reader is done with current page, reader will surely be tempted to go to suggested page provided the reference is good and interesting.
Some websites shows suggestions at the start of the webpage itself. But when reader visits website for some specific article they are focused on that article so will not move to another article even if suggestion at the start of the page is really good. But suggesting at the end of the page will surely evoke my intrest.
But the reference that nytimes shows is not contextual. Even if you are reading a business article it is suggesting some political article so reader will not be interested. So despite introducing something out of the box nytimes lost to milk the opportunity. Am sure they will fix it very soon.
New ideas are very important but executing them to get maximum return on investment is equally important. Give your customers reason to stay on with you. And keep them happy during their stay.

Photo credit nytimes

Thursday, April 22, 2010


People raise eyebrows when I say I love money. Everyone loves money but they don’t accept this fact as ostentatiously as I do. Valuation of money varies and people rate importance of money very subjectively. But money is the enabler, money is the fuel for life, money can play vital role in bringing happiness and money helps us in not turning to barbarianism again (though sometime it acts opposite) by trade.
Money can:
Buy everyone a meal.
Help eliminate child labor and give them a chance for life.
Buy flip flops for bare feet school kids.
Help people fight poverty, earn their livelihood and get out of poverty rot.
Help in research of diseases and alleviate ALL physical suffering from the world.
Help fund self help groups so they can earn their respect their way.
Help in agriculture research and make farmers a happy lot. The one who feed us should have the right to happiness.
Help you treat your friends without any reason and celebrate life.
Help you go on unplanned trips. 
Bring freedom to think, plan, execute, fail and try again. 
Help you seed another people’s business ideas.
Money can attract more money and above mentioned cycle continues.
I want money.

Photo credit Meanest Indian

Monday, April 19, 2010

Don’t stop me in middle of something

People hate when they are stopped in midst of something. If they have joined a queue and guy at the counter tells them that this is wrong queue they are rightly enraged. If people are buying something online and on 3rd step if you add some caveat or clause that will change their buying pattern or decision to buy then they will not feel happy. By stopping people in midst of something you are wasting their time and their effort so they will definitely give you a piece of their mind.
Give people seamless experience. Smoother the experience, more they will appreciate you to value their time and effort. 
If you want to tell them some instruction or note, tell them before they embark on their journey. They will accept your note very gracefully and might not even budge. The same instruction\note given in between their journey will force them to leave you for someone better.
Remove all the hurdles from every journey. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surprise me!

People love positive surprises. They feel pampered, special when something\someone amazes them. It is surprise that make people travel across the world to visit different places to see different culture, nature or history. Creative advertisements surprise people and we tend to remember those product\services more whose story surprises us. Discounts are also a form of positive surprise (omg, 30% discount on my favorite clothing!) that make people flock to shops. Touch-screen computers are surprising people that computers can be so easy to handle; hence they are and will be so popular. A easy to use product feature surprise you every time you use it and forces you stay longer with that product.
It is beyond doubt that pleasant surprises works wonder for relationships.
So create surprises and your customer will surprise you back with their warmth and their prolonged association.
Did you surprise someone today? 

Photo credit Tetsumo

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Whatever you are doing, whichever field you are in, enjoyment should be your highest priority. This applies to relations, work, your future plans, your journeys etc. When we are happy:
1. We give our best.
2. We spread happiness around and believe me true happy state of mind is contagious.
3. And above all you are happy. Isn’t life all about happiness?

If you are not happy with your current state then keep looking for happiness. As Steve jobs has said “ all matters of heart, you will know when you’ll find it”. Love, enjoyment and happiness are closely linked with each other. Find what you love, you will enjoy if you are working on your love and this enjoyment will give you blissful happiness.
This post is triggered when I saw one of yanni’s show. All the musicians were literally enjoying to the hilt and that enjoyment is contagious enough to spread happiness to audiences.
If you are not enjoying it, then it’s not worth it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Given a chance

I have this hidden wish that I want to be a truck driver for few weeks. So many I times I caught myself wishing, “given a chance I want to be truck driver”. Nearly all of us are stuck in vicious ‘chance’ circle and find ourselves saying:
Given a chance I want to leave this job and move to another field.
Given a chance I want to start my company.
Given a chance I want to date that girl.
Given a chance I want to go to Himalayas.
Given a chance I want to live more nomadic life.
Given I chance I want to visit xyz place.
Given a chance…….Ok, cut the crap. No one will bring your wish on platter and thrust upon you to enjoy it. If you really desire something then work towards it and doesn’t leave it for chance.
Get going.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Breakfast at hospital

My daily routine breakfast joint was closed today morning. I was on my weekend bike ride so thought of stopping at one hospital. Why hospital? I don’t know, to be very frank. I have seen that hospital many a times during my various journeys and some light lit in my mind today that let’s try breakfast at that hospital today. I’ve seen that good hospital have average cafeteria and I was looking for some change (that’s the thing I hunt for everyday).
I entered the hospital and was greeted by cool air-conditioned breeze. Outside it was hot and just about right temperature inside made the first killer impression on me. Decor of the cafeteria was really good with well spaced tables. Chairs and tables are light green and white (sorry am not too fanatic about colors so they might be some shade of green or some shade or cream\white) with few well trimmed plants lined on one side. Place was spic and so are the clothes of serving staff. Clothing of staff was not mundane; it was some pleasant flowery shirt with blue (that one you can guess) pants. Prices were pretty reasonable and quality of food was remarkable. I never expected this quality of food from a hospital cafeteria so it was very pleasant surprise. Entire staff was of very happy demeanor and people will really require that if they are in hospital. So overall it was awesome experience. I’m happy that my mundane breakfast joint was closed today.
Sometime I wonder that if one hospital cafeteria can give you such a good foodie cum good ambience experience why can’t the restaurant that are in the business specifically for food and ambience?