Open Work Spaces Can Make You Sick

Open work space

In just about every start-up, our office space was a room with whatever furniture we could pull together that could support some weight, didn’t wobble with regular use, and wasn’t sticky to our touch.  Designers came along and called this “eclectic.”  We called it “free.”

As you focus on your core business interests and direction, office space can often be the last thing on the list, but there are dozens of studies that support the importance of space and how it supports our abilities to perform.

After decades of cube development and design in height, width, drawers, no drawers, and then moving to the open floor space (back to eclectic) it’s interesting to read Fast Company’s “The Slow Death of Open Spaces” (February 2019).

According to the article, “employees don’t like them, and research proves they’re ineffective.”  This is interesting given all the reports that tout how well they’ve worked in recent years, how cool they look to a visitor (is there an advertising agency anywhere in the world with cubes?), how it saves money on cubes, increases the number of people in small spaces – wait, this sounds like coach on any domestic airline, doesn’t it?

“Researchers have shown that people in open offices take nearly two-thirds more sick leave and report greater unhappiness, more stress, and less productivity than those with more privacy.”  A 2018 Harvard Business School study found that “open offices reduce face-to-face interaction by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50% – shattering the notion that they make workers collaborative.”

And, there you have it.  Twenty years ago, we got rid of walls (no topically political pun intended here) to improve collaboration and face to face interactions and the result, apparently,  is less of both and more sick-leave.

Obviously, the answer for maximum efficiency is a mix of private spaces, open spaces, and adjustable spaces like those that offer tables on wheels that can be moved around to accommodate one person, four, or twenty and so on.

Maybe there are tables on wheels with adjustable walls that can be moved around your space as needed?

Avoid the BuzzFart!

person reading the daily fake news newspaper sitting on gray couch

Announcements rippling throughout the digital news and entertainment space are focusing more these days on layoffs than on earnings or next stage funding.   Numerous industries are reporting growth slowing, the international trade questions continuing to loom large, consumer confidence is quirky, and communications coming out of corporations, government agencies, and various international news media are just plain crazy.  Add to this the recent news that Buzzfeed may have reported incorrectly that Michael Cohen stated that President Trump told him to lie to Congress and we’re all compelled to revisit the basics of good business sense and communications – at all stages of a business’s development.

Whether the president did or didn’t, or whether Buzzfeed has the goods or not, or whether Mueller refuted the report for whatever reasons, what we have is a news feed misfire blemishing all other news feeds.  Remember the Dan Rather assertion about the Killian documents?  Many people believe that error cost him his job and blemished the news space then as well.  So, is this Cohen piece just a Buzzfake?

This situation, of course, was followed by Buzzfeed’s recent news about significant layoffs and the publishing of CEO Peretti’s email memo to all staff, before the layoffs, with the subject line, “Difficult Changes.”  The email was likely intended to be a high-quality leadership statement that the layoffs were necessary to reduce costs, improve the operation, and prevent the need to get funding elsewhere.  In other words, if you are one of the people losing your job, you’re supposed to somehow be happy that your termination is helping the business stay alive.  And, since you now know there will be layoffs the following week, do you know if you’re one of the survivors or not?  Interesting strategy.

In this case, the CEO wisely didn’t pass the buck as many others do, but in a very real sense he did pass an uncomfortable and unfortunate corporate wind.

But, this commentary isn’t about this CEO, or Buzzfeed, or Mueller, and so on; they’re all just topical right now.  This is about a business’s need to execute communications with the highest quality – and in all circumstances.

Earl Nightingale once stated that communications account for 75% of any person’s compensation – our ability to communicate drives our ability to earn.  For the sake of strategy, let’s add that to a business’s ability to drive revenues – good brand, quality service, lean and mean marketing and communications and so on, support the business’s ability to perform.

A consumer’s ability to trust your business and brand is tied directly to what you communicate and how you communicate it.  At all stages of a business’s development, quality communications should be a primary objective – work with the best content, support the best writers and strategists, train and support all staff that work with the public and each other, carefully review and confirm the messages before publication or print, and prevent your f- – t from becoming the buzz.

Your Customers Aren’t Bots!

While Chat Bots continue impressive development through exhaustive AI endeavors, deep machine learning, etc., they will never replace the power of a real engagement between people. 

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….and they never will be. Your customers are living, breathing, feeling decision makers who sometimes need assistance to make the best purchasing decisions to meet their needs, and at all times, need a way to resolve their dissatisfaction when their experiences fall short of their expectations – and your promises.

Enter the Chat Bot – and sometimes, exit your customer.

While Chat Bots continue impressive development through exhaustive AI endeavors, deep machine learning, etc., they will never replace the power of a real engagement between people.  And, don’t get your underpants in a bundle worrying about personas, and boomers, or millennials, and so on.  It’s just about communications that work for your customers, not communications that work only for you.

So, if your solution (in whichever industry) is designed, launched and marketed brilliantly, you likely won’t lose a customer to the bots-sphere.  If, on the other hand, you’re the ultimate iterator, you will probably lose a few on the way to your desired business zenith.

10 Practices to Retain Your Customer:

  1. Structure your chat bots to respond to technical directions, not sales.
  2. If your bots are supported by real agents, make sure your agents don’t communicate like bots, and that their sentence structure is positive to customers, not negative.
  3. Make sure your design is so clean that no one can tell when your chat bot transfers to an agent – keep those transitions seamless.
  4. Don’t interrupt your customer’s inquiry with a greedy effort to cross sell them.
  5. Offer a way to your customers to elevate their inquiry if your bot design doesn’t resolve their inquiry.
  6. If your elevation protocol is to merely transfer your customer to another bot or agent, you’re missing the point of elevating a customer complaint.
  7. Don’t use phony introductory statements in your bot structure about how you’re going to do your best to resolve your customer’s concerns – it’s insulting – you’re instant messaging while hiding behind the veil of technology.
  8. Display your scoreboard of effectiveness – if you end your chat sessions with customer surveys, have the courage to post the responses – no one believes you care, so it’s just another insult.
  9. Make sure your customers in queue are aware of their wait time – not how many inquirers are in front of them, but how long they’re going to have to wait – in minutes.
  10. If the wait time exceeds your inquirer’s expectation, give them another option.

Most important?  Don’t fool yourself into believing your bot platform is a great solution – it’s not.  It’s a way for you to avoid direct contact with a customer and every customer knows it.  The customer will forgive a brand’s reluctance to a point, but when they need an answer, or a solution, they’re going to support those brands that support them.

Be a Pig, Not a Chicken

 

 

The difference between being committed and being involved is easily illustrated by thinking about that eggs and bacon breakfast you had recently.  The chicken that laid those eggs was clearly involved, but that pig that created that bacon was committed.

Success requires commitment – so be a pig not a chicken!

Starting any business venture takes a lot more than buying a URL, setting up a website, social sites, sketching a logo, drafting a plan and so on.  There’s a huge gap between those with ideas and those who execute on their ideas.

Investors are always on the look out for someone who demonstrates commitment and try to avoid those who talk a good talk, but just don’t do the work.

If you’re doing what you choose to do, you’re committed.  If you’re doing only what you must do, you’re compliant and on the short end of “involved.”

So, here’s six quick reminders on what you can do to demonstrate your commitment to success; to yourself, your partner, spouse, or investor.

  1. Do the work, don’t just talk about it
  2. Do the research, don’t just wonder about it
  3. Meet with people, don’t just create lists of prospects
  4. Network regularly, don’t just hope for a referral
  5. Take planned steps every day, don’t just make to do lists
  6. Evaluate what you do on paper, don’t just reflect on the past

Follow-up is the key to success – and if you aren’t strong enough to follow up on your own, hire someone to follow up with you every day.  It works.  Spend a few thousand dollars on reminders, and you’ll do the hard work that needs to be done.

So, commit yourself.  Be a pig!

Snap, Crackle, Pop

group discussion

Prepare For That First Impression Before You Need It!

You’re going to network, right?  You’re going to dialog with strangers that may become colleagues, prospects, clients, audiences, even friends.  You’re going to do this face to face, in digital or print, on the phone, in front of ad hoc or planned groups and even large audiences.

Your career success relies on your communications skills!

Actually, it’s been long considered that 75% of a person’s compensation is based on their communication skills.

So, have you noticed how many people are great engagers of others, and how many aren’t?  Have you seen people in an audience stop using their smart devices to pay attention to a speaker and in other settings see people focus only on their smart devices?

And, be honest, how would you measure your own skills, and in which settings?

Are you prepared for any discussion, any time, anywhere and on any subject?

Here’s a trick that can help you punch up your skills before you feel like you just took a punch in the gut for not being ready.

Snap, Crackle, Pop – Before, During, After – Past, Present, Future

  1. Outline a list of topics you may have to discuss in the future. These can be anything from current events, history, your line of business, a prospect’s problems, whatever you want – just outline a list of topics, shoot for ten.
  2. For each topic on the list, outline a “past” “present” and “future” question.
  3. Practice the questions until they become a habit (note: through research and practice, I calculated that it takes me 91 tries to change or create a habit)
  4. Challenge your development of the habit – can you jump into any discussion, answer any question, in any individual or group discussion and on any topic? (hint – this will take practice; 91 tries took me 13 weeks)
  5. When you think you have those ten topics down, do another ten, and then another – you will know you’re prepared to make the kind of impression you want to make in any setting – when you’re ready!

Example:

You will likely attend a mixer of some sort, with colleagues, clients, prospects, fellow club members, whatever.

At some point you will have the opportunity to establish an impression.

First, simply ask the others in the group a question about the past.  For example, “that’s interesting, can you share some of the history of how that developed?

Second, move your question forward to the present with, “Ah, I see, so that’s how you determined the steps you’re taking today; tell me, how are today’s circumstances stacking up against those earlier stages?”

Third, future “…and how do you see this changing over the course of time, say the next five years?”

Practice will turn you into the most prepared conversationalist, speaker, engager – anywhere.

Good luck out there!