Trim the Excess or Lose It All

From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

  1. Defining the Terms
    customer interaction point
  2. In the News
    Are Layoffs Avoidable or a Sign of Over staffing
    It Is Better To Give Than To Have It Taken Away
  3. Questions & Answers
    Is your website oriented to your business objectives?
  4. Strategic Relations Tip for Today
    Web Based Portals Can Be Your Best Friend
  5. Strategic Relations Journal
  6. Shameless Self Promotion

Defining the Terms

customer interaction point (n.)

  1. A moment where a product or service may be used, seen, or considered by someone qualified to purchase it.
  2. An opportunity to educate or engage in commerce with a customer. Usually defined by a series of measurable characteristics or conditions, which contribute to and result from the action taken.

    Customer interaction points (pl.) a series of points arranged in a logical sequence representing a process, which customers may engage sequentially, or as certain conditions demand.

    A simple series of customer interaction points are represented by pre-sale marketing, point of sale, and post-sales service; where the customer learns about a product, engages in a purchase of the product, then receives related services for implementation.

    Each point is defined by the needs of the customer, the characteristics of the product or service, and follows on products provided after the sale. Ideally, contributing factors could be measured to predict when other customers will engage the any point along the series.

Glossary of Strategic Relations Terms

A key to understanding is know the terms used to communicate concepts or convey information. If there are any terms I use that are unclearly or used in a manner not commonly understood, please let me know and I will define the terms here. Email your questions to terminology

In the News

Are Layoffs Avoidable or a Sign of Over staffing

Almost every day I see something in the news about corporate layoffs. I cannot help but think that if businesses could generate more profits they could keep employees and avoid layoffs all together. Are layoffs a sign of poor economic conditions, or over staffing in organizations? Can companies get the same productivity with fewer employees?

Each case should be considered individually; however, I would like to argue that most companies could refine their customer profitability strategies to generate the income they need to create jobs instead of reducing them. In talking with executives, I have found that some of those recently laid-off where highly productive employees. While we all know individual who consider the workplace something to do while waiting for a weekend, when companies have to layoff productive workers it concerns me.

Here are six strategies to keep employees in hard times:

  1. Revaluate business process first for effectiveness not efficiency. Ask yourself, "Does this process do what it is supposed to do?" Consider each process as it supports the business objectives, profitability measures, and customer service factors. Ineffective processes do not need to be fast.
  2. Map your core business processes as they support customer needs, operations management, and supply chain. Have a clear idea of what processes support what part of your business, including where these processes exchange data. If you are not clear on which processes are core, now is a good time to figure this out.
  3. Orient everyone around customer activities that generate profitable income.Make sure employees know exactly how they contribute to the profits of a company in specific measurable terms. Their mantra should be "I do X to create product Y for customer Z." If all parts of your organization are moving towards income channels, your people will have little time to waste money.
  4. Encourage every employee to work eight productive hours each day. Employees should know how and to whom they could delegate extra work that would take them beyond an 8-hour workday. This reduces overhead expenses for an organization, while keeping more employees performing labor. Do an informal survey in your organization, while many people look busy, most do not accomplish much in the course of a day.
  5. Allow deferred compensation programs to increase available working capital. Starting from the top, arrange a means to reduce salaries in exchange for stock options, vacation programs, pre-tax benefits, company match retirement funds, or any other perceived benefit to the individual. If you can defer 10% of payroll to pre-tax employee benefits, you could free up 2% more cash.
  6. Encourage the front line to work on the bottom line. Solicit and reward front line employees for cost reductions with monetary rewards. Remember to encourage cost reductions that do not affect performance or quality to the customer. It could be as simple as purchasing less expensive office supplies to redesigning a manufacturing process.

While each situation is unique, it is possible to reorganize business process and capital resources to improve the retention of employees during potential layoff situations. While I am not saying you should keep everyone, you should fight for those who are valuable contributors to your organization especially when times are hard.

It Is Better To Give Than To Have It Taken Away

I am now providing a number of customer relationship management (CRM) articles to Greater China CRM, a Chinese perspective CRM magazine. These articles are being translated to Chinese, which I hope serves the need of my Asian clients who prefer to read in that language.

While no agreements are in place to translate training materials, I will pursue the effort if readers are interested. With only 27% of my clients in the United States, I feel it is important to me that I provide materials in a manner convenient for you -- no matter what language you prefer to speak.

Consider this, if you can potentially provide your products globally, consider what language preferences your customers have. Do you need to provide instructions in various languages? Accommodating language needs can open new markets while better serving customers you already have.

An interesting side note, I found a number of my articles pirated into Portuguese and Spanish. Because I was not directly serving this audience, someone violated my copyright to make those materials available. I license my articles, training materials, and research findings to various companies worldwide. While flattering, these people miss the marketing support I provide valid license holders.

My lesson learned: provide for those customers who want my products -- if I do not someone else will, even if they steal my materials to do it. If you are interested in having my articles in your language, drop me a note stating your language preference to feedback-newsletter

Have you seen a news story that I may find interesting as it pertains to strategic relations? Does your company have a story about results with strategic relations? I'd like to hear about it. Email me at feedback-newsletter

Questions & Answers

Is your website oriented to your business objectives?

Q: Why are their so many pages inside your website that are unformatted? You provide good information, but the contrast of formatted and unformatted pages does not present a consistent image. While using your search engine I found many interesting articles not listed in your publications page, some even asked me for a password.

Name Withheld, New York, NY

A: First, I am glad you find my materials of value. I think I understand your perspective, let me share some background with you.

While I first got access to the Internet in 1989 browsers did not exist, through the 1990's content was very plain. Then came 1999 when great emphasis was placed on the visual aspects of a site.

Maybe my perspective was a bit "old school" but I orient my content with my business objectives, ease of use, place little emphasis on visual appeal. (Not saying this strategy is right or wrong, just my perspective.)

While unformatted pages do not provide a consistent web image, they do contribute to my business objectives of providing educational materials that help executives build stronger business relationships. I believe making the materials available to visitors of my website is more important than being pretty, at least initially.

The real problem is that I have not clearly communicated my sites objectives to visitors. This is something I could do with special tutorials, visitor alerts, or some comments in the about section of the site.

The only Q&A where your questions are answered with though provoking questions you should be asking about relationships in business. If you have a question you would like to see answered here, write questions-newsletter (I'll even hide your name if you like.)

Strategic Relations Tip for Today

Web Based Portals Can Be Your Best Friend

Portals are big right now on the Internet; they serve as wonderful tools to share information with employees, customers, or business partners. A portal can bring information about a specific topic together making it easier to find, saving its visitors time.

While many vendors want to sell you huge portal applications, consider this simple way to get a portal together for your staff. Hold on to your seats, this tip is incredibly simple and often over looked. It is a site map or table of contents.

That is right, a simple site map or table of contents that shows visitors where to find what they might be looking for on your website, in your industry, or on a certain topic in a single page. This is no different from off-line catalogs, phone lists, or the table of contents in a book.

When a page is not found on my website, I use my site map to direct the visitor to other options instead of an error message. Some sample portals that do not cost much at all to maintain:

[Ed: hittjw, 5 Dec 2005; Lost "Organizational Success Network," "Business News & How-To Intelligence," and "Hittpansophism.com" to Domain Theft. Updated examples are below. These examples also demonstrate the value of content networks in building relationships on-line.]

Each site provides value to the casual visitor, but has a greater underlying benefit to those who actively use the sites to serve a specific customer base. There is also a strategic underlying relationship between each site and my business objectives. Do you have a purpose for every communication you make with a prospective audience?

The key is to provide all the information a target audience will need to do a certain objective. My portals are publicly available because I use them for lead generation, collaborative marketing, and testing advertising. You may have a different purpose for your own, just remember a portal does not have to be expensive, or elaborate to serve its purpose.

Actually, portals are not anything new. Consider a product special report that has key service contacts maybe you provide it to your customer when they order a product. An internal phone list is even a portal. See how simple this can be, just make it easy for people to find things by bringing like items together. What information can you bring together to provide value to your customers (employees, or partners?)

To learn more about using portals to build customer relationships email b2b-portals for a free resource guide, plus free resource guide´┐Ż in the subject.

Strategic Relations Journal

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Shameless Self Promotion

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