Friday, January 29, 2021

Professional services - a little insight


Professional services have long been the but of many jokes, particularly when it comes to the realm of consultancy. Everyone needs them, fewer want to acknowledge they have the need, and still fewer want to even pay them for their services. 

It has been observed that many don't know the difference between investment and expense. This carries forward into the way they treat their employees in the tone that they set for their organizational culture.

Too often, for those who have been willing to serve various governments, the lament often revolves around the length of time it takes to be paid. This is after being asked for in many cases rock bottom discounts in the name of nationalism and "patriotism" along with all the other glowing teams that people trump up at the time. 

Civil servants look at the sums charged and think that the money invoiced is more than their pay and, wow...that's a lot of money for one person to be making. 

Confessions, one person, especially those worth their salt doesn't make nor keep the invoiced sum. The person that you see isn't the only one working on your project. One has to employ others [yes, teams], even if they are independent contractors to assist in expediting the work quickly and efficiently. It isn't advisable to try to keep all the work for one's self when you can draw on the experiences of others who may have even more insights because they are specialists in their respective areas. 

Information is expensive to access, and unless you want free information that may be decades old and no longer relevant, it takes money to access documents which can begin with fees of US$500 and pushing north to just gain access. Sometimes after paying these fees, you may have to pay additional fees to get supporting information for what you're researching on the behalf of the client. 

Cash flow is key, and when people make glib remarks about having money to pay your commitments. Do they expect someone elses project to pay for their expenses. YES, THEY DO! Would they want it to happen to them? NO! 

When work is done for government, certain departments are quick to ask you to serve, but loathe when it comes to payment. At payment times they play the I-N-O [ I ain't know] card, and it's always with another department until you trace it and find out whose desk it is on in the processing phase. It has gotten to the stage that good, solid people who work in the realm of professional services have vowed not to do any work for government ever again, and they remain resolute to that decision. 

Government is not alone in this, private sector also has its share of skeletal disorders when it comes to paying for professional services. To draw on a personal experience, a west coast client needed services that we provided, and the conversation went well up to a point. They then said that their payment policy was 90 days after the service is completed. It's important to have standards as a small business, I responded that we were more like Chefette [a really successful local fast food chain] in our business model - you can look at the menu all you want, but until you pay for what you require, it would not be served for you to consume. We then understood each other and I never did that assignment and prevented both parties from encountering a potentially unpleasant experience. 

Professional services if employed correctly can enable your business to experience significant growth and stability. However, you have to be fair and pay properly and on time; that way everyone wins. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Call Centres - do they help or harm business?


If you live in the developing world then you've probably encountered them; the impersonal, annoying, inefficient, ineffective and yet seemingly heavily used services of Call Centres. We know them so well, it does not even need a definition. 

People in other countries answering local phone calls, who are unable to offer tangible help, especially when they have no local knowledge. However, many companies turn to them since they offer a form of cheaper labour that where their official domicile is located. The service that comes from them though makes one wonder if they, the companies, really count the costs. 

Looking at the situation from a standpoint of observation, it seems these call centres activities don't reinforce the activities of the marketing department and promotions. It many instances, it seems to go completely against what the company says in its marketing material. So why are they used so much? How do they adequately fit into the profile of what a company defines as offering good service? 

Certainly within our Caribbean region various people have vented their frustration of having to deal with call centres and automated answering systems; where many companies violate their own promises since they rarely return calls to left messages. It leaves customers who are unable to get the information they require to form their own conclusions including thinking that their business is not valued by the entity. They feel inclined to take their business elsewhere. 

Then they are those that are answered, but the representative has no idea what the rules of the country are and sometimes make promises that are not honoured by the company they represent. This happened as recently as last week with someone. The elderly in particular are left dumbfounded by all the use of technology that doesn't deliver on the basic promises of the business. Agreements as we know them are constantly dishonoured; therefore we must ask are call centres helping or harming businesses? 

Please share your experiences and feedback. I'm sure that by doing so, some of these companies should take note of the feedback once they are smart and adjust their operations delivery methods to suit. 

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