Friday, December 30, 2005

Service--But Mostly The Lack Thereof

Travels over the holidays
took me to Dallas and points beyond. In the spirit of
the holidays, I ran from place to place, stressed in
traffic jams, shopped like it was my job, and burned
gasoline like it was going out of style.

In the
11 days of being flogged by the holiday experience, I
experienced “service,” but mostly a lack of service,
almost always in the context of doing business, trying
to buy something or getting someone to help me. And, for
the most part, I was disappointed.

“I can’t do that.”

“I don’t know.”

“I have no way of finding out.”

“I have to talk to my manager and he’s not here
right now.”

“No, I don’t know when he’ll come

“I know the door’s open, but we’re

“I can’t check you out. It’s not my

I heard all of those
and more. And, on reflection, I noticed that the larger
the company, the worse the service I experienced.
Indeed, the only positive service experiences this
holiday season were at smaller companies, to include a
computer repair store that not only went out of their
way to make sure my laptop was ready for my departure,
but even found the locksmith to come unlock my car
which, in the spirit of the holidays, I locked my keys
in. One family-owned jewelry store also bent over
backwards to see that my lack of punctuality didn’t cost
anyone their surprise.

Why? Do small businesses
attract people with better attitudes or who are more
service-oriented? I think not. Rather, I believe it is
because smaller businesses find it easier and more
natural to create a familial environment, to credibly
connect by knowing everyone with whom they work, and
from knowing and working closely together, empathy
results and from that relationships which makes these
employees happier and, it seems, better suited to
service customers like me.

Employees who know –
really know – their supervisors, who know their boss,
who know their owner, are happier for the experience. In
their minds, their managers are people, not positions.
These happier employees are better employees, and they
stay longer. Sears proved the point when they conducted
an 800-store survey that showed the impact of employee
attitudes on the bottom line. When employee attitudes
improved by 5%, customer satisfaction jumped 1.3%,
consequently increasing revenue by one-half a percentage

Of course, there are many employees with
large, public companies who are also happy. In some
cases, it is because their companies have made an effort
to make a large, impersonal environment feel smaller and
more personal. It may be because their manager has gone
out of her way to recognize the individuality of each
person for whom she is responsible. In other cases, it
may be the pride that some employees feel who work for
companies that are known for their social
responsibility, companies like Starbucks, Microsoft,
Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Build-A-Bear Workshop, just
to name a few.

In the end, work brings people
together. Those employers that do the best job of
bringing their employees together in meaningful ways
lead them to attitudes of care, compassion, and concern,
and these are the employers best able to make the case
for customer service because they are able transfer what
they do for each other everyday to those of us who need
their help on occasion.

Best wishes for a Happy
New Year, one filled with happiness, and service, too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Dark Side of Globalization

this is an audio post - click to play

Few argue these days that
globalization of markets is anything other than great
for the American consumer. And, it is true. Chinese
products made with 50 cent an hour employees and lax
environmental and labor laws have allowed manufacturers
to deliver goods and services cheap. Companies that have
been able to export their production or services
overseas have stomped their competitors like narcs at
biker rallies.

But, globalization hasn't stopped
with prices. Wage rates have been affected, too. They
are being 'globalized"-- a nice of saying 'lowered."
Indeed, for the last several years, the average worker
in the U.S. is making less considering inflation.So, how
has Joe Lunchbucket survived with fewer dollars to spend
buying cheap Chinese


No cash? No problem.
Banks line up with their credit cards to lend money at
19% and more if they can get it. Average credit card
debt has grown to $8,650.00 per family. And, if credit
cards get maxed-out, there are lenders who will allow,
even encourage, consumers to pull the equity out of
their homes -- $160 billion this year alone.

long can it last? With increases in adjustable-rate
mortgage payments, higher minimum credit-card payments,
higher costs to heat homes, and less home-equity to
extract since all the equity has already been extracted,
some experts have predicted a consumer slowdown in 2006
saying the consumer is tapped out. Maybe true, maybe
not. Never underestimate the spending desires of the
American consumer.But whether the consumer slows down in
2006, he has to slow down.

The continuing
downward pressure on wages (discussed in my last post)
eventually has to result in wage-earners (80% of the
working population) being unable to afford goods and
services, no matter where they were made or how cheap
they are. Because if Joe doesn't have a job, or his job
barely keeps the rent paid, and the equity has already
been fully drained from his home and his credit cards
are maxed, the American Dream migrates quickly into the
American Nightmare that day when Joe just can't buy
stuff anymore

And, because 66% of the U.S.
economy is driven by Joe's heroin-like spending habits,
a slowdown (whenever it happens) will affect
everyone-employees with no jobs or jobs that don't pay a
living wage, corporations with too much inventory and
too little demand, and investors who weep as stock
prices plummet. But, hey, this is the season to be
joyous! The siren of the mall calls and draws us ever
closer to the rocks disguised as shopping

Advice? If your company has not
provided financial education to your employees,
including the dangers of debt, the advantages of saving,
and the necessity of budgeting, consider offering that
education up as a gift that will keep on giving long
after the plasma TV has faded.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winners and Losers 2005--But The Game's Not Over Yet

The Labor Department reported this week that productivity of American workers rose at an annual rate of 4.7 percent in the July-to-September quarter, the best showing in two years and the fastest productivity growth over a five-year period since World War II.

Good news? For corporate America, it is the best Christmas gift ever. The big jump in worker efficiency helped to push labor costs down 1 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter. Corporate profit growth in 2005 is, to say the least, robust, with year-on-year comparison showing that strength, up 36%. Even hurricanes and high energy prices have had little affect on profits. For investors, too, stronger productivity and falling labor costs have rallied the market and should ease fears at the Federal Reserve that overall inflation is not worsening because of rising wage pressures.

For workers, though, the 1 percent drop in unit labor costs marked the second consecutive quarter that labor costs have fallen. On an inflation-adjusted basis, real hourly and weekly earnings have fallen for six out of the last seven months. Indeed, the average hourly wage of blue-collar worker in manufacturing and non-managers in the services sector was $15.65 last month. These employees represent about 80% of the private-sector workforce. When the recovery began in November 2001, their real wage was $15.69, slightly higher than the real value in June 2004. For weekly earnings, the relevant values are $530.17 in November 2001 and $525.84 last month (November, 2005). In other words, after adjusting for inflation, both hourly and weekly earnings are below where they were when the current economic recovery got underway more than 4 years ago.

To add insult to injury the reality of declining wages on an inflation-adjusted basis did not stop the binge of corporate layoffs. Led by sharp cuts in the automotive industry, planned job reductions by major U.S. corporations increased 22% in November, 2005 to 99,279, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Planned layoffs have increased three months in a row. So far in 2005, corporations have announced 964,232 job cuts, up 3.6% from the year-to-date total a year ago.

It should not be surprising that more employees are turning to organized labor as a last resort to stop the bleeding, with NLRB petitions filed by unions up in 2005. Even though just 8 percent of private-sector workers are members of unions today, organized labor is fighting back and their argument is plain and simple – “You’re getting hosed.” In some areas, the argument is resonating like Houston, Texas, where Service Employees International Union won big in their effort to organize thousands of downtown janitors. Likewise, the Communications Workers of America have been organizing at Cingular Wireless, adding more than 13,500 new members this year. And, the AFL-CIO has kicked off its largest worker-rights campaign in 15 years with rallies this week leading up to Saturday's International Human Rights Day and focused on workplace organizing.

Although few are betting on organized labor’s rebirth, don’t count them out yet. If wages continue to decline, health insurance continues to be out of reach of more employees, and pension plans become a thing of the past, unions will be the last resort of many employees who find it hard to make ends meet and harder to stomach the fact that things may never get better.
Employers that fail to provide their employees a fair and competitive wage and benefit package, fail to communicate an accurate picture of global, national, and local competition, fail to explain how wages and benefits are set within their companies, fail to answer employee questions about their workplace, and fail to provide employees creative ways to participate in the success of their organizations are putting out the “Union Wanted” sign and by all appearances organized labor is ready to fight.

Ongoing communications at the floor level, to include a dynamic Q&A database, is an important part of the Credible Connections system and CrediblyConnect Online™. For more information on how your company can participate, contact us at