Author: Linda Kooper

Too Big to be Held Accountable

improving customer service

The services we buy are increasingly dominated by very large companies that are consolidating their respective markets. Two examples that exemplified this for me this week are wireless phones and road-side assistance.

To increase profits companies increasingly rely upon contract partners to deliver services to hold down costs.  These partners get paid commensurate with the number of services they deliver so, the cost to the bigger company that we, the buyer, sees varies either up or down with the volume.

The term service in too many of these arrangements is very loosely defined.

For example, a colleague at work lost her cell phone this week. She called the service provider to order a new phone and was told it would be 5 business days to get the replacement with everything from the cloud back-up installed. While on the phone with the provider, she went online to the same provider’s website and they offered a next morning delivery of the same phone with a technician for an hour to install everything from the cloud.  The person on the phone knew nothing about the next day service, an obvious disconnect and gap in “service delivery” and assured her this option didn’t exist.

She chose to order the phone online for delivery the next morning. The technician that showed up was a very personable subcontractor and a former Apple Genius. The replacement phone had been ordered using a family member’s upgrade, and she was assured that the other person’s service would not be disconnected or affected. When the replacement phone was activated, the service for the person whose upgrade was used was immediately disconnected. The technician was contacted, and he said it wasn’t possible that this had happened.  My colleague called AT&T, and after another hour they were able to correct the problem and get everything worked out.

Poor coordination across the provider’s service delivery network that included a website, client service department and next day subcontractor definitely detracted significantly from the quick painless, seamless delivery of both a product and service.

A second experience in the past week was replacing a car battery that had been installed a year ago by AAA.   Chicago has been in the midst of a 12-day artic cold snap. Wind-chill temperatures have been 10-30 below zero. The original battery was purchased twenty months ago when my car was stranded with a dead battery while I was on a trip. I was delighted that AAA could offer me a battery on-site at a competitive price with a 6-year warranty. Little did I know that using that warranty was another matter. During the recent cold spell my car would not start, and I had roadside assistance jump-start the car twice. The third time it wouldn’t start I asked about my warranty, so I didn’t have to continue to call for a jump-start and wait 2-3 hours for a service call. The driver that showed up from the battery subcontractor said the battery was fine, so he couldn’t replace it. I had to call again for a third jump-start in 2 days and that got the car going.  The next day the car wouldn’t start so I called a second time to get the battery replaced. The customer service agent for AAA said to go to a third party and have the battery checked and get documentation of their testing.  If they said the battery was bad, surely that would justify a replacement.  I took a couple hours to do that.  Again, a subcontractor came after an hour on the phone and an hour wait and said he was really sorry, but he couldn’t replace the battery.  He could only use their testing, and no other testing was valid for replacing the battery.  Furthermore, we were over our limit on battery jumps, so they really couldn’t help anymore.  Since I had to get to work the next day, I just went and bought a new battery from Auto Zone.  I have purchased a defective battery from them before, and the replacement process was simple and quick.  I brought my defective battery to a AAA office on Monday, and I am certain that my six-year warranty will prove to be worthless.  I was told, “that’s a separate division and we can’t help you here”.  I could call an 800 number and talk to member relations. As of this writing I have easily spent over 10 hours combined either on hold waiting to talk to someone, waiting for drivers to show up, explaining my predicament or appealing the case.

I am sure everyone has stories like this.  Companies that used to pride themselves on their service have cobbled together a business model with gaping holes that we are meant to navigate.  It is more “Do-It-Yourself” customer service.  It’s important to recognize who pays the price when costs are cut through this type of an approach.  The scarcest resource in our lives is time, and there is nothing that will create customer terrorists more than forcing their customers to waste their time with their service inefficiencies.

8 Steps to a Successful New Year

8 Steps to a Successful New Year

As another year comes to a close, and you reflect on your accomplishments, how do you feel?  Did you make the progress that you had hoped to make this year?    If you did, congratulations!  If you didn’t, why not?  The number one reason that people are stuck in the same place year after year is because they don’t take the time to set goals.

I am sure that at one time or another we have all heard the Harvard statistics
83% of the population does not set goals
14% have a plan in mind, but never write it down
3% write down their goals
The study found that the 14% that have goals are 10 times more successful than those without goals.

The 3% that write down those goals are 3 times more successful than the 14% that have goals but don’t write them down.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are writing your goals.

1.  One of the biggest factors in reaching your goals is to BELIEVE that you can do it!  If the goal is too far out of your comfort zone, or you just don’t believe it is something that you could ever achieve, don’t even write it down.

2.  Write your goals down!   Writing down your goals will help you keep focused on them.  Put your goals on sticky notes on your mirror, on your dashboard, on your laptop, everywhere you will see them throughout the day.  If you don’t write them down, they will be jumbled up in your head with the other 15,000 thoughts that you have each day.

3. Visualize what you want.  Picture how you want your life to look a year from now.  Include your business, personal, family and financial goals.  When you visualize the outcome, your goals become clearer and easier to focus on.  Many athletes use this technique to improve their skills.  Kickers visualize the ball going through the middle of the uprights for a field goal, unfortunately, these kickers do not play for the Bears!

4. Commit to each goal and know its purpose.  Make sure you know why you want to achieve your goal and then make sure you are committed to achieving it. Write down why it is important to you and what impact it will have on your life.  Don’t write it down unless you are fully committed to it, otherwise, it will just nag at you all year and create negative energy and take you away from other goals.

5.  Make your goals SMART.
Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-bound

6. Create a plan of action.  Perhaps your goal is rather large and you need to break it down into smaller steps.  Or maybe there are a lot of little parts that make up your goal.  Create an action plan and check in with it on a regular basis to make sure that you are on track.  Review your goals throughout the year to make sure they are still relevant and make adjustments when necessary.

7.  Accountability.  Tell people about your goals.  Tell your friends, family, co-workers – this makes the goal more real and not as easy to back out of.  Then talk about it with them regularly.  Better yet, get an accountability partner, we do that!  We have several clients that we meet with weekly to go over their goals, set up a weekly action plan, review their weekly progress and help them to reach the next level.  It’s a quick 15 to 30-minute call each week, but it really helps keep you focused and moving forward.

8.  STOP Multitasking!    I mean it, stop watching tv, checking your phone, cooking dinner while you are reading this!   When you multi-task you are splitting your focus over several different tasks, causing you to lose focus and lowering the quality of your work.  It also takes longer to finish each separate task. So stop!  Learn to delegate.  Better yet, call us to help you offload some of your mundane tasks.

Including:
Business Development services such as Business Model Review and Business Coaching
Event and schedule management
Presentation design
Administrative services
Newsletter writing
Blog writing and editing
Inbox maintenance
Calendar maintenance and scheduling
Answering your phone

So what are you waiting for?  Go get a pen, paper, and your phone.  Write down at least 4 goals for next year and then pick up the phone to call us at 630.858.5483 to see how we can help you.  Good Luck!

Overwhelmed? Are you at the end of “Do It Yourself”?

team work and support

Overwhelmed?  Are you at the end of ‘Do it Yourself’? 

3 Reasons to Get Help with your Business

 

Do you ever feel like you must be an expert at every aspect of your business?

Do you ever postpone tasks because you’d rather poke your eyes out than do them?

Do you find yourself taking way too much time to complete a task?

If you’ve ever felt any of the above, here are 3 reasons why it’s truly a great idea to find someone else to help you:

  • complete tasks that are outside your area of expertise
  • complete tasks that you avoid
  • complete tasks that take too much of your time.
  1. Increased Productivity – Let’s face it.  All of us have skills that we’re good at and some that we clearly are not.  While it is admirable to keep improving our skill sets, we do NOT have to be good at every aspect of our business.   Trying to do it all is unrealistic and time consuming and may get in the way of addressing your real priorities and goals.   Wouldn’t it be a relief to focus your time doing what you’re good at?  When you hand off tasks (accounting, invoicing, social media, email management, PowerPoint development, editing, call management), you can be supported in ways that allow you to dedicate your time and energy on what will advance your life or business in the direction of your goals.
  1. Increased Satisfaction – When you spend time doing tasks you’re good at, your enjoyment escalates.  That’s it!  If you’re the creative one, the networker, the planner, for example, getting help “packaging, fine tuning, or finishing” the materials frees you to enjoy the creative process but not the details.  Imagine having the ideas about your work but giving them to someone else to complete and polish.  Working with a staff gives you the joy of know that you can spend time doing what you love.
  1. Decreased Pressure – When you get rid of the expectation that you should be able to do it all, the result is so freeing! You don’t have to know all the details of Excel, QuickBooks, social media, PowerPoint, Adobe, Word, etc.  With someone else tracking and organizing your email, for example, a heavy task is lifted from your shoulders.  It’s still getting done, but you’re not the one tied to it.  You’re free to generate more ideas, more networking, more income, and more accomplishments in both your personal and business life—all of this with a feeling of being supported.

If you’d like to experience more productivity, more satisfaction and less pressure in your day-to-day life, please contact us.  We’ll help you figure out where you may be spinning your wheels trying to do it all, and together, we can help you focus on leveraging your time and unique super powers to grow your business.

 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Without Decent Healthcare!

The 2018 Open Enrollment Period to purchase healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. This is a month and a half less time than was given to sign up in 2016 for 2017 coverage.

If you are:

  • Self-employed
  • Work for a company that does not offer healthcare
  • Unemployed and your COBRA is expiring
  • Underemployed, part-time and have family responsibilities

You may find it more difficult to find information this year because the advertising budget has been cut 90% (from $100 million in 2016 to $10 million). Help with enrollment will also be more difficult this year because funding to grass-roots navigators that assist with signing up was reduced by 40%. Another move by the Trump administration will take the enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, offline for what may be 12 hours, for maintenance every Sunday during the open enrollment period. These cutbacks combined with the shorter enrollment period mean there is less time to ponder your choices and less help to navigate, what many consider, a cumbersome process.

As the economy of the U.S. evolves to include work that is contract labor, start-up entrepreneurs, and small employer service businesses, it can seem that having health insurance is an expensive option that can be put off until you are older. Statistically this choice might seem a safe one to make until your career stabilizes and you are earning more, or you have family responsibilities.

If you have read this far chances are you have more than a passing interest in the topic and I would ask you to consider the following:

  • The current political climate is one in which there is a real chance that pre-existing health conditions will allow insurance companies to require underwriter approval (i.e. charge significantly higher premiums or decide you are uninsurable) anytime in the future. The term “pre-existing” means an illness or injury the insurer randomly decides is connected to a diagnosis. In the future, this could allow the insurer to require underwriting to assess the risk and their willingness to insure.
  • Examples of pre-existing can be as simple as you being treated for an STD like HPV that makes you uninsurable for some forms of cancer 5 or 10 years from now. Or, if you see a doctor for anxiety, you could be labeled pre-existing and unable to get coverage for a heart condition when you are older. Removing a suspect mole could mean you cannot get coverage for skin cancer, etc.
  • Many but not all current legislative initiatives have included a provision that require continuity of insurance coverage to prevent this type of discrimination.

If you are interested in learning more or getting help finding an insurer or policy we can help.

Call us now at 630.858.5483.

3 Reasons To Be Afraid of Being an Entrepreneur

Do you ever feel that it’s scary to be out in the business world alone?  What is it that is bringing that fear about?  Is it the fear of failure, because you are now an entrepreneur and if you fail you are the only one to blame?  Is it the fear of being successful?  Are you afraid if you succeed that you might become alienated from your current peer group?  Is it the fear of being a sole proprietor or entrepreneur and knowing that every task is ultimately your responsibility?  Or is it even scarier  to think that you have put your blood, sweat and tears into your business and the thought of turning any part of it over to someone else would just be a nightmare????

Here is what you should be afraid of:

  1. Losing sight of what matters. Think about it…..why did you start your own business to begin with? The most common response people have is, so they don’t have to work for someone else.   You probably were drawn to the thought of having the freedom to make your own schedule.  But if you are like many entrepreneurs, doing it on their own, how much free time do you really have?  Are you working on your business during the day and then in your business all night, while your family is involved with other things and you are sitting at your desk alone trying to figure out how to tweet your latest update?

 

  1. Losing money . As an entrepreneur you might be afraid of losing money by having someone else do a simple task that clearly you can do on your own.  Why should you pay an assistant to keep your schedule, prepare your documents or reply to basic emails when you can spend 2 – 3 hours a day doing it yourself?  Do you know that by doing the ‘basics’ yourself, you are losing even more money than you would if you had to pay someone else to do it?  How?  Because you could be spending your time more wisely.  You could be out networking, meeting with new clients or performing your real work without worrying about the little things.  Every minute that you spend on a task you can easily delegate to a capable virtual assistant is a minute that you are not building the successful business you started out to build.

 

  1. Wasting Time.  You might find as a new business owner, that it is even harder to manage your work life balance in the beginning.  You no longer have a boss or imposed deadlines, you are truly on your own.  That is probably the best and worst part of being an entrepreneur.  You have no one to report to and no one to keep you on task.  One of the best ways to overcome this is to find an accountability partner, someone that you check in with either weekly or bi-weekly to make sure that you are making the progress you desire.

 

Here at Just In Time Direction we can help with all of these scary issues.  We offer time management assistance, newsletter, blogs and social networking help, and business plans with weekly follow up.  Call us today to schedule a free consultation, don’t be afraid, we don’t bite.

Are High Deductibles Really About Patients Having “Skin in the Game”?

Each year more of us, the insured population, are being rolled into health insurance plans with high deductibles. As a technical matter a high deductible health plan (HDHP) is one with an individual deductible of at least $1300 and at least $2600 for a family.

The reason for high deductibles that is most often given, is consumers (patients) need to have an incentive to not over use health care services. While there may be a certain small sub-set of the insured population that might use these services in a wasteful manner the simple truth is that most people are healthy most of the time. About 50% of the health care spending in a given year, for people under 65, is attributed to just 5% of the non-elderly population. At the other end of the spectrum, 15 percent of the population recorded no spending whatsoever in the year, and the half of the population with the lowest spending accounted for just 3 percent of total spending.

My experience using the healthcare system support these figures. We know preventative care is cheaper in the long run than allowing a condition to fester and manifest into a full blown acute or chronic condition. These expenditures are preventative and discretionary. My major expenditures have been surgeries and treatments that were completely non-discretionary so the presence and size of the deductible and out-of-pocket never entered my decision-making process – I simply had no other choice.

If 20 million more people now have health insurance as a result of the ACA and most people still get their health insurance through an employer why have high deductibles become so increasingly common for both individual and group policies?

The short answer is that health insurance is a business that exists to make money for the stake-holders. These businesses are not very transparent. The obligations of both parties are governed by impenetrable legal language in policy contracts that are written by the legal department of the insurers. The insured seldom have legal advice to help them understand the coverage, conditions and limitations. They often learn what the fine print says after the fact.

Most people believe their insurance is there to help them when they get sick and that their insurer spreads their risk across all their policy holders. This concept of sharing the cost of care for the sick across a broader group is known as risk pooling. The majority of healthy people pay for the few sick ones. Segmenting risk pools has the opposite effect. It saves money for the currently health part of the group while increasing costs for those with health problems.

We’re all small business owners trying to figure out how this works and where things are going. If you have questions or want to discuss please give us a call.

Next time I will go into more depth about policy terms that sound innocuous and are means to segment risk pools and make for money for the insurer.