Weekly Update #2: Firsts Steps

by Haider on September 10, 2009 · 4 comments

in Professional

Last week was a very eventful week, with a lot of lessons learned and a few slaps in the face from good ol’ reality!

In this week’s (albeit late) update, I’ll give snippets of my plan for each project I’ve committed myself to and what lessons I’ve learned from last week’s events.

Spa Business

So far, the only established business I’m involved in is the Spa Business, which I’m working with my sister on. Our aim is to focus on offering quality service, and helping other spas establish quality standards to improve customer experience and to enhance their business.

I learned three key lessons from last week’s activities:

1) Have your agreements in writing: You never know to what extent people are committed to their verbal agreements. They might seem very enthusiastic about doing business with you, and you end up taking steps towards fulfilling your part of the bargain, only to realize that they weren’t serious, they changed their minds or they had financial difficulties they thought would go away if they didn’t bring them up.

2) Never assume: As the famous saying goes: “Assumption is the mother of all ’screw’ ups.” (yes, I toned it down a tad)

You can assume you understood people correctly or they understood you correctly. You can assume a process is going to be simple, but ends up taking longer than expected. Of course, there are things you can never know beforehand, but many, many problems in life can be avoided if we stop assuming. If you’ve heard (or used) the expression: “but I thought…” then you know what it means to face a problem that could’ve been avoided if you hadn’t “thought” (i.e. assumed) something without getting confirmation first.

3) Make sure there’s no red tape: My sister has come up with some great ideas for our business. But when we tried to execute them, some silly policies got in the way that we didn’t anticipate. It’s always important to know what’s legally required (or permitted) when it comes to doing anything in your business.

We were on the verge of recruiting a therapist from abroad, but after reaching an agreement with her, it turns out that new work visas aren’t being issued at the moment in Kuwait. Although it’s very difficult to anticipate such restrictions, it’s important to at least be aware of potential red tape to avoid these hurdles.

Customer Experience Consultancy

Customer experience is a fairly new field, and not a lot of companies have heard about the field, or consider it important for their business. After all, they already have a customer service department, so that should do the job (or so they think). To convince companies that they need a customer experience consultant, I need to prove the need for them to focus on customer experience and that I am actually able to help them realize the benefits a customer-centric approach will bring.

Since I don’t have any credentials in this field, I decided to contact companies I’ve dealt with before, or employees I know that can convince management that I can be a valuable asset to their company. I’ve already had a meeting with one company, and I managed to get my foot in the door. I will now have to follow up with them, and be more proactive in establishing a working agreement. The manager I spoke to saw the potential in what I was offering, but still wasn’t clear on how we can work together. This is something I need to clarify in the next meeting.

I have also been advised by my friend Robert Matney to set up a blog to establish my expertise in this field. When I asked Jonathan Fields for advice, he reiterated Robert’s suggestion, and stressed on the importance of being a “thought leader” in the field we pursue (to all twitter users: when Jonathan asks “who he can help today?” take him up on his offer. He actually means it!)

The main lessons I learned from this project are:

1) Be proactive and take initiative: No matter how useful your services can be to a company, don’t rely on them to take initiative. If you want to move your career forward, it’s your responsibility to take action. Find out what obstacles you’re facing in reaching your goals and look for ways to overcome them.

2) Be clear on what you’re offering: Although the company I spoke to understood the importance of customer experience, they weren’t clear on how I’m going to help them with that, and what specific services I’m offering. I didn’t go down to that level in the meeting and, to be honest, I wasn’t too clear about that myself. Not because I don’t know how I will help them, but I don’t know how to structure my explanation. It’s not something I’ve thought through completely. For me to move my agreement with this company forward, and to be able to achieve more success with other companies, I need to be able to give as much detail as is required by the company. They have to be clear on what working with me will look like, so they can get a better picture of what they’re getting themselves into and what to expect as a result.

3) Have confidence in your ability to offer value: The thought of: “how can I convince companies to work with me when I don’t have the credentials?” keeps popping to mind, but I have to remind myself that, regardless of my credentials, I’m able to offer value. I just need to figure out how to prove this to the companies I wish to work with.

Personal Growth Map

I’m working on several fronts within my Personal Growth Map project: redesigning the site, adding new site features, writing reports, writing posts, marketing and coming up with a strategy to manage all these activities at the same time.

I decided to outsource the site redesign, and I’m currently looking for a designer. This has been my main focus last week, because I’d like to re-launch the site and want to mark the event with a new look. :)

I had several blog posts I wanted to write, but didn’t end up finishing. And this is where I learned quite a few lessons about getting my writing done:

1) Acknowledge the feeling that’s holding you back: The main reason why I would stop writing a post, or slow down at least, is a feeling that there’s something wrong with publishing the post. When I don’t resolve the feeling, I usually don’t end up publishing. The feeling can be that I haven’t done enough research, or I need to write another post to give the post I’m working on some background information to link to.

A common thought I get is: How will my readers use this article now, and will it benefit them in the long run?

I’m convinced that a lot of what we read – no matter how great it is – doesn’t end up producing results for us, because we haven’t created systems in our lives to be able to effectively act on the information we receive. If you don’t have a list of “writing guidelines” you refer to every time you write, there’s a possibility that you’ll forget the writing tips you read, even if they can take your writing to the next level. It’s impossible for me to complete an article if I feel that I’m not helping my readers integrate its message effectively into their lives.

This is a feeling I need to acknowledge and respond to be able to get back to writing. It can be by preparing a longer article on how we can process information more effectively, or to accept that I can still write my blog posts on a regular basis, while working on the longer articles in the background. But if I don’t acknowledge the feeling that’s holding me back, I won’t get any writing done.

2) Decide which article to publish next: Working on more than one article at the same time can blur the decision of which article to focus on and publish next. This leads to many, many draft articles, without any newly published material! So, deciding which article to publish next is extremely important to actually complete the articles I’m writing.

3) Stop editing yourself while writing: This is a great tip I learned from Ayn Rand’s fantastic book on writing: The Art of Nonfiction. If we edit ourselves while writing, we won’t be able to get our creative juices flowing, and will continue to stare at a blank page (or screen). I didn’t notice that I was actually editing myself until I realized that I’m not writing, and the screen is still blank! I wasn’t allowing my writing to flow because I was editing my thoughts before they could see the light of day.

4) You don’t have to complete an article in a single sitting: This is a crucial point to bear in mind. Dr Fiore in his wonderful book (The Now Habit) points out that a major reason for procrastination is our obsession to finish projects, rather than starting them. When you have only an hour to spare, you might avoid writing an article, because you know you’ll need at least 2 hours to complete it. But you can finish half the article in that hour and complete it in another hour. Obsessing over completing work means we overlook the opportunities to make small dents in a project in the short periods of time available to us throughout our days.

5) Become a prolific writer: I’m convinced, more than ever, that I need to make it my goal to become a prolific writer. This means that I should feel comfortable writing a lot, without editing myself or worrying about getting it perfect. I need to work on improving my typing speed and to write whenever and wherever I can. I have a lot to say, and by becoming a prolific writer, I’ll be able to write a lot more, without facing so many obstacles. Writing will become a natural habit, which can support me in getting my writing projects underway.

Online Shopping Site

I’ve completely neglected this project last week, which was bad of me. To say that I didn’t have time to work on it would be a big, fat lie. I had plenty of time. I just didn’t use it well.

I’ll be moving this project forward this week, so I’ll have a decent progress update by next week!

Even though I didn’t work on this project, I still learned an important lesson about getting it done. :)

1) Face your fears: I suspect the primary reason for why I didn’t work on this project is that it involves a software package I don’t have experience using. To get the project going, I need to get comfortable with the software, so the anxiety that can come with a new learning experience doesn’t prevent me from starting on the project.

Teaching/Training

I would like to teach a subject that is related to customer experience, user experience or web development. That way I’ll help move my other projects forward as well. I didn’t work on this project last week, but will need to write a cover letter to express my interest in these subjects, and to arrange to meet with course coordinators, so I can argue for the importance of these subjects, in case their not available within the teaching curriculum.

That’s all for now. You’ll hopefully be hearing from me before next week’s update! :D

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BloggyLife October 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I still wanna discuss the customer consultancy :P

You know the place Future in Al-Fanar, I once took my mother’s mobile that I bought from there because it had problems and it was under warranty. I didn’t like their service and they had this text service, so I txted a bad review. In a matter of minutes, someone called asked me about the service and I presented my complaint and he said he’ll get back to me and he did. They offered me a replacement until mine got fixed. Next mobile I got it from them.

Even restaurants, need to have customer experience, it’s not only about the food. I don’t go to certain places because the waiters are rude :P

Am I taking this too seriously, but I truly believe that good services always brings me back.

Regarding Spas, I love Spa Time, there place, seating, the whole process.

You know what service providers tend to forget, taking feedback and ideas from the customers themselves. Sometimes even if you are an expert in your field, you miss stuff end users tend to look for :)

Someone once said, when you “ASSUME”, you make an “ASS” out of “U” & “ME” :P I thought that was absolutely true ;P
BloggyLife´s last blog ..New School Year! My ComLuv Profile

2 Haider October 5, 2009 at 3:18 am

You can never take customer experience too seriously. It’s THAT serious!

I’m sure that’s where ASSUME came from. Sounds too true to overlook! :P

3 Robert Matney
Twitter: rmatney
October 13, 2009 at 3:26 am

You’ve got a good thing going here with this blog! I am looking forward to reading your posts. Also, I strongly agree that you cannot overemphasize the value of attentive human service. I believe it leads to better business as well as a more humane world.

4 Haider October 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Dear Robert,

Thank you very much for stopping by!

I think most companies don’t realize that they’re on a sacred mission to make the world a better. A lot of the agony we experience is the result of poor customer service, which leads to a lot of wasted time and effort (not to mention all kinds of negative emotions, like frustration, anger and psychopathic tendencies).

Hope you’ll enjoy the posts you read around here!

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