The Joy Of HP Technical Support

Why do so many IT companies get the basics of customer service wrong?

I have been buying HP gear for a long time.  I have always found it to be expensive (well not cheap) but reliable and robust.

Recently an HP desktop PC refused to start up.  I rang technical support as the machine was still under warranty.  I had to pay for the privilege.

They told me that the warranty had lapsed – even though I had bought the machine less than a year ago.  They explained that they look at date of manufacture not date of purchase, but if I faxed them prove of purchase they would honour the warranty.

You try finding a fax machine when you need one!

They then accepted my warranty claim and sent me a series of troubleshooting things to try:

– unplug the power cable

– open the access panel

– Clearing the CMOS (Remove the silver colored CMOS Battery for 10 seconds and reseat the battery or hold the yellow button next to the memory modules for 10 seconds)

– Without connecting the power cable press and hold the power button for 10 seconds

– Power on the system and check if it boots to bios by pressing F10 on startup

Did all that and got no joy so rang them again.  I received the following e-mail:

Disconnect HDD and OPTICAL Drives

Strip the system to PSU, System Board, Memory and Processor

Remove the Memory and check for Beep Codes (Note the no. of beeps)

Reseat / Swap Memory / Try 1 Memory Module at a time Reseat Processor

Reseat Power Connector on the System Board

Now excuse me – but I am a businessman who bought an HP PC to run a business (perhaps this was my first mistake?).  I am not a PC engineer.

I don’t know how to do the things they have asked me to do.

I don’t have time to do the things they have asked me to do.

I just want to run my business.

Am I being unreasonable in asking them to repair my machine?

The thing that finally hacked me off was this:
In case we dont hear from you in next two days, we will conclude that you are not having any further issues with that system, and will close the case.

UNBELIEVABLE!

If they don’t hear from me they will assume that all is well!

Any suggestions about what I should do next?

Business Advice NVQs

I have just been reviewing the business support NVQs – which I contributed significantly to back in the late 90s I guess.  I was thrilled to see that the standards still refer to:

The principles and practice of different modes of consulting (for example, acceptant, catalytic, confrontational and prescriptive).

I am still teaching these four styles of client centred consulting – and my guess is that very few advisers, coaches or other enterprise professionals (other than those I have taught) actually know what they are!

Perhaps I am wrong….

If you wnat to learn more about these four ways of working with cleints – either get in touch or come along to An Introduction to Enterprise Coaching – held in London on March 6th or in Leeds on March 18th.

I have been using these four styles as a core part of my practice for over 20 years – and I continue to be amazed at their power to transform.

Getting the right enterprise clients

I recently received an e-mail from a friend and customer of mine who is managing a size-able enteprise project:

“Mike

I am using the training that me and the team have had from you to inform a business plan.

We are identifying an issue with people coming to us wanting funding for safety passports, fork lift truck licences etc. We are letting them apply straight away, but then they go away and we don’t hear from them again. 

To ensure we have more impact and build the relationship I’m going to look at solutions like using a minimum number of outreach sessions before unlocking other opportunities e.g. funding.  Where we have a relationship with the client we find out more about them, including often that they don’t really want what they are asking for in the first instance and rather something else, or that there are bigger issues holding them back. Also this process can weed out those people who can really afford to pay for training themselves – if we pay for them we are changing nothing about them or the world.

I don’t want to go down the Jobcentre route of the client having to be out of work and desperate for at least 6 months or 3 months to access any support but I think if word gets round you have funding then you get overrun with people, not all of whom have many barriers, which is what we’re finding.

I think this sends me back to thinking about who and how we really want to help and work with and to what end.  I think a lot of it is in the contracting that you describe in the Enterprise Coaching cycle.  Having the opportunity to build rapport with the client and really set out what you are both bringing to that relationship.

Yours…”

This outlines a number of challenges that are faced by enterprise support projects – which few have the courage to tackle head on – because it might make “the numbers” look worse.

As soon as you start to offer funding or direct opportunities to people, you start to attract a lot of the wrong kind of client.  Well, perhaps the right kind of client – but with the wrong motivation – and with a fundamental  misunderstanding of the power and potential of  your offer to them.  People motivated by a desire for handouts or quick fixes, rather than those that really want to work towards long term and sustainable progress.

You really want to ONLY attract people who come to you because you can help them by being kind, compassionate, caring, supportive and challenging.  ie the ONLY thing you offer is life changing transformational coaching

All the other transactional stuff (skills, money, training, premises etc) is available elsewhere in the system. Our job is to build the desire/commitment/hunger to help people to use it. 

I don’t think the answer is to delay helping people to access what they think they want.  Although we should know that most of our clients will initially present us with what I call ‘A BIG LIE’.  Very few clients will present us with their truths until we have earned their trust and repsect. 

They nearly all tell us a big, fat, safe lie to begin with. 

The answer is to help them to get some of that stuff (otherwise they will see us as useless and hard to work with) and challenge them as to what they REALLY want to do with it – and will it give them what they are looking for? 

This is all about being able to be acceptant and confrontational – which I also cover in the enterprise coaching training.

Could 121s be good for you too?

The modern world of virtual social networking and relationship through e-mail could be bad for your health.  And more face to face communication could be the antidote – according to Dr Aric Sigman writing in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology.

According to Dr Sigman we have NEVER spent less time in face to face commuication with other people, and this has a number of profound and dmaging consequences for our health.

Evidence suggests that a lack of face-to-face communication could alter the way genes work, upset immune responses, hormone levels, the function of arteries, and influence mental performance.

This could increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and dementia.

121s – good for you – good for your organisation!

The Advantage of Social Enterprise

Rob Greenland over at The Social Business has written a piece about how the ‘table’ that social enterprise has fought so hard to get a place at has collapsed.  I am assuming Rob means the table where policy is thrashed out and funds are allocated.

The high political table.

The table of the bureaucrats and the planners.

Rob’s analysis is that this table has collapsed.  They have no cash to spend since the bankers have grabbed it all.  So “What is a social entrepreneur meant to do now?” Rob asks.

Well I think the collapse of this table could be just the tonic that the social enterprise sector needs.

The sectors’ advantage is not in being a cheaper route to market for bureaucrats  – implementing their policies and plans (although this may be a legitimate benefit it CAN offer).  Its’ advantage lies in the ability of social entrepreneurs to tell stories of social change, social injustice and progress. In being able to attract, retain and develop talented and committed people who share in the vision and have the potential to manifest it.  In harnessing the potential of those affected by injustice and using it to drive progress.

So instead of trying to manoeuvre to catch the crumbs from the top table perhaps the sector should focus on sharpening vision, improving stories, and building a movement that people will want to join and work in because of its autonomy, independence and creativity; its ability to provide fulfillment and a decent wage – not because of the funding streams that it can secure (along with KPIs, evaluation frameworks and other game playing  inducements attendant with the mainstream).

When we are sat at the top table we have our backs to the real social enterprise marketplace.

Of course the sector needs to maintain good relationships with the ‘top table’.  It needs to influence, lobby, advise and occasionally disrupt.  If it can secure investment on its terms than so much the better.  But it needs to ensure that the money and power available does not corrupt – as it so often has.  That the pull of the cash does not lure us away from core purpose and beliefs.  That it does not allow us to kid ourselves that the latest funding stream to ‘do things to people’ might just work – this time – if we can only get our hands on the cash.  The social enteprise sector has to have the guts to be uncompromising on vision, values and beliefs.  It has to maintain integrity.

This requires the sector to develop an entreprenurial management and leadership culture.  A progressive mindset.  Progressive management.  Not Political.

The social entrepreneur needs to be comfortable and competent at managing and leading through vision, values, social goals and objectives and then relying on creativity and innovation to secure sustainable investments.  They must be obsessed with the social change they are trying to deliver and the recruitment and retention of a tribe of professionals and volunteers who can help.  Not with reading the political runes.  They need to promote change, not maintenance, autonomy not dependence (on the top or any other table), courage not conventionality.

The advantage of social enterprise is that it can be transformational.  People will join a transformational movement and bring to it their passion, creativity and hard work.  Turn it into another transactional part of the prevailing bureaucracy and this advantage will be lost.

And finally of course any organisation can be a social enterprise regardless of structure.  Many ‘for profits’ have learned how to create social change and a sustainable profit!

The Advantage of Social Enterprise

Rob Greenland over at The Social Business has written a piece about how the ‘table’ that social enterprise has fought so hard to get a place at has collapsed.  I am assuming Rob means the table where policy is thrashed out and funds are allocated.

The high political table.

The table of the bureaucrats and the planners.

Rob’s analysis is that this table has collapsed.  They have no cash to spend since the bankers have grabbed it all.  So “What is a social entrepreneur meant to do now?” Rob asks.

Well I think the collapse of this table could be just the tonic that the social enterprise sector needs.

The sectors’ advantage is not in being a cheaper route to market for bureaucrats  – implementing their policies and plans (although this may be a legitimate benefit it CAN offer).  Its’ advantage lies in the ability of social entrepreneurs to tell stories of social change, social injustice and progress. In being able to attract, retain and develop talented and committed people who share in the vision and have the potential to manifest it.  In harnessing the potential of those affected by injustice and using it to drive progress.

So instead of trying to manoeuvre to catch the crumbs from the top table perhaps the sector should focus on sharpening vision, improving stories, and building a movement that people will want to join and work in because of its autonomy, independence and creativity; its ability to provide fulfillment and a decent wage – not because of the funding streams that it can secure (along with KPIs, evaluation frameworks and other game playing  inducements attendant with the mainstream).

When we are sat at the top table we have our backs to the real social enterprise marketplace.

Of course the sector needs to maintain good relationships with the ‘top table’.  It needs to influence, lobby, advise and occasionally disrupt.  If it can secure investment on its terms than so much the better.  But it needs to ensure that the money and power available does not corrupt – as it so often has.  That the pull of the cash does not lure us away from core purpose and beliefs.  That it does not allow us to kid ourselves that the latest funding stream to ‘do things to people’ might just work – this time – if we can only get our hands on the cash.  The social enteprise sector has to have the guts to be uncompromising on vision, values and beliefs.  It has to maintain integrity.

This requires the sector to develop an entreprenurial management and leadership culture.  A progressive mindset.  Progressive management.  Not Political.

The social entrepreneur needs to be comfortable and competent at managing and leading through vision, values, social goals and objectives and then relying on creativity and innovation to secure sustainable investments.  They must be obsessed with the social change they are trying to deliver and the recruitment and retention of a tribe of professionals and volunteers who can help.  Not with reading the political runes.  They need to promote change, not maintenance, autonomy not dependence (on the top or any other table), courage not conventionality.

The advantage of social enterprise is that it can be transformational.  People will join a transformational movement and bring to it their passion, creativity and hard work.  Turn it into another transactional part of the prevailing bureaucracy and this advantage will be lost.

And finally of course any organisation can be a social enterprise regardless of structure.  Many ‘for profits’ have learned how to create social change and a sustainable profit!

Autofocus Time Management System

This looks like it might well be worth a try.  Upsides – simplicity, low cost. Potential downsides – not going to work well to develop ‘To Do’ lists for specific environments.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF1ngJAyD_s&eurl=http://www.markforster.net/autofocus-system/&feature=player_embedded]

Video is about 9 minutes and needs sound.

Or you can just check out the website – with some really simple getting started instructions here.

Building an Enterprise Culture – Laying the Foundations

  1. Projects designed to develop an enterprise culture should be owned and managed by the community itself.  A community that is coerced towards enterprise by outsiders is likely to resist.
  2. Change agents, coaches, advisers and others working in the community should be recruited, managed and introduced to the community – by the community.  They should not be missionaries parachuted in to win converts.
  3. Change is best effected through a series of 121 meetings, characterised by honesty and openness, where a professional, compassionate and caring coach works to ensure that the client takes control of their own enterprise agenda.  To ensure maximum take up and productivity of the service it should be free of charge for as long as it takes for the client to complete their journey and believe that that they no longer need the service.
  4. Community based enterprise coaches should not replicate existing services.  Instead they should signpost and brokers clients to existing services and help them to use them effectively.  Where necessary the coach may need to advise existing service providers on how best to effectively serve their clients.
  5. The community based enterprise coach or business adviser helps the client to develop their commitment, passion and skill to their own enterprise agenda – using the tools and techniques of personal development.   Their focus is primarily on the development of the person and secondarily on the development of their enterprise ideas.
  6. Community based business coaches and enterprise advisers need to be at the heart of a network, of social capital, that can provide advice, guidance and support as required by the coach and their clients.
  7. Community based business coaches and enterprise advisers work in response to the wants and desires of local people – not to the delivery of strategies, plans and opportunities developed by economic planners.  They do not motivate or initiate but work in response to the passion, interests and skills of local people.
  8. The enterprise project must take a broad definition of enterprise – helping local people to use enterprise skills to tackle problems and opportunities that face them.  Entrepreneurship may be on the agenda – but it should not be THE agenda.

Ten Steps to Better Management

Step 1: Clarify, negotiate, and commit to your role as manager.

  • Many management jobs will have changed priorities in response to the current economy.
  • Check with your manager that you are doing what is best for the organisation.
  • Check with your conscience that you are doing what is best for you and your team.
  • Check that you are prepared to do the work that will help others to be outstanding.

Step 2: Understand the results you are expected to produce.

  • If you are to be recognised as an outstanding manager you need to know what excellence looks like.
  • At the moment you might be expected to drive costs down while producing more value.
  • Watch out for mediocrity. Expect excellence. Don’t let the current climate be an excuse to cut corners.

Step 3: Know your business.

  • Know what excellence looks like. Recognise the behaviours and habits that lead to it.
  • Recognise behaviours and habits that undermine it.
  • Understand the metrics that are relevant to your part of the business. Use them to get better.
  • Understand what your organisation needs from you – now.

Step 4: Build a great team.

  • Recruit, develop and retain people who will take responsibility and work independently – within parameters agreed with you!
  • To make sure you retain your best staff in difficult times talk to them – give them control – give them the chance to shape the organisation and their future in it.
  • Build a team that you can lead – not a flock that you have to herd.

Step 5: Ensure your team knows what excellence looks like.

  • Feedback, feedback, feedback.
  • Coach, coach, coach
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate
  • If you are not sure what constitutes excellence in your business – FIND OUT QUICKLY!

Step 6: Plan – with flexibility.

  • Review and revise plans on a weekly basis.
  • Expect progress on a weekly basis.
  • 121s are ideal for this.

Step 7: Get out of their way.

  • Help them to do great work.
  • Listen to them.
  • Understand what stops them from being great.
  • Get barriers out of their way.

Step 8: Be engaging.

  • Be positive and constructive.
  • Smile a lot.
  • Be energetic and hopeful.

Step 9: Proactively manage progress.

  • While change IS inevitable – progress is not.
  • Make sure that everyone knows what constitutes progress and has their own plan to make it.

Step 10: Leave a legacy: develop people and the organisation’s capacity to produce results.

  • better meetings
  • more focus
  • more knowledge and skills
  • more professionalism
  • better execution
  • higher standards

This post was inspired by Lisa Haneberg over at Management Craft.

Managing for an Entrepreneurial Culture

Organisations fall somewhere on the spectrum between bureaucratic and entrepreneurial.

The bureaucratic end of the spectrum is characterised by control, compliance and dependence.  Dependence on the boss to come up with the right plan at the right time. In the bureaucracy we do as we are told.  In the bureaucracy advancement comes from compliance and avoiding failure.

The entrepreneurial end is characterised by influence, innovation and autonomy.  Relationships are used to broker agreements about what the priorities are rather than waiting for top brass to decide.  Decision making is a much more even split between the front-line and management.  It is real-time rather than locked into a plan.  Advancement comes from understanding context and making the right calls for the business – not from playing it safe.

For me, 121s are all about shifting towards a more entrepreneurial organisational culture.  Where everyone is forced to think every week – “what are the priorities?”, “how do I feel about them” and “what support do I need to deliver on the things that really matter for the business”.

These are great questions to help people to stay in touch with what they are all about – and how that fits with the organisation and its mission.  And employees who are in touch with these things are likely to bring passion, creativity, energy and commitment to the workplace.