Consumer Affairs Department


Many large corporations operate consumer affairs departments, often placing a vice president in charge. These centralized departments normally handle consumer inquiries and complaints about a company’s products and services, particularly in cases where a customer has not been able to resolve differences with local retailers. Some companies have installed consumer hot lines for dissatisfied customers to place telephone calls directly to the manufacturer.

Many companies now communicate with their customers and other interested persons through Websites on the Internet. Some sites are interactive, allowing customers to post comments or questions that are answered via e-mail by customer relations staff.

Experienced companies are aware that consumer complaints and concerns can be handled more quickly, at lower cost, and with less risk of losing goodwill by a consumer affairs department than if customers take a legal route or if their complaints receive wide-spread media publicity.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Economies of Scale


You get economies of scale when the unit cost falls as the number of units made increases. There are three reasons for the lower unit costs:

  • Fixed costs are spread over a larger number of units;
  • You can use more efficient processes, perhaps including more automation;
  • More experience with the product raises efficiency.

Economies of scale encourage you to concentrate operations and make as many units as possible in the same facilities. Another benefit from larger operations comes from the ‘learning curve.’ The more often you repeat something, the easier it becomes.

Obviously, you can’t expand facilities for ever, and there is no point in having more capacity than likely demand. More realistically, if you expand beyond a certain size the organization gets too complex – making communications, support functions and management more difficult. Beyond this point you get dis-economies of scale. You can see these in many large organizations, such as governments, which aim for the efficiencies that come from centralization, but actually get bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Creativogenic Management Style


Management style can both impede innovations and facilitate them. The old firms—once dynamic and vibrant—today fail in terms of deficient management style and resulting ineffective culture and structure. Such firms are managed on machinistic lines, with strong belief in centralization and extreme specialization of functions. This means that coordination of interdepartmental activities is done mainly by the head of the concern. Strong departmental loyalties bred by lifelong career paths only within the functional department make interdepartmental collaboration very easy. Information flows mainly vertically rather than also diagnolly and horizontally. A strong hieracrch-bound operating culture saps initiative at lower levels. An organic mode of management is much more suitable in technological change-driven turbulent markets like electronics. In this mode, solving technical problems is the priority, not maintaining functional turfs, and so decisions emerge through interactions rather than being made by the formally designated bosses. Also, the expert in the situation—who could be quite a junior fellow—calls the shots rather than the formal boss. People interact disregarding departmental boundaries, picking brains and sharing information, and most decisions are taken—or rather, emerge—at middle and lower levels of management. Thus, a fluid, boundaryless, highly interactive, expertise-based management is more suitable for managing technological innovations than a mechanistic, bureaucratic, semi-feudal form.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Tall or Flat Organizations


“Tall” organization structures are characterized by more levels of managers and supervisors than are comparably sized organizations having “flat” structures. The spans of authority are narrower in tall structures than a flat ones. From the organization’s point of view, tall structures provide more control and direction than do flat ones; from the employee’s point of view, they are more restrictive and offer fewer opportuities to make decisions and exert initiative. The organizations make it possible for managers to keep in touch with their area and people more closely, because they have fewer subordinates and a narrower area to supervise. Centralized or decentralized structures also influence the degree of freedom the managers and employees have in various organizational divisions.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Planning Process


There is nothing mysterious about the planning process, since planning is something we all do everyday, often without even knowing it. The planning process parallels the decision-making process; this makes sense, since developing plans involves deciding today what you’ll do tomorrow. Both involve establishing objectives on criteria, developing and analyzing alternatives based on information you obtain, evaluating the alternatives, and then making a choice.

The planning process is basically the same when managers plan for their companies, but there are two added complications. First, there’s usually a hierarchical aspect to management planning. Top manager approves a long-term plan first; then each department creates its own budgets and other plans to show how it will contribute to the company’s long-term plan.

Second—and especially in big companies—the planning process may be quite formal and involve much interaction and give-and-take between departments and a group we might call “corporate central.” In other words, in many firms plans are bounced back and forth between the departments and a centralized planning staff, whose main purpose is to review and help define the plans of each department.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Changing Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight