Converting Needs to Wants


Every consumer must acquire goods and services on a continuing basis to fill certain needs. Everyone must satisfy the fundamental needs for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation by purchasing things or, in some instances, temporarily using rented property and hired or leased transportation. By focusing on the benefits resulting from these goods and services, effective marketing converts needs to wants. A need for clothing may be translated into a desire (or want)  for designer clothes.

As easier-to-use software has enabled millions of nontechnical consumers to operate personal computers and as falling retail make these computers affordable to most households, computers have become fixtures in many offices and homes.

Companies that adopt the marketing concept focus on providing solutions to consumer problems. They promote product benefits rather than features to show the added value that computers will receive from the product.

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.

 

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Standard versus Custom Manufacture


A firm that produces items according to its own specifications performs standard manufacture. A firm that produces items to a customer’s specifications is doing custom manufacture. Standard manufacture is more common and includes almost all consumer products from breakfast cereals to cars. Examples of custom manufactured items are specialized machine tools, some vans and made-to-order clothing.

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.

 

Service Quality and Employee Behavior


Customers’ perceptions of service quality will be impacted by the customer-oriented behaviors of employees. In fact, the five dimensions of service quality—reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibles—can be influenced directly by service employees.

Delivering the service as promised—reliability—is often totally within the control of front-line employees. Even in the case of automated services—such as ATMs, automated ticketing machines, or self-serve and pay gasoline pumps—behind the scenes employees are critical for making sure all of the systems are working properly. When services fail or errors are made, employees are essential for setting things right and using their judgment to determine the best course of action for service recovery.

Front-line employees directly influence customer perceptions of responsiveness through their personal willingness to help and their promptness in serving customers. Consider the range of responses you receive from different retail store clerks when you need help finding a particular item of clothing. One employee may ignore your presence, whereas another offers to help you search and calls other stores to locate the item. One may help you immediately and efficiently, whereas another may move slowly in accommodating even the simplest request.

The assurance dimension of service quality is highly dependent on employees’ ability to communicate their credibility and to inspire trust and confidence. The reputation of the organization will help, but in the end, individual employees with whom the customer interacts confirm and build trust in the organization or detract from its reputation and ultimately destroy trust. For startup or relatively unknown organizations, credibility, trust, and confidence will be tied totally to employee actions.

It is difficult to imagine how an organization would deliver “caring, individualized attention” to customers independent of its employees. Empathy implies that employees will pay attention, listen, adapt, and be flexible in delivering what individual customers need. For example, research documents that when employees are customer-oriented, have good rapport with customers, and exhibit perceptive and attentive listening skills, customers will evaluate the service more highly and be more likely to return. Employee appearance and dress are important aspects of the tangibles dimension of quality, along with many other factors that are independent of service employees (the service facility, décor, brochures, signage, and so on).

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.

Intellectual Property


The most valuable resource in the modern economy is the human mind. The ideas, concepts, and other symbolic creations of the human mind are referred to as intellectual property. Intellectual property is protected through a number of special laws and public policies including copyright, patent, and trademark laws. These laws rest on two essential premises:

  • The creator, be it a person or an organization, of an idea or invention should be entitled to the benefits that flow from that original creation if it can be proved that the creation came from that person or organization.
  • The right to get special economic advantage from such inventions should not exist forever. At some point, ideas enter the public domain and can be used by others.

In today’s global economy, many temptations can arise for businesses and individuals to use other people’s ideas without permission. Patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property are sometimes infringed, or wrongfully used, by those who see an opportunity for quick profit, a practice known as commercial piracy.

A great deal of pirating occurs in industries such as computer software and hardware, industrial machinery, printing and publishing, and designer clothing. Because some governments do not curb such practices, businesses that create ideas are injured.

In coming decades, many new ideas will be developed and commercially exploited in such fields as bioengineering, computer software, fiber optics, and medicine, to name a few. In a global economy, these forms of intellectual property are economically valuable. A society that is scientifically and artistically creative has a big stake in laws that protect the companies that create new ideas. The employees who work for those companies have an important stake in the fair use of intellectual property, as do customers who license the technology or buy the products. A growing challenge for public policy and international trade negotiations is how to coordinate national laws protecting intellectual property rights.

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.

The Product Life Cycle


Customer demands are constantly changing. There are many reasons for this, ranging from fashions to new regulations. Sometimes there are obvious patterns to demand. Another pattern comes from the product’s life cycle. Demand for just about every product follows a life cycle with five stages:

  1. Introduction. A new product appears and demand is low while people learn about it, try it and see if they like it—for example, palmtop computers and automated checkouts at supermarkets.
  2. Growth. New customers buy the product and demand rises quickly—for example, telephone banking and mobile phones.
  3. Maturity. Demand stabilizes when most people know about the product and are buying it in steady numbers—for example, color television sets and insurance.
  4. Decline. Sales fall as customers start buying new, alternative products—for example, tobacco and milk deliveries.
  5. Withdrawal. Demand declines to the point where it is no longer worth making the product—for example, black and white television sets and telegrams.

The length of the life cycle varies quite widely. Each edition of The Guardian completes its life cycle in a few hours; clothing fashions last months or even weeks; the life cycle of washing machines is several years; some basic commodities like Nescafe has stayed in the mature stage for decades.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable guidelines for the length of a cycle. Some products have an unexpectedly short life and disappear very quickly. Some products, like full cream milk stayed at the mature stage for years and then started to decline. Even similar products can have different life cycles – with Ford replacing small car models after 12 years and Honda replacing them after seven years. Some products appear to decline and then grow again—such as passenger train services which grew by 7 per cent in 1998 and cinemas where attendances fell from 1.64 billion in 1964 to 54 million in 1984, and then rose to 140 million in 1997.

One thing we can say is that product life cycles are generally getting shorter. Alvin Toffler says, ‘Fast-shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting with high-speed technological change, not only lead to frequent changes in the popularity of products and brands, but also shorten the life-cycle of products.’

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.

Problems of Conduct


In Japan’s early history, a serious disregard for manners could be punishable by death, and any samurai could kill any common person who failed to show him proper respect. The Japanese were required to behave in precisely prescribed ways—wearing permitted clothing, walking only a certain way, sleeping with their heads pointing in a certain direction and legs arranged a particular way. Eating, greeting, gesturing with hands, opening doors and many work tasks had to be done in assigned ways without deviation. Conduct became a measure of morality, and virtue in manners was visible for all to see. Even today, the code of conduct plays a significant role in the lives of the Japanese. Many societies, not Japan alone, have a prescribed form and manner for every familiar situation that might arise. Unforeseen situations can cause intense embarrassment or discomfort. Throughout East Asia, actions are judged by the manner in which they are performed. More important than the accomplishment of a task is the question of how someone went about trying to complete the task: Did he act sincerely? More important than winning the race is the grace of the runner. More important than expertise is the way one gets along with others. More important than profits is harmony. In contrast, Westerners and particularly Americans are more concerned with the principles of things, hard “measures” and objective facts. Although rules of ethics are extremely important, we are more goal oriented than method-conscious, we say “a good loser is a loser.”

One aspect of form is the concept of “face.” Much has been written about “face-saving” in Japan and China, but face-saving is important absolutely everywhere. The difference is only a matter of degree and nuance. Where an American might feel a little guilty or inadequate, an Asian, Arab or South American may feel deep shame and humiliation. What an American might see as a little honest and constructive criticism, the foreigner may take as a devastating blow to pride and dignity. A foreigner is likely to be sensitive to feelings of others in transactions that an American would consider strictly impersonal, such as returning a defective product or switching hairdressers. The traveler simply must be more conscious of saying things or behaving in ways that cannot be taken as disrespect, criticism or humiliation. In some countries it seems just about anything can be taken personally, even such indirect affronts as not taking your shoes off in a mosque or complaining about the heat.

Harmony with the environment can be as important as sensitivity to people in some cultures. In Japan a woman wears a soft pastel dress to a flower show so as not to take away from the beauty of the flowers. In countries where people believe in reincarnation they are careful about all forms of life. In India, for example, people are careful not to swallow gnats or step on ants—one might be a relative.

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, Lectures, Line of Sight.

Disambiguating Cash Budget


Most people plan expenditures for food, clothing, and other needs on the basis of expected income. Along with these short-term plans, many individuals and families use income estimates to plan for long-term activities, such as college expenses, the purchase of a house or car. This process of planning for the financial needs of the future is called budgeting. A budget, whether formal or informal, is a plan for utilization of anticipated resources.

The budget of a business serves much the same function as an individual or family budget. Like a personal or family budget, a business budget plans the expenditure of anticipated funds for immediate and long-term goals.

One budget common to both large and small businesses is called the cash budget. The cash budget is a detailed plan showing how cash resources will be acquired and used over a specific time period. For many companies, this time period is monthly for the first three months of the budget period, then quarterly for the remainder of the year. A typical cash budget is composed of four major sections:

  1. The receipts section. This section consists of the sum of the opening cash balance and estimated cash receipts for the budget period. For many firms, the major source of cash receipts is sales.
  2. The disbursement section. This section consists of all estimated cash payments for the budget period. Examples are payments for labor and materials, taxes, equipment purchases, and advertising.
  3. The cash excess or cash deficiency section. The entries in this section represent the difference between the totals of the receipts section and the disbursements section. If receipts are greater than disbursements, there is an excess of cash. If receipts are less than disbursements, there is a cash deficiency.
  4. The financing section. This section gives an account of any borrowing or loan repayments projected to take place during the budget period.

While the cash budget is useful to all companies, it is especially helpful to small firms because management can exercise more control in matching income with disbursements, in negotiating loans with the most favorable interest rates and terms, and in planning investments when there is an excess of cash.

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 contact www.asifjmir.com