Bargaining Power of Suppliers


Increasing prices and reducing the quality of products sold are potential means through which suppliers can exert power over firms competing within an industry. If a firm is unable to recover cost increases through its pricing structure, its profitability is reduced by its suppliers’ actions. A supplier group is powerful when:

  • It is dominated by a few large companies and is more concentrated than the industry to which it sells;
  • Satisfactory substitute products are not available to industry firms;
  • Industry firms are not a significant customer for the supplier group;
  • Suppliers’ goods are critical to buyers’ marketplace success;
  • The effectiveness of suppliers’ products has created high switching costs for industry firms, and
  • Suppliers are a credible threat to integrate forward into the buyers’ industry. Credibility is enhanced when suppliers have substantial resources and provide the industry’s firms with a highly differentiated 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.

Simultaneous Production and Consumption


Whereas most goods are produced first, then sold and consumed, most services are sold first and then produced and consumed simultaneously. A restaurant services cannot be provided until they have been sold, and the dining experience is essentially produced and consumed at the same time. Frequently this also means that the customer is present while the service is being produced and thus views and may even take part in the production process. This also means that frequently customers will interact with each other during the service production process and thus may affect each others’ experiences. For example, strangers seated next to each other in an airplane may well affect the nature of the service experience for each other. That passengers understand this fact is clearly apparent in the way business travelers will often go to great lengths to be sure they are not seated next to families with small children. Another outcome of simultaneous production and consumption is that service producers find themselves playing a role as part of the product itself and as an essential ingredient in the service experience for the consumer.

Because services often are produced and consumed at the same time, mass production is difficult if not possible. The quality of service and customer satisfaction will be highly dependent on what happens in “real time,” including actions of employees and the interactions between employees and customers. Similarly, it is not usually possible to gain significant economies of scale through centralization. Usually operations need to be relatively decentralized so that the service can be delivered to the consumer in convenient locations. Also because of simultaneous production and consumption, the customer is involved in and observes the production process and thus may affect (positively or negatively) the outcome of the service transaction.

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.

Conducting an Interview


You may not have the time or inclination to create structured situational interviews. However, there are several things you can do to increase the standardization of the interview or otherwise assist the interviewer to ask more consistent and job relevant questions. They include:

  1. Base questions on actual job duties. This will minimize irrelevant questions based on beliefs about the job’s requirements. It may also reduce the likelihood of bias, because there’s less opportunity to ‘read’ things into the answer.
  2. Use job knowledge, situational, or behaviorally oriented questions and objective criteria to evaluate the interviewee’s responses. Questions that simply ask for opinions and attitudes, goals and aspirations, and self-descriptions and self-evaluations allow candidates to present themselves in an overly favorable manner or avoid revealing weaknesses. Structured interview questions can reduce subjectivity and therefore the chance for inacurate conclusions, and bias. Examples of structured questions include: (a) situational questions like, “Suppose you were giving a sales presentation and a difficult technical question arose that you could not answer. What would you do?”; (b) past behavior questions like, “Can you provide an example of a specific instance where you developed a sales presentation that was highly effective?”; (c) background questions like, “What work experiences, training, or other qualifications do you have for working in a teamwork environment?”; (d) job knowledge questions like, “What factors should you consider when developing a TV advertising campaign?”
  3. Train interviewers. For example, review laws with prospective interviewers and train them to avoid irrelevant or potentially discriminatory questions and to avoid stereotyping minority candidates. Also train them to base their questions on job-related information.
  4. Use the same questions with all candidates. When it comes to asking questions, the prescription seems to be “the more standardized, the better.” Using the same questions with all candidates can also reduce bias “because of the obvious fairness of giving all the candidates the exact same opportunity.”
  5. Use rating scales to rate answers. For each question, provide a range of possible ideal answers and quantative score for each. Then you can rate each candidate’s answers against this scale. This ensures that all interviewers are using the same standards.
  6. Use multiple interviewers or panel interviews. Doing so can reduce bias, by diminishing the importance of one interviewer’s idiosyncratic opinions, and by bringing in more points of view.
  7. If possible, use structured interview form. Interviews based on structured guides usually result in the best interviews. At the very least, list your questions before the interview.
  8. Control the interview. Limiting the interviewers’ follow-up questions (to ensure all interviewees get the same questions), using a larger number of querstions, and prohibiting questions from candidates until after the interview are other “structuring” techniques.

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

Advertising and Advertisements


Advertising today is a worldwide phenomenon. It is important to recognize that many advertisers use advertisements for many purposes with many different possible effects. For example, within a given country it is common to find what might be considered highly fanciful advertising for consumer goods such as toothpaste, detergents, or soft drinks, and highly technical messages dealing with construction equipment, medical supplies, or computer services. The advertisers themselves can include huge multinational firms, special interest groups, local shopkeepers, and individuals. Their intents can range from altering behavior to affecting the way people think about a particular social or economic position. The results of their efforts can range from enormously influential to a waste of the advertiser’s money. It is not, then, a subject that lends itself to oversimplification.

 

When you think about “advertising,” you probably think in terms of specific advertisements. To begin there, then, advertisements can be recognized as paid, non-personal communication forms used with persuasive intent by identified sources through various media.

 

As paid communication forms they are different from common varieties of publicity (e.g., a press release) or “public relations” e.g., a news conference), which are often covered by the media without charge. By non-personal they are distinguished from forms of personal salesmanship occurring in business establishments or door-to-door. The advertiser is identified, which again sets this form of persuasive communication apart from various types of promotion and publicity in the form of “news” or “feature” material often carried by the media, but supplied by a particular source whose intent is often persuasive.

 

Advertisements are most commonly associated with the mass media of newspapers, magazines, cinema, television, and radio, although they frequently flourish in other forms such as billboards, posters, and direct mail as well. And, finally, advertisements are overwhelmingly used with persuasive intent. That is, the advertisers are striving to alter our behavior and/or levels of awareness, knowledge, attitude, and so on in a manner that would be beneficial to them.

 

These are some of the most obvious characteristics of advertisements, the end product of much that is advertising.

 

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

Conflict Management


With the turn of economic wheel conflict has entered into our daily life as an indispensable impedimenta. Whether in domestic, professional or political living and breathing world we are dominated by lacking conflict management skills and hence dragging on with antipathy, bitter feelings and state of war. For creating a fraternal, congenial and harmonious environment we ought to master skills essential for dealing with conflict.

Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences.

The first step in managing conflict is to analyze the nature and type of conflict. To do this, you’ll find it helpful to ask questions.

Collaboration results from a high concern for your group’s own interests, matched with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win/win. This strategy is generally used when concerns for others are important. This approach helps build commitment and reduce bad feelings. Some partners may take advantage of the others’ trust and openness. Generally regarded as the best approach for managing conflict, the objective of collaboration is to reach consensus.

Compromise strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests along with a moderate concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win some/lose some. This strategy is generally used to achieve temporary solutions, to avoid destructive power struggles or when time pressures exist.

Competition strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests with less concern for others. The outcome is win/lose. This strategy includes most attempts at bargaining. It is generally used when basic rights are at stake or to set a precedent. It can cause the conflict to escalate and losers may try to retaliate.

Accommodation results from a low concern for your group’s own interests combined with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is lose/win. This strategy is generally used when the issue is more important to others than to you. It is a goodwill gesture. It is also appropriate when you recognize that you are wrong. The drawbacks are that your own ideas and concerns don’t get attention. You may also lose credibility and future influence.

Avoidance results from a low concern for your group’s own interests coupled with a low concern for the interests of others. The outcome is lose/lose. This strategy is generally used when the issue is trivial or other issues are more pressing. It is also used when confrontation has a high potential for damage or more information is needed.

Several enemies often combine to create contention. The first enemy is the natural need to want to explain the side first. After all, we reason, if they understood our perspective, they would come to the same conclusions we did. The second enemy is ineffectiveness as listeners. Listening is much more than being quiet so we can have our turn. The third enemy is fear. Fear that we will not get our way. Fear of losing something we cherish. Fear we will be made to look foolish. The fourth enemy is the assumption that one of us has to lose if the other is going to win. Differences can only be solved competitively.

Two principles have contributed so much to the productive handling of disagreements that it is difficult to read about the subject in scholarly works without their mention. The first principle: Seek first to understand, then to be understood, was introduced by Steven Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If we encourage others to explain their side first, they will be more apt to listen to ours.

Roger Fisher and William Ury introduced the second communication principle in their seminal work, Getting to Yes. Simply stated, it is that people in disagreement focus on their positions when instead they should be focusing on their needs. By focusing on positions we tend to underscore our disagreements. When we concentrate on needs, we find we have more in common than what we had assumed. Ury and Fisher then went on to say that when we focus on needs we can attempt to satisfy the sum of both our needs and their needs.

The parties to any conflict can also explore a problem-solving approach inspired by an ancient Tibetan Buddhist teaching known as the four karmas. These four karmas follow a developmental sequence that begins with pacifying or calming the situation, enriching positive aspects by bringing in multiple perspectives, magnetizing larger perspectives or additional resources, and finally, if necessary, destroying old patterns and behaviors that no longer serve.

Traditionally the four karmas is a personal practice that allows one to become attuned to the natural energies in a situation, and to transform confusion and aggression into creativity, compassion, and intelligent action.

How can we solve our tough problems without resorting to force? How can we overcome the apartheid syndrome in our homes, workplaces, communities, countries, and even globally? How can we heal our world’s gaping wounds? To answer these questions is simple, but it is not easy. We have to bring together the people who are co-creating the current reality to co-create new realities. We have to shift from downloading and debating to reflective and generative dialogue. We have to choose an open way over a closed way.

It is good to talk about the past. A discussion of past behaviors is essential to analyze patterns of conflict and help conflicting parties to find constructive ways of handling future disagreements. Without understanding the past, it is hard to prepare for the future. At some point, however, the focus of discussion turns to that of future behaviors, rather than past injuries. The sooner the participants can focus on the future, the greater the chances of successful resolution.

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, Line of Sight