THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Being Laid Off is SO Much Better!

Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Pulpit by Harsha on March 10, 2009

Time has a great article on the subject of finding out which is better – being laid off or being employed living in fear of being laid off. Here is an interesting quote:

It’s better to get the bad news and start doing something about it, rather than languishing in limbo.

The quote refers to patients waiting for their biopsy results feeling more stress at that time, rather than when they get the results, even if it meant they had cancer. Once they got the news, they could then take the necessary action either way.

Shame on companies that do not communicate enough, as I know from personal experience, to quench employee’s thirst to know more about the life of the business, about their own jobs, when the economy is in the crapper. I do not think you can over-communicate the issues. It does not mean having daily 9am meetings to talk about the “economy”, and “how it affects us”, but being open about sharing details about the business, I think, helps.

Most employees are not going to feel the same about the business as the founders or senior-level managers do. You need to communicate at their interest level. Telling them things are going to fine when you are firing others is the surest way to increase their stress.

While managers are spending time figuring out how to keep their own jobs and those of their employees, I believe the one thing that will calm everyone’s worries and put them in the frame of mind as that of the patients who got their biopsy results (even if it meant cancer) is to talk with each other openly as two equal human beings. A lot of us get caught up in the titles and pompousness of a “senior level position” or believe that “I am the owner of the business or the manager of this division and I know more”. Sorry, you do not. You are the same as I am. You may have more money than I do, but we both have the same amount of time in a day. That is what equals us.

I think once business owners intrinsicly feel this type of equality, then the communication lines will open up. That is the way I believe that these stress levels will go down.

I speak from experience.

I am way more relaxed now, by the way.

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Status Quo is Unacceptable

Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Pulpit by Harsha on February 11, 2009

People say “Change is the only thing that is constant”. That is meaningless as it states the obvious. It shows that stuff you know and take for granted today, will change in the future. The marketplace will change for the better or worse. Your marital life may change as well.

But what do you do, now that you have this knowledge. How do you translate that into actions and those into results you want?

Status quo is unacceptable.

If change is inevitable, then why not energize it yourself? Flip the switch on things you’ve been doing the same way for a long time. Take a hard look at your sales process month by month. Remove what does not work.

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Free At Last

Posted in New by Harsha on January 18, 2009

I was laid off just this past Friday. But I’ve got to say that it was a relief after the crazy 4 years spent building it into one of the fastest-growing private companies in the US as recognized by Inc Magazine.

Hopefully I’ll find time to put together a set of lessons learned from my time there and it will be of some value to you.

Send your best wishes my way!

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Bank of America Customer Service Issue – Update

Posted in Big Thought, Business, New, People, Reviews by Harsha on September 4, 2008

Someone has been listening at the Bank of America corporation.

Last night, I got a call from Tara ***** (last name blanked out to protect identity), from the Executive Relations and Office of the Chairman. She read my blog after receiving the email from the PR/Communications team and called me to profusely apologize for the issue. She said that the 0% APR reinstatement and the $39 fee are unrelated, i.e., just because the 0% was reinstated, it doesn’t mean that the $39 fee cannot be refunded. She also said that the representatives (the one that threw me off the line and the other who would only give me 1/2 fee off because he was not “authorized” to refund the whole fee) AND the manager who never called me back, will be coached. Apparently, representatives are permitted to refund this fee.

Not only did Bank of America refund the other half of the fee, but it also has extended a $50 Amazon gift card as an apology for the inconvenience. Of course, Tara also made sure that I understood that I will need to make payments after the 22nd, which believe me, I will not forget! And if I do forget and end up committing the same mistake, then shame on me.

Here are some take-aways from this situation and I think it applies to both small and large businesses:

1. People generally at the top (either as pure managers or as owner/managers) care about what others say.

2. Everything is radically transparent: Information on LinkedIn helped me contact Bank’s Communications team

3. Don’t be a brat when trying to solve a problem – remember the person at the other end is just like you.

4. The web is POWERFUL!

I say the take-aways are similar for large and small companies because I faced a similar situation a month ago. A client of my employer’s wanted us to make good on a consulting engagement that was not completed as promised. While they had approved the work after it was done, they soon realized that it was actually incomplete. Now, I could have hemmed and hawed like a colleague of mine did when she heard this news, but my focus was crystal clear – we have to do what it takes to satisfy this client because it is about the overall relationship. It is never about this one transaction so while in the short run we lost some money, in the mid to long term, we have generated extremely positive brand recognition.

So, thank you Tara for the pleasant call last night and acknowledging that there was no logic behind what transpired. You are the right person to call in such situations because you could have been nonchalant about it, but you were not. You said the right things and hopefully learned a little from this situation as well. Please feel free to send in a comment on the issue.

A hearty thank you for everyone who commented on the previous posts – I believe in the power of us.

The Google Browser

Posted in New by Harsha on September 2, 2008

Chrome, is the new project that Google is working on, set to deliver a new browser that will take advantage of the media rich internet.

I am a little intimidated because as of today, Google is able to track my search patterns and tries to deliver advertisements that it thinks I might click on. You have my word that I have NEVER clicked on even one, intentionally anyways. But now with a dedicated Google browser, how deep is their view into my browsing habits? While many books and theories out there suggest that people are irrational and can be directed to move in a certain way (and marketers thrive on this notion), I find it hard to imagine that Google and it’s data driven analysis of my searches makes my browsing and Internet experience any better. While it is undeniable that Google opened up the Internet through search, I am not so sure it improves or customizes my search experience.

In any case, as a one-trick pony, what is next for Google? How long can they continue feeding off of their ad revenue and funding these pursuits? Or is there nothing to be worried about?

Bank of America Customer Service Tragedy

Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Reviews by Harsha on August 27, 2008

I thought about writing this post for quite a while. The incident is still fresh in memory – it happened just last week. But I think the Bank has had an acceptable window of opportunity to respond and they still have not.

First up, as a generally creative but grounded-in-processes kinda fellow, I really appreciate how complicated it is for a large organizations to work well. I’ve never been in one, but as a pioneer in most of the stuff I’ve done at my current small business gig, I can imagine how much planning and management goes into developing a customer service process at a bank. Think about the meetings that managers would have had in the past and in the present as well, about what happens when a customer calls into the 800 line. Now that process must adhere to their internal Service Level Standards (SLA) where they might say that 98% of issues must be resolved in one call, or something to that effect.

They must also deal with a myriad of types of calls, all being funneled through the same system and routed accordingly. The complexity amazes me. So whenever I call into any such organization with an issue or complaint, I generally approach it with as much respect as I can. I am never that irate caller who will jump down the throat of a poor little representative. I adopt a much more consultative approach.

But all that got thrown out the window when I called into Bank of America last week.

Here is some history on the problem, without going into too much detail: I opened a 0% APR American Express card with Bank of America less than a year ago and transferred a large loan balance to it and have been paying it off $1000 a month. The statement closes every 22nd and the minimum is due by the following 11th. I’ve always made this payment well in advance of the 11th deadline. This time, I ended up making it even before the 22nd statement close so basically my payment got tagged to the previous month.

When I called to clarify this, I was rudely informed by the representative that it is my fault for ‘paying late’ and that I will lose the promotional 0% APR. Then I asked her to check with her supervisor and she came back a little while later saying that they have decided to reinstate the 0% APR as a courtesy. I was delighted and thanked her and realized after I hung up that I had not asked about the $39 late fee. To me, it makes sense to roll it back because they ‘forgave’ the ‘late payment’ by reinstating my 0% APR, so why should I pay the late fee? Mind you, I absolutely agree and understand a late fee for late payments – no argument there.

When I called back, I said that if the Bank has rolled back the 0% APR because I am forgiven for the ‘late’ payment, then why would I pay a late fee? The representative talking to me couldn’t for the life of her understand my logic. So we started arguing back and forth and she said the same thing repeatedly and so did I – classic stalemate situation. So I asked her to connect me to her supervisor. What she did next was appalling – she actually threw me off the line and I ended up at the beginning of the call where you give the machine your card details to find the best route for the call. You’d think I would have given up, but I did not.

When the next representative came on the line (now I’m angry and my voice is louder) I told him about the way in which I got bumped off the previous call and said that I realize none of this is his fault but, come on! getting kicked out is just unacceptable! Since I was angry, after hearing why I called, he offered to cut my fee down to half but no more because representatives are not authorized to do so. In fact, he said that he was not even supposed to offer me half off on the fee, but was doing it because I was upset. I was unable to wrap my head around the fact that half of the fee was being refunded as a ‘courtesy’ but the other half wouldn’t be. So I asked him if he was being half courteous and half rude. Of course, such rhetorical questions only incite the flames of anger, and it did. We started arguing and I said that if he could roll back half my fee while not technically supposed to, then why not roll back the entire fee? Why partially commit the crime? And so on and on we went… Finally I said to him that half off was not acceptable and asked him to connect me to his supervisor. Thankfully he did. I left a message, in a super angry mode, hoping to evoke a response, but I have none so far.

My issue is NOT with the $39 fee. My issue is with the LOGIC of this whole situation. First of all, I did not make a ‘late’ payment. I ended up making two payments in the same month, a day early. In this tough economic environment, I am making multi-thousand dollar payments on-time (except this once), have a checking and savings account with Bank of America and am poised to buy a home next year. Despite all this and the threat of me switching to Discover (which is flooding my mailbox with offers), I am unable to fathom why the fee and worse still, why half the fee? If there was ANY logic to this, and I was indeed a payment too late, then for sure, I will not argue if the Bank starts charging me a high APR and fine me $39.

But when they have reinstated the 0% as a courtesy, why should they charge me $39 or even half of that? A pissed off customer with options is the worst kind of customer. Or am I too small for a large Bank like Bank of America to give a rats ass about? To add insult to injury, they are yet to respond to me.

Check out Bank of America Sucks. I am not that mad at the Bank – all I want is my fee refunded because it is illogical to charge it in the first place. Will someone from the Bank PLEASE respond?

Starbucks

Posted in Big Thought, Business, New by Harsha on August 19, 2008

Here is an article about the coffee giant’s latest investor-related woes. I had written about some ideas for ‘bucks here.

Not Hating The People You Work With

Posted in Big Thought by Harsha on December 3, 2007

Boy, this past week’s search terms that lead you to my blog have all been about working with people you hate! I’ve written quite a bit about this topic, and it is something that will never go away. I don’t think it is a by-product of a competitive atmosphere at work, really. You can be competitive and yet not hate someone personally, just hate the fact that they’re beating you at the game. I’ve seen this many-a-times over through the eyes of my friends in school whose parents pushed them in every which way possible, in India. It is the fabled hyper competitive parenting trait, which is not found in other nations that easily.

The conflict in life is that one half of the world will say that everything lies within you, and you need to change yourself to have a better experience in change the world. The other half, especially the one that holds all the celebrities, is that you can effect change in the world directly. So which is it?

This is not a philosophical question. It is a business question. Because it will affect and effect (if you know the difference) everything that you do including dealing with the users of your product of service. You will either let them guide you in decision making (like Dell is doing by changing it’s ways or not) or by developing your own ideas and not listen to your users. Alternatively, you will either listen to your coworkers when they advise you or not. This belief system is an undercurrent, not something that you may think of on a daily basis but may pop into your head like it did for mine.

I think for the specific problem of working with people you “hate”, it might actually be repairable inside your head. While there have been and are dictators and torturers that live among us, what are the chances that they work in the cube next to you? Reserve that kind of judgment for someone that deserves the wrath of the power-that-be at a later day. All in good time. In the meantime, reconsider your notions of what is good or bad. I know I have.