Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Lufthansa Does Not Care About Its Customers

It seems that still today there are some companies who view customer service as a one-off transaction and who believe that "Customer in not our boss". Like in the recent case of the Czech Lufthansa subsidiary.

Living in Germany for several years, often flying back and forth to Prague, I was loyal frequent flyer customer of Lufthansa, the German airlines Company I had always fully trusted. One day this March I have got a call from a Lufthansa customer service operator to check if my frequent flyer stored data are up-to-date. Next day my credit card was charged with cancellation fee for a flight ticket issued in my name last year that I have not been aware of, I have never booked or paid for. Lufthansa claimed afterwards that because the ordering person identity does not exist anymore, someone has to pay. I have to pay. Because the name and frequent flyer number match.

This real-life story leaves a lot of unanswered questions behind, like: Why does Lufthansa solve their financial claims 12 months after they occur, in a different fiscal year and with a wrong person? Where the rest of the flight tickets money ended, when the ordering person is after one year untraceable? Do we all have to start to worry, that somebody from now on uses our names and frequent flyer data and we will be obliged to pay for cancellation fees of flight tickets we have no idea about?

I have asked Lufthansa Czech exactly these questions (by e-mail and registered letter). Until now, being it already four months, I have not received their answer to my worries. I have only got e-mail talking about standard procedures, no apology, no interest.

This case shows ignorance of ethics. The Czech Lufthansa team was putting the total Company reputation and trust in the bin, all because of 820 (ca 50 USD), that in the end Lufthansa anyhow never obtained from me, because my UniCredit Bank was able to dispute and stop this transaction based on no rights for this claim from the Lufthansa side.

This case shows ignorance of business sense. As my loyalty to Lufthansa has been vanished, Lufthansa has lost tens of thousands Crowns or even Euro. The amount of money I and my close family and friends would pay them for flight tickets for our entire lives. Lifetime value of a customer is what matters. Not a one-off shot.

This case shows the mother Company can operate efficiently and ethically in the home country, but not having invested in small countries in staff training and check-ups, the whole case can backfire and influence the mother as well.

Cases of mistreating customers are unfortunately common all over the world. However thanks to the rise of social media, they are not anymore secrets. They spread out really fast. The Companies can either infuse proper customer service attitude among ALL staff, or they pay much more money for reputation tracking and firefighting.

The decision is theirs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Career Heights And Valleys

We are living through ever changing periods of victories and downsides. Professionally or personally. It is not just us. We all have experienced it, even though we do not like to talk about it. Just the depth of each valley and the height of each peak is individual. As well as timing and lengths of each life phase.

All great leaders experienced setbacks. Yes, they have nearly lost their businesses, marriages or health. Steve Jobs, Anthony Robbins, Rhonda Byrne and many, many others. What differentiated them from others is that they were able to find the way back to achieve even higher peaks. They were able to re-start and re-new themselves.

They have understood that “the pain you experience in the valley (of a career or life setback) can wake you up to a truth you have been ignoring about yourself“, as Spencer Johnson stated well.
The bigger heights they decided to achieve, the more efforts it took, the more resistance they faced, the more inner strengths they had to make use of. They had to have the guts to go for victory, for the excitement of conquering the summit. Otherwise they may as as well decide to live „in the valley“ - comfortable, no risk, but empty everyday life, without adrenalin. The decision was only theirs.
The really strong leaders could not stay in the „valley“, as they intuitively knew, that the more up in „the mountains“ (of career or life heights), they manage to get, the wider perspective they obtain. They could learn more about this world, about their small tiny valley, as well as about the other, even higher peaks interesting to reach in the future. They have diged deeper in their soul. They came to piece with themselves. They have possessed even higher confidence in their ability to positively deal with life trials which for sure will come back again in future. They have managed to conquer themselves.
There will continue to be peaks and valleys in life of each of us. Without valleys how would we know we are at a peak? We can shorten the time in the valley if we learn to find the good things from the downtimes. We can prolong the time at the peak if we will be grateful and modest, if we continue to improve things, help others and understand that to value the peak achievement, one has to conquer it himself and one has to go to from time to time back to the valley – not just to recharge the batteries and get stronger for the next climb up.
According to advice of Spencer Johnson: ”The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times. And the wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times. People who use a Peaks and Valleys approach during bad times make things better when they return to basics, and concentrate on what matters most.” … „Be of more service at work and more loving in life. Uncover the good that is hidden in a bad time and use it to your advantage.” 
Each way to the peak always starts in the valley. Each valley will one day end, when we get outside of ourself. No-one can reach its heights without a journey. No-one stays on the one summit for the rest of his life. There are more summits to conquer. There are more valleys to start the journey at, or to spend rest of each life.

The decision is yours!

"When you want something, the Universe conspires to help you" ( Paolo Coelho - The Alchemist)
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)
P.S. Inspiration for this blog came from the book of Spencer Johnson: "Peaks And Valleys". Spencer Johnson is the best-selling author of "The One-Minute Manager", "The Gift", and "Who Moved My Cheese?".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How To Become Successful Entrepreneur

Many times mid-age managers have enough of the corporate world and play with the idea of leaving the established business to run their own piece of cake. Many times they are surprised this piece of cake is too small to provide them public exposure and the living standard they were used to. They struggle. At least at the beginning. But it does not always have to be that way.

Most of the time there IS NOT THE right time to start your own business. Most of the time there IS THE right time to start it. The answer depends on your attitude and expectations. It also goes deep down to the market opportunity and your level of understanding how to seize it better than anybody else. It all depends on your passion, perseverance and drive to put things through towards prosperous end.

Thoughtful preparation and planning are key. Using your existing area of experience and expertise puts you on the faster track for success. Because you understand your customers´ needs. You understand the rules of the game. You have built your reputation. You can exploit much more the network you have been connected throughout years. You can collect valuable advices as well as get the right doors to be opened for you.

You can pair up with a network buddy, who you already know well in terms of his/her visions, values, strengths and weaknesses as well as his/her response to crisis situations. Solo entrepreneurs do not get such a jump start and such a high level of final results as pairs or triplets. Most of the time it is about teamwork, challenging one another, pushing each other to the limit, covering each others gaps. But in the same time it is as well about clarity in roles and responsibilities and keeping things simple and agreeable.

Planning for the start-up costs ahead is crucial point in the hesitation period. You need to build your financial reserves already during the corporate tenure. As it can anyhow happen, that your job will be made redundant and you will be suddenly forced to find the idea, energy and money for your start-up, under pressure, immediately.

Be ready to take your time at the thinking, conceptual phase, but drive things through full speed afterwards, working long hours at the beginning and taking on your shoulders more work - even such you were used to delegate before. The initial energy and passion are critical for total success of your project. They bring you the critical momentum in the months to come.

The investment budget should be prioritized towards critical business enablers. There may be even options to get some external funding of your idea from state grants, EU funds or private investors. But nothing like that is possible without properly developed business plan, including 3-5 years strategic plan, realistically evaluated new business opportunity, key drivers of growth and an outlook for a one-year cash flow. The cash flow calculation will already reveal the need to keep start-up costs on low level. No fancy offices, cars or secretaries. Just a common sense as well as a back-up plan for financing the initial costs if the business plan proves to be unrealistic and needs to be twisted afterwards.

Learning quickly, also from mistakes, self discipline to keep yourself on the right track and focused on the target, operating effectively and efficiently, wearing multiple hats, surrounding yourself with great talent and leveraging efforts of others - all these points are critical, if you want to run highly successful business.

Becoming entrepreneur can be one of the most rewarding decisions of your life. Understanding how to separate yourself from the rest in competition race, how to put yourself in control of your own life can be incredibly empowering. In the same time there is no one else to blame if things go down the road and failure is on the horizon.

Successful entrepreneurs all confirm that their perseverance in the time of obstacles, their ability to put things through to the end enabled them to bring something new and exciting to the world.

You can get the rewards Chris Zane obtained - see more in the other blog (double click on the link).

Stop being worried about age - see more in the other blog (double click on the link)

Most Important Success Factors (double click)