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BUSINESS CAN LEARN A LOT FROM BRITISH CYCLING’S APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

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BRITISH CYCLING'S APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

It is the second time in two years that a Briton has won the Tour de France. But it’s no accident of fate that put Bradley Wiggins, then Chris Froome on the winner’s podium. A whole range of factors feed into a winning performance, but one of the keys to the success of the UK’s cycling team is the use of what coach David Brailsford calls “aggregated marginal gains”.

BRITISH CYCLING'S APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

BRITISH CYCLING’S APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

This approach focuses on how small improvements to a range of areas (a cyclist’s diet, their equipment, and their sleep patterns) add up to a bigger performance improvement. The beauty of this approach is that it takes a holistic view of performance. It starts with the individual and works outwards to identify the tools and techniques that will support them as they improve.

It’s a theory that could successfully be applied to any industry, but it is especially apt for financial services, with its high concentration of knowledge workers or so-called ‘clevers’.

For the marginal gains theory to apply, managers need to look at every aspect of the working day to identify where small, interlinked adjustments might add up to improvement — and what is slowing people down. A new report, “Maximising the performance of your employees through the aggregation of marginal gains”, found that UK managers and non-managers alike are wasting up to one-tenth of their week on fruitless meetings, email overload, duplicated work and poor communication.

When asked, the majority claimed they could be 50 per cent more productive if they adopted the marginal gains approach at work.

So where could tweaks be made to improve performance? Here are eight areas where small adjustments could yield bigger rewards:

Clearer goals: Unclear goals and conflicting targets that pit one department against another will undermine overall business outcomes. Worse, performance reviews aren’t treated as ‘business critical’: at one financial services organisation, 48 per cent didn’t undertake regular appraisals, and among the 62 per cent that did, only 10 per cent felt it was carried out to an adequate standard.

There is also the option to replace annual appraisals with continuous reviews as happens at some high performing organisations. Board members must acknowledge the importance of performance reviews and of capable managers. This can be a challenge in industries such as financial services: highly valued people who operate on strong subject matter expertise or good networks are more likely to be allowed to opt out of effective people management.

Targeted training: Both managers (38 per cent) and non-managers (45 per cent) feel they’d perform better if they had more appropriate training. This is particularly relevant in retail FS operations, where there’s an increasing focus on all aspects of the customer journey. In the future, organisations will need to realign the relevant people if they are to keep pace with the fast changing environment and technology.

Look at how projects are managed – they can be a great way to provide people with hands-on training and acquire new skills and competencies. Offer multi-channel options, and make it easy for people to access the tools to learn independently. Give accreditation to training so that people see its value to their career progression.

Process: Managers find themselves monitoring too many ‘non-critical’ metrics, and too much bureaucracy and complexity can leave people confused as to accountabilities (potentially very serious in such a heavily regulated sector).

Lee Timmins

Lee Timmins

Start by simplifying internal processes and metrics – some may be meaningless in real performance terms. Ask individuals to identify five things (no more) that make their job a success. Think about how adjustments will affect teamwork as a whole, and prioritise demands to free up the highest performers to handle the most complex cases. It’s almost customising work design for each individual. This calls for capable managers, who understand each team member’s capabilities and align their personal objectives accordingly. Not everyone is the team’s Sir Chris Hoy, but those who aren’t ‘high potential’ should feel equally valued and motivated. Acknowledge people’s different responsibilities and their contribution.

Accessing information: making information available in a timely fashion is vital for the sector. Yet managers (37 per cent) and non-managers (42 per cent) complained that they couldn’t easily get to the information they needed. Many felt they were also churning out unnecessary reports. So how can you empower people (and processes) with information? There are now a number of technology tools available at low cost that can be tailored to fit a person’s needs and access level at work. Content management systems and cloud-based software and platforms make it easy to store and share information. There’s no excuse for information being locked away on individual PCs any more. Consider allowing people to bring their own devices (BYOD), as they feel necessary — the majority claim this would help them gather and sort the information they need. Of course, they need to adhere to security and HR policies (and companies need to be active in promoting these – don’t count on people to seek them out).

Collaboration: Because of their global nature, poor collaboration can have far-reaching consequences in financial services organisations. As a result, large institutions are moving towards centralised IT services. Used properly, these can create an entirely different and more global working dynamic. The right tools will enable people to work together, whether that means a project forum on LinkedIn, an enterprise social network, cloud technology, software as a service or BYOD. Let early adopters lead the way, setting up interest groups and using social networking to collaborate. These don’t have to be expensive or complicated. One bank switched from traditional fraud alerts via beepers to an internal Facebook group. It just made more sense.

Communication: A perennial problem, Atos Consulting research found that bad email habits had, ironically, hampered communication across companies. But pointless memos and poor messaging add to the ‘organisational fog’. These could be better targeted to readers rather than the blanket email from the board that may mean nothing on the shopfloor. Instead, take advantage of multi-channel communication tools – from blogging to video to IM – to tailor your messages to the audience. Again, it needn’t be super-elaborate. Do what works for you. There are lots of small acts that can improve communication: a company Wikipedia entry; or a CEO video blog.

Someone needs to keep an eye on the quality of output, but small tweaks can yield a wider shift in attitudes and move people from hoarding information to a more collaborative approach.

Environment: It’s no secret that poorly designed offices can sap motivation, but it’s not just time spent in the office that is a problem. Commuting time is seen by one in five as a major drain on their efficiency.

Yet, moving people, Yahoo! style, away from remote working is not always the answer. Sometimes more flexibility is required – an allowance for both individual and collaborative spaces is the way of the future, according to architecture firm Norman Foster Associates. One City-based organisation saved money and boosted morale by introducing flexible desks and more communal work spaces. But expect significant resistance to physical office changes: it’s worth testing on a receptive group to prove the concept in a small way.

Culture and practice: Micro-management and presenteeism are culturally embedded at many firms, with managers paying lip service to flexible working but preferring the ‘command and control’ style of old. Many managers are entrenched in ‘the way we do things around here’ and may not even be aware of what’s possible with todays technology, let alone what a new generation of working people expects from their job in terms of flexibility and trust.

This is essentially about the corporate culture. Ask yourself ‘what do I need to get from my employees and how do we achieve it?’ Work-life balance considerations and a long commute, for example, might encourage the uptake of more flexible working. Cultural shifts can come unstuck, though, unless changes in behaviour are linked directly to performance reviews and skills training.

A big force for change is the need to retain under-30s, whose average tenure in London is just 19 months in a company. Knowledge workers in such a dynamic sector can be notoriously hard to replace, and while their predominant motivation for leaving may be money, many also claim their career is not being managed by the organisation.

Consider flexible/mobile working on an individual basis: not everyone will want it, and only a small percentage of employees will suit remote working. You may have to force yourself to think differently and team managers will probably need training, if only to understand what’s possible. Use a range of tools – online chat, face-time — to give managers a sense of proximity without presence.

Use the tech – sentiment analysis, data modelling – to get a feel for what’s really going on, where and how people are communicating. Monitoring is an essential part of marginal gains — and it relies on managers who recognise the potential of individuals and can unlock it. You’ll also need persistence. Excellence, as Aristotle said, is not an act but a habit.

The writers are Lee Timmins, Senior Vice President at Atos Consulting, and Kristofer le Sage de Fontenay, Head of Financial Services at Atos Consulting

Business

Success beyond voice: Contact centres supporting retail shift online

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Success beyond voice: Contact centres supporting retail shift online 1

As the nation continues to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19, customers have shifted their channel preferences, and contact centres have demonstrated typical resourcefulness in adapting rapidly and maintaining uptime. It has been a steep learning curve, as they not only learn to operate digitally, but also build an understanding of consumers’ new shopping behaviours.

The closure of stores meant demand for customer service escalated, resulting in long telephone wait times, and consumers quickly realised that they could switch to online channels to fulfil their customer service needs. As a response to this change in channel preference, some providers quickly ramped up chatbots, social channels and private messaging apps. For example, recent research conducted by the CCMA (Call Centre Management Association), in partnership with Puzzel, revealed that some brands opened up their direct messaging channels on social media for the very first time, in a bid to ensure support across popular channels such as Facebook and Twitter. For others, the pandemic underscored the value of migrating customer interactions to self-service channels to manage demand and ensure customer service advisors’ time is directed to problems that customers cannot solve themselves.

Faced with severe constraints in many aspects of their everyday lives, the fact that contact centres remained open for business has been gratefully received by consumers.  Even despite longer wait times, many contact centres reported skyrocketing customer satisfaction ratings due to lowered customer expectations. As the new normal starts to take hold, and customer expectations revert back, now is the time for contact centres to implement the right strategies to ensure customer satisfaction

ratings are maintained.

Jonathan Allan, Chief Marketing Officer, Puzzel, comments, “The short term reduction in customer expectations, which is driving increased customer satisfaction scores, will return to previous levels once we’ve all adapted to a new way of living. The accelerated move to online services and digital channels is, however, here to stay. Now, there is an increased expectation from consumers to receive support on social media, or to initiate a web to chat to receive immediate consultation or to book an appointment.

Allan continues, “Adapting to this multi-channel environment has become a necessity, not a nice to have, and relying on voice or email alone is no longer tenable. Customers expect to be able to initiate contact through their channel of choice, and to be able to start a conversation in one channel and seamlessly move between others. As customer’s expectations continue to rise, orchestrating these interactions is essential to ensure the most positive customer experiences, and enable the optimal selection of channels to drive efficiency and satisfaction. As customer behaviour changes for the long term, it is no longer viable to rely on only one channel for customer service as seamless customer experience becomes key to ensuring customer retention.”

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7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business

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7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 2

7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 3

Hospitality requires charisma and innovation

The hospitality industry is a multibillion-dollar industry with lots of career opportunities in hotels, theme parks, restaurants, country clubs, etc. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors as a lot of industries are involved in it. 

Though it can be very profitable for aspiring and established entrepreneurs, it can get challenging as it requires charisma, drive, and innovation to ensure you can meet your customers’ demands. Growing a hospitality business for profit requires a lot of thought and innovation. In this article, we’ll look at some practical ways to grow a profitable hospitality business. 

1. Yield Management

Yield management refers to anticipating, understanding, and influencing your customers’ behavior to increase your business revenue to the max. This principle was first used in the hospitality industry in the late 80s. The main objective of yield management is not just to increase your rates or occupancy; instead, it involves forecasting your business’ supply and demand through different key factors to maximize your revenue. Let us consider some yield management examples. If you have a hotel, yield management will allow you to maximize the profit you can make from a specific number of rooms that must be sold on a deadline. 

Another example is if you have a hotel located next to an event center or stadium, you will charge more for rooms than you do on a typical weekday or weekend during a conference or sporting event. Yield management involves targeting the right customer at the right time and selling for the right price. 

It involves using gathered data to understand your customers and their sensitivity to pricing and combining that with seasonal demand. High demand, seasonality, and special events can allow you to alter your rates to increase revenue. Though the idea isn’t to increase rates only, it also involves attracting the right customer at the right time. 

Yield management allows you to make more profit from your existing inventory.

7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 4

Attract the right customer at the right time

2. Create a Website

Your hospitality business should have a well-maintained website as it adds to the first impression prospective customers have when they check out your business. For example, if you have a vacation rental, you can hire a competent web designer or a web design company to help you build a vacation rental website. Also, customers can make bookings through your website if you have one, and this will help you save more money as you will not have to rely on listing channels to gain customers. 

Though listing channels can help you get bookings, you’d have to pay a commission and follow the transaction terms, which you will not det. When you have your website, you’ll have more control over how you present your business to customers. You can display a photo slideshow with high-resolution images of the property or add other enticing features that will help you gain more customers. A professional website helps to give your business a professional image while making it more visible online.

7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 5

Create a professional website

3. Maintain and Improve the Quality of Your Service

The hospitality industry is a highly competitive one, so it is important to stay on top of your game to gain more revenue. If your business is reputable for providing quality service, then you should maintain that standard. You can check out your competitors to get ideas on how to improve your service and set your business apart. This is very important as the reputation of your hospitality business is primarily determined and affected by your quality of service. 

If your customers are satisfied with your quality of service, they are more likely to recommend you to prospective clients. To get more ideas on how to improve your service, you can check the online reviews about your business. Check what your past clients have said about their experience, what they like, what they dislike, and any improvement they might suggest. Once you improve your service quality, new and old customers will be willing to pay more even if you increase your rates as they will get enough value for their money. To grow a profitable hospitality business, you should be ready to offer more value than your competitors.

7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 6

Improve your customer service

4. Have an Active Social Media Presence

This is a great way of making your hospitality business more visible online. It is also a means of reaching prospective clients. Apart from creating and maintaining a website, you should have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

These are where a bulk of your prospective clients are, and most brands take advantage of this. Nowadays, brands and businesses employ social media handlers that stay in charge of their social media pages. They are responsible for creating content and interacting with customers and prospective clients on social media. 

You can post images and videos of your property on social media to attract new customers. Another way you can grow your business on social media is through sponsored ads. Most social media platforms offer various forms of advertisements at a reasonable price. 

With sponsored ads, you have a higher chance of getting new customers or driving traffic to your website as you’d be able to reach a wider audience.

5. Create a Rental Agreement

If you are fully managing your business, then oral agreements with customers may not be enough. Your clients may have some assumptions about the terms and conditions or interpret the rules and regulations differently. 

Sites like Airbnb can take care of this for you if you are not fully managing your rentals. For example, you can easily create an Airbnb house manual visible to prospective clients once they click on your property. 

To avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings, you should create an agreement that will be visible on your website or any booking medium you prefer. Your guests will sign this agreement and protect both you and the guest if there is a dispute. 

Though the terms and conditions may vary depending on the type of hospitality business, you can consult a business attorney for verification before using the agreement for your business. 

A rental agreement should include information about the property, rental party details, occupancy limitations, the minimum stay requirements, house rules, rates and additional fees, cancellation policy, payment details, and the customer’s signature. 

You can add other details and terms depending on your type of business. Creating a rental agreement is an excellent way to ensure your hospitality business runs smoothly as it makes it easier to prevent and resolve disputes between you and your customers.

6. Make the Booking Process Easy

A complicated or strenuous booking process is likely to discourage new clients from patronizing your business. Firstly, your hospitality business should have an online booking and buying platform. 

A large percentage of people prefer to make bookings online. If your business does not have an online booking platform, you are bound to lose a lot of customers. If you choose to use listing sites or booking platforms, make sure the platform is reputable and offer good customer service. 

If you use your website for reservations, then customers should be able to make a booking with simple steps. The required information boxes should not be excessive. 

The less time your guests spend booking, the better. You should include additional informational text to help your guests through the booking process. Before your booking system goes live, ensure you pre-test it to make sure it’s hitch-free. Also, you can create a mobile app that allows your guests to make bookings and other transactions. 

7.    Keep in Touch with Your Customers

Apart from gaining new customers, a good way to grow a profitable hospitality business is retaining valuable customers. Guests will value a company that can offer a personalized experience. 

If your guests can get a personalized experience, they are more likely to make more bookings or refer your business to others. Always interact with your guests on a personal basis. You can send emails or appreciation messages after a successful booking. 

You can also refer your customers to your social media pages or ask them to sign up for your newsletter if they prefer to. Though you shouldn’t spam your customers with ads or emails, ensure you send information periodically about new offers, promotions, or other relevant details. 

This will help keep your business on your customers’ minds, thereby increasing the chances of having repeat bookings. Once you identify your most valuable customers, you should try to keep the communication lines open. Also, you can ask for referrals or recommendations from your long-term customers.

7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business 7

Keep in touch with your customers

Conclusion

As we have previously stated, the hospitality industry is very competitive. You need to come up with creative ways to market your business.  To ensure you get a steady flow of revenue from your hospitality business, ensure you follow these tips we have given above. Apart from these, always be on the lookout for new trends and innovations in the hospitality industry to help you stay on top of your game.

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’

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Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’ 8

By Andy Woods, Design Director of Rouge Media

The ‘North Star Metric’ (NSM) is one of many seemingly confusing terms to come out of Silicon Valley but its message is simple and universal.

It refers to the single metric businesses use to guide activity, drive key decisions and measure success. And while it may seem naïve on the surface, to boil business success down to a single metric, there is a method to the apparent madness.

It doesn’t mean businesses simply ignore all other performance data but instead measure it against the overarching goal they’re working towards.

Here’s how businesses can create their own North Star Metric and follow it to website success.

What is a North Star Metric?

The idea of a North Star Metric is to focus on the goal which delivers the most value for the business and its customers.

It’s a popular strategy adopted by successful business around the world. For example, Spotify set its North Star Metric as ‘time spent listening’, while Amazon focused on ‘purchases per month’. Every business decision was then geared towards increasing these metrics.

For the business, this increase means greater advertising revenue and sales, while for users, spending more time using the service or making more purchases shows the platform is meeting their needs.

Chasing this North Star Metric sees businesses align their efforts towards a single goal. For ecommerce businesses, this means sales and marketing activity is aimed at taking users to the website, where service experts provide relevant content and information and website designers add natural calls to action.

Finding the North Star Metric for your website project, whether it be sign-ups, purchases or more time spent on site, allows the whole team – plus your agency, if you work with one – to move in the same direction.

What does a successful NSM look like?

Nominating your NSM before undertaking a website project allows you to focus all your efforts in design, functionality and content on delivering your goal.

However, some businesses may have been operating for years with a North Star Metric that isn’t quite right. If you’ve been focusing your efforts towards a goal which isn’t driving value for the business or customers, and for which you struggle to measure impact, you may need to switch focus.

Key considerations for making sure your NSM delivers a positive impact for your business include:

Generating engagement: the internet is full of businesses fighting for custom and users don’t owe them anything. If a website doesn’t give them what they need, they can find one that does within minutes.   

Solving consumer challenges: Customers want a product or service that solves their problems and they want it now. Does your website contain information that answers their questions? Does it call out the key features of your product or service that makes their life easier?

Building trust: The chances are, many businesses offer a similar product or service to you. Customers need to know your business is trustworthy if they’re to part with their cash. Case studies, awards and user reviews are examples of content which can improve your brand authority.

Finding your website’s NSM

Identifying your NSM doesn’t mean picking a goal that sounds good in the boardroom. It needs to be a targeted, realistic and measurable goal.

Andy Woods

Andy Woods

Dial-in on your NSM by answering these three questions:

What is the single most important thing your website should deliver? The answer to this should be simple and obvious – more sales, sign-ups, downloads or leads.

What do users want from the site? You’re likely to have many users, so try to identify your main three here. What are they looking for when they enter your site? Advice, a product, a follow-up from an employee?

Which metrics tie together the above? You need to be able to measure your performance in answering these questions. If you’re after more leads, monitoring on-site user data – like time spent on site and number of pages visited – gives you an indication of what users want and how well you’re meeting their needs.

There are many questions to answer when finding your NSM. A useful way to arrange the information is in a visual hierarchy. Place your NSM at the top, with the answers to these key questions as branches.

Breaking it down into a visual flow chart like this also helps with gaining crucial buy-in from the whole business, with teams visualising how their role fits into the wider goal.

Final destination

As your business grows and industry and user demands change, you may need to adapt your NSM.

If you’ve been working towards an appropriate NSM, it may only need tweaking slightly. For example, as a start-up, your NSM may have been building awareness by generating more leads. After a few successful years, the business may decide to switch the focus from leads to online sales.

While the metric changes slightly, the original strategy has already laid the foundations for the new goal, with your website designed to drive traffic and provide helpful content to inform users’ buying decisions.

Using analytics data, businesses can make changes to their website to align with their changing goals. Look at how users are behaving on your site. Are there ways you can encourage them to convert or sign-up?

This data helps you understand where to add calls to action or how to improve website design and functionality, so completing a form becomes a natural part of navigating the site and accessing content.

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