Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living On The Coke Side Of Life (Part II)

In my last blog, I started sharing the story (and lessons to learn) from a product that has become one of the most powerful brands in the world – Coca-cola. I shared on how this brand has travelled to more parts of the world than any other product known to man. Go to any nook and cranny in the world, and you are likely to find a bottle of Coca-Cola there! It’s amazing. This brand is sustaining several glass industries in the world. It is sustaining thousands of sugar plantations all over the world. How did a recipe from a relatively obscure part of Atlanta turn into a global brand, enjoyed by over 1 billion (yes, 1 billion) people every day? How did this brand become the most recognized product in the world, as well as a common link between cultures and countries, people and places?

In the last post, i shared two of the lessons to learn from this brand (please refer to the last article posted) and in this post, I will be sharing two more.

Add value and get value back

This is one of the most basic rules of success. There are many young men and women today who go into business, looking at what to get! Getting value (monetary or otherwise) is not difficult, if you know the right thing to do. And the right thing to do is “Add Value”! May I say that your current level of income is a function of the value (either real or perceived) that you bring to the table? The more value you give, the more value you get.

One of the striking things about Coca-Cola is the value they seek to bring to their consumers and customers. A look at its renewed vision shows clearly why it’s the leading brand in the world

• To refresh the world...
• To inspire moments of optimism and happiness...
• To create value and make a difference.

What value are you bringing to the table? What value do you want to be paid or compensated for? What problem are you solving for people that they should pay you for? Coca-Cola is refreshing the world. They are inspiring moments of optimism and happiness. They create value and make a difference…..and we are all rewarding them with market share!
May I say that your current level of income is a function of the value (either real or perceived) that you bring to the table?
Ideas rule the world

I recently read a story about Bill Gates, perhaps the richest man in the world that interested me. He was traveling through a particular airport and was asked by the custom officers if he had anything to declare. “Nothing, but a billion dollars worth of ideas” he declared. Interesting, isn’t it?

Take a moment and look around your environment. Everything you see from your laptop computer to Post-It Notes® started as an idea. The universe itself started as an idea in God’s mind. The software in your two and a half pound brain spends twenty-four hours per day producing and processing ideas. When your brain is in sleep mode we call the idea production "dreaming." When you are awake and looking out the window, we call it "daydreaming." When you are awake and focused on a task we call it "thinking."

The greatest problem faced by developing countries is not money problem. It is not power problem. It is an idea problem. Ideas are superior to money. They bring in money. Ideas are more powerful that the best currencies in the world. Infact, permit me to say that ideas are becoming a currency of the future. For example, exchange an idea with an associate at lunch. You both walk away with two ideas. If instead, you just exchanged one dollar bills at lunch, you'd both walk away with one dollar. Ideas rule the world.
The greatest problem faced by developing countries is not money problem. It is not power problem. It is an idea problem.
The brand Coca-Cola started as an idea in someone’s mind. In 1889, a man, by the name Asa Candler, bought a formula and a 3 legged brass kettle containing a mixture of lime, cinnamon, cocoa leaves, and the seeds on a Brazilian shrub from a druggist, Dr John Pemberton. Together with an idea he had about marketing, he turned this formula into a money spinner! Ideas indeed rule the world.

I hope we can take a cue from these great lessons from the Coca-Cola brand, and also line on the Coke side of life! It’s an interesting part of life to live!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Living On The Coke Side Of Life

About this time last week, while on vacation in Atlanta Georgia, I had the opportunity of following the story of one of the world’s biggest and most popular brands. Several things interested me about this brand. This brand has travelled to more places in the world than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s in more hands than the Bible. It has penetrated into cities, towns and villages that the gospel has not dared! It is perhaps the largest consumer of glass in the world today. This brand is sustaining several glass factories and sugar plantations around the globe today – perhaps the largest consumer of both. I am sure you can guess the brand I am talking about now. I am talking about Coca-Cola. Coca Cola sells 1.4 billion servings each day. You could show someone a Coke can and they'll be able to tell you what it is, even if they live in Tokyo. No other brand is as recognizable as Coke is.
This brand has travelled to more places in the world than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s in more hands than the Bible.
A visit to the World of Coca-Cola Centre will be inspiring for anyone. You will practically see how this dream, and this product evolved to be a world brand and then you ask yourself – why not me; why not now? A friend of mine always put it in a nice way – if not now, when. If not me, then who!

It was in 1886, and in New York harbour,workers were constructing the Statue of Liberty. Eight hundred miles away, another great American symbol was about to be unveiled. Like many people who changed history, John Pemberton, a civil war veteran, and Atlanta pharmacist (yes, pharmacist!), was inspired by simple curiosity. He loved thinkering with medicinal formulas, and one afternoon, searching for a quick cure for headaches, he stirred up a fragmant, caramel-coulored liquid in a three-legged pot. When it was done, he carried it a few doors down to Jacob’s pharmacy. Here, the mixture was combined with carbonated water and sampled by customers who all agreed – this new drink was something special. So, Jacob’s pharmacy put it on sale for five cents a glass. Pemberton’s bookkeeper Frank Robinson named the mixture Coca-cola, and wrote it out in his discticnt script. To this day, Coca-cola is written in the same way.

If not now, when. If not me, then who!

About nine servings of the soft drink were sold each day. Sales for that first year added up to a total of about $50. The funny thing was that it cost John Pemberton over $70 in expanses, so the first year of sales were a loss.

There are a couple of lessons to draw out from the Coca-Cola story

Start with what you have

This is one of the prominent things in the Coca-Cola story. Sometimes, we are bugged down by trying to figure out all the tiny details before starting anything. We want to have everything ready to go before we take any step. Most times, we focus on what we don’t have rather than what we have. Pemberton started the Coca-Cola company with what he had – a formula. At that time, he didn’t have any business or marketing experience. He could have held back because of the many things he didn’t have but he didn’t.

There’s a story that explains this in a deeper way in God’s word. In II Kings 4: 1-7,there is an account of a woman that shows the power of starting with what you have. The woman, a widow, had a peculiar problem. He late husband left her and her sons huge debts to pay! And as far as she was concerned, she didn’t have the wherewithal to pay these debts. She did what was very logical to do – she ran to the man of God for help (since he husband was also a prophet when he was alive). I am sure she was expecting a display of a miracle. However, the man of God asked a very instructional question.
“Elisha said, "I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Nothing," she said. "Well, I do have a little oil."
As far as she was concerned, she had nothing, except a little oil. Guess what? That little oil was enough to get what she wanted. This woman was focusing on what she didn’t have. The man of God drew her attention to what she had! What do you have? May I challenge you to start with that, and then see how you attract and get what you need.

Don’t be afraid to fail

In case you are not aware, Coca-Cola did not make any profit in the 1st year! First year sales closed at a loss. Infact, Pemberton, who invented the mixture, died 2.5 years after his discovery. However, the seed of greatness for this brand has been sown and just needed time to germinate.

One of the best lessons I ever learned was that it was OK to fail. It is OK to make mistakes. Failure has a wonderful way of teaching you lessons, sometimes very painful lessons, that you can use the next time you tackle a problem. You may not learn the lesson the first time, or the second, or fifth time, but eventually each failure will teach you something you can use later.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Every successful person has failed at some time. Everybody that plays it safe, they’re never going to fail, but they’re never going to be a big success,”
How did I learn this? By recognizing one crucial thing – no one starts off being the best at something. All the greats of anything did it through hard work, something you can read about in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and his 10,000 hours idea (that to truly master something you need to spend 10,000 hours on it). And you know what? The first thousand hours were probably filled with failures.“Don’t be afraid to fail. Every successful person has failed at some time. Everybody that plays it safe, they’re never going to fail, but they’re never going to be a big success,” said Peter Kim, Hudson Jeans CEO, requoted from a Los Angeles Times article.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are Your Customers Satisfied?

One of the things that I have enjoyed the most during my trip to the US is the excellent customer service that I get in most (almost all) of the places I have been to. I see, clearly, what is lacking in most of the developing countries like my country Nigeria. Last week, I walked into a car rental store to rent a car. I had my fears, since I was presenting a Nigerian international drivers license and a Debit card. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the kind of service that I got at the counter. This lovely woman was willing to do more than she was paid to do, and win business for her company. During the process, my brother in law’s fiancĂ©e, who had booked with another company, canceled her reservation with that other company and instead got a car from this woman. Imagine!

About 2 years ago, I went into a Mall to buy a camcorder for family use. I had been told that I will get the specification I needed at an affordable price somewhere in this Mall. The Mall had several electronic shops with about the same price for all items. I got into one and started looking around. No one attended to me personally. No one took notice of me. Every of the staff went about their normal business. I asked a few question about a particular brand I love and got mono syllabic answers. Predictably, I didn’t buy anything from them.

I went in to another store close by…infact right beside the 1st one. The difference was astonishing. I was warmly greeted by a staff. He asked me what I wanted to buy and gave me a small lecture on what to look out for. When I was considering buying a particular one (just because of the brand name), he explained to me, and demonstrated to me why he thinks I won’t like it. He suggested another brand that had about the same features, was cheaper and had better handling. He then proceeded to convince me that I was buying the best camcorder of the year in that category. He brought out a magazine that showed the award for this brand and then went ahead to do a demo recording for me with this camcorder! Did I buy it? Of course yes! In no time, I was counting the money at the cashier’s!

What made the difference between both stores? Definitely not the price. Not the size of the store. Not the name. It is called Customer Service. This is what is lacking in most organizations and companies that keep them small…especially in developing countries.

World class organizations have since discovered the value of service to their customers. Improving customer service is one of the top five anguishes for CEO's today. The creation of memorable, positive customer service - service so good, so unique, so different, that it takes the customer by surprise and leaves him with a smile on his face and a story to tell- is in high demand in organizations today.

Let’s consider a few customer service tips that will give you and your company a competitive advantage.

Identify and anticipate needs. 

Customers don't buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

Make customers feel important and appreciated. 

Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. This is perhaps one of the customer service tip that is missing in the 3rd world countries. They look down on customers. They let their moods affect how they treat their customers. Any wonder why they are still 3rd world?

Give more than expected. 

Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following: What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy? What can you give a customer that is totally unexpected? Be willing to go the extra mile. Be willing to do more than what is required. This will without doubt give you an edge over competition.

Know how to apologize. 

When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.

Be a good listener. 

Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants.

Get regular feedback.

Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going.
Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.

Treat employees well. 

Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.