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Month: January 2009

Abusing your customers

Abusing your customers

HSBC logo
Image via Wikipedia

I noticed last night that HSBC in Malta has decided to start levying a charge for it’s customers to use their Internet banking facility.I normally have no problem for paying for a service, but this just feels totally wrong.

Let’s examine how Internet banking came about. It was born of a necessity to drive down costs for banks by reducing the number of interactions that required a staff member to process them. Staff costs are the largest section of variable cost that can be attributed with dealing with a client request and empowering users to service themselves is touted in all the textbooks as the premier way to increase service levels and drive down costs. So I find it pretty shocking that a bank still offers personal banking for free while introduces a levy for online banking.

There have been a couple of of letters in the paper about it, but I won’t be holding my breath that anything will change. HSBC may still have my business, but they have definetly made a great dent in my respect for their banking practices.

Recession: It’s official

Recession: It’s official

Malta - Euros (Coins)

So, the official word is out, the UK is in recession for the first time since 1991. The technical definition of recession is when the economy shrinks for 2 successive quarters, and that’s just what happened. Last quarter the economy deflated by 0.6% and in the last 3 months, the economy slowed by another 1.5%. Considering that happened over Christmas, which is supposed to be one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. Granted, the rest of the economy slows down but you don’t normally expect to see these sort of figures.

The pound is also losing value compared to other currencies around the world, which has the effect of making it harder for people to spend money abroad. For example, a tub of Ephedrasil hardcore costs $79 which today is around £58. Some time ago, this used to cost £45 just a few weeks ago. It’s not all bad news though; exporters get more for their products, assuming that they can make the sales they are after. And people being paid in dollars get more bang for their buck, figuratively speaking.

How has the recession affected you?

Advice to IT leaders

Advice to IT leaders

I was reading an article in Computer Weekly by Robina Chatham where she talks about the rise .. and fall (!) of IT representation on company boards. It talks about some research she has done into the subject and also includes a set of key messages which I wanted to share with my readers. Here’s what she recommends:

  • Sort out your service and project delivery. Recruit first-rate people beneath you who are team players; then delegate and let go
  • Nurture and reward talent. Exercise consideration, compassion and sensitivity in your dealings with people and hence engender trust and loyalty
  • Win friends and influence people; build relationships upwards, downwards and sideways. Build trust and respect; generate goodwill and take the opportunity to learn from this diverse network
  • Develop your business knowledge and political acumen. Learn the art of influencing, make yourself useful and get noticed. Be passionate and inspirational.
  • Take an interest in the wider world. Have an opinion and contribution to make in relation to every item on the board agenda and demonstrate original “out of the box” thinking
  • Do now wait to be told what to do; take the initiative and be prepared to make “bold” decisions based on your heart and your gut instinct. Have the courage to challenge authority and accepted wisdom. Remember, it is better to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission.
  • Ultimately, become one of the new generation of chief transformation officers who have the ability to give their organisation a competitive edge and to become role models who help others follow in their footsteps.

There’s some great advice there, which would apply to anyone I think. Regardless of whether you’re the IT manager in a small firm of Seattle injury lawyers or an IT executive in a large multinational organisation, focusing on your softer side and having a wider view than just the IT department will hold you in good stead for your future.

Creative Commons License photo credit: lumaxart

Marketing on a budget

Marketing on a budget

Interesting post about how simple measures to keep your customers engaged can work wonders for your business. Here are some options to keep in mind:

  • Actively promote recommendations
  • Promote your business through networking
  • Build ‘host relationships’
  • Create a newsletter

These are all relatively cheap options that can help you give your business a boost in the time it needs it. Remember, you don’t need anything sophisticated like live video streaming solutions to get people interested in what you do. All you need to do is remind them every now and again that you’re still around.

Innovation: A recipe for success

Innovation: A recipe for success

Interesting post today on Richard Branson’s blog by one of his colleagues who talks about how innovation was the key component behind making the Virgin brand so successful. My favourite line is right at the bottom:

One of the key things I have learnt from Richard over the past 15 years or so is always challenge. Challenge your business to innovate by asking the unaskable, challenge industry norms and always ask, why? And then more importantly, why not?

I concur with Jayne-Anne, who wrote the post, about how innovation is sometimes lumped together into the same camp where technology lives; but in reality can apply to anything that disrupts the status quo. Anything that prevents a process from following the same linear motion that has been running for days, months or years has the potential to provide you with competitive advantage. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always risk attached to change. But without change, challenge or questions a business stagnates, ends up living in the past and is doomed to failure (The recent demise of Woolworths is a case in point here). You can read the whole post by Jayne-Anne Gadhia here.

So, the question is .. when was the last time you were disruptive?

Insurance and Risk

Insurance and Risk

It’s interesting to note how many academic subjects end up being used in practical applications without most people being aware of what they’re actually doing. For example, you can look at subjects like mechanical engineering for example; where people who drive cars have no idea what’s going on beneath the bonnet.

Another similar subject, is finance, particularly in the world of insurance. Insurance is really all about managing some sort of risk. The formal disciple, called risk management, has evolved into a practice where organisations recognise and measure the level of risk they are exposing themselves to, and put in place plans for avoiding, mitigating or absorbing that risk. But this also effects each and every one of us in a simple form. I’m thinking about taking out a car or bike insurance policy. What this does is pass on the risk of some unforeseen event from yourself to the insurance company who has the financial backing to be able to deal with that sort of eventuality. The insurance company collects premiums from people who want to be covered and uses these to foot any claims that may arise. Premiums are calculated by measuring the risk that your policy covers, which is really a function of the likelihood and the financial cost of one of a set of events happening.

It’s quite fascinating to see the different flavours of insurance available to people. I was looking through the FAQ page on the Autonet Insurance website just to get an idea of what is available. They claim to be the country’s largest independently owned insurance brokers and have a huge selection of different insurance policies on offer (including quad-bikes which is cool). Must bookmark them for future reference.