The Guardians of Culture

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Forums

What are their functions, what value do they bring to your campaigns, projects, initiatives or priorities?  How should they be used, administered, managed or coordinated …?

I decided to write this piece, as I was recently kicked off an important forum (well to me!), by someone who acted in the capacity of an administrator/moderator in charge of the group.  The mandate of the forum was geared towards an aspirant’s political campaign, one that I had tremendous passion and belief in, luckily for me my demise was spotted by the forum creator who promptly added me back on.

I reflected on my emotive responses and realised that I went through quite a few of them in the whole hour or so that I was removed from the forum.

 

I was already angry at moderators administering and coordinating the forum as a post had been allowed on the thread giving credence to an opposition party member.  This would be a common response to such a post by any member of this type of forum – I guess?

Frustrated and angered that the administrators didn’t clock this post and subsequently remove it.   I became even more frustrated and enraged at their response when it was raised with them, apparently their solution was to remove or suspend me from the group if I did not offer up an apology!

An ‘irrational’ (not fit-for-purpose) fear of being excluded from the forum crept in when I was given 5 minutes to apologise.

I almost had an anxiety attack in trying to decipher how to respond to the rather unreasonable request to apologise for something that they should have been taken care off and hadn’t been? In my mind I could see the clock ticking away and started to look for a way to prevent this from happening, however before, I could say Jack Robinson …. Boom! Like Keyser Soze … I was GONE!!!

Then my pride kicked in, my arrogance and pomposity followed based on the fact that I had a lot to offer and being ejected unceremoniously informed negatively on the value I had placed on myself within the forum, uh oh… No way am I having that!! ….hence my rage just kept escalating.  Not that this had any effect on the forum anyway as I had already been kicked off and my rage was just for my own benefit really …I could have burst a blood vessel and it wouldn’t have made a difference!

The relief I felt when I was finally added back infuriated me!  And in those few hours that the dialogue went on for, it impressed on me as to how stressed I was, how stressed the administrators must have been and how stressed the forum owner might have been, who had to circumnavigate the moderators to overturn their decision to remove members from the group.

As a professional forum and committee manager myself, it made me reflect on how I conduct my own forums at work and how I must ensure that I, my forum, committee and sub-committee members must never have to go through these range of emotions to keep their position in the group.  Needless to say though, our forum and committee members are the main source of our revenue and income so we have more or less a customer service approach when we are dealing with our members to enable us deliver first class support when they embark on projects and initiatives that feed into our operational plan as an organisation.

It is because of this that I have decided to research what exactly a forum is and how to keep everyone happy while engaging with forums …..

What exactly counts as being a ‘forum’?

The dictionary definition of a forum is ‘a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.  This is however a very broad definition as most forums have specific characteristics that govern them to enable them perform or engage with specific priorities dedicated to a specific cause.

During the Roman Empire era a forum meant a public place at the centre of a market or community where political, judicial and economic issues were deliberated upon.

There are more types of forums nowadays thankfully than in the past, such as:

  • Online Forums – e.g. Twitter, What’s App, FB etc.
  • Community Forums – Where people publically come together physically and meet up as a group – a lot of community forums are now using online platforms too.
  • Public Medium Forums – such as Newspaper columns and articles used for debates where anyone can participate.

How do you control communications on a ‘forum’?

Whichever the type of forum or whatever format it is presented in – it is imperative to come up with a set of rules to moderate behaviour on your site so as to limit the number of conflicts that arise due to differences of opinions.  Forum member retention is also another reason why it is smart to take some time out to set these out.  Most forums have rules that inform on the following areas:

  • Discriminatory Comments
  • The use of Foul and/or Disrespectful Language
  • Posts that incite Negative Emotions
  • The dissemination of Spam or Self-promotion
  • Use of External Links

While this is not mandatory it is good practice to do so, to enable order and promote good culture while engaging on the forum.

The alternative to this would be to ‘remove’ or dismiss your forum members – while this is relevant in some extreme circumstances.  It could also be a myopic decision that might not be in your favour as you might potentially remove someone that has value to the cause the forum represents.  It would also go a long way to ensure we don’t all have to go through the many emotions I described above at the beginning of this blog.

What are the responsibilities of the forum moderator/administrator?

The most effective and efficient people for you to invite or administrate your forum are those that have a detailed understanding of the cause of the forum.  They could be people who are already involved with your campaign, are active on your other blogs or people that actively engage with you in relevant discussions.

Ensure you ask your contacts first if they would be willing to take up this task, you may want to offer some compensation depending on how important this is to you.

It is also good practice to detail the responsibilities and direct the conduct of your moderators:

  • Moderators would be responsible for ensuring posts adhere to the rules of engagement set above
  • Moderators would be responsible for approving posts and accepting/adding new members
  • Moderators are responsible for starting new conversations
  • Moderators are responsible for responding to questions and enquiries
  • Moderators are responsible for keeping the conversation going in line with the forum initiatives
  • Moderators are responsible for banning abusive members this is in most cases subject to approval by the forum owner.

Once you have set all of these parameters in place! Happy Sailing – You are now good to go!

Remember …. YOUR forum members can be assets to your cause … treat them with respect!

Happy Days!!!

Watch out for my upcoming Blog on Committees & How to engage with them …

Strategic Goals – 2

How to Manage & Meet your Business’

Continuing from Part 1 on how to meet your business ‘strategic goals’ – common reasons as to why your business might not be meeting its strategic goals and what you can do to mitigate this:

  1. Goals are set outside your customer data

Being able to adjust the atmosphere and feel of your business to adapt to the culture of your customers and clients is essential for the maintenance of a successful business.  After Earvin “Magic” Johnson went into business with Starbucks, his branches were reported to be more successful than other branches.  This was down to the fact that “Magic” had a deep understanding of the diverse culture of the customers he was targeting.  He strategically tweaked the menu and environment to adapt to the needs of his audience.  Basically he over-delivered (went above and beyond!!!) – and it paid off!!!

Therefore before you embark on goal setting:

  • Analyse everything and anything about your customer’s
    • Analyse how your customers locate/find you.
    • Analyse which product or service they buy/are interested in the most.
    • Analyse who buys what and how much is bought.
    • Take note and analyse product and service issues that your customer’s bring up.
    • Figure out what would prevent your customers from patronising you.
    • Find out what makes your customer’s happy.
  1. Inform your team of your goals

It is crucial that your senior members of staff (Executive Team ET), communicate clearly and detail the connections between corporate priorities and the roles of your front-line staff and team leaders.

Beware of sending mixed messages, it is a common phenomenon in organisations for different departments to receive obscured messages, or for departments to work in silos, completely oblivious to other team’s goals and how their roles and responsibilities affect each other.

The Harvard Business Review stipulates that a third of senior executives fail in this area of operations; they state that “when asked to identify the single greatest challenge to executing their company’s strategy, 30 percent cite failure to coordinate across units”

Therefore if you really want your organisation to succeed:

  • Engage your employees – employees that are engaged are more focussed and have a greater insight into what your organisation stands for. Engaged employees feel more connected to and inclusive in the overall productivity of your organisation.
  • Ask you staff – what they want to do, Eden Chen of Fishermen Labs says “It is very difficult to motivate people to do something unless they want to do it” “The best way to combat this is to find out what your employees want to do and help them move toward those goals.” Needless to say, in reality you know that your staff were hired to fulfil a specific role within your company, however supporting your staff’s own growth goals shows that you are an organisation that cares about the development of your staff and they will be more willing to work in their hired capacity in response to your offer of support.
  • Make you goals public – It is imperative that there is a constant reminder of the bigger picture goals. This will act as a motivation tool for your staff to accomplish their tasks.  Display daily progress reports if necessary, this would allow for staff to track the up’s and down’s of their operations and adjust to improve if the need be.
  • Quantify your goals – Do not set vague, insubstantial or un-measurable goals for your staff. It will be impossible for staff to meet your expectations and you will be unable to track successes.  Goals should always be SMART; S – specific, significant, stretching. M – measurable, meaningful, motivational. A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented. R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented.  T- time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable.

 

MegX Solutions & Uber

MegX Solutions provides training for Uber drivers in Lagos Nigeria for Skyborne Ltd

We all know that as Nigerians here in the diaspora, one of the most obvious ills that plagues our beloved country is the inability to deliver any level of quality assured customer services across the board in almost all areas of sales and service delivery. Be it in the private or public sector.

Being a provider of bespoke business solutions, we have dedicated an arm of our business to include a portfolio to provide solutions in this specific area; the delivery of customer services. The portfolio includes a core training and business specific portfolio to provide a 360 degree maintenance package incorporating case specific solutions around customer service delivery.

Our strategy involves being able to analyse areas of weakness, highlighting them and providing a better insight into its origins, we also capitalise on causes and effects to enable us propose solutions to mitigate the issues. Our ultimate aim is to innovatively provide effective solutions around how to imbibe and maintain the culture of a quality assured, standard and high level of service delivery across the board in Nigeria at this present time.

By its nature, service delivery in Nigeria has variously been described as “chaotic” “epileptic” “unsatisfactory” “shoddy”, “deplorable”, “sensitive”, “inflexible”, “non-cost effective” and so on and has been characterized by such negative attitudes and traits as insensitivity towards customers and their complaints, lateness; absenteeism, needless delay and red-tapism; palpable negligence, inexcusable incompetence, unbridled corruption, favoritism, lackluster performance and a general lackadaisical attitude to work (Okon, 2008).

I would personally include a lack of knowledge or an understanding of the values and importance of delivering a certain level or standard of service and how beneficial it could be to individual businesses and organisations across the board. Let us not mention the value we could acquire globally, the investment in our reputation and value that would come with the dignity in the ability for our national and international corporations, including our public service to deliver services in a timely, fair, honest, effective and transparent manner.

As grim and gloomy the picture seems to look, what we need to understand is that this is not an isolated incidence, it is not ‘Nigeria-specific’, no, even the West have started to see a decline in the quality of the delivery of customer services across the board, this is influenced by many factors such as Immigration etc. Organisation’s not being diverse enough to accommodate the needs of a diverse workforce, is what I mean.

Being given the opportunity to develop and deliver customer services for Uber drivers in Lagos presented a massive challenge. It was crucial that a detailed needs-analysis was required to pin-point the reasons behind the need for this type of intervention, for this particular business.

The outcome of the needs-analysis also provided the foundation for us to structure a bespoke training programme specifically designed for our audience, which incorporated audience-specific communication and delivery engagement tools which enabled us impart the knowledge in an effective and efficient manner.

Most corporate institutions in Nigeria, Banks being the most obvious, run mandatory customer service training programs for their in-house staff, mostly in-line with their organisational development or HR policies. There is also the added influence of International stakeholders who engage with these institutions on an operational level which could contractually entail they run these programmes.

In Nigeria, the delivery of some level of standard of customer service can be opaquely seen within the higher level of management, however it seldom filters down to the frontline staff who engage face-to-face with customers and clients on ground. They are often ill-equipped to deal with the disgruntled customer, or the anxious client and most of the time, through no fault of their own.

The consequences for providing an almost non-existent standard of customer services in such institutions go unnoticed. They seem insignificant, as clients who face, sometimes an unprecedented level of sub-standard service, present with heights of frustration and hopelessness that often goes un-acknowledged and unchecked.

As a customer service agent, dealing with such a situation this could be as frustrating for them as for the customer! as due to lack of knowledge, or the skill-set of how to provide resolutions around conflict, they are unable to manage client’s expectations, hence resulting in to a very unsatisfied customer who has now had a very negative experience. In more cases than not this could ultimately turn into a win for the competitors and a loss for the business. I ask again what exactly are the consequences?

So, you have lost a customer! The competitor DID win after all! Now sales are down! Clients are moving even at an even faster rate, to the competitors down the road. Profits margins begin to shorten. Decisions suddenly need to be made and implemented, in most cases, strategic plans are executed to stem the flow of the loss, but in too many cases over time, the battle is lost

.Companies fold-up, liquidate and outcomes are at the best of times inclusive of losses that are debilitating and devastating for the business, clients and stakeholders that are invested in the organisation.
Uber, Lagos Nigeria have a different business plan, one that transfers the consequences of the failure of the operation onto the drivers, the consequence of which could result in the driver losing his licence with Uber permanently. I know that sound a bit ominous as most people will only be familiar with Uber’s business plan here in the West. In Nigeria, well it works a bit different.

I will go into Uber Nigeria in part 2 of this blog, In the meantime, I am curious … is there anyone out there who has had a bad customer service experience in Nigeria, please share, as it would provide us with an idea of the scope and remit of the problem we are dealing with. It should be interesting …. I have had plenty … like the Aero Flight we took from Port-Harcourt to Lagos after my brother’s wedding in 2013 … Epic! Must tell you about that sometime too.

Strategic Goals – 1

How to Manage & Meet your Business’ Strategic Goals

So you have just started a new Business! Congratulations!

So now the most obvious thing is that you have invested a fair amount of money and you know that you need even more money to pour in, to keep your new business afloat!  If you are lucky and you started off with a sound business plan you might start to see a return on your investment straightaway… Yeahy! You might even need to grow your business a bit, to accommodate the spurt; hire a few more hands maybe, or acquire a bigger space for your business – at any rate, there is the risk that things might grow out of hand and you would need to take a step back to take an in-depth account of operations to ensure you have set and incorporated strategic goals to help your business continue to grow successfully.

Once your business has been analysed and you have set the wheels in motion around the new goals set, you can now sit back and watch the results roll in.

Unfortunately the longer you wait the less you seem to be able to meet the goals you have set and the much awaited results never materialised.

Keep reading my blog, to identify some common reasons as to why your business might not be meeting its strategic goals and what you can do to mitigate this:

  1. Unrealistic Goal Setting

The founder of noonday ventures, Ted Harro maintains that, businesses that set unrealistically high goals create a business culture where failure becomes acceptable and expected.  Such businesses also always maintain ineffective teams that are always just going through the motions.

It is always ambitious to want to challenge your employees, however stretching their skills way beyond their scope and remit will no doubt result in a negative outcome.  In order for your employees to achieve their goals, they must be grounded in reality.

Therefore make sure of the following:

  • Goals set are achievable in the time-frame set.
  • Goals set are achievable with the budget and tools available.
  • Goals set are achievable with the amount of employees, responsibilities and skill set.
  • Include catch-up time – as some things might take longer than expected and others could be added to the schedule unexpectedly.