Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Service providers

In today’s language the term “service provider” is often used generally to describe the company or organization from whom you get your Internet, phone and/or TV service. The emphasis seems to be on ‘provider’ not ‘service.’ It seems, in many cases, the service providers have forgotten the importance of providing service to their customers. They want to collect the money from their customers, but many do not actually provide real service.

Seth Godin wrote a cogent post about the importance of making the customer happy. In response to an experience he had calling a customer service organization, he wrote:

The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.

If you’re not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion. There are no half measures. Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings. Think of all the money you’ll save if you just stop answering altogether. Think of all the money you’ll make if you just make people happy.

It comes down to the leadership through which the attitude is established in an organization. Focus on becoming a service provider and you will make people happy.

The Product Management Perspective: The importance of customer service in product management cannot be overstated. To the extent product managers focus on understanding and serving their customers their products will do likewise.

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Tell a great story

I recently had lunch with a friend who made an interesting comment that CEOs are looking for people who can coach them and help them to tell a good story. He had recently read an article that criticized the overuse (or abuse) of PowerPoint, which has lead to more mundane presentations and unexciting seminars. What people really want to hear is a great story.

I was thinking about this concept of telling a story as I was catching up on my blog reading. I came across two excellent posts that support this idea: The first is by Phil Meyers on Tuned In. Phil profiles Remember My Service by Story Rock. They focus on telling the stories of service men and women by creating a movie-quality DVD for their unit, its journey and impact.

The second post is by Seth Godin. Seth asks which comes first – the story or the work. Most of the time it’s the work that comes first, then we tell a story based on the work. But Seth suggests you turn it around and create the story first. “If you decide what the story is, you can do work that matches the story. Your decisions will match the story. The story will become true because you’re living it.”

One of the great story tellers was (the late) Dan Fogelberg; he told his stories through music. Songs like Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band told powerful stories you could live in as you heard him sing.

Regardless of the work we do, to the better the story we tell the more success we will have. What are your favorite stories?