Is all good Apple? – why did Steve take another medical leave, please?

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What is the level of disclosure by companies that would be considered enough? Does Steve Jobs of Apple need to tell everyone and all his investors updated on his health and his indefinite medical leave on Martin Luther King’s day? Is that fair to investors who have the right to know all material information about the company’s affairs? Is that fair to Steve Jobs who has a private life too?

I feel Jobs’ case is different in the sense that this company would founded by him and again given another spirit while it was almost bankrupt back in 1997. Knowing it’s the second highest valued corporation after Exxon Mobil and the level of involvement Jobs has had to all the projects not only as a manager or an administrator, but also as an engineer and passionate lover of ideas and inspiration, investors associate the company’s innovation and success with Steve Jobs’ presence too. Ebullience and grim mood are all the various faces of the market, but investors as a whole feel that it’s not the Apple Corporation as an entity only, but the mix of Jobs’ innovation and spirit with the company’s team that is the hidden recipe behind the company’s success so far. So then, in one way, investors are rightful in being nervous on hearing of this indefinite leave.

Disclosures should be fair, transparent and in plain language. It should communicate everything important and material to the case in hand, and Steve Jobs’ health is one of those material information in Apple’s case.

Operational Fiasco at OCS Expressions Service

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OCS operates Expressions service to send gifts to folks and friends around Pakistan from selections based on several different options. I happened to send over a gift on the Christmas weekend. I wanted to be sure that I send the right kind of gifts over and wanted to be sure that everything goes smooth. After going through hordes of options, I opted to use OCS Expressions to deliver the gift right on time.

It turned out I would have to pay premium for Sunday delivery despite their Christmas weekend waiver offer, but I agreed. I wanted to be sure of everything being in order, so asked the person at the OCS counter to just check about the availability and delivery option for the selected package. The reception officer called up their corresponding staff and confirmed to me the availability and considering I was already booking in the delivery much earlier (more than two days before as against their minimum of 24 hours before delivery time), the officer assured me everything will be in order.

As it turned out, the delivery was made, but only a partial one. One of the key things I selected that package for – ‘specialty assorted chocolates’ – was missing all together. Even more irritating was the fact that no one even bothered to tell me that, and the first person to convey this to me was the gift recipient when I asked how were the chocolates. It was quite awkward to hear, “umm, there are no chocolates!”

I was quite upset and called up OCS staff right away to get only a warm reply, and an assurance of settling the mishap the next working day. They said they didn’t find those chocolates so left it out for delivery later (without even asking me, who had paid in advance already!). I kept trying them the next day and kept getting a variety of responses from different persons such as their customer service head, executive in-charge and even project in-charge. It kept bothering me but to no avail. I requested them to at least make the delivery late even after the entire mess-up already, and they kept giving excuses and time lines playing the blame game throughout cursing their own staff for this. Two days later, I got another message from the gift recipient that they got a call from OCS people about a delay in the gift and that it will be one more day before the surprise gift chocolates… Whoa, so much for the element of surprise my dear sir!

I had asked for a refund based on the fact that they failed in their commitment, they agreed that there was a big mishap and said they’d compensate for the same. The “project in-charge” was supposed to return to me on that. However, despite my calls twice, no one  seemed bothered enough to care. Thinking back on this entire episode again, I feel pity for the company as they didn’t realize they were only creating another mishap after the first one. At least think about the name of the service “Expressions” for God’s sake.

It is awkwardly perplexing how a company coming from an industry thriving on customer relationships, goodwill management, customer loyalty and brand ambassadorship can get away with Operational Fiasco’s with additional cruel layers of icing of poor customer service and ill-will generation amongst all their prospective customers. Is it all about the money for them I wonder? Even if it is, money won’t follow them for sure this way.

Perhaps, OCS Pakistan does not get it now that living up to customers’ promised expectations, a positive attitude and professionalism are hallmarks of success and one can often not succeed and certainly not thrive with an attitude of eccentricity and indifference to their customers.

For a company in any industry, a satisfied customer is a prerequisite for growth, as they the former’s existence dwindles in the latter’s faith moves about to the competitor. I don’t know for sure if you’re sorry, OCS Pakistan, but I feel sorry for you. One more customer lost, eh. That’s it for your sales register today or may be that’s not it. Who knows who all would change their their minds after reading this.

Believability

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They say every man is born twice, the second time when he earns his reputation amongst people.

– Avatar

In personal and professional lives and also in businesses, earning the believability of others is an obvious imperative. Key businesses and business people have gone far and wide to keep earning this reputation for believability through their actions and choices, time and again.

J&J’s Tylenol fiasco was an obvious example, where the imperative for the company’s employees who made sure their commitment to ethical operations was unwavering and was not affected by any short-term repercussions on their numerical bottom line. They earned a reputation. They earned the believability of their customers, prospective customers, investors, media, government and the general public as a whole.

When one walks into any of the thousands of global branches of the McDonald’s franchise, he/she expects a certain quality of food to be served in a certain kind of environment. Ray Kroc’s commitment to living up to the Q S C V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness & Value) meant no compromises, to the effect that now they’ve developed a kind of believability amongst those that go to McDonald’s and even those that don’t.

This is not an overnight transformation, but a conscious effort at earning your share of the customer’s trust – which takes years, and sometimes generations.

LU’s Pied piper was something that stood as an image for three generations now based on the consistent delivery of their brand promise.

It’s not only about survival of the fittest. It’s about more. It’s about getting to know your customers and letting them know you. Earning believability is the second life most corporations fancy, but to live through the small moments each day to grow and nurture that believability is what most of these most would not focus on. Hence, the customer’s preferences.

Entertainment per Capita

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Economists and thinkers often talk about GDP/GNP per capita as their discussion parameter when talking about national happiness. FT reported last week of Bhutan’s efforts in finding the the true Gross National Happiness (GNH). It also noted that most of the developed world is now bent on finding ways to maximize not the GDP, but GNH!  It’s amazing to note that possibly, money can’t buy happiness.

Some years ago the economist Richard Easterlin showed that, just as would be expected, wealthier people in any given country are more likely to tell a survey-taker that they are happy with their lives than are poorer people in the same country. However, Easterlin also found two other things that don’t fit so well with the economic perspective. First, he found that as countries get richer, beyond the level where basic needs such as food and shelter are met, people don’t report being any happier. For example, although today most Americans surveyed will tell you they are happy with their lives, the fraction of those who say that they are happy is not any higher than it was 40 years ago, when average incomes in the United States were considerably lower and few could even imagine developments like mobile phones or the Internet. Second, he found that–again, once you get above a basic sustenance level–on average, people in rich countries don’t report being all that much happier than people in lower-income countries. The finding that people in rich countries don’t report much greater happiness than those in lower-income countries–even though, in any given country, the rich say they are happier than the poor do–is called the Easterlin paradox, after its discoverer.

Funny – isn’t it, when we put this in perspective where most people seem to be running after getting richer on one hand have always wanted to be satisfied and happy on the other?

There is no denying to the fact that money is very important, however, entertainment per capita is a relevant new benchmark in this economy where we are not totally over with the ripple effects of the depression cycle worse than the Great Depression of 1929. Entertainment has to be associated with a hard form as well as a soft form. Economies and governments have to provide ways for their people to find an easy, inexpensive catharsis to their feelings to let the balance be.

Food for thought: How often do you measure life by the moments that take your breath away?

New Year Celebrations

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People often celebrate their joys in awkward ways. I remember one group of youngsters driving on motor bikes on high speed without the silencers on. It gave an impression of a frustrated lot craving an outburst of their hidden energies rather than a joyful, celebrating one.

Another group of people started crackers that would be as good (read: worse) as the high-pitch sound of a grenade. How could, one wonders, people seem to enjoy things in an awkwardly fashion?

I know of another group of people which gathers around near the sea and also some other places in the city to check out some eye candy and then waste most of the hours in the commute to-and-from that place anyway.

Okay, this was a rant but I guess that’s all right every once in a while. I feel the best way to spend those moments are with family and friends where you remember your memories of the outgoing year and cherish those moments too. Well,  at least find a better way than racing motor bikes without silencers on!

Anyways, Happy New Year to all my readers. Hope this new year brings for you a lot of health, happiness, peace, success and that you start to value the little things in life that are as important as life itself.  Cheerio!!