The LEGO Theory of Job Fulfillment

  Who doesn't love Lego? When I was a kid, Lego was my ultimate, favorite toy. After I would unbox a set, I would first try to build it as designed. But this wasn't the fun part yet! This is sort of the boring requirement. After some time, these new pieces would gradually fall into my BIG PAIL of Lego blocks. Playtime commenced when I would pour the pieces on the floor - one big mess. Then, I would just...create. Cars, knights on steeds, robots with several points of articulation, you name it, I built it. Fun! Decades after, Lego is bigger than ever. People buy the stuff in droves (even if it hurts the pocket) - fuelled especially by licensing everything cool. (Marvel … [Read more...]

6 Essential Rules on How To Deliver Kickass Customer Service (part 2 of 2)

(The second of a two-part series on AWESOME CUSTOMER SERVICE, part one can be found here) Before we proceed to rules 4, 5, and 6, let's do some definition of terms first. There are two types of culture in a given organization: there is the EXPRESSED culture, and there is the ACTUAL culture.  The expressed culture is what you see on Mission-Vision-Values statements or in organization "credos." It is the culture that companies WANT their companies to be defined by. The actual culture is, obviously, what your organization is really like. To hardcore HR practitioners, the technical terms are actually "presumed" vs. "actual" HR. But I think "expressed" is a bit more descriptive than … [Read more...]

6 Essential Rules on How to Deliver Kickass Customer Service (Part 1 of 2)

Much of my opinions here are based on my own journey in helping build STORM's customer service function. (This is obviously a work in progress) Since STORM services thousands of employees across a growing number of firms, we had to make sure from the onset we were making the right choices as far as customer service is concerned. Here's what I've been learning on how to build truly differentiated customer service. As a startup or an SME (versus my experience in my previous life in HR of bigger firms), you will have a much greater chance of building a culture that's TRULY centered on customer service. First 3 rules below, next 3 up in the next post! 1) At the very beginning, DECIDE … [Read more...]

Is There a Superman Your Clark Kent Can Become?

In this early 2005 interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder described Facebook as: "I mean, I just really want to see everyone focus on college and make a really cool college directory product...there doesn't necessarily have to be more..." Zuck was intent on just focusing in colleges. He was ecstatic with his 3 million users. Then, somewhere along the way, he realized he was sitting on a goldmine. Now? He's just passed his first BILLION users. Sometimes, all we need is a fresh look at our business to experience an epiphany.  Pao and I experienced the same thing in STORM around 2 years ago. (at a lesser extent than Zuck, obviously) We were making most of our money off … [Read more...]

Employing The Mach 3 Strategy

I was shaving my head this morning in the shower with my trusty Mach 3. I thought the blades needed changing. I made a mental note to myself to buy a fresh pack of blades - the woefully overpriced ones at the grocery counter. I had been buying these blades for FIFTEEN years already - I had been paying Gillette a small fortune. Funny, because I had never wanted these high-end blades in the first place - I won this Mach 3 way back in the 1998 Christmas party in my first corporate job. Once I got the Mach 3, somehow I just made a habit of buying the blades. I represent recurring revenue for Gillette. They must love me. If your startup idea can operate with a recurring, … [Read more...]

Think Bigger. Much Bigger.

Whatever you're thinking, think bigger. - Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO When thinking of or developing your startup idea, the overwhelming advice now is to "get out of the building" and do honest-to-goodness research with potential customers. Intuitively, you'd think that what should happen is that your idea would narrow down, right? This was what I thought: that as the "big idea" comes into contact with research and reality, you'd have to scale your plans down and "get real." What I'm finding out though, is the reverse. Think Facebook. When Zuckerberg originally thought of "TheFacebook", he was targeting only universities and campuses. As he developed his startup, he began to realize … [Read more...]

Emulate Tony Stark: Intuit The Future

When Pao and I started STORM, we thought of a product which people WILL be buying - an online flexible benefits service for companies. There was nothing like it in the market yet. We decided to pursue a FUTURE need, as opposed to coming up with something we knew people were ALREADY buying. In 2005, we launched our product with a hotel seminar which exhausted the little capital we had. It was a fully-booked (free) event, which made us think, "We're going to kill it!" Uhm. Not really. When we talked to everyone after, NO ONE wanted to buy our product - largely because people didn't understand it, and no one was using it. Wet behind the ears, we concluded that we still needed to … [Read more...]

Delivering Happiness Delivers Big-time! (A book review)

After finishing a good book, I typically lie back, savor the moment, and say to myself, "that was a good book." Then I try to think of ways of applying what I learned in different aspects of my life. In the middle of finishing Tony Hsieh's (pronounced "shay") super cool book, Delivering Happiness, I HAD to talk about it to my team immediately. This book makes you want to jump out and change the way you do things. This is a great book. Structurally, the book talks about 2 main things in sequence: a) Tony Hsieh's personal entrepreneurial journey (he started out wanting to be the King of the Worms) b) The rise of Zappos (an amazing story) But the neat thing is, he makes the book into … [Read more...]

Scaling Your Caring: How You Can and Why You Need to

A few weeks ago, my wife posted "what's a good ramen place?" on her Facebook account. We love ramen and wanted to find out if anything new was out there. She was besieged with a score of answers. She got the usual suspects - like Ramen Bar and Ajisen Ramen.  Then we noticed an answer which was met with near-universal approval from her friends - Tamagoya Noodle House. Apparently, it was a small, obscure ramen place in Antipolo which gets crowded fast. (How can we say no to that?! Resistance = futile) And you know what? We went and just loved it. We're now frequent customers. More than ever, we have been consulting Google less and less and our friends on our social networks … [Read more...]

Don’t Put Parrots In Customer Service

A few weeks ago, I was in the hospital passionately arguing with an HMO officer who was insistent on applying a policy which was so evidently not applicable to my own particular case. "If we implement this policy, instead of the insurance paying for my fees, I would be paying YOU - it doesn't make any sense." "Ganoon ho talaga." WHAT?! I was furious. But I understood what was happening. The person on the other line was trained to placate customers and explain policy, but no true power to interpret or be flexible. This is inherently why customer service sucks in so many companies - most customer service personnel are simply given a script and if-then scenarios. Invariably, there … [Read more...]