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Book Summary: Human Sigma – Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter By John Fleming and Jim Asplund
Jim Clifton, president of Gallup wrote an excellent book called The Coming Jobs War. In the book, he describes one thing that drives a society forward and that is the willingness of people to work and the creation of jobs. There are 7 billion people in the world today and the economy is global. It’s a huge competitive stage. I am an entrepreneur at heart and my job is to create and grow businesses that create jobs. I really want to understand and exploit human performance.
Employee and customer engagement is one thing that makes businesses grow. Human Sigma specifically talks about this interaction.
Why is this important to me?
I’m not doing this summary to waste your time. My vision is to provide concise action steps you can take right now to improve your life. According to Gallup, 9% of employees are ENGAGED, 71% are DISENGAGED, and 20% are ACTIVELY DISENGAGED. To put this into perspective, let’s do some simple math. Say your business has $50 million in revenue per year and there are 5 million impressions. Impressions are calls, emails, website visits, or anything that allows your people to reach a customer, prospect, or lead. Each impression in this example is worth $10. Remember that 20% of your people are ACTIVELY disengaged, which means impressions will be negative. The lost business potential of 20% negative impressions is $10 million in lost revenue per year. The math looks like this: 5 million impressions x 20% negative impressions x €10.
As you can see, there is a real need to improve these statistics and that is exactly what smart companies are doing. If you want to laugh, watch the movie Office Space. The movie is funny in a painful way because a lot of the action really happens in the corporate world.
Human Sigma is divided into over 15 chapters and packed with detailed information. Since there is so much information and time is limited, I would like to outline the what, why, and how to improve customer and employee engagement based on the research in this book.
1. What – Terminator Management – What’s the problem? Human Sigma talks about the Terminator School of Management. If you consider the Industrial Revolution, you will understand the problem that transcends left-brain repetitive tasks and right-brain creative work. Henry Ford mastered mass production. He needed physical labor. At the time, this called for strict management control and a reduction in workers’ freedom. I can vouch for this because I worked in a car factory for 4 months and it is NOT an easy job. The shift starts at 6 a.m.; you get two 10-minute breaks and lunch. This work is very repetitive and senseless.
2. Six Sigma – This is a process to improve processes. It worked like magic in manufacturing, because you’re dealing with machines, tolerances, and a supply chain. The improvements over the past 25 years have been staggering, but it doesn’t work for human engineering.
3. Right Brain – Information age work is creative in nature. According to Gallup, 89% of Fortune 500 value consists of intangible assets. It means things like talented people, intellectual property, goodwill, and customers. These things cannot be handled the old fashioned way. Have you ever wondered why Van Halen or Guns and Roses had issues? Managing creative talent with old-fashioned management tactics doesn’t work.
Let’s dive into the why and look at four impacts.
1. Why – Now let’s dive deeper into why this needs to change and why customer-employee engagement is crucial for competitive advantage. An important factor is the fact that companies with more engaged team members grow 2.6 times faster than their peers. This advantage over time translates into staggering results. Every organization must master this if it wants to be alive in the future.
2. Why – It is impossible to legislate real human interaction. Have you ever called a company to have a representative abroad answer you? They keep telling you their name is John, which you know isn’t true. This simple gesture puts the customer in distrust mode from the start. How about being stuck in voicemail hell for the first 10 minutes of your call not counting the wait time. Once you meet an agent to help you, they are so scripted that the help does not leave you feeling good about the company.
3. Why – Cost centers. I never understood why billion-dollar companies would view frontline team members as a necessary evil. These people interact with customers. Customer service call centers are still notoriously bad after all these years. They must be given tools, autonomy and freedom of direction.
4. Why – Financial impact. As shown above, improving and focusing on employee-customer engagement together is positively correlated with bottom line impact. Increase engagement and organizations grow faster and are more profitable.
Let’s look at four things you can do right now.
1. How – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Customers and employees have the same hierarchy of needs. Companies that leverage this can transform engagement. Human beings need to realize themselves. It is possible to achieve this from a business perspective once the front line has the freedoms and training to do so.
2. How – To do unto others. Treat customers and employees as you would like to be treated. Here is a simple test you can use to magnify the issues. This is called the grandmother test. Compare these two statements: “I’m sorry but it’s our policy, no refund after 10 days” to “I’m sorry but it’s our policy, no refund after 10 days grandma”. Using grandma at the end of your company policies highlights how dumb they really are.
3. How – Customers want relationships. Customer satisfaction is not enough. To create true engagement, you need to build customer loyalty and for that, you need to build relationships. People don’t want relationships with actively disengaged employees, so you need to empower your employees to be engaged.
4. How – Right to Hire. It really is the basic movement for any organization. If you’re hiring customer-facing people, you need to find people who are bubbly, friendly, kind, and smart. If you take the time to hire, the how becomes more about organizational change instead of trying to change people.
Human Sigma is a great book that really sheds light on the customer-employee engagement model. This should be required reading for organizations that want to evolve and grow.
I hope you have found this short summary useful. The key to any new idea is to incorporate it into your daily routine until it becomes a habit. Habits are formed in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is that performance is tied to engagement. Focus on employee and customer engagement and make it your mission to improve it. If you do this, money, growth, and business success will follow. You’ll see results like more customer advocates, less staff turnover, and more referral business.
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