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Friday, January 25, 2008

Job Search & Resume Essentials

Fortunately (and unfortunately) as a Manager you will frequently get involved in the process of hiring new staff.  The unfortunate downside is that as a Manager you will also have to sometimes terminate staff - see my post on PIPs earlier - but this to some extent goes with the territory.  Let's look at the positive aspect first and let's look at it in two parts as it might be you on the other side of that chair at some point!

Selling Yourself

Now the first step in selling yourself is a decently formatted CV/Resume and appropriately detailed and specific cover letter.  There are lots of places that will send you to resume writers and so on, but you have to remember something very important - your resume is really only the 1st step - YOU need to be able to speak to someone about everything that is on there and if you cannot do that, it will not matter whether or not you got an interview.  You WILL NOT get the job!

Now, if you can speak about everything that is on your resume congratulations, that is important as that is what you will be questioned on come interview time.  You need to ensure that you are comfortable with it and to be honest, depending on your experience, you should not be frightened if your initial resume is 10 pages long (just do not send that version out!).

Once you have built a starting resume, the next task is to weed it down to the appropriate keywords that the company is looking for - see why I said 10 pages is OK?  You can use those keywords and the accompanying 'blurbs' to flesh out each of your jobs so that you present yourself in the best possible light.  Most books and companies would state that you should aim to have your formatted resume (the one that the hiring managers see) be approximately 2 pages in length.  Any longer and unfortunately unless the hiring managers are very bored, will be generally disregarded.  Keep in mind in today's economies there are almost always more people applying for a role than there are positions available and correspondingly lots more resume's!

Now, this all might sound a bit dry and factual (although there are lots of different formats and ways of presenting yourself in your resume to make it less so, the end goal to keep in mind is that you are presenting a "Professional" image of yourself.  Where you have an opportunity to be a bit more risqué is in your covering letter.  Although your resume has been tailored towards the job that you are applying for, your experience might not always be an EXACT match and in these instances, you would use your covering letter to explain why you are a suitable candidate for the role being advertised.

A hiring manager uses the data in the cover letter that you have provided and would compare it against the information in your resume to receive a positive or negative impression as well as an initial determination of suitability for the position.  You don't just want to throw keywords into the cover letter in a random order, you need to ensure that the information you are presenting about yourself matches what the company is looking for and also as mentioned earlier, if your resume is not an exact match, why should they talk to you?  Remember, these simple pieces of paper determine who gets seen first and who gets pitched to the side.

Some key things to always include in a cover letter are:
  • Key Accomplishments and Awards (i.e. How did you benefit your last company?  How much money did you save them?  What process improvements did you initiate and how successful were they?)
  • Customer Testimonials - if you are applying for a Customer Service role and your customers are willing to be your advocate that says some really good things about you and the level of Service you are able to provide.
Finally, with regards to your CV/Resume and cover letter, there is probably one really important thing that I have not yet mentioned ... it is extremely important so please pay attention ... studies state that 85% of applicants currently applying for new positions, make this simple elementary error.


In today's day and age with the tools we have available, there is no excuse for simple spelling and grammatical errors.  Remember, Hiring Managers are looking for a reason to put you in the NO pile - don't give them an easy out!!  Once you have read it, read it again and then get your wife to read it and your brother and as many other people as you can think off.  Not only will they hopefully find any errors, but they might even be able to add some additional accomplishments that you'd forgotten!  

In addition unless you are in a highly specialized field, you want to ensure that your resume is readable AND understandable by the "lay" person - remember more often than not, the Hiring Manager in HR does not really understand the role that they are hiring for and is really only looking for those keywords I've mentioned before!

I hope that the above has been useful information with regards to CV/Resume creation as well as the cover letter.  In later posts, I will cover the different job boards (for you and your candidates), recruiters as well as the disciplinary and termination process.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Communication and Customer Service

An extremely funny story that demonstrates the importance of listening to your customers.

This is some correspondence which actually occurred between a London hotel's staff and one of its guests. The London hotel involved submitted this to the Sunday Times. No name was mentioned.

Dear Maid,
Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way. Thank you,
S. Berman
Dear Room 238,
I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.
Kathy, Relief Maid
Dear Maid -- I hope you are my regular maid.
Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won't need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.
S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,
My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn't remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance.
Your regular maid,
Dear Mr. Berman,
The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this A.M. that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you.
Elaine Carmen
Dear Miss Carmen,
It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 745 AM and don't get back before 530 or 6PM. That's the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?
S. Berman
Dear Mr. Berman,
Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you,
Elaine Carmen,
Dear Mr. Kensedder,
My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.
S. Berman
Dear Mr. Berman,
I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.
Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager
Dear Mrs. Carmen,
Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.
S. Berman
Dear Mr. Berman,
You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily (sic). I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.
Elaine Carmen

Dear Mrs. Carmen,
Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:
  • On shelf under medicine cabinet - 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • On Kleenex dispenser - 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
  • On bedroom dresser - 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
  • Inside medicine cabinet - 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • In shower soap dish - 6 Camay, very moist.
  • On northeast corner of tub - 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
  • On northwest corner of tub - 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.
Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.
S. Berman

Ok, I know that this seems extremely funny and silly, but think about it from the Customer's perspective.  He has obviously passed the point of frustration.  Do you think he'll be coming back to this establishment?  Will he be recommending them to anyone else?  I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding - NO!  It is important to remember that you need to "Listen" to your customer - don't just hear them but listen to what they are actually telling you.  More often than not a small problem can be avoided early on by taking this approach.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Internal & External SLA’s

A very important point to remember at all times is that you need to have a more aggressive Internal SLA vs. the one that you are offering to your customers. I know it sounds self-evident doesn't it, but there is no end of organizations that I've dealt with where customers are offered a 4hr SLA on a 24/7 basis and the engineers that can actually fix the problem are either unavailable till the next business day or NOT even on call!!!

Let me state this once again and very clearly so that there is NO CONFUSION ...

If you are offering your customers an SLA of 'X Hours' and your Engineering (or Development or Project Management or ... etc...) team is only offering you an SLA of 'X + Y Hours' ... YOU WILL LOSE MONEY and YOU WILL LOSE CUSTOMERS!!!

It is imperative that your internal SLA be better than the one you are offering to your customers and you need to ensure that your Sales team and Senior Management are both on board with this. 

Remember, also, that this must go all the way up the chain ... your Engineering team has agreed to an internal SLA of 'X – Y Hours' (woohoo!! That will solve 80% of your problems) but the Development team is only offering them an SLA of 'Z' (assume 'Z' is a multiple of 'X + Y') ... for those 20% of customers and problems that cannot be solved by your Tier 2 (Engineering team in this example) group ... you are still going to be in trouble. 

The question, now becomes how much are you & your company willing to invest in protecting yourself from that 20%?

I hope that this gives you the ammunition that you need in your discussions with Senior MGMT. Any help you need or further suggestions, please feel free to contact me using the form on the right side of the page.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Erlang 'C' & Scheduling for Call Centres - III

Skill-Based Routing

Simpler to say than actually execute, SBR is a way of ensuring that your contact reaches the agent best suited to deal with and address their issue.  This assists in first call resolution but is also key when it comes to things like languages and specific technologies.  An easy example is ensuring that a French-speaking customer with a data problem reaches your agent in your call center in Montreal (or France for that matter) vs your agent in an English speaking call center.  

Skill-based routing allows for significant granularity and focus, but it is only as good as the information you know or are supplied with by the customer.  This can either be from an existing customer database or from your initial ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) system where the customer is responsible for determining what problem they have.

Scheduling Tools

There is a multitude of free & paid for scheduling tools available and obviously, you get what you pay for with the ones requiring a monthly/yearly fee offering significantly more tools and services than the free ones.  However, depending on the size of your center and your budget, some of these free tools (reviewed) are extremely effective and useful.  I have provided links to some of the better subscription-based tools also, but have not included a review of them as their websites are fairly descriptive in and of itself.
  • Excel (or other) Spreadsheet - hopefully your budget includes at least one copy of Microsoft Excel, but if not, you can still get access to free spreadsheet applications either through Open Office or even Google Docs or Zoho Docs. Depending on your chosen product/solution, the formula's and look of the product will be slightly different, however, for simple call/support centers any of these will suffice. Your main measurement would be determined by your total required staffing level. You can also build a schedule based on specified Tiers of customers or skillsets. Don't get too complicated with Excel as it would pay you to get a specialized tool to do this right. A sample Tiered schedule is provided below.

The key things to note here are that, there are less Tier2 staff than Tier1 (think about it as a Pyramid shape ... the higher up the Pyramid you get, the more skilled your staff are). And also, the GAP ... this is where you can expect to receive more calls/emails/contacts than your Staff is able to handle. Expect complaints, bad service and abandon calls as well as ... you should expect to start losing Customers! ... unless you can get this to be '0'

One other thing to note is that this is a daily schedule ... see what I mean about specialized tools?  Don't worry I'll be getting to them soon I hope!