As inclement weather hits, Delta fails its customers due to organizational breakdowns

As inclement weather hit the New York and Eastern Seaboard earlier this month, the FAA issued a slowdown of all ground and air traffic in and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, resulting in hundreds of delayed and canceled flights set to depart that night. What followed was a textbook example showcasing the breakdown of operational and technical silos within an organization such as Delta. We all know nothing can be done about Mother Nature and her impact on air travel; however, how organizations such as Delta react will either magnify or alleviate situations like this. Unfortunately in the example we are sharing today, Delta’s breakdown magnified the issue… 

When the FAA ordered the slowdown of LaGuardia’s air traffic, Delta—at first—appeared to be the poster child for how an organization should be responding in times where situational slowdowns were out of their control. It started with Delta notifying their passengers of the slowdowns via an announcement within the terminal, followed by text messages, emails, and Delta mobile application notifications. They were quick to identify the source of the slowdown being the FAA and the weather’s unforeseen impact on the airport while promising to keep passengers updated on progress as it was made. At first, updates were coming fast and furious, with new statuses being made almost every 10 – 15 minutes… This impressed me as it seemed like Delta was working with real-time data to make their best possible indication of delays and new departure times. However, as time began to pass, it became apparent Delta was doing nothing more than pulling guesses out of thin air.

In reality, what we were witnessing was a systematic breakdown of the various silos within Delta. At first, it was communication with its passengers, as frequent departure updates became less frequent, conflicting, and past tense. After a while, Delta stopped screenshot_20190610-203903_fly-deltapushing updates via email and text altogether, only sticking with gate and mobile application updates… At this point, even the gate and mobile application had completely different departure times, and as time progressed, even those times were long gone with future updates ending up with the same fate…. It wasn’t uncommon to be looking at the mobile app with an estimated departure time that is 10 minutes earlier than the current time (Picture). This at first was clear indication that Delta did not have a cohesive communication strategy for times like this… But it did not stop there.

While waiting at the gate wondering when our flight would actually depart from LaGuardia, something interesting happened: a flight attendant ended up sitting next to me… The first thing I noticed is that Delta provides their staff a different version of their mobile application; this application gives them visibility into incoming flight statuses for aircrafts meant to service specific flights. In this case, her application clearly showed that our flight was inbound from Boston to LaGuardia with an ETA of 8:05pm while the gate notifications had our estimated departure time at 7:57pm… This was a first clear indicator that their own internal systems were not able to communicate between each other, as they clearly had our estimated departure time set before our incoming aircraft was even due to arrive. What even further compounded the issue was once our incoming aircraft finally made it to the gate, we were then notified that our pilots were actually on a completely different aircraft… These two incoming flights both had direct downstream impacts to our delayed flight, yet it seemed as if the team responsible for posting departure estimates had no insight whatsoever to this information. This begs the question: where were they getting this information from in the first place?

Delta’s failures didn’t stop there. Once the aircraft and crew were finally in alignment and passengers were able to board the plane, the waiting continued. At first it was 5 minutes, but then quickly became 10, 15, and then 20 minutes without movement from the gate or updates from the crew. Eventually, the pilots came over the intercom announcing that we were actually waiting on the aircraft to finish fueling and paperwork. This, again, was another breakdown of Delta’s systems as the plane had been sitting at the gate for more than 30 minutes before the crew arrived, and no one had the foresight to ensure proper preparation such as fueling the aircraft while waiting on the crew. This delay turned into another 50-minute delay before we were able to depart from the gate.

The lack of system communication within Delta not only made it frustrating to receive an accurate estimate of when our delayed fight was actually set to depart, but it had call center ramifications as well. That day, not only were flights delayed, but there were many cancelations … As passengers began to receive cancelation updates, they were quick to call Delta’s customer service to make alternate arrangements. For some, this turned into absolute disaster as people were being booked on new flights, and those flights were canceled minutes later in some cases, or passengers were finding that flights were full. In one case, there was a gentleman trying to make his way to Tennessee who was booked on three canceled flights…

What we were witnessing was a fundamental breakdown in Delta’s siloed systems which made it virtually impossible for the various components of Delta’s customer-facing business units to properly communicate internally and to customers, leading to an end result of frustrated customers and bruised brand reputation. When Mother Nature hits, almost nothing can control how the FAA will react and its impact to the airlines; however, the way the airlines react during this time can and will have a direct impact to overall customer experiences and brand reputation…. Let’s be realistic—we talked a lot about Delta, but they’re not alone, as many organizations struggle with the same siloed approach to how they do business, and as a direct result, they are slow to react when their customers are in times of need. Small businesses have an advantage as they are quick to make adjustments on the fly; however, even small businesses fail to recognize that they need to put proper systems and policies in place before situations like unplanned weather hit! As businesses, it is up to you to be proactive in times of need because customers will remember if you alleviated the situation or just made things worse.

The 10 Reasons Your Sales Team May Be on the Hunt

Sales Team May Be on the HuntWe recently came across an interesting LinkedIn post questioning how to keep sales team members from leaving an organization… This is an interesting question, as Sales overall tends to have some of the highest turnover rates over any other department within an organization. Each time an organization loses another sales team member, it is not just the employee loss that hurts the organization. There are many downstream issues that affect the organization from associated revenue loss, recruitment cost, on-boarding cost, and potential loss of client trust. This makes sense as to why organizations should be finding ways to ensure good sales team members stick around longer.

Engaged reps are no longer spending entire careers within one organization but hop job to job every few years in search for the next better opportunity… Why has this become the case? First, over the years, it seems that the way organizations have looked at Sales has drastically changed from strategic individuals within an organization to replaceable butts in seats. As a result, Sales feels less valued by their current employers and are lured away with the hope of finding a role where they are more valued and see more potential in the long term. Let us break it down a bit and share some of the key areas we’ve seen that can affect the sales team’s morale within an organization:

  • Number of Sales Reps = Revenue: Translation: butts in seats = bookings. We’ve lost count to how many executives we’ve seen build their revenue models based on how many reps they have in seats. Are they wrong in this approach? No. But herein lies the issue; they take this perception beyond their revenue models and begin to look at their sales team as a number vs. individuals and treat them as such.
  • Everyone is Replaceable: When management begins to look at the sales team as just a number, they start to convey the message to the sales team that everyone is replaceable. And no one wants to feel as if they are replaceable.

One example of how an organization takes this to the extreme is Oracle. As a starter, teams that have a full head count are allocated the ability to hire a +1 rep. The sole job function of this +1 is to sit on the bench waiting for a rep within the team to leave the organization so they can fill that hole as soon as humanly possible. However, it doesn’t just stop there. Over the years, Oracle has developed a “class of” program, hiring MBAs fresh out of college and spending months training and crafting their ideal reps… These new reps are kind of like the AAA of Oracle, where once they complete training, they are given positions as Business Development Reps where they hone their skills in waiting to be called up to the Big Show. Again, this makes them a lower cost and a faster replacement option as older reps leave. Nothing makes a sales team member feel less appreciated than knowing they are 100% replaceable at any moment’s notice.

  • Three Months: Three months is the average time most reps get to fix their low sales numbers before they are put on a Performance Improvement Plan to fix their numbers or be fired. Now, we agree that bad reps need to be fired; however, we find that many organizations do not take the true time to understand why a sales member is under-performing. Furthermore, we find most performance plans are configured in a way where goals are almost impossible to hit and are essentially designed to get a rep to quit or get fired. In these cases, existing reps are completely aware of these types of plans, and it always sits in the back of their minds.
  • Shrinking Commission: In twenty-plus years, we can count on one hand the commission plan changes that were actually beneficial to the reps! Regardless of the organization, we’ve found that the majority of commission changes typically have a detrimental effect on reps’ commissions. It doesn’t matter how management tries to frame these changes to the sales team; they know how they are paid and will quickly see how a plan will change their compensation. Nothing demotivates Sales more than knowing they are making less money for the same work.
  • Unattainable Quotas: We reviewed this in a past article, but it begs repeating. Sure, as a company grows, so should quotas. But if you have more than 50% of your reps missing their numbers, you have a problem. No one is going to stick with a company if their quotas are so high they are virtually impossible to hit.
  • Career Path: Typically, there isn’t one for Sales. Very few companies actually line up a career path for their sales team, and as a result, there is almost no path for career progression. It is hard to keep anyone motivated if there is no path for them to grow. This is even more painful as they see others in other departments continuously get promoted while they remain stagnant.
  • Outside Management: This is such a tough one as we see the value of bringing in a fresh set of eyes to oversee a team. However, almost nothing makes a sales team less motivated than when leadership brings in management from outside the organization. Not only does it show that management does not believe that anyone within the current team has the ability to lead, but when you couple that with the lack of career development already in place, it truly demotivates a team.
  • Outside Heavy Hitter: A new successful territory becomes available or the opportunity to sell the newest product opens up, but management brings in an outside heavy hitter to take on this new role vs. an existing team member. That’s going to piss off your existing team. Why should someone that is completely new to the organization get a new and exciting opportunity while people that have been with the company for years stay stagnant? You may not believe that, but your team certainly does.
  • Presidents Club: What is that? Nothing is more nostalgic than hearing some of the old-timers talking about “the glory days” of presidents club… Free family trips to Disney World, all-expenses-paid trips to the Caribbean, corporate sporting event buyouts… Sure, there are still some companies that offer these types of trips, but they are few and far between. Even if they do offer some type of presidents club, they almost never stack up to those in the past. Sure, does the lack of Presidents Club cause reps to leave? Of course not. But it certainly does not help with retention, especially when they are being recruited by other firms that might actually have a great Presidents Club.
  • Random Perks: Random breakfast, lunches, or an offer to pay for a night out on the town are the little things that good companies offer reps for all their hard work and time away from their families when traveling. However, many companies do not offer these perks anymore… Again, does the lack of incentives truly make a rep want to leave? The answer is still no. However, just like the Presidents Club, perks make them feel appreciated, and they are definitely being offered by companies that recruit your best reps.

At the end of the day, sales is one of the most stressful jobs in any organization. When you really think about it, each rep essentially has to start at zero at the beginning of every month, quarter, and year… The good sales reps are always focused on how to be successful and close as much business as possible. This results in them not adopting the typical 9–5 shift and working all hours of the day. They continuously sacrifice family time for email, sales calls and travel… However, companies are increasingly devaluing the position of Sales, and they have taken notice. This is why salespeople don’t stick around for entire careers anymore. You want your reps to stick around? Make them feel irreplaceable with an obtainable quota, give them a career path, and instead of finding clever ways to pay them less, find ways to pay them more! Finally, make them feel appreciated by offering perks such as a Presidents Club and little things such as breakfast or lunches (they go a really long way). When people feel appreciated and like a valued part of a team, they will not be wondering how much greener the grass is on the other side of the fence.

Want to discuss more or need help, feel free to comment below or contact us directly at 3SixtySMB@3SixtSMB.com

 

Search Engine Optimization – What is it and why is it so important for Small Businesses?

SEO Search Engine Optimization for Small BusinessesThe internet has been around for a while now, and so has Google… Yet, most small businesses have no idea how the internet or Google work, leading to one of the major reasons for business failure in today’s market.

There is no escaping the fact that almost all sales (business and consumer) start with an online search, and this isn’t new. About ten years ago, we used to share a stat that around 50% of sales start with an online search—and this was ten years ago. Since then, that percentage has grown exponentially to 87%, quickly making online search one of the top facilitators for how buyers find and conduct research around items they are looking to purchase. This quite simply means, regardless of your business type, size, or industry, if you do not have a proper online presence or have a key understanding of how online search platforms such as Google work, you are losing business (not a little amount of business, but a lot). There are plenty of businesses that have embraced the internet and online search full-heartedly, making it a core part of their business functionality. As a result, they close a significant amount of business and are thriving where others are failing! Some have even created models where their entire online presence is geared around a touchless sale, allowing customers to find, research, and place orders for their products and services 100% online without ever having to interact with a representative. However, there are still 36% of small businesses that still do not even have a website. And the number of businesses that just have improperly formatted websites or a complete lack of understanding of how Google works, is quite staggering. Why is this the case? Well, it’s a reoccurring theme that comes up in most of our writings but comes down to the lack of understanding of how the internet really works, or just a general resistance to change. In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics of developing an online search presence.

As a starting point, we need to drive home the point that almost all business and consumer purchases start with an online search. Furthermore, when online search is solely used to start the process, there has been a transition to continue to use online search throughout the entire lifecycle of the buying process. Essentially, what this means is once a buyer has locked in on a prospective company, they will continue to conduct research on that company, industry, competition, along with the various product and solutions offerings. Again, this all boils down to the fact that if your business is not focused on online search, you are setting yourself up for failure. The starting point for all these searches and research efforts is Google! Google currently directs 92.81% of all online search traffic, making Google one of the most single important strategies businesses should be focused on from a marketing perspective. The strategy in relationship to Google, is what is commonly referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Search Engine Optimization is quite honestly a very simple strategy for optimizing your website and online presences to be properly found (or indexed) by Google and showcased in their search results. Although fairly simple in its nature, even bigger Fortune 500 companies do not know how to properly deploy SEO strategies and often get it wrong (Toys R Us pays $5.1 million for Toys.com domain name, forgets to set up 301 redirects).

With all of that said, let’s focus on the basics of Search Engine Optimization:

The very first item to understand is that there are two types of SEO: Paid and Organic… This leads to the biggest myth/issue when it comes to SEO strategy, as many believe the only way to properly rank in Google, is to pay Google. This is not entirely true as Google showcases results that are both paid and organic… Paid results are indicated as “Ads” and typically live in the first few results of a Google search, but then just below are the organic results. Let us break out the difference a bit:

Paid Search: Google Paid Search, has been Google’s bread and butter for revenue generation since the beginning. Essentially, Google allows individuals to bid on very specific keywords, so that their business will be ranked in Google searches. As an example, pull up Google and search “Search Engine Optimization.” The first three or four results in that search with the little “ad” box next to them are all paid results. Each business in this section has paid Google for their ranking… How it works: each keyword essentially has a value associated to it and Google will assess its value on how popular a keyword might be. Keywords that are more popular cost more money… But it doesn’t stop there; Google has created a bidding process around each of these keywords. Meaning, for example, if you wanted to outrank a competitor within Google’s paid search results, all you need to do is outbid them. Then, as people see your results and click on your links, you pay Google… Here is the catch: the minute you stop paying Google, you are completely dropped from their paid placement. The easiest way to think of this concept is renting a billboard on a super busy highway getting your business a lot of attention until your ad is removed… This also has the tendency to get expensive real quick, and remember, you are only renting this space.

Organic Search: Organic Search is the other way Google profiles businesses in their search results. Again, pull up Google and search “Search Engine Optimization.” The results that show up just below those paid ads were 100% free… That’s right, the companies that rank for that term did not pay Google a dime for that placement. What is even better, is unlike paid search where you are dropped the minute you stop paying Google, they maintain those rankings as long as they maintain a higher authority ranking in the eyes of Google… In the simplest of terms: where Paid search is like renting for that placement billboard, Organic search is like owning the placement… But like anything, there is a catch. Organic rankings take effort to properly rank within Google, and in some cases, organically ranking for super popular keywords such as “Search Engine Optimization” are almost impossible for newcomers. Ranking in Google organically doesn’t happen overnight—it takes time and effort combined with the knowledge of how SEO works to build up what Google referrers to as Authority. How Organic Search works is instead of paying Google for placement, Google looks at a series of characteristics of your online presences, and more importantly your website, and compares it to competing websites to determine which keywords you should rank for and where. In this article we will not cover the specifics of how that works, as there are plenty of articles online that cover the specifics of SEO in great detail.

Again, understanding how Google search works is quite honestly one of the most misunderstood aspects of online marketing for any business… If Google is so simple, why is it so misunderstood? Again, it comes down to a lack of understanding of how the internet works and just a general resistance to change, especially in small businesses. However, there is another aspect that comes into place as well: the website development community. When you look at small businesses, they typically have zero knowledge regarding how to develop a website, so they look to website developers to create a site for them with the thinking they know best. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth as most designers are taught how to develop a site for looks and functionality, but not for Google. It’s not their fault as colleges and other website design courses are historically slow to adapt to change. This results in website design courses that are built around how to develop a website for looks and functionality, not Google Search… Sure, slowly but surely, more colleges are adding Google SEO to the curriculum, but it is too late for a decent amount of the website development population as they are already out in the field building websites… All of this is a long-winded way of saying that most developers (not all), when building out a website for small businesses, build websites for looks and functionality and not Google. What this all boils down to is that the minute most websites publish, they are already at a disadvantage.

All is not lost… Unless you have a Flash-enabled site (Google does not like Flash sites), most existing websites can be modified with little effort to be optimized for Google. And then from there, it just takes time an effort to build up the proper elements that Google looks for to properly rank a website… Again, it just takes time and education to develop a proper SEO strategy. Spend some time searching Google around Search Engine Optimization Strategy or look at our recommendations: https://blog.hubspot.com/, https://moz.com/, and https://searchengineland.com/. This is also something 3SixtySMB can help with… Regardless of how you develop a strategy, it is important to get started sooner and not later! Your business’s future depends on it…

Another Manufacture Rushes to Market and Fails

We continuously talk about how business moves at the speed of light these days and how businesses need to react to the market just as fast, but how fast is too fast? Samsung recently has been receiving criticism for major manufacturing issues regarding their folding phone before it even hit the market. Over the past few weeks, Samsung had been sharing preproduction versions of their $2,000 flip phone, only to have them fail within hours of first use… This, unfortunately, has become more the norm than the exception. The problem is that businesses are rushing to get their products to market without using them first and doing the proper smoke testing before adopting consumers as beta testers. This recently took center stage with Boeing, where along with their recent failures, news began to leak about how they rushed the Boeing 737 Max Fleet to market, pushing for faster governmental approvals and skipping some steps completely in order to beat Airbus to the punch. And we now know the results of them speeding up the process.

This is not uncommon as time to market and cost savings have taken center stage for many, resulting in quality control issues out of the box. Another example is the fact that almost any web-enable device, even on the day of launch, typically needs a firmware or software update—or both—before the product can even be used. This essentially means that between the time it took to manufacture, ship, and get a product into the customers’ hands, they already found and fixed many issues with the product. However, the updates do not stop there as businesses continuously update their products on a regular basis as they find more issues.

Businesses the likes of Samsung and Boeing have the ability to overcome manufacturing issues, as they typically are quick to address major flaws and have massive amounts of marketing budgets to blitz the market to make you forget the issues in the first place. The same cannot be said for smaller businesses. In some cases, shipping a product before it’s ready can be fatal to a business as most small businesses simply do not have the resources to recover from a bad product launch. Not only does it put restraints on the entire supply chain, it also has major customer ramifications. As we wrote about not too long ago, it only takes a handful of bad reviews to hurt your business. We understand that time to market is extremely important for any business to stay competitive, however there is a limit to just how fast you can go. Don’t skip important steps and ensure proper product testing before you go to market! It just may save your business.

 

Picking a Job Based on your Potential Manager is a Huge Mistake

Anyone on LinkedIn most likely has seen an article or two floating around encouraging people to pick a job based on a manager vs the company itself… Let us first start off by saying that any manager absolutely has the power to make a job an enjoyable or frightful experience for their employees. And any good leader knows it is completely in their power to do everything they can to make a job experience as enjoyable as possible. We’ve all had good and bad managers; however, making a decision solely based on who your potential manger will be is a HUGE mistake… Here’s the reality: regardless of the manager, when starting a new job, you become married to the company and not the manager. If we were talking about the job market 20 years ago, our opinion would be different. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for employees to stay with an organization for many years—and in some cases, decades or full careers. In today’s climate, the average  employment tenure is roughly 4.3 years… That is employment overall and means on average, you are all but guaranteed to get a new manager every four or so years, regardless of how strong you feel about their management ability. However, it goes much further than that… As that number is purely in relationship to how employees stay with the organization and doesn’t account for shifts in position, team changes, or promotions. In reality, this means that someone as your direct manager has a shelf-life of somewhere between one to two years tops. From a personal experience, almost every organization I’ve been employed with throughout my career has seen at least one direct management change. Some have seen many many more… In Oracle for example, I experienced four direct management changes within a little over a year without personally changing teams once. Yes, that’s right—my team had four different managers in a little over a year. For others, it wasn’t uncommon to have had three to four management changes throughout a multiyear tenure.

With all of that said, do your homework on your prospective manager and ensure they are the right person for you, BUT do not forget to pick the right company for you as well. Chances are, they will not be your direct manager forever!