Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for January 2012

This big fat book is a superb encyclopedia for boys (and men). It covers various expectations that this society (at least the past few generations) has with them and what can be done to meet those expectations.

In many ways this book is something like ‘Chicken soup for men’. It gives story after story about real people, fictional characters, poems, speeches and more, trying to answer one simple quetion "What makes a man?"

New York Times Best Selling Author William Bennett starts with a very interesting article which proves that boys today are clueless about what they are supposed to do (or not supposed to do) when the grow up. Due to various reasons, William Bennett feels they don’t get enough guidance on this topic and become confused young men and suggests this book as a reference reading giving them pointers about some great men.

This book is devided into 6 major sections: Mam in War, Man at Work, Man in Play, Sports and Leisure, Man in the Polis, Man with Woman and Children, Man in Prayer and Reflection. Each section provides around 100 pages of reading material, all of them short and sweet. Means, you can open this book in any page and start reading. Articles are coming from ancient world to the modern, giving a really great reading experience even for grownups.

Hoping to see a similar book for girls (and women) soon!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Yesterday was the last date to pay our daughters’ school term fees. Usually I take care of these things well in advance, but somehow, I missed it this time and remembered it on the very last day.

This school accepts only Cash payments, no online transfer possible, someone has to go there physically and make the payment. Unfortunately, I had no time for this yesterday, and asked my wife to do it.

She went there, made the payment, and came back. I saw the receipt and filed it.

After some time, my wife asked ‘Aren’t you going to ask me about the experience at the payment queue?’. She sounded really upset.

‘Okay, tell me what happened.’

‘There were only 10 people in front of me, but they took more than 40 minutes to accept payment from them, that lady in the counter was very very slow, Her manager should have seen the long queue and done something to speed-up things, they should have opened more counters, at least on the last day…’

This is just a sample of what she said, I counted at least 20 suggestions of improvement for the concerned school / bank.

Surprising thing is, that bank queue is always like this. I have stood in that queue more than 10 times and I almost always waited for 45 to 60 minutes before making my payment, and I never complained, I never made any suggestions for improvement. Why?

Simple reason, from my college days, I have never seen a short bank queue. So I accepted it as a ‘norm’ and didn’t complain.

On the other hand, my wife rarely steps inside a bank, So she is questioning the ‘norm’ and making improvement suggestions.

As a flip side scenario, If I am asked to cook for a day, may be I will come up with so many issues / difficulties / improvement suggestions in our kitchen and my wife will wonder ‘Are you crazy? I cook there all the time and never had these problems!’

Look at this from a product manufacturer, or service provider’s angle. They may be having hundreds of customers, some of them complain, others are silent. Does that mean this second group is happy?

May Be. But what if they are just ‘accepting the norm’ (like me in the bank queue) and being silent? That is a dangerous sign.

Let us say tomorrow a new bank opens in my daughters’ school premise and they find innovative ways to accept payments faster and in a more convenient manner (For example, Online payment, home pickup of school fees etc.,). I will be switching to that bank, without complaining anything to the first bank. Because they are changing the norms and these people are not.

Means, if you wait for your customers to come, complain and help you improve, you may be losing your market share soon. Winners will be those who don’t wait for others to tell them what to do and improve / innovate constantly, on their own.

(083)

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N. Chokkan …

12 01 2012

Last week, I made a small presentation for our office, on two Time Management Techniques (GTD & Pomodoro). If you are interested, the slides are here:

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N. Chokkan …
09 01 2012

Redbus.in is a very famous Indian portal for booking bus tickets. It got (and continues to get) lot of media publicity (mostly free) and as a result, grew from an unknown entity to a well known and trusted brand in a very short time frame.

In the last few months, I heard great things about Redbus via various sources (Newspapers, Television Channels, Magazines, Friends, Relatives, Social Media Pals etc.,) but never had a chance to use their website, mainly because of two reasons : 1. I prefer train travel’s comforts 2. Few years back I had some VERY BAD experience with private bus operators, and decided never to go back.

However, two weeks back, I was forced to travel by bus because train tickets were not available on the day I wanted to travel. With zero motivation / interest, I went to redbus.in.

To cut a long story short, I loved RedBus website, very little content, but presented in the manner that makes sense to the end user, No gimmicks, wonderful interfaces which are intuitive and make the booking process very fast, Integration with almost all popular payment channels, discount coupons, cash vouchers, SMS confirmation, Email Confirmation, Mobile Ticketing… It had everything!

So, I booked my first RedBus ticket, traveled in a private bus after many years, and next day morning, I got an Email, with a subject line “How was your travel?”

It was a mail from Redbus.in asking for feedback about my travel, with a personalized link to a very short form, which took just one or two minutes for me to fill, Nice!

But the best part is, the way Redbus uses this feedback data. They collect this information and decide on the rankings for various bus operators. For example, “xyz travels” may have a 4 star rating, and “abc travels” may have a 2 star rating. Next time when someone else books a ticket, they will know who is more reliable, punctual and providing a better service / care to the travelers.

More than any other Redbus.in feature, this impressed me the most. As I told earlier, I had very bad experience with few bus operators and  Redbus is helping me avoid them, by collecting feedback from all its travelers. As long as people take that one or two minutes to fill out the feedback form, the social ranking system will ensure that good operators get more business and bad people are ignored, even if they sell tickets and cheap rates, People won’t have bad experiences anymore (hopefully!)

Also, this forces the bus operators to improve. They can’t rest on their laurels and continuously keep the service level high, else, they miss the online business, which is growing everyday.

Good job Redbus, This feedback system is a primary differentiator between you and all other retail sites / eStores out there in India.

As a CRM consultant, I can see the value in this huge data Redbus is collecting, wanted to share some feedback about how they can improve this in future:

1. In India, there are more indirect internet users, than direct. What I mean is, many people just ask their son or daughter or neighbor to just ‘book a ticket for me’. They may never use Redbus.in, but they are the ones who travel in those tickets booked

2. Hence, feedback has to be collected in two ways: Redbus Experience Feedback (From the person who booked the ticket) and Travel Experience Feedback (From the person who traveled), In some cases both may be same, but the current form assumes they are always the same, which is wrong

3. To solve this problem, Redbus can consider this:

  • While booking a ticket, ask for the mobile number of at least one passenger
  • After the travel is completed, send an Email to the person who booked the ticket (Redbus.in member), and an SMS to the person who travelled (Passenger)
  • Email system is similar to what they have today, but it will only collect Redbus experience feedback
  • SMS system will given them two toll free numbers, one for bad feedback and one for good feedback, If they liked the travel, they can call the good feedback system, Else, they can call the bad feedback system, where they can also register (in their own voice) why they didn’t like it
  • This system ensures that Passengers can give the feedback even if they are not internet savvy. They needn’t type a feedback, they can speak, if possible in their own mother tongue (Not all Redbus users speak English, FYI!)

4. I opened the feedback Email in my iPhone and clicked on the link, it took me to Redbus.in home page. Looks like I need to go to my PC and fill the feedback, This not the right way, When someone is taking pains to click on the feedback link in their phone, it is better we respect them and collect the feedback then and there, no one will click that link twice (After all, giving feedback is work without any immediate benefits to me 🙂 )

5. I am not sure if Redbus does it, but they should phase out bus operators who get bad feedback on a regular basis, or give them a timeframe (say “improve in 6 months, else get out”). This makes sure there is a healthy competition among bus operators to stay in Redbus.in database. (Of course, Redbus.in will lose some business because of this, but in the long run, it will become a gold standard for excellence in bus travel!)

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N. Chokkan …

05 01 2012

First of all, a big congrats (and thanks) to Tommy Nelson. There are many books about bible, thousands of slices are possible from this great book, when you look at it from different perspectives, and this book is a winner.

Conceptwise, it is quite simple. A book with lots and lots of stories, some of them about good people and some about bad people. End of each story, there is a small discussion on why (and how) they became good / bad and what lessons we can learn from their life.

With this simple idea, Tama Fortner (Compiling editor of this book) has hit a home run. Each story is just 2 or 3 pages with simple text (from international children’s bible) and wonderful diagrams (all images from Eikon Bible art!). This makes reading a breeze.

Most important, each story finishes with a practical example, means the author says how this can be used in real life and you too can become a hero (or stop yourself from becoming a villain). These examples are simple and sweet, target audience will love them.

However, one comment I want to make is, the text in this book can be a bit more story like. As the publishers have decided to use bible text, there is a disconnect in many places. May be they could have opted for a 1 page story, followed by 2 to 3 pages of actual bible text, Short stories will pull people inside and the bible reference will give them more details.

Other than this small issue, I loved the book. Excellent production, clear printing (images, text and beautiful layout) and it is a recommended reading for everyone, especially children.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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