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  1. I've just returned from a short break in the country. Batteries fully recharged, and invigorated by all that fresh-air and exercise. It was nice to have no agenda, and that included what, where and when we would eat.

    One particular evening, we walked to the (only) local pub that served food. We got there at peak time, were greeted pleasantly, and then we asked for a menu. The owner informed us that they were unusually busy, and so waiting times for food were currently about 1 hour. We had our two young children with us, so this wasn't great, but as there was nowhere else nearby, we said OK. So for the next hour, we played eye-spy (probably to the annoyance of the regulars) to pass the time.

    An hour and ten minutes later, our food arrived with an apology for the wait. It was OK. We ate, we paid, we left.

    So what is the point of this blog? Well, its a simple lesson in customer service. Were we delighted with the service? No, of course not. Were we angry/upset/annoyed? No... because the owner managed our expectations. Had he not had the guts to tell us that the wait was so long, we would certainly have been complaining. He delivered against most of the tips on our Key Points sheet.

    So the lesson is: manage expectations. Be open and honest, and tell the customer the 'bad' news as soon as they can. Let THEM make the decision about what they will accept and what they won't. Good customer service isn't always about 'wowing' the customer - sometimes its just about respecting them. 

    If you know a team who would benefit from customer service training, our Power Hour session (which lasts 1-2 hours) provides a great introduction. Why not check it out?

  2. This short but to the point blog by The Latimer Group explains how if you don't prepare to communicate, you are wasting everyone's time (including your own). Indeed, effective communication only occurs when expression = impression. Successful communication requires BOTH parties to play their part.

    Our short training session on Communication Skills explores why communication breaks down, and what we can do to make sure our communication is successful.

  3. This week our blog is inspired by the world of health and fitness. Having recently discovered too many of my clothes were too tight, I have decided to embark on a diet and exercise programme. Now I'm not the first and I surely won't be the last, but I realise that we all approach this in quite a different way.

    Many people join a gym, get a personal trainer, and join Weight Watchers or Slimming World. They have set their mind to a goal and are giving it 100%. I truly admire these people. Unfortunately, if I joined a gym I would hardly ever go. I just find it difficult to find the time... It's not just the time in the gym, but is the time taken to get there and back, and the time in the shower. When I then start to take into account the restrictions of days and times I could actually go, I'd be lucky if I could get their once a week... Not a good use of my money!

    So, being a realist I have instead invested in "Just Dance 2" for the Wii. It cost me around £25, and I am able to do anywhere between 20 and 40 min every day. It doesn't matter if my kids are in bed, my husband is at work, or I'm waiting for conference call to begin. Exercising little and often just fits better into my life. And yes, I am seeing results. Okay I may not be seeing them quite as quickly as someone who has joined a gym and got a personal trainer, but I am slowly but surely reaching my goal.

    I think this is one of the reasons that I developed Power Hour. I'm not suggesting that you can condense a full day's training course into one hour – of course you can't. But some people find it hard to fit formal training into their lives. They prefer to drip feed their development and make improvements little and often.

    So if you are responsible for running training courses, and find that people often drop out at the last minute, it may be that other demands are being made of their time. Power Hour offers an alternative to traditional training, and may be a way to achieve your goals (possibly not as quickly) but as long as we get there, it shouldn't matter how we do it.

  4. I belong to an informal networking group, the Junction 7 Network. I've tried a few out (and will continue to do so), but I like the friendliness of this one. It is full of people who run small businesses in my local area. Not a likely place for me to find new clients, but life is all about connections, and you never know where a conversation will lead.

    But, the purpose of this blog is not to talk about Power Hour. It's to talk about those small businesses who consistently don't come (despite numerous invitations) because "people know we are here". These days I don't think having a presence on the high street is enough. Where is your internet presence? How are you making yourself more attractive to those people who walk past your shop or office every day? Business is about relationships, and networking is a great way to make new ones and strengthen existing ones.

    A real example from Junction 7: We have a quality butcher in our village. I have always known he was there, but I rarely used him. However, since he has made the effort to come to the networking events, I have gotten to know HIM, and I want to support him. So guess what? I now visit the village butcher more frequently.

    So to get 'power from an hour' this month - why not go networking? Find a format that you like (some are very formal, some very informal. Some are industry-based, others very 'open'. Some meet weekly, some meet quarterly) You never know where it will lead.

  5. I recently came across a very intersting study that showed that 57% of new managers had to learn their leadership and management skills through 'trial and error'. You can view the detailed study here. OK, the study was American, but based on almost 20 years of working in corporate Britain, I doubt the figures would be very different in the UK. But 57%, with no formal management training in their first year? That is truly shocking.

    In my humble opinion, first-line managers are the most crucial population in any organisation. They are the ones that make sure the work gets done. They are the ones delivering the day to day services that are required to keep the company going. They are under pressure from above and below, are often overworked and overlooked and now it seems, given the least amount of training and development: The senior team are all engaged in leadership programmes, and the employees are fully trained in technical aspects. Poor forgotten line managers.

    Line managers are often promoted for their success in operational/technical roles. It is meant to be seen as a reward. But management skills are completely differently different to technical skills, and it shouldn't be assumed that success in one will lead to success in the other.

    I understand that line managers are a large population and are often dispersed. I understand that it is costly to comprehensively train a large number of people in so many skills. I also understand that they come to the role with vastly different skills and experiences, so one size doesn't necessarily fit all. But PLEASE, for the sake of those people, your buisness and our economy, provide them with SOMETHING!

    A properly designed, flexible new manager's programme should be priority training for every organisation. But that takes time to put in place. Power Hour is not designed to be comprehensive (see our blog about canapes!), but the Power Hour New Managers' Programme CAN be useful as a 'stop gap': It can give managers an idea about what they are supposed to do and how to do it, taking away that fear and uncertainty, until that comprehensive training can kick in.

  6. What is the point of the canapé? Personally I can only see two purposes. The first is as something to ‘keep you going’ until your main course. The second is as a showcase for the chef, allowing him or her to increase your appetite for what's to come later.

    But do canapés have any place in it? Are there times when we need a little taster before we decide whether to buy the full service? Are there times when we just need something to keep is going until we can afford or have time for that “three course meal”? I say absolutely.

    As a customer business canapé will allow us to keep going that little bit longer until we can get the solution that we really crave. These are things like buying an external hard drive as a temporary move until we can afford a brand-new PC; or like getting a Facebook page setup until we have the time to develop our website. It's about subcontracting a piece of work rather than deciding to employ someone, or providing a couple of hours of training until the funding is available for that wonderful five-day programme.

    As business suppliers, providing canapés is an excellent way of showcasing what we can do and introducing new customers to our services with minimum risk and outlay to them. People are careful with their money, and suppliers who allow them to try before they buy will be looked on very favourably.

    So whatever your business, if you don't have a ‘canapé menu’, think about creating one. It can bring real benefits for you and your customers.

    Why not download our key points sheets as your ‘canapé’ before you decide which Power Hours to use? Of course the Power Hour concept can be a canapé itself...give your employees a ‘taster’ to see what they need more development in, or offer a Power Hour as a ‘stop gap’ to more in-depth training.

  7. Our friend Gary Gorman bought this article to our attention, by Dr John McGurk of the CIPD  which discusses the importance of L&D in tough times, highlights the difficulties that many business face: How to keep training (and so retain) staff, with ever-decreasing budgets?

    It is a tough job, but the move towards more flexible and personalised learning, mean that it is not 'mission impossible'. Training providers like Power Hour can provide very cost effective solutions, and delivering bite-sized sessions is not the only way...Our blog on BusinessZone shares some ideas about how you can carry on learning on the smallest of budgets.