A Milestone

Today is the 18th anniversary of FT Works. The journey that started with the first edition of The Art of Support has brought thousands of readers and customers, and a second edition out this year.

Thank you!

Share the wealth: tell a colleague about this blog.

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Brexit and the Support Executive

Many B2B vendors have a large support center near London that serves all of Europe, as it is a good location to find speakers of various European languages, even native speakers who can work there without a work permit. With last week’s Brexit vote that directs the UK to leave the European Union, should they worry?

  1. Nothing drastic will happen in the short term. The departure from the European Union will likely take many months to negotiate, and we do not know what the exact effect will be on border controls, nor on individuals already working in the country (who are unlikely to be kicked out unceremoniously). Meanwhile, as the British pound dropped significantly, local expenses will be lower in dollars or in euros, which will lighten expenses in the short term. If you have a UK center and are satisfied with it, doing nothing is probably the best course of action.
  2. In the longer term, the UK will likely lose some international luster as it will be more difficult to attract pan-European talent, or at least more complex and expensive since work permits will likely be required. Other European locations that already have international communities will become more attractive. Dublin and Amsterdam in particular are likely to benefit from London’s decline. If you are thinking of making changes in your European organization, now is the time to consider alternate locations.
  3. Think about political risk when deciding on locations. The UK may have appeared to everyone, especially in the US, as very safe, but decisions made there are turning out to have significant consequences on business operations. Many vendors have support locations in much more unstable countries, decisions that have been made, often, on the basis of cost alone. What if those countries decided to significantly change their political alliances, or suffered other kinds of political instability? Always consider political risk when selecting locations. Low cost is wonderful, but if it will take months or years for you to relocate, you may be better off with a more politically stable spot.


Change! 5 Tips to Innovate More

I’ve been exploring the idea of change lately, including in a conference presentation last month.  This is prompted by the sad realization that the support field is quite conservative and afraid to experiment — to our detriment.

And I happened to read a book very much related to my concerns, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. The book can be messy as it meanders between (highly entertaining) stories but I found a few ideas that meshed well with mine. Here are 5 tips to be an effective change agent:

  • Actively seek new ideas. This can be done by reading books and blogs, attending conferencing, or speaking with colleagues. Many ideas come not from our field, but fields adjacent to it so I am always curious about what hotels, hospitals, or schools are doing with their “clients”. Originals stresses that highly-inventive people simply generate more ideas: not all of them will be good ones, but more ideas generate more good ideas.
  • Communicate new ideas powerfully. Unconventional ideas make people uncomfortable. They just don’t understand them. Multiple exposures help, as does relating the new idea to something your audience will be familiar with. Investing in “Customer Success” may seem mysteriously expensive, but finding scalable methods for “Technical Account Management” seems utterly reasonable.
  • Seek out detractors. I’ve been a fan of this approach for a long time: if you seek out friendly people who share your ideas, you will have a love fest and nothing more. If you seek out people whom you know disagree, but are open-minded, they will help you improve your ideas and even sell them to others.
  • Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. This is advanced but very effective. By offering counter-arguments, you disarm your audience and you can also preempt objections: if the top three objections are listed on your slide, it will be hard for others to add to the list and the list will look finite and small.
  • Invite outsiders to pitch ideas. People outside your organization may have great ideas about it and will naturally bring with them a different perspective. Accountants can suggest anti-churn approaches. Implementation consultants may have interesting views about online communities. Try it. (And don’t forget brand-new hires, before they lose their outsider status.)

What are you doing to foster innovation for yourself and for your team?