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Going out to tender? For best results, make sure you pass the Wendy Test.

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September 19, 2019 Written by David Daly

 

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In my first year working in marketing, I learned a great lesson. We were producing a response coupon or competition entry form of some sort. The copywriters had written it, the art director had designed it, the client had approved it, the studio had set it, and then it came to my boss, Wendy, for approval. She took a pen and tried to fill the form out. And she couldn't. Between us all, we had failed to ask ourselves the simple question - "does it make sense to the people who are meant to complete it?". The answer was, of course, no, and ever since then I have made sure that when I ask a question, or want an action to be carried out, I make explicitly clear what it is.

I've had reason to think of Wendy recently, having spent the last few weeks - days, weekends and nights - helping two BPOs bid for some work. Both of the ITTs came through e-procurement systems, rather than direct from the management team itself. I reviewed the BPOs' input, edited it, corrected it, and wrote sections of the responses. I enjoyed doing it, and was happy that the responses we put together represented the BPOs well.

But I also spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what exactly the ITTs were looking for. Nothing was collated sensibly into one document, and it took a lot of ploughing through to get it into some sort of order. In one case there were lots of unnecessary attachments. In the other case, the ITT referred to attachments that weren't there at all. One of them issued a questionnaire and a separate set of assessment criteria, and I spent a good three or four hours matching them all up together. Then, when it came to loading the answers onto the system, some of the questions didn't match, and the system wouldn't let us submit the response because we hadn't provided some attachments that we didn't need to. So, in the end, we had to write and attach documents to the effect of "we're only attaching this because we need the system to accept our response".

The other client outdid themselves with their questions. Hundreds of them, and so many of them were almost duplicates of each other. Not exact duplicates, unfortunately, so we couldn't copy over the answers. Each one needed a separate answer for effectively the same question. Many of them were badly written or misspelt. My job was to make sure that the BPO's answers addressed the actual question, but that was often difficult because the questions were so ambiguous, imprecise or just downright incomprehensible. The downside for the prospective client is that they now have to read hundreds of similar answers, which is, I suppose, a small form of comfort!

 

Einstein

 

The overall impression I get is that these ITTs were collated from a number of different sources within the client organisation, where everyone's views, thoughts and questions were included (no matter how irrelevant or ridiculous some of them are), and no attempt was made to distil them into a clear set of requirements. Then, when all the internal requirements had been gathered, onto the purchasing system it went, and out to the bidders. But no-one at the client seems to have sense-checked the documents, the questions, or indeed the online protocols.

I often work on the other side too - helping companies write tender documentation. I work very hard to make sure that the process is as easy as possible to follow, that information and instructions are clear, that only relevant documentation is included, and that the questions are clear and purposeful. Why? Because I know from experience that the better the ITT, the better the quality of the response, the more precise the solution proposed, and in many cases, the more accurate and favourable the price.

So here's my call to procurement teams. Spend some time refining your ITT, work through it - contents and mechanism - and get it to a stage where you feel it's the best you can do. Then "Wendy-test" it. If it fails, re-work it. If it passes, it's time to issue it.

 

 

10 habits of this, 5 qualities of that – actually, I’m happy the way I am!

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April 18, 2017 Written by David Daly

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There’s an awful lot of it on Facebook, and an increasing amount of it on Linked In: lists of things that really happy people do, or traits of great entrepreneurs, or the strangely-titled “Unique Habits of Ridiculously Likeable People”, which I came across recently. Last week, I saw “42 Little Things You Can Do Today to Find Your Passion”. Yesterday, it was “How SmartPeople Work Less and Get More Done” – I didn’t read it, but I bet one of them was don’t procrastinate or spend time reading pointless things. And then there’s this gem:

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It seems to me a ninth quality is needed here – understanding gobbledegook and buzzwords.

I can’t be the only one who dislikes them

Is it me, or do other people find these really irritating? Apart from the above, many of the points are so basic and obvious. In any list of 10 things, there are probably six that you do well anyway, three that you could be better at and one that you don’t do, probably for a good reason. Nine out of ten isn’t bad! Yet the implication inherent in these insidious articles is that the reader is somehow less than others - less likeable, less productive, less smart, less capable - and that there are those much greater and more successful than you who must be emulated.

Yes, we all need and benefit from advice, but I don’t think these lists are the way to go. All the best advice I ever got was from someone at a particularly relevant point. No boss ever gave me a list of tips or qualities – I learnt them one at a time when it was most appropriate, and they have stuck with me throughout my career. I remember the situation, the advice and, indeed, the advice giver.

It’s just not in my nature

But it seems to me the main reason that I will never be the kind of person about whom these lists are written is because I don’t really want to be. I know I’m not lucky enough to have a real world-beating talent for something, so that in itself takes care of that part. But also, I’m not so madly driven to be outrageously successful at everything. I don’t think most of us are, and I’m very content that way.

I will never be massively rich, but I earn enough to feed, clothe, house and educate my family. I may not be “ridiculously likeable” (whatever that is), but I am happily married with four healthy children who are now starting to make their own way in the world, and I have a core of good friends whose company I enjoy. I will never own a yacht, but I get a couple of good foreign holidays every year, where below the surface with my recently-gained scuba training I see things that you could never see from the deck of a boat. I doubt I’ll ever be asked to give a TED talk, or be followed as a business guru online, but my clients appreciate my work, and I like to think I have given my children and others some good advice and direction over the years. I won’t shake up the world as a philanthropist, but each week I help someone in financial or other difficulties through my involvement with a local charity. I’m not a highly efficient genius, and I do waste time flopped in front of the TV or wandering around the internet, but I think I’m reasonably smart! And although I’m not particularly passionate about anything, there are lots of things I really like and enjoy, and I do those as much as I can.

Ditch the lists

Of course, my life’s not perfect, and there are moments when I think I could do better, or worry less, or have brighter days, and I do try. There are always things that will make me happier or better, but one thing I know for sure is that they are not on a list of any sort. And I bet that’s the same for most of us.

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So here’s my single point - ditch the lists, and get on with being you!

   

Why international trade is positive – and why call centres are a shining example

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January 26, 2017 Written by David Daly

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Two news stories caught my attention last week. The first was Donald Trump’s horrific inaugural address. I forced myself to listen to it all.

One thing stood out for me: the promise “to protect our borders from the ravages of other countries…destroying our jobs” and “to bring back our jobs”. Apart from the absolute hypocrisy of it – much of his own wealth has depended on foreign supplies and labour – there is little evidence that such protectionism will work. Remember George W. Bush’s tariffs on imported steel, which resulted in reduced domestic steel production, increased cost to purchasers, and increased unemployment in related industries?

The Moral Argument

On another level, though, there is a strong moral argument against protectionism. As a one-time student of the economics of developing countries, I believe that, despite its shortcomings, international trade helps spread wealth to poorer nations, and is a force for good for the human race as a whole.

Some people see it as a negative - ‘globalisation’ - and while it is far from perfect, it’s here to stay. Despite Trump’s efforts, it will continue to grow. We are all part of it. Chances are the device you are reading this on was made abroad, as were the clothes you’re wearing, the music system you’re listening to, and numerous other things around your house and office. I’m sure even Trump doesn’t write his poisonous tweets on an American-made phone!

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It may take a few generations to shake out, and for all of its negative effects to lessen. We are all aware of poor practices, and (happily) increasingly intolerant of products which are produced in sweatshops or using child labour. I do agree there is a long way to go, but we are headed in the right direction.

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Call Centres - A Great Example

My own industry is a great example of international trade working well. I’ve been to a number of offshore call centres – near and far – over the years, and they are first-class operations, in some cases better than those I’ve seen back at home. As a customer, I have found them to provide excellent service, and although the form of conversation and accent may be a little different, I have always had my problem or query solved.

I know the drivers are largely cost-driven, but staff are all treated with respect, are ambitious and keen to learn, and have great opportunities to develop their careers. Call centre jobs are, as we know, desirable in these countries. We are providing quality employment, in quality conditions, and income to the wider society. It makes me happy to be a part of it.

And the other news story?

The other story was Oxfam’s announcement that the richest eight people in the world have wealth equivalent to the poorest 50%, and that global inequality is still growing. Six of these eight are Americans. Maybe Mr. Trump should look a bit closer to home…

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A ‘Super-Agent’, but not as I imagined it...

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May 23, 2016 Written by David Daly

Two things came together last week. Firstly, I was talking to a client about ‘super-agents’- those who are trained to handle all types of calls, no matter how complicated or what the channel of contact is, that come into a centre. Secondly, I have written before of my hatred for fraudulent callers who try and convince me that there is something wrong with my internet service, and then try to sell me some product to ‘fix’ it. I usually get them off the phone immediately, but occasionally I humour myself by stringing them along for a few minutes before telling them that I know what they are up to, at which point they usually just terminate the call.

Not ‘Mark’, though, who called me ‘from Talk Talk’, and, through broken English, proceeded to tell me that my service was being hacked from China. As I strung him along, we established that it might have been my son, who was on holiday there and had my computer with him, and so on. The call got sillier, until Mark twigged that I might be having him on. Suddenly his English improved, as he was quickly able to describe me using a well-known, four-letter Anglo-Saxon word as an adverb, noun, and adjective, and finally in verb form to tell me that he - how shall I put this? - had had carnal relations with my mother, my sister and my daughter in that order! How’s that for a super-agent?!

Incidentally, my 88-year old mother denies any knowledge of Mark, so I imagine he was lying about that as well.

But on a serious note, is there anything we can do about these callers? They are the lowest of the low, and while I am smart enough to know what they are at, there must be enough victims out there who are successfully scammed for them to keep doing it. It also does nothing for the image of our industry. It has to be stopped.

   

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Latest Posts

Going out to tender? For best results, make sure you pass the Wendy Test.

Going out to tender? For best results,...

  In my first year working in marketing, I learned a great lesson. We were producing a response coupon or competition entry form of some...

Read more...

10 habits of this, 5 qualities of that – actually, I’m happy the way I am!

10 habits of this, 5 qualities of that...

There’s an awful lot of it on Facebook, and an increasing amount of it on Linked In: lists of things that really happy people do, or traits of...

Read more...

Why international trade is positive – and why call centres are a shining example

Why international trade is positive –...

Two news stories caught my attention last week. The first was Donald Trump’s horrific inaugural address. I forced myself to listen to it...

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