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Alf's Articles

Observations: A Report From the Marketing Front

by Alf Nucifora

No challenging insights or preachy pronouncements this time around. Simply a medley of marketing information and other musings as a prelude to the lazy days of summer.

Customer Service Rankings Continue to Drop

From the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) comes the news that for first quarter 2000, the national index dropped slightly from 72.8 to 72.5, continuing to hover around the 72 mark as it has for the last two years. Airline industry performance has remained unchanged with notable gains for TV broadcasting, parcel delivery and express mail and electric utilities. Marginal drops were recorded for telephone service and newspapers. In the service sector, the index for the hotel industry remained unchanged with a significant drop for motion pictures. Biggest gains in customer improvement were recorded by United Parcel Service, Northwest Airlines, GTE Corporation, Hilton Hotels and Holiday Inn.

The ACSI is produced through a partnership of the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality and the CFI Group. The 50,000 consumer diary panel is considered to be the pre-eminent benchmark for customer service performance scoring.

Gotbaum on Negotiation

An interesting conversation with Victor Gotbaum reveals insights into the harsh and unforgiving world of labor negotiations. Gotbaum, for more than 20 years, was the executive director of District 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in New York. He sat at the bargaining table with New York mayors John Lindsay, Abe Beame and Ed Koch. In his new book, "Negotiating in the Real World," the always tough, frank and outspoken Gotbaum provides the following negotiating advice....

  • Bring to the table what you are. Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to negotiate within those boundaries.
  • Be prepared to bring in a pro. Evaluate yourself as a negotiator and be willing to find a replacement if you don't think you're up for the assignment. Which raises an unanswered question, how do you know if you're not good?
  • Debate and argument is healthy. Agreements can still be reached. Gotbaum and Koch fought vigorously and often and were generally in opposition to each other in style, philosophy and request. Says Gotbaum, "In spite of the fighting, we were able to get things done because, ultimately, both Koch and I still loved the city. That was the common ground."

On the personal front, Gotbaum lists his divorce as his biggest failure. Why? Because he became emotionally involved because of his kids. His toughest negotiation…the New York financial crisis when the city was about to declare bankruptcy. "So much was at stake," says Gotbaum.

Gotbaum provides some insights into the famous mayors he fought with. He describes Abe Beame as the Jewish father he never had, "Not a bad bone in his body." Ed Koch was "bright and tough." The key to negotiating with him was to seek the common ground. Ultimately, "Koch would never hurt the city," notes Gotbaum. John Lindsay was an enigma... "basically honest, very apolitical for a politician and too handsome and too Protestant for New York."

icPlanet Bears Watching

Amid the onslaught of web sites targeted to the recruitment trade comes icPlanet.com, founded in 1999 by Doug Carlston, founder and former Chairman of Broderbund Software developers of Myst and Riven. According to company president Jeffrey Walker, icPlanet.com will provide the most advanced technology for job searches because if its superior programming and support tools.

As Walker views it, satisfaction with current job boards is low because of the poor match rate in spite of the high volume of candidate resumes. With the "crowding" problem, how does the recruiter find the pearl amongst the oysters?

With 27,000 current users and 400 piling on each day, icPlanet.com points to superior searching, screening and filtering as its point of uniqueness. Says Walker, "We provide a 'richer' site, with more criteria than our competitors…by location, specialty, experience, full-time vs. part-time, on-site vs. off-site, etc." Responses can be sorted and the site will provide prompting advice (Smart Tips) for a better search.

Screening capabilities will provide verification for previous work history, job certification and will even administer a pre-qualification test, "Have you ever configured a Cisco router?" icPlant.com's filtering capabilities will sort and rank final candidates.

According to Walker, the independent consultant will be a primary focus particularly in the areas of IT, marketing, project management, business consulting, PR, design, finance/accounting and human resources. "They may be a smaller piece of the pie, but they generate more churn."

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