Service quality and variation

Was just reading the book “Winning” by Jack Welch and I came across an interesting topic related to Quality management(Six Sigma). The thing that I found most interesting was the way he addressed the topic of variations in service delivery. It is something that I myself learnt after some time ago. Clients are always looking forward to working with people and organizations that will provide the product/service on schedule. The catch is really to understand that on schedule does not mean that delivering beforehand is good. It may at times be totally counter productive to complete a job before the client is expecting it. Imagine a scenario where a client is expecting a shipment on the 10th and you deliver it on the 1st. Now the client will need to make additional plans(and incur costs) for the additional storage!

The fact that most businesses today plan to hold as little inventory as possible and prefer to move according to schedule means that quality in service/product delivery is best when:
1. product/service meets or exceeds the specifications
2. delivered on the specified time
3. delivered at the right cost (this is more true where the product is a service rendered and charged on hourly basis)

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The top 5 types of tasks to outsource

Outsourcing can be good or bad. It all depends if you gained new work because of it or if you lost your job because of it. However, my opinion on the topic is that its really something cool for the entrepreneur. The reason is simply that it allows you to tap onto a diversified set of talent without having you hire people (translate that as maintain payroll, benefits and costs!!!). The use of intelligent outsourcing allows you to get the best talent in the world and help you focus on whats really your business.

Here are some ways that I think outsourcing can really help you:

1. Help desk support
Need someone to answer the basic questions while you work on marketing and promoting your product and services? Look for a firm providing you with help desk support. You can get 24 hour support or support for just a few hours every day. Email based support or online chat support. The choice is yours to make depending on how much you are willing to dish out.

2. Data entry
Do you need to enter old paper based records into your brand new software system? Definitely don’t do it yourself(unless the info is highly personal). Hire a firm/team to do the job for you. You can not only help to get the data in electronic format but also get someone to do basic review if you provide the right guidelines.

3. Online marketing
Even if you are good at it – don’t spend all your time doing it yourself. With all the new techniques and rules coming up all the time it’s really a full time job for someone. So go ahead and outsource it. Make a budget and hire someone to provide measurable results on that budget.

4. Market research/analysis
Outsourcing research is a great way to help free up the busy entrepreneurs mind for the more important tasks. Remember that as a small business owner you are already spending quite a lot of your time wearing different hats and organizing your business. However, always ensure that this task is carried out by someone with whom you can connect. Talk/discuss online with the person who will be undertaking the assignment. Does the person see what you are trying to do? Is your goal clear and have you communicated it clearly?

5. Event scheduling
Do you want to spend the whole of your time arranging up your meetings and setting up appointments? Probably not! Get someone to do it for you. Use all the different online tools for easy collaboration with the service provider to ensure hassle free communication.

These are really the top 5 types of tasks that i believe a small business owner must look consider for outsourcing. Outsourcing these tasks should help you free up your day so that you can take your business to the next level.

Sending large files

Online collaboration needs have grown to such a large extent that the 10MB file attachment limit of most email providers now appears insufficient. Videos, rich media and presentations now easily exceed the limit and transferring such files is a trouble. There are those who would love to break a file into pieces and request the person at the other end to download a tool that would re-join those pieces. However, I think that file sharing services are the real solution to this problem. Here are a couple that I have used in the past with good results:

1. Yousendit
This is my hot favorite! It provides an easy interface and is a good way to transfer a huge file. With the paid option you can send a file that is 2 GB in size. However, if you are apprehensive then you can sign up for a free trial which allows for sending of 100MB file with a total limit of 1GB for the monthly download limit.

2. SendYourFile
This is a great solution if you want to have the facility to send large files right from your outlook(software download needed)! The great thing is that using their software to transfer a file means that a connection breakdown will not be a problem as it resumes broken transfers. Multiple files can be sent in a single go without a need to attach each file individually(sent as a zip file to the recipient).

A list of other sites offering similar services is below:
1. ShareFile
2. SendSpace (Now closed)
3. 4Shared
4. DropSend
5. TransferBigFiles
6. SendThisFile

The era of peer to peer sharing has also caught up with sending/sharing large files. Peer to peer software allows sharing large files and speeds up the process by allowing the files to be doanloaded at the same time that they are being uploaded!

Some cool sites to check for these are:
GigaTribe
Podmailing
EatLime
Pando

There are plenty of other services around. The above list is just a listing of the more popular websites that I have found useful.

Happy sharing but remember not to send onwards files that you do not own and definitely encrypt them if they are confidential!