Thursday, 21 April 2011

Dabs (verb) – “To Touch Lightly and Quickly”

This is how the dictionary defines the terms “Dabs”. In many ways, my three months here will have this effect on the company, however the effect this experience has had on me will be far more pronounced.

My third placement began with all the usual excitement and possibilities to impose a positive change in the 11 weeks we have to do so. The only difference this time was that Dabs was the one placement I was really excited to be going to – an e-commerce company for someone (me) who is passionate about Internet marketing – what a match!

The first few weeks flew by and despite the fact that my commute took up to two hours of my day, I was enjoying my job.

Towards the end of February, something happened at Dabs which changed everything. I refer to this event as the fortunately-unfortunate incident. It was unfortunate because together with the other lovely people at Dabs, during the next few months we all had to enter a “crisis management” mode; but fortunate because I experienced, first-hand, the issues and difficulties which come about when a company has to upgrade to a new system. To cut a long story short – the company decided it was time to implement a new system, but once they migrated everything on to the new one, there were more problems than they had at first anticipated and unfortunately many of these affected their customers.

The lessons I learned over the next few weeks showed me that e-commerce is not only an amazing disruptive innovation, but also an economic system where agents operate in a manner far quicker than the traditional business world. Problems (and opportunities) are noticed instantly and people expect these problems to be corrected within days, hours, and sometimes even minutes. Things are almost back to normal now, and I feel like in the long term Dabs will be better off with the new system.

Of course I also got to ask literally thousands of questions, cornering various people in their offices or at their desks and extracting vital information from them. When starting up your own e-commerce business (as I hope to soon be doing) you never really know what you don’t know, but once you start digging deeper you find certain questions taking form; questions about shipping, protecting the company from fraud, the various systems being used and dozens of others. The more questions I asked the more questions I seemed to have and at Dabs I also managed to get many answers (Thanks to Neil, Helen, Michelle, Mat and Jag).

All-in-all, it was a very interesting placement. To cheer everyone up (and because its my birthday), I’ve made pancakes on my last day and leave the cool gang at Dabs with a few lessons I have learned:
  1. Good customer service is a far more difficult job than I had at first thought. When we hire people to do this, make sure they can handle angry or difficult customers. Take them out once a month to paintball (or some other activity where they can de-stress and let go of all the anger customers impose upon them).
  2. Always, and I mean ALWAYS have a contingency plan – not just for the good times but also for the bad. Plan for unlikely events using the “if…then…else” type of logic.
  3. Don’t pay for expensive software unless you have a dedicated person who will be trained and have the time to use it. Even then, regularly re-evaluate its usefulness to the company.
  4. Customers are morons. They will cry and bitch and moan and threaten. Do everything you can to please them.
  5. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If it is breaking and you choose to get a new one, make sure you’re not getting one that is even more broken than the original because anything that can go wrong will go wrong, so make sure you plan for the worst case scenario.
  6. Be very careful when deciding that the job two employees are doing can be done by one. Overworking people suppresses creativity and innovation – especially if you doubled their workload but not their salary.
  7. Finally, after the system migration there were some serious problems on days when it looked like the world would end. While some people could have just gone mental from all the stress, everyone stayed cool. So the last lesson I take away from Dabs is - DON’T PANIC, everything works out in the end if you’ve got a cool head.
Thanks to Dabs for a very important 3 months, now to put it all into practice in my own business.

Placement four is at Rare Pink. A new chapter begins.


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