Losing your Hair over it? The Value of Assessing the Health of your Organisation
Audrey Ng – MMResearch ™
Recently, I found out that I suffer from ‘Alopecia1’, which has caused me to lose over 50% of my hair. It came as a complete shock to me as I did not know much about this disease. To ease my anxiety, I searched the Internet about the sudden hair loss before making an appointment with my GP. Unfortunately, the cause of ‘Alopecia’ is a mystery. The best possible explanation is ‘auto-immune system’. My GP referred me to a skin specialist and told me not to worry. “Just wait few more weeks and see what happens”, was the advice.
There were so many questions I needed to ask the specialist. However, the only advice the specialist gave was the same as my GP “You just need to wait and see….” OK, let’s wait and see…. But how long should I wait for?
It frustrated me that I could not get a satisfactory answer from a professional source, and I hate sitting around and doing nothing. I strongly believe that sudden hair loss does not happen without a reason. To get my beautiful hair back (and I want it back!), and to cure myself once and for all, I tried to look for answers and alternative solutions by searching the Internet and talking to my peers.
To cut a long story short, I have finally found a satisfactory and sensible answer. This does not just relieve me from frustration; it also allows me to specifically focus on certain areas to improve my physical condition and to undergo a proper treatment
I am telling my story as I have always believed that everybody can be a problem solver as long they make an effort to dig and continue to search for information; have the hunger for information and always ask “Why?”. Most importantly, investigate the alternative solutions (especially when the current solution is not the most effective one). As a researcher myself, I consider this as one of the key attributes a researcher should possess. Although Alopecia is not a life threatening diseases, it can affect one’s well being, self image, and confidence. Furthermore, it is one of the most common diseases. It disappointed me that very little study about Alopecia has been done in the dermatology field. That could be why neither my GP nor the specialist could fully answer my questions.
I am very pleased that I took the initiative to search for an answer and alternatives, rather than waiting for things to happen. I am also pleased that I am surrounded by a supportive team of friends and colleagues who are proactive and also have the hunger to answer the ‘why’ questions, either on personal or professional issues. As a researcher, being able to provide useful information and to assist one with their problem is the most rewarding feeling. There is no better way to understand what one is going through unless you have actually experienced it. I will be very happy to help others, who also suffer from Alopecia, with my experience and the understanding I have about this disease. I will not advise them to wait and see.
Not only has this experience allowed me to learn about alopecia, it has also helped me to understand that our bodies function in much the same way that businesses do.
There are two most sensible reasons for hair loss, the nutritionist point of view and Traditional Chinese Medication (TCM) point of view. Both suggest that the reason for hair loss is a significant lack of vitamins, which are essential to maintain a healthy body, and to nourish healthy skin, hair, and nails.
According to TCM, balance and harmony are the basis for well being and health. How we achieve this harmony, from a TCM perspective is by knowing our individual bodies and our experience of health. The same is true for the businesses; it is important to understand the ‘health’ of an organisation - is it functioning correctly, capable of ‘nourishing’ its customers, and subsequently, able to maintain customer’ satisfaction and loyalty?
Customer loyalty is not a new concept and almost every business wants to talk about it. I mean, who does not want to keep their customers for as long as possible and have more opportunity for cross- and up-selling? Customer loyalty is directly related to how well a business is looking after its customers (in the same way, our health is directly related to how we look after our body).
One of the key reasons for being a loyal customer (or employee) is the service they get (yes, employees also enjoy service from their employers) and whether their needs have been met by the provider. If a customer or an employee is not getting what he/she needs, or feels dissatisfied, they will leave. Simple as that.! Just like my hair; it falls when it does not get enough nourishment from the body.
Research has shown that the cost of acquiring new customers or the cost of hiring new employees is usually 5-10 times greater than retaining current ones. Loyal customers and employees affect an organisation’s success. Loyal customers grow your business by increasing market share; they purchase more and refer the business to others. Loyal employees save an organisation resources that would otherwise have been spent on hiring and training new employees.
No matter what type of business, achieving satisfaction is the key to long-term profitability. “When companies put employees and customers first, their employees are satisfied, their customers are loyal, their profits increase, and their continued success is sustained.” is the conclusion of a Harvard Business Review article2. To achieve a high level of satisfaction, it is important to listen to your customers/employees and to obtain feedback from them. The feedback can be positive as well as negative, yet it is useful to know what an organisation is getting right and what it is doing wrong!
A satisfaction survey is an important tool for obtaining customers or employees’ opinions and ascertaining their needs. An essential part of a satisfaction survey includes identifying dissatisfaction. Dissatisfied customers or employees often possess the information the business needs to succeed. Yet, not all dissatisfied customers or employees will make a complaint about their dissatisfaction. Most of them will choose to go elsewhere without a word. That important piece of information will never be discovered if they have never been surveyed (or worse, that information may go to your competitors).
Occasionally, in my job as a researcher, I come across organisations that will only conduct a satisfaction survey when there are problems (e.g. loss of customers, decrease in sales, high staff turnover). This is similar to my hair loss problem; I only started taking notice of my health after my hair started falling out. Although, this is reversible over a period of time, the damage has already been done (and it is costly to fix). Based on this personal experience, I believe that businesses should not take their customers or employees for granted and it is necessary to get their feedback on a regular basis. In the same way as we need to look after our body and obtain health checks, we also need to check the “health” of our business.
Customers these days are smart. They know if an organisation truly appreciates them and listens to them, and makes an effort to improve. A client of ours, who consistently retains well over 95% customer satisfaction every year, is the best example of this. We are simply blown away by the way this client values and uses the feedback from their customers about their service. Customer satisfaction is linked to the level of employee satisfaction3.Again, this client has reinforced this by maintaining a high level of employee satisfaction. This is truly a healthy body (I don’t think they will ever suffer from an excessive hair loss problem, like I did.).
This article is not about Alopecia or my hair loss (although I did cry a lot for my hair). It’s about maintaining a healthy ‘body’ and listening to the ‘body’ by carrying out a ‘health check’ on a regular basis. Looking after your business means looking after your customers and employees.
2. Anthony Rucci, Steven Kim, Richard Quinn "Employee Customer Profit Chain at Sears" Harvard Business Review Jan.-Feb. 1998
3. Betty Bailey and Robert Dandrade "Employee Satisfaction + Customer Satisfaction = Sustained Profitability: Digital Equipment Corporation's Strategic Quality Efforts", Employee Involvement Special Issue, Vol 4, No. 3, Fall, 1995