The Verghis Group

Measures, Metrics and Madness workshop announced

By Phil Verghis on December 30, 2010

New date: March 18, 2011. Location – Waltham (Boston), MA. 20 seats, registrations will absolutely close when I reach that number. Early bird discount available…

NYC Police put goals on activities: Result? more fines for you

By Phil Verghis on September 10, 2010

A classic case of the wrong behaviors that result when management puts goals on activities….
New York Times article: Secret Tape Has Police Pressing Ticket Quotas

Take a look at your own organization — is it that different? Bring in your own metrics and let’s see on October 27th, the world premier of my new workshop: Measures, Metrics and Madness: the new world of Guiding, not Grading. (Only 7 seats left.)

August 5 webcast now open to all

By Phil Verghis on August 3, 2010

I’ve just been informed that anyone who registers for the webcast Measures, Metrics and Madness: The New World of ‘Guiding, not Grading’ will get the slides and audio sent to them.

Join us to hear from TSIA’s VP of technology research, John Ragsdale, as he interviews Phil Verghis, founder of The Verghis Group. Phil is not only a brilliant strategist and innovator, but also a long-time TSIA community member and a founding member of TSIA’s Expert Alliance Partner program.

Register now for this informative webcast.

Voice of the Customer Conference

By Phil Verghis on June 17, 2010

Once again, I’m a co-producer and active participant at the 4th Annual Voice of the Customer Conference near Boston. Now in its fourth year, the First Wednesday Group’s annual conference has built a strong reputation as the place for leading-edge insights from the support world’s smartest people. Some of these smart people are on stage with microphones; others are part of our audience of hands-on support managers and professionals–people who are eager to share their ideas and experiences with their colleagues in an intimate, friendly retreat away from office distractions.

Find out more at:

Guiding, not Grading — aka Measures, Metrics and Madness

By Phil Verghis on May 8, 2010

Over the last year or two, I’ve been trying to replicate the magic of start-ups – where everyone is laser-focused on the mission of the organization. Everyone knows what needs to be done and just does it.

Unfortunately, this ‘honeymoon’ phase quickly dissipates during the transition to a middle-aged company and beyond.

I think I’ve moved one step closer to finding a solution, as this month’s article discusses. Two of my retainer-based clients are one year into the ‘alignment and measurement’ process, and have reported (mostly) amazing success.

One of the biggest unanticipated side effects has been the boost in employee morale, which has a multiplier effect on productivity, customer loyalty and so much more.

Get the article in a pdf format — or sign up for the next newsletter from my home page –

$1,112.23 cell phone bill? Or how Sprint kept a customer with some unusual proactive work

By Phil Verghis on March 26, 2010

Sprint has a plan that allows international data roaming for $40 a month. In theory, it is very simple. You to call before you leave the country and sign up for an international data roaming plan (allows you to get mail, web content, radio etc. while traveling to countries where CDMA services are available) and cancel when you get back. This is significantly less expensive than paying by the byte. I’ve done it before, and it works well.

When it works.

My first hint that my last three week global trip may end up with a huge bill came when from ‘Jennifer’ at Sprint Customer Care called to see if I was aware my *upcoming* bill was going to be unusually high. When I asked how high, and she said well about $1,112.23 more than usual. We walked through the sequence of events, and it was clear Sprint had made a mistake. However, she could not authorize the refund because the bill hadn’t posted yet. 

She promised to call me back after the bill had posted. I was skeptical, and set a reminder to call Sprint back a day after the bill posted. Well wouldn’t you know it — ‘Jennifer’ called back and informed me that I would get a paper  bill for the higher amount, but to just pay the normal monthly charge and ignore the rest as she had taken care of it. Sprint sent me a survey after the call and I noted that while I was very happy with the support, I hadn’t seen the bill yet. Based on the survey answer, I got a call from another group following up, by which time the updated bill had posted. I also got a second courtesy call from someone in the Customer Care team making sure that all was fine.

Well done, Jennifer. Well done, Sprint. You have earned my loyalty.

Lessons for service providers:

  1. Scour your customer’s bills and call them (don’t just email) *before* the bill posts if there is anything unusual from the customer’s end. While I was unhappy, I would have been far less happy if the first time I learned of the  bill was when I had saw it and had to call in about it.
  2. Take personal responsibility. Jennifer called and said she would personally stay on the case until it was resolved. Even though she made notes in the CRM system, it didn’t replace the rapport we had built when she first called me.
  3. Set expectations properly. Jennifer warned me that the paper bill would be high, but not to worry about it and the online bill would reflect the right amount. So it has. 
  4. Trust  but verify. The follow up call was gravy from Sprint’s part, but well worth while.

Hats off Jennifer. Hats off to you Sprint. I’ve called to let Jennifer’s supervisor know of the work she did, and this is my public thank you to Sprint.

Zen and the art of aircraft engine maintenance

By Phil Verghis on December 17, 2009

(From the Dec ’09 issue of my newsletter, The Verghis View. Get your own subscription at my home page  – )

Many of you have heard me refer to software maintenance fees as “bad” revenue. While it is very lucrative, it’s bad because customers are unhappy paying it – ask any CIO. To give you a sense of how massive these fees are, Oracle made $12 billion last year – no, that’s not a typo – $12 billion from services and maintenance fees, according to Information Week.

I did some research on how other industries demonstrate value for their maintenance fees, and found it in an unlikely source – aircraft engines. (From this article in the Economist.)

All the major players – Rolls Royce, GE, and Pratt & Whitney – reportedly lose money on the sale of the engine. They make up to seven times the revenue from servicing and selling parts.

Interestingly enough, Rolls Royce has embraced two concepts that go beyond what the vast majority of companies provide in the software space.

First, they abandoned the traditional “break fix” model. Instead, they have taken real-time monitoring to a new level. In a world of mind-numbing complexity, they have (thankfully!) assumed that customer-impacting failures are to be minimized.

In their operations center in Derby, England, vast amounts of data is collected in real time from thousands of engines in flight. This flood of data is immediately analyzed and, if a problem is detected, Rolls Royce informs the pilot in flight. Repairs are arranged at the next stop, rather than waiting for it to become a full-blown emergency.

The data analysis continues after each flight is over. This helps Rolls Royce anticipate future problems and reduce the number of emergency repairs – and unhappy customers. As you can imagine, whenever a plane is yanked from service, the ripple effect on an airline’s schedule, revenues and customer satisfaction is non-trivial.

Real-time information monitoring saves Rolls Royce lots of money in terms of better-designed engines, and increases the time between engine rebuilds (now up to 10 years).

The second thing RR does differently is to charge by the hour the engine is run. This makes perfect sense. The aviation industry’s equivalent of “shelfware” is idle planes parked in the desert. The struggling airline industry loves it. After all, why pay for maintenance on expensive engines when your planes are grounded?

The lesson? Don’t settle for break-fix when you can do far better than that. Your service and support team can actually improve your customer’s business, while charging fees that make more sense for the customer.

In this example Rolls Royce gets paid very lucrative services revenue only if the service is being used. So it’s in both Rolls Royce’s and the airline’s interest to keep planes in the air – one of the key drivers to reducing cost per passenger.

Look ahead to 2010. How can you use customer information to improve their business – and your own?

Voice of the Customer conference starts today

By Phil Verghis on November 2, 2009

After almost 4 weeks of travel (just crossed the 100,000 mile mark with United Airlines this past weekend), I’m back in Boston for a few weeks.

One of the reasons I’m back is the Third Annual Voice of the Customer conference hosted by the First Wednesday Group. There is a terrific lineup of speakers and participants. If the past two years were any indication, it should be a fun event with a lot of provocative ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing many friends, colleagues and customers there.

 (Disclaimer, I am one of the producers of the First Wednesday Group.)

High quality, low cost Voice of the Customer Conference…

By Phil Verghis on September 28, 2009

The Voice of the Customer Conference 2009
Boston, November 3-4

 Some of the strongest, most active communities in the social media world are based on post-sale customer support relationships. User groups, online forums, advisory boards, expert networks, survey panels–a growing number of “voice of the customer” channels now provide a rich dialog between companies and their customers.

 A great place to learn more about how social media is influencing the support world is the First Wednesday Group’s annual Voice of the Customer conference, which will take place Nov. 3-4 at a conference center outside of Boston.

This is a boutique event–highly interactive, small in scale, with an impressive lineup of expert speakers and an audience of managers with a good deal of hands-on experience with social media in a customer support environment.

If you’re looking for great conversations and lots of real-world data, this is the place to be.

 Registration is $385/day. For speaker and program details, please visit

How do you mine sentiment on the web?

By Phil Verghis on August 24, 2009

Ah the simpler days of the Internet. Way back in 2002, during my Akamai days, we had team members manually mining public forums for customer comments during live events to ensure that we could pin point and resolve issues close to real time. Of course it would be impossible to scale staff enough to do that smartly today.

That’s why today’s New York Times article  (free registration required) on some of the tools available to mine blogs, Twitter and more caught my interest. Selected quotes from the article:

Scout Labs recently introduced a subscription service that allows customers to monitor blogs, news articles, online forums and social networking sites for trends in opinions about products, services or topics in the news.

Jodange offers a service geared toward online publishers that lets them incorporate opinion data drawn from over 450,000 sources, including mainstream news sources, blogs and Twitter.

Bo Pang, a researcher at Yahoo co-wrote “Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis,” one of the first academic books on sentiment analysis.

To get at the true intent of a statement, Ms. Pang developed software that looks at several different filters, including polarity (is the statement positive or negative?), intensity (what is the degree of emotion being expressed?) and subjectivity (how partial or impartial is the source?).

For example, a preponderance of adjectives often signals a high degree of subjectivity, while noun- and verb-heavy statements tend toward a more neutral point of view.

How are you tracking sentiments about your organization? Have you been able to strike a good balance between a rapid response and appropriate response (i.e. not over-reacting) ?

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