Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article User groups are a valuable asset for customers trying to get the best from their HR systems. Danny Bradbury looks at how they operateThe customer is always right, or so the saying goes, and to keep revenue rolling in at a steady rate, suppliers need to look after them. Different companies have different approaches to supporting clients, but everyone agrees on one fundamental business rule: building customer relationships ensures repeat business. User groups have been a vital element in the customer relations business across the IT sector, and the human resources software industry is no exception. Creating a community of users theoretically enables them to share their experiences (both good and bad), and provides a valuable source of feedback.“What I wanted to do was draw people together and put them in a position to set up a partnership with the supplier,” says Roger Bartropp, a customer of software developer Northgate (formerly MDIS), who took on the task of creating and running an independent user group eight years ago.Bartropp’s organisation is an example of an independent user group, with an agenda separate to its supplier company. The group is financed by member subscriptions, although he admits the supplier donates 10 per cent of the cost of the user-group conferences he runs. In spite of this declaration of independence, he maintains a partisan approach to Northgate. He warns that the user group frowns on negative comments from delegates during the conferences, instead creating a constructive atmosphere in which companies exchange experiences and talk about new ways of using the software.Problem solvingThis doesn’t mean the user group is toothless or sycophantic in any way. Rather, it motivates itself to solve specific end-user problems.Bartropp recalls one incident when a user group member was having problems getting the Inland Revenue to read data records that had been produced using the product. “Because that member was a member of our group, we took that to the IR,” he says. “I involved that user, myself, the IR and Northgate. That took four months to resolve.”Northgate deals with customer complaints outside the conferences, putting them before a committee to decide whether or not they should be upheld. If they are, then the problems are resolved, and, if appropriate, the resolution incorporated into the product.Managing director of Northgate, Malcolm Aldis, explains that from a vendor perspective, user groups are a good way of getting product feedback and adds that getting customers together in one place makes it easier to gauge user perception.Other companies are less interested in independence, and run their user relations in-house. Hugo Fair, managing director of Software for People, argues that in his experience customers simply don’t want user groups. The only reason they might be in favour of them, he jokes, is the time off work to attend user group events.Extra workloadThe extra workload involved in the running of an independent user group is another downfall of the option. Morag Morrison of Snowdrop Systems admits it would be difficult for group members to manage such an administrative task while doing their day-to-day jobs. It would also be awkward knowing whether to pay them or not, she says.“It’s better running it inside the company because we know our future better,” she argues. “Clients wouldn’t come to the user groups if we thought we were just trying to sell them things.”Morrison’s belief that users might suspect a sales pitch is something all vendors have to face when running their user groups. They have to ask themselves the question: to sell, or not to sell? Vendors with independently-run user groups generally paint a passive view of their involvement in those organisations, often describing themselves as nothing other than benevolent supporters who keep themselves at arm’s length. But realistically it must be difficult for them to avoid getting involved in a user group and using it as a proactive sales channel, given it focuses exclusively on their customer base.An event where customers are gathered in a single place is also a good opportunity to set their minds at rest, addressing complaints about late product releases, for example. Generally though, customers suggest that over-involvement in user group conferences is a bad move. For one thing, says Jenny Oakley of HR software company KCS, you rarely – if ever – get all your customers into a single room. She would rather notify all her customers directly, she says. Certainly, Aldis and Bartropp both agree that there is little leeway for gung-ho vendor chats at these meetings.Phil McTeer, marketing executive at InfoSupport, admits that the company will present at the user conference, but stresses that it needs to be invited, and won’t just storm in with a sales pitch. “Often we describe new developments with the company, keeping the customer informed about what is going on from our end,” he says. “If all we did was try to sell them more and dominate the event, it would be unpopular as a move.”Different structuresUser groups are structured in different ways. Some groups, like the one associated with HR software supplier Compel, tend to be run on a regional basis. Others hand responsibility over to a single, national group.Compel managing director Chris Berry explains that his user group was originally national, but was broken down into regional groups to allow the groups to become more focused. Some members had special interests, he says, such as those working in specific markets. Bartropp has taken this industry-specific view further, forming four special interest groups as offshoots of the main user group. Customers that want to be members of these groups have to be a member of the main group first, he explains.KCS’s Oakley used to run regional meetings, but she argues that the smaller groups would quickly become stagnant because the same faces would turn up time after time. The company now runs the occasional regional meeting, but those have a different agenda to the main user group conferences, and don’t happen that often.McTeer gives similar reasons for running a large national group. “If you have one central user group, you might lose a few people from, say, the north of Scotland, but they were too small, those regional groups,” he says.Often, the agendas for such meetings are similar. Independent guest speakers are a common trend, for example. McTeer brings in legal experts to talk about issues such as employment law. Speakers also feature at the KCS user group conference alongside workshops and chat desks, where customers with expertise in a particular area of the product can pass on tips and techniques on how to use the software more effectively.Such issues show a different level of expectation between HR software user group members, and those users of other software products within the industry. User group conferences for, say, development software products are often filled with people who are more technical in nature, often from the IT department.McTeer, for example, claims that most of the people attending his company’s user group sessions are from the personnel department and are clearly less technically-oriented than IT users. Nevertheless, there is a lot of crossover. Infosupport’s user group carries a certain level of technical and user issues, while Oakley explains there is a mix of personnel staff and technical support attendees from customers at the KCS shows. “The technical person will go and talk to our people, while the payroll people will talk to the payroll people,” she says.On-line forumAs user groups evolve, they will doubtless use new technologies more to keep customers more closely connected with each other. One obvious approach here is the introduction of the “bulletin board” as a means of communication. Compel, for example, already has an on-line forum for customers, although as this is part of the company web site, and so isn’t entirely independent. Berry argues that HR departments are often the last in the company to gain access to new technologies, and that some of his customers consequently don’t have access to the Internet. He goes as far as sending an entire copy of the web site out on CD to customers, just to make sure they get all the information they need, but of course this doesn’t give them the facility to access on-line forums.Bartropp is marching ahead with technology options for his user group. The company operates a web page which is also a password-protected extranet, he explains, giving user group members the chance to post-specific grievances against Northgate, for example.Just like their member companies, user groups come in all shapes and sizes. The most useful ones are those that serve as an independent forum for their customers and complement traditional lines of communication with the product vendor. Such groups can serve as a good way for customers to increase their understanding of a product, and hopefully to implement better systems based on collective experience. Right to replyOn 12 Sep 2000 in Personnel Today
View Comments P.S. The West End’s Wicked (which Menzel originally headlined after her Tony-winning Broadway turn as Elphie) celebrated its 10th anniversary on September 27. We’re loving this sneak peek of the celebrations. Here’s a quick roundup of stories you may have missed today. Grumpy Cat to Join Cats CastWhat’s next, Hello Kitty being named the Gumbie Cat standby? Grumpy Cat, the media personality, performer and New York Times best-selling author, will make her Great White Way debut alongside the Cats cast on stage at the Neil Simon Theatre on September 30. “Being selected as the first real cat to perform in Cats on Broadway is an honor. I hate it,” Grumpy Cat meowed in a statement. “If I’m really being honest, I’d prefer to play the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.”Shirley Jones Bio-Show Eyeing New YorkThe Partridge Family legend and Great White Way vet Shirley Jones and her son, Broadway and television actor Patrick Cassidy, are headlining the world premiere of Have You Met Miss Jones. Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. and featuring stories, memories and songs from the Oscar-winning Jones’ career, the show is currently playing a limited ten-week engagement through November 27 at the New Theatre in Overland, Kansas. Co-written by Shaun Cassidy and Maltby, and developed by Patrick Cassidy, there are plans to subsequently take the production on a national tour prior to heading to New York. We will keep you posted!Lydia Wilson & Rafe Spall Return to London StageSome news from across the pond. Former Broadway.com fresh face Lydia Wilson (King Charles III) has been tapped to star in Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love, alongside Adam Rothenberg. Directed by Simon Evans, the Ripper Street co-stars will play a limited eight-week engagement from October 26 at London’s Found111. Meanwhile, Broadway alum Rafe Spall (Betrayal) will join the Ruth Wilson-led Hedda Gabler. Helmed by Tony winner Ivo van Hove, the previously announced production will begin previews on December 5 at the National’s Lyttleton Theatre. Opening night is set for December 12. We’re keeping an eye on this one, it could have legs…Idina Menzel on Frozen 2The newly engaged Idina Menzel recently stopped by The Ellen Show, hosted by Miley Cyrus, to talk tales of her son Walker, performing the National Anthem next to the President and an Easter bunny, as well as whether Elsa will be a lesbian in Frozen 2. “I, Idina Menzel, says I am all for it. I think it’s a wonderful idea. I think it’s a wonderful conversation.” Check out the interview below. Watch SPELLBINDING video highlights from our 10th Birthday celebrations feat. fabulocious guests & cast members, past & present! #Wicked10 pic.twitter.com/he3ant7ByX— Wicked UK (@WickedUK) September 29, 2016 Cats Grumpy Cat(Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images) Show Closed This production ended its run on Dec. 30, 2017 Related Shows
More from news02:37International architect Desmond Brooks selling luxury beach villa16 hours ago02:37Gold Coast property: Sovereign Islands mega mansion hits market with $16m price tag2 days agoWatch the waves roll in from bed“Sandbar is still in the sales and marketing phase but if its sales continue like they are we will re-evaluate the commencement forecast soon,” he said. There will also be a fully equipped gym, yoga deck, covered barbecue area and pool.past 15 years, having just completed the sold out Boardwalk Burleigh development.“Following the success of Boardwalk, a number of owners have also purchased in Sandbar Burleigh,” he said.“Within walking distance of Boardwalk, Sandbar Burleigh is the latest example of unique luxury living, comprising spectacular views of Burleigh, proximity to the beach and local shops, and naturally combining the features of beach and parkland lifestyles.” Sandbar Burleigh features spectacular ocean views from Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise and the hinterland.An opportunity to buy into a tightly-held Burleigh beach residential strip has opened up, with the announcement of the new Sandbar Burleigh development. Or from the couchMr Morris said the development would be on the corner of Sixth Ave and next to a park.“It’s a short walk through the trees until your feet are in the sand,” he said. “With one of the most coveted postcodes on the Gold Coast, this is a rare opportunity to buy beachside property in 4220.“Integrating the unique Burleigh lifestyle with quality modern design, Sandbar affords you the opportunity to live beachside in absolute elegance and comfort. Surrounded by cafes, designer retail stores and a vibrant night-life … life at Burleigh is simply, better.” This will be the fourth project the developer has delivered in Burleigh over the An artists impression of the view from Sandbar BurleighMorris Property Group has announced a new, 26-storey tower with 168 apartments on the exclusive strip. Twenty-seven apartments have already sold off the plan.Morris Property Group principal Barry Morris said they had not decided on a construction start date as yet.
ST. LOUIS >> Yasmani Grandal was not the hottest hitter at Triple-A Oklahoma City when the Dodgers’ catcher went out on a rehab assignment this week. Grandal even admitted as much Friday at Busch Stadium.Shortstop prospect Corey Seager went 6 for 6 in a game against Salt Lake on Thursday, one hit short of tying a Pacific Coast League record and a triple shy of the cycle.“I’m really impressed,” said Grandal, who batted behind Seager during the rehab assignment. “He’s got good hands too, made a couple plays up the middle. But I’m really impressed with the bat.”Needing a triple to complete the cycle, Seager hit a ground-rule double in his sixth plate appearance at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City. The ball hopped over the right-field fence on a bounce. We only know that for now, the Dodgers are content to let Seager get his work in at Triple-A. “All of us know he can play,” Mattingly said. “All of us know what this kid is capable of. Until the last four or five days he’d struggled there. Then all of a sudden he hits two homers, gets four hits, gets six hits and all of a sudden he’s figured it out. I don’t think it’s a true surprise. I don’t care if you’re in American Legion, (a 10-for-13 stretch) is hard to do. “I don’t think there’s anything surprising about Corey, and just how good this kid is. He’s been given all the attention. Minor leagues … we got to see him in spring training and he was impressive in spring. It’s just a matter of, I think, making sure his development is complete. We go from there.”Catcher shuffle comingGrandal is expected to be activated today. He went 3 for 10 with five walks in his three rehab games, all as a designated hitter. After being placed on the 7-day disabled list with concussion-like symptoms, Grandal didn’t want to risk the chance of taking another foul tip or foul ball off his head. With no equipment, he didn’t even catch the odd bullpen session or between-innings warmup.Grandal’s second rehab game was shortened to five innings because he was ejected for arguing after taking a called third strike. The 26-year-old said it was the first ejection of his career at any level. Asked if he was expecting a fine, he said, “I’m still waiting for the call.”More importantly, Grandal believes his concussion symptoms are behind him. After a couple of nights tossing and turning in Utah, he said he slept well Thursday night in St. Louis. Grandal’s arrival means that Austin Barnes is likely headed back to Oklahoma City. The Riverside native started one game at catcher during his first week in the major leagues Sunday in Los Angeles. He went 1 for 3 and collected his first major league hit, a single, in the Dodgers’ loss to the San Diego Padres.A.J. Ellis started the other five games in Grandal’s absence.Peralta on the mendPitcher Joel Peralta threw from roughly 110 feet on flat ground as he continues to work his way back from a freak injury in April.The 39-year-old said the pinched nerve that caused his dead arm — brought on by a night sleeping awkwardly on his neck, of all things — is behind him. He hasn’t felt weakness in his right triceps for more than a week and expects to start throwing off a mound sometime during the Dodgers’ four-game series in Denver beginning Monday.“The doc at one point was talking surgery,” Peralta said of a procedure involving a compressed nerve in his spine. “That was a big relief for me.”Mattingly affirmed that Peralta dodged a bullet. “It wasn’t looking very good there for a little bit,” Mattingly said. “Hopefully he’ll just keep moving forward.” There is still no timetable for Peralta to return to game action. He didn’t allow a run in seven appearances over 5 2/3 innings prior to the injury.Also … Of the eight position players in the Dodgers’ starting lineup Friday, only one (Adrian Gonzalez) started Game 1 of last year’s National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals. … Saturday’s starting pitcher, Carlos Frias, is the only Dodgers starter this weekend who was on the NLDS roster. Frias didn’t pitch in the series last year. … Saturday’s game is a national broadcast by Fox and not blacked out in SportsNet LA markets. … Matt Holliday (flu) was scratched from the Cardinals’ lineup. … Pitcher Zach Lee was removed after three innings of his start for Triple-A Oklahoma City, putting the right-hander in the running to make his major league debut Tuesday in Colorado. … The Dodgers will call up a pitcher to start one end of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Rockies, and right-hander Joe Wieland is lined up to start that day for Oklahoma City. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “I think the fence comes in to 315” feet, Grandal said. “It could’ve been a triple, easy.”Hype has followed Seager since he was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in the 2012 draft. Thursday’s performance, which raised his batting average in 25 Triple-A games to .324, did nothing to quell it.Perhaps surprisingly, neither did Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.“To me, you could throw the kid in the big leagues right now and he’d be fine,” Mattingly said, “but he’s going to hit his stretches where he struggles, and really letting him go through the development part is the best way.” Mattingly said it would not be fair to Seager to predict when he will reach the big leagues, though it became quite the pastime for Dodgers fans after the 6 for 6 game. Seager was a trending topic in Los Angeles on Twitter at one point Thursday.