Get out of the Cloud-Building strong client relationships one jump at a time!
South Africa is the place to be in February if you are from Canada! I can assure you of this as it was -19 in Calgary when we left for Johannesburg South Africa where it was a balmy +31 degrees, I loved it!
After almost a full year of weekly virtual meetings and a successful pilot in Nigeria with a few thousand participants, Kudos was ready to push forward with a full system launch to a new customer, MTN within 26 countries, 8 languages and 18K users in late March. As exciting as this was we still needed to ensure all the individual countries had fully trained administrators, or Custodians as they call them, and that they fully understood “Why” Kudos was bringing a social recognition system into their lives. This is why I was heading there in person, along with Sarah Morrill our Director of Client Services, to facilitate the sessions that would help with the onboarding process and better ensure ultimate success of such a large undertaking.
It was a fruitful experience to finally meet face to face with the voices we had been speaking with for such a long time, through many intense sessions. Like an extended family, MTN was now a reality to us. My reason for writing about this experience is simple. The importance of meeting face-to-face with global clients is crucial in effectively managing an account, especially one related to corporate culture, and building upon a long term relationship. Customer service is ultimately at the core of what we do and in believing this as a pillar of our business model we must nurture and protect these relationships through communication and taking the time needed to fully understand the evolving needs of our customers. After all on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs
It can however be a challenge to put yourself in their shoes ongoingly. This presents a difficulty for the Project Manager or Account Manager as resources naturally shift over time to meet with overall organization priorities over client specific priorities. The Key in my opinion always comes back to the communication previously mentioned. Since communication is a 2 way street, and strong relationships were formed early on there is a level of mutual respect developed
These steps will greatly impact the strength of relationships being built:
1) Taking time to meet in person regardless of “where” in the world they are working in.
2) Take all issues and concerns seriously and view them in “their” business need context.
3) Be upfront with your own limitations and organization roadmap to avoid uncomfortable surprises for your client.
Although we live in a connected world, relying on cloud environments through SAAS systems, we can not replace the value of personal connection and collaborative sessions to enhance working relationships. And if a few drinks, and non work related conversations happen along the way, a much greater level of patience and respect is the outcome. In the case of MTN Telecom Headquartered in South Africa, we have all benefitted through this experience as we navigate the ongoing Program Management as we collaboratively work together. It has been a positive experience for all of us. In my case I chose to augment the relationship through bungee Jumping in Soweto. Not advised for everyone, however creating a bonding experience like jumping off a 100 meter Cooling tower together really goes a long way! (Down)
Get out of the cloud once in a while and focus on human connection, long term relationships will always benefit.
Ask your customers to be part of the solution, And don’t view them as part of the problem.”– Alan Weiss
Corey Wood is a seasoned entrepreneur and Business Development Facilitator. He has helped businesses evolve for over 15 years providing strategic planning, training and sales support to projects in North America, Africa and Asia. Corey engages using on and off-line resources, placing a high-priority on services that are innovative and strategic. Currently he is Director of Business Development with Kudos inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
MTN Group, formerly M-Cell, is a South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company, operating in many African, European and Middle Eastern countries. Its head office is in Johannesburg.