High-Tech vs. Low-Tech: Which one is a better bridge?
Ringgg…….Ringgg…. It seemed like her cell-phone was ringing in every minute and our conversation was destructed when she had to answer the phone. Technology today is so powerful in communication but to what extent?!
Two days before….
I accidentally read the article “Issue 6: Put yourself in your client’s shoes” in Ian Brodie’s page (2012), who is named as “One of the top 50 global thought leaders in Marketing and Sales” of the Top Sales World Magazine (2012). I am sure that you have heard this term so many times in client management field. There was something that prompted me to challenge myself by stepping into the shoes of Mrs. Phan Ngoc Minh Phuong, brand manager of Rolex Vietnam, to explore the way she connects with her agency in this digital age so that it helps agency have better understanding about client and improve the services.
Going to the Centec Tower in a rainy day, pressing the elevator button to the third flood where her company – Duy Anh Fashion and Cosmetic (DAFC) Ltd. – is located, I came to her office. DAFC is a company in IPP Group which owns the big brand Chanel. As its tagline “Bringing luxury fashion to Vietnam”, DAFC now has BVLGari, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Rolex, etc. Phuong has worked at her current position for two years after graduated a Master Degree in Australia. She has participated in different projects such as Rolex’s big opening event, two years advertising plans of Rolex and many other customer relationship marketing programs. She has successfully worked with several types of agencies and sales executives so her skills and experiences are valuable to share.
She was back to our conversation, my mind was stopped wandering around…
Seeing Phuong holding her cell-phone in hand, I asked “Does it help you connect with your agencies effectively?”. She laughed out loud and answered “It does, but…” and our story was begun…
Let technology build bridges not burn them.
“As you see, my cell-phone does help me keep in touch with agencies and update their running process, especially at this time when I’m not in Hanoi. That’s great!”, said Phuong. She was talking about her plan for a new retail store of Rolex in Hanoi. “We communicate mostly through phone calls, Skype and emails, but of course, I also need to have business trips to meet them”. She stressed on the importance of technology because it closes the gap between agency and client (including geographical meaning). When both of two sides are too busy, technology is an effective communication channel. It enables us to contact each other as soon as possible, even in an immediate situation.
Doing business today is easier based on the supports of technology. But it cannot replace a real meeting. Technology helps you keep in touch but less connected to the agency. It is the best ways to connect with people when you are unable to meet them directly not the way that you can depend on.
Face-to-face communication as a need
“Business travel is essential”, Phuong stated. Face-to-face communication is the gold standard of communication despite the increase of technology recently. “Although emails and phone calls can deliver information but traditional communication establishes social bonding and nurtures the human relationships underlying business relationships”, she continued.
The book Distributed Work mentioned the uniqueness of this type, face-to-face communication enables us to “shared bodily activities” as touching, eating and engaging in a common physical space. Those functions are impossible to be done in other media (Bonnie & Steve, 2002).
We need to have further meetings to share ideas, reach common interests and plan for the project. “The agency must come to the site at least 1-2 times to understand more about the brand, the atmosphere and for the stage’s design”, Phuong asserted. “High tech would help the communication become easier and faster. However, face-to-face would build the relationship and trust between agency and client”, Phuong concluded.
“Practice and theory have a huge gap when an agency is not only responsible for your project. As a client, always tell myself that client is not always king”, said Phuong. You cannot force agency to meet you frequently to check the process, it can go against what you are expecting and even limit their creativity and productivity. Her thought lets me remember the quote of Warren Buffet “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Don’t consider client solely as buyer and give agency money so they are seller and must listen to all the requests. Maintaining a professional relationship based on mutual respect is essential. Think about the values! Sometimes, let technology do its jobs.
It’s time to step in the shoes
Phuong shared her experience in the Rolex’s opening event in Rex Arcade. Rolex has its global rule called “Hero of the brand” that there are no more brands except it in the night. A wine brand offered hard liquor for the night but its brand label had to be covered. The point is that just two days before the event she recognized the agency misunderstood that rule because they did not have enough consultation before. Therefore, she immediately contacted with that sponsor. Based on their close relationship, it allowed the brand’s name to be covered by Rolex ribbons. “The event had the appearance of Global Director, what would have happened if the problem had not been found?”, Phuong asked me to imagine.
After all, Phuong mentioned one thing that reminded me about “The Relationship Marketing Ladder” (Payne, Christopher & Peck 1995): “The way we communicate with agency depends on how much we put our trust on them”. Phuong often hires the agency that already worked with other brands in her company. She also called them as “trusted partners” because they have certain knowledge about each other. For those agencies, the relationship somehow can depend on technology because we know their working style and they understand our expectation. However, it does not mean high-tech can replace face-to-face communication. “Don’t misleading!”, Phuong added. “Technology shortens the far distance but destroys the close one”.
Agency-client relationship not only needs to be built but also need to be maintained. Technology enables the service but the service cannot sell itself. Face-to-face communication is the answer. All we need to do is to keep the balance or the mix between high-tech and low-tech. To conclude this article, you might have your own answer for the question in the title. Hope you can keep that answer as a guide for you in your future communication at workplace!
Word count: 1,100
*Words and illustrations by Quynh Dinh Nguyet – s3324416
Client: an attractive woman who is received many chases from men (agencies). She is looking for Mr. Right like a client is looking for the best agency for its project. The word “Yes” from her is important for any men’s proposals as the word “Yes” from client to agency.
Agency: a wise and old man who knows almost everything. He has experience like an agency has much knowledge in the field. He is also being attracted by a good looking woman
Bonnie A.N & Steve W 2002, “The place for face-to-face communication in Distributed Work”, Distributed Work, Library of Congress, U.S
Brodie, I 2012, “Issue 6: Put yourself in your client’s shoes” Cookies, viewed 31 August 2012,<http://www.ianbrodie.com/newsletter-archive/issue-6/>
Payne A, Christopher M & Peck H 1995, “Relationship Marketing for Competitive Advantage: Winning and Keeping Customers”, Betterworth-Heinemann, UK
Top Sales World 2012, “Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2012”, homepage, viewed 31 August 2012,<http://www.topsalesworld.com/topInfluencers.php>