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Building a culture for your organization. First step before accquisition and retention.

Building a culture for your organization.

First step before accquisition and retention.

Interviewed by Tran Mai Thao _ S3410167 _ SGS _ G2

I had a chance to spend a week as an internship student in Minh Ngoc Anh (MNA) Limited Company. MNA is the top 5 of “Yamaha 3S* Dealer” in Ho Chi Minh City. They maintain their motorbike business since 2007.

I spent time to chat with two different people here. The director is Nghiem Minh Anh, he inherited this business from his parent so he seem inclined to traditional.

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Prood of Life- Director- Nghiem Minh Anh at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh with an author

 

He just keeps relying on their long-term customers, run business by family’s reputation. He doesn’t’ consider customer is the important core to run and expand business. He thinks customer needs him and his business.

However, from 2012 until now, the motorbike market faces to a biggest challenge. People don’t want to buy common motorbike any more. “I defined that MNA needs to focus on other fields: services and selling spare parts” – the general manager of the store in Binh Tan, Dai Thanh Tuan Anh, thinks quite modernly. “And the most important thing, i must look for the new customers for these fields too because almost customers have known MNA as a store which selling motorbike only”, he said.

 

General Manager – Dai Thanh Tuan Anh at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh with an author

Proof of Life- General Manager – Dai Thanh Tuan Anh at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh with an author

Tuan Anh proposed his new strategy which focus most on CRM (Customer Relationship management) and test it on Binh Tan’s store. He focuses on acquisition step on wholesale customers and retention step on retail customers.

 

 

Realtionship Ladder - Reproduced from Payne (1995)

Realtionship Ladder – Reproduced from Payne (1995)

He started to change his organizational culture of his company first. He said “defining own culture for my company is also the way i create our brand image in customer’s minds”. In the new strategy, Tuan Anh tries to deliver the new and professional image of MNA’s services to his customers. There are 7 employees included: 1 receptionist, 2 sales, 3 technicians, 1 warehouse keeper who work in this new strategy. Involving this campaign, employees must always smile and learn how to listen customer’s insights. Everyone in his store must have the basic knowledge about motorbike even the female receptionist. “That could increase the trust among customer because customer could think they came to the right place where everyone here can help them and their motorbike”- He also said.

 

Reproduced from Pinterest.com, 2014

Reproduced from Pinterest.com, 2014

In June, 2012, they tried to call back all customers who used to buy motorbike in Binh Tan’s store. He started to fill up customer’s database professionally, and remind customers about the maintenance duration. His employees also announced all promotions to customer through messages, phone-call and email also.

 

Reproduced from Tom, T, 2012 in imedia.com

Reproduced from Tom, T, 2012 in imedia.com

 

In the part of building trust in customer’s mind, he said “customer trust us while we know their problems and show the most effective and professional way to help them solve problems, so i realized me and my employees must improve our expertise first and then oriented customer to the right way because customers usually don’t know what they really want, they need effective helps”.

Reproduced from mya3chat.com, 2013

Reproduced from mya3chat.com, 2013

 

About how MNA found out new customer for their wholesale part, Tuan Anh indicated that he took a long time to research, took many field trips in Binh Tan to find out the demands in this area. At the end, he found out that, Binh Tan has many unprofessional garages want to buy real genuine spare-parts from Yamaha with good price but don’t need go too far to buy. Therefore, he assured that he serve exactly what the customer’s want.

 

Reproduced from Maren, A, 2013, naturallawsblog.com

Reproduced from Maren, A, 2013, naturallawsblog.com

According to all Tuan Anh’s thoughts, these are very similar to Solomon’s thoughts in “The Art of Client Service” book. Solomon also asserted that people need to make sure all things we said to customer, provide the reliability they “know” not “think” (Solomon, R, Chapter 42). Then, provide what customer’s want before suggest or serve what customer’s need (Solomon, R, Chapter 43). After campaign, MNA gained a lot of contracts with wholesale customer in Binh Tan. MNA also has known as the experts in repairing motorbike. It’s wonderful that i can see the real experiences from MNA Company to strengthen all knowledge from textbook.

 

Some corners at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh – Binh Tan Store

Some corners at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh – Binh Tan Store

Some corners at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh – Binh Tan Store

Some corners at Yamaha Minh Ngoc Anh – Binh Tan Store

 

Word count: 660

REFERENCE:

Solomon, R, 2008, “The Art of Client Service”, chapter 42 & 13, pp.107-109, Kaplan Publishing, N.Y

*3S: Sales, Services and Spare parts.

 Contact information of the interviewee:

General Manager of Minh Ngoc Anh Co. Ltd, – Dai Thanh Tuan Anh

Address: 147 Bis Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4 // 506 Tinh Lo 10, Binh Tri Dong Ward, Binh Tan

Email: anh.dtt.2222@gmail.com

 

 

The ingredient cannot be missed in client retention and teamwork

Interviewed by Luong Tran Anh Phuong, s3426518, Group 1, RMIT SGS Campus.

Met Mr. Ho Hai Dang under hot temperature of summer afternoon at his house, he was so kind to share interesting experiences in working as a leader in balancing the relationship with clients and his team.

Mr. Ho Hai Dang has been working at Bao Minh Insurance Corporation since 2005 and now he is a General Manager of Agriculture Insurance Division. Bao Minh Insurance Corporation was established in 1994, that was a 100% state-owned enterprise under the Ministry of Finance. In 2004, it turned into joint-stock insurance enterprise and now it ranks the third place in non-life insurance in Vietnam. It aims to provide non-life insurances and consultancy as well as carry out financial investment in 20 different types of group of insurance commercial product such as maritime, aviation, casualty, automobile, agriculture and business activities in Vietnam.

Figure 1: Mr. Ho Hai Dang at work. (Photo taken by his colleague)

Figure 1: Mr. Ho Hai Dang at work. (Photo taken by his colleague)

The power of teammates in client retention

According to Mr. Dang, there are two main factors to acquiring new clients. Firstly, clients come to an agency because of its brand and reputation. Another factor is the ability to acquire new clients from particular team. Furthermore, he also pointed out the role of team members in building and maintaining relationship with clients.

“Normally, people think that the role and relationships of leaders in building relationship with clients is very important. But in my opinion, team members and employees are the one that play a key role to the success of each projects as well as building relationship with clients.” Dang said.

He explained that, when two leaders, managers or CEO have a meeting to discuss about the project that they are going to do, they are apt to focus on the policy, strategy, and signing contracts. But how they collaborate, how the project work out and the success of the collaboration that depends on implement of the staffs and employees. To elaborate, in order to bring the best result for the project, staffs and team members have to work hard in research information about clients and their competitors, understand client’s SWOT and markets.

In business, it is essential to maintain relationship with clients. As Solomon (2008) stated that “Great Work Wins Business; a Great Relationship Keeps It”.

“It is better if you show clients see how you care for them. For example, making a call to ask clients about their jobs and health, or ask them going to quan nhau. Be proactive and don’t let your client do this before you.” Mr. Dang said.

He also mentioned about the CRM (Client relationship management) in insurance industry and take CRM at Bao Minh Insurance Corporation as an example. He said that CRM in life insurance work better than non-life insurance. Moreover, in Bao Minh, each department would take responsible for its customers and clients. As a result, it cannot provide the best care services for customers. He hopes that Bao Minh Insurance Corporation will establish a CRM department that specializes in customer caring service for all departments’ clients.

 

Effective teamwork

Mr. Dang claimed that, in order to have best result in work, a leader should consider the division of work that make sure all his team are happy with the job offer.

“A good leader means he knows and understands clearly about his team member,” Dang said.

“In my opinion, a leader should base on team members‘ personalities and abilities to divide suitable tasks for them. Besides that, a leader must have ability to evaluate fairly team members’ contributions and show them what they do well and not well. Help them to face the difficulties and encourage learning from mistakes.”

In addition, he divides the tasks in public with the purpose of building team spirit in his members, give them chances to support and help colleagues and more importantly they enhance knowledge as well as gain experiences from each others.

Figure 2: Proof of life: Me and Mr. Ho Hai Dang (Photo taken by me)

Figure 2: Proof of life: Me and Mr. Ho Hai Dang
(Photo taken by me)

 Word count: 623

Reference:

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York.

Baominh, 2012, ‘About Us’, Baominh, viewed on 29 April 2014, <http://www.baominh.com.vn/en-us/category-637-about-us.aspx>.

 

CRM in Short-term Projects: Speed-dating with Potential Clients

Reported by Khanh Tran, 7 September 2013.

Let’s imagine that you meet a person whom you think he or she is your perfect fit but both of you cannot stay long together because one of you does not want a long-term relationship. What would you do now? Will you choose to leave them or will you try your best hopefully to change their mind? In communication industry, this situation is mostly similar to what happen with short-term projects. However, it is not a negative sign in the relationship due to the agency service or clients’ requirements that leads to the decision. Conversely, it is a positive sign for a hard working process regardless time and commitment.

I met Mr. Vu Minh Khoa, Senior Account Executive of DDB Group Vietnam, hopefully to know more about realistic experiences about the implementation of CRM in working on long-term projects. However, he mostly works on short-term projects and he realized that he loves it. He totally surprised me when giving some thoughts about long-term projects. “Trust me, it is much more boring than working on a short-term project. I’d feel terrible if I have to work on a one-year project again”, he said. I was amazed plus a little curious by his thought and asked him several questions about his job, then I discovered that CRM in short-term project is executed in a very different manner regardless the theories that I have learn. Therefore, I decided to drive my intention to the implementation of CRM in short-term projects to see how it works.

1148802_418449204928109_1223119450_nFigure 1. Taken by the author (2013)

DDB is a creative-based agency established in 1949 and the pioneer to introduce a new approach to marketing industry (DDB Worldwide n. d.). According to DDB Worldwide, one of their concept to develop is ‘creativity is the most powerful force in their business’ (DDB Worldwide). During the interview, I have known that his agency usually works on the production of TVCs and print ads on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Thus, DDB rarely have long-term client, but they do have steady clients who often come back to the agency with a new project.

Buttle (2003) has pointed out the five common misunderstandings about CRM and one of them is that CRM refers to loyalty schemes. When you hear the term ‘CRM’, I am pretty sure that the first idea pops out in your mind will refer to long-term relationship with client and I am not an exception. In fact, CRM is just simply a method to build relationship. Roberts-Phelps (2001, p. 2) stated that CRM is ‘a way of creating and evolving your organization in the marketplace and at the same time in the mind of each individual customer’. As can be seen in his definition does not refer particularly to long-term or short-term process because it depends on the interpretation of the agency about their relationship with clients. In relation to short-term projects, CRM is perceived through the business strategy perspective, not relationship life cycle perspective or client acquisition and retention perspective.

“Theory is unchangeable, but practice need to be flexible”

Each agency has different CRM policy and it depends on which client they are working for, so one theory cannot be applied for all cases. Particularly with DDB and short-term projects, the CRM steps (acquisition, profiling, personal offers, tracking) are not applicable at all because clients come and go. “They never sign a contract for more than 6 months”, said Mr. Khoa. In this case, the success of CRM is not presented by a long-term contract from client but the return of them. DDB does not actively find their clients, most of the time clients come to them. He used to actively contact several clients to offer the service but they don’t care, or they will reply politely but never intend to contact the agency. That is the reason why acquisition step fail in this situation. They have a database to manage clients but it’s not served for maintaining long-term relationship. Regarding personal offers, Mr. Khoa strongly confirm that this is absolutely prohibited in his agency, as he said that this is not a way to make client come back. Tracking becomes unnecessary, client come back only when they have a project, they do not care about your upgrade service.

“CRM in short-term project is like speed dating with potential clients”

I would like to liken the implementation of CRM in short-term project as a speed dating with clients, those who are potential to return. When you are in a speed dating, you do not have much time to get to know each other, so you will need to focus one hundred percent and have a well-prepared speech to show your outstanding personalities. Similarly, Mr. Khoa said that his team mainly focuses on the quality of their project rather than worries about losing client, thus they always work with two-hundred percent of their energy. The commitment between them is not rely much on the longevity of relationship but the quality of project. This point highlights the two components of a successful CRM which are process and people. According to Khoa, the account team has to focus on the clients’ needs and wants, meanwhile showing empathy with the creative team to ensure that they are going smoothly on the right track. In short, quality and people play the key role to bring the client back in the future.

speed-datingFigure 2. Reproduced from Naij (2013)

At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have, it’s how you do. He joking seriously that CRM in short-term projects actually brings out the best quality. I slightly doubt that, but it may be true to some extents. Those agencies like DDB are very respectable because they do not work hard for a long-term relationship, they work hard for the quality and even harder for the reputation of their agency. Everything has its offer, steady clients who came back to DDB due to the quality of previous projects that have brought about positive outcomes for their clients’ revenue.

 

Word count: 992

 

REFERENCE

Buttle, F 2004, Customer relationship management concepts and tools, viewed 6 September 2013, EBSCOhost Database.

DDB Worldwide n. d., Roots, DDB, viewed 6 September 2013, <http://www.ddb.com/culture/roots/>.

Naij 2013, image, Naij, viewed 6 September 2013, <http://news.naij.com/22877.html>.

Roberts-Phelps, G 2001, ‘Customer relationship management demystified’, viewed 6 September 2013, Business Source Complete Database.

Villanueva, J, Bhardwaj, P, Balasubramanian, S, Chen, Y 2007, ‘Customer relationship management in competitive environments: The positive implications of a short-term focus’, Quantitative Marketing & Economics, vol. 5, no.2, pp. 99-129.

HOW TO WIN THE PITCH? – A LOCAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE

HOW TO WIN THE PITCH? – A LOCAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE

In the creative world, acquiring new clients is not always a rational process, but in fact, a bloody travail for some agencies. Not welcome as it seems, pitching is usually a drain of both intellectual resources and social capital, which does not always result in a long-term partnership between business owners and their creative partners. The juncture is even worse if you are a newly start-up local agency. Despite of the agencies’ passive position, they can still turn the table on clients and change the pitching process to mutual benefits for both parties by utilizing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – an emerging business strategy in client service recently. Focusing on acquiring and maintaining relationship development with customers, CRM contribute to the success of an enterprise by differentiating it from others and “reap the rewards in customer loyalty and long run profitability” (Chen & Popovich 2003).

Thuan

Figure 1: Provided by the interviewee (2013)

Established in March 2012, DNA Digital – a local start-up agency is a byword for the “David” in advertising industry, which has to fight with many “Goliath” – international firms to “gain a piece of cake” in the market.  With 10 years of experiences working in the industry, Mr. Ngo Minh Thuan – the founder of this young but enthusiastic enterprise, has ran a business on his own and won certain achievements thanks to his strategic and creative approach to customers. Now DNA Digital is working with big clients such as Honda, Samsung and P&G, etc.

A research on 1400 B2B customers found that companies completed 60% of their purchasing decision before the pitch actually started (Aspden n.d.). Here, small agencies sometimes play the part of the “pawns”, only being called to complete the pitching process. Hence, the surprising success of DNA Digital makes me wonder about how small agencies can acquire new businesses and maintain trust-based relationship with clients.

Explaining my question, Mr. Thuan shared that it is the trust-based Client – Agency Relationship that not only determines whether agency can win the pitch but also maintain the long term profitability. “Winning the pitch is just the beginning of Client – Agency Relationship”, he adds, “it is the professionalism and quality of your work driving clients’ decisions whether to call you next time or not”.

THE FOOTING OF TRUST

According to Thuan, one of the most difficult challenges DNA Digital has to cope with since the very beginning is how to make clients believe in the internal force and the ability to carry out the creative solution of the agency. He then figured out that the keys to attract new customers are the quality of the pitch, how we deliver the ideas into reality and value adding services to customers. His sharing is relevant with the four factors driving the success of CRM identified by Fam and Waller (2007), which consists of:

  1. Work product: the creative solution presented in the pitch
  2. Work patterns: how client and agency work together
  3. Organizational factors: companies’ policy and structure
  4. Relationship factors

client-agency

Figure 2: Reproduce from Chaindelsvire 2013

So quality and professionalism is the key leading to trust-based Client-Agency Relationship?

“Yes, of course. In every project, we tried our best to come up with the most distinctive strategy and idea, and then, at all cost, we had to keep our commitment with clients. Our endeavor has helped us gaining the credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers. The result is, after a few projects, customers started to recommend us with other businesses.”

SOLUTION SELLING AND ENGAGED SELLING

Aspden (2013) defines engaged selling as the new selling approach that requires more thoughtful customer analysis, to have in depth understanding about clients’ objectives, demands and preferences toward a particular business problem. Thuan supported this idea by impressing the importance of researching clients’ background and objectives before the pitch in order to offer more insightful and informative solution. Despite the lack of resources and strategy, DNA Digital once won an international ATL agency in a pitch thanks to the thoughtful client analysis. He strongly believes that many clients value the approach to an idea more than just selling the idea itself. “Seeing how an agency thinks when developing creative solution to real business problems is extremely valuable for a client looking for a long-term relationship”.

 

Which elements do you think that make up a successful pitch?

Pitching nowadays, is not just about selling a business solution, but also about how professional and thoughtful we do the service, how we create customer experiences, comfortable or stressful, how we consult them when there is a problem.”

HOW CRM CAN HELP TO WIN THE PITCH?

In the constructive spirit, Mr. Thuan drawed some tips on winning the pitch for local agencies based on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

  1. 1.    Get to know the clients first:

While business partnership and loyalty tend to be more formal and less friendly than normal relationship, the mechanism underlying are the same. The most important factor is mutual understanding. There are many resources that agencies can use to have better understanding about the core business problem and client dynamics before starting the pitch. If you can access to the chemistry, compatibility and values of the meeting with prospective clients, you’re half winning.

  1. 2.    Align the goal and values of agency and clients:

“The most compelling way to influence is to demonstrate that your idea or proposal will help the other person accomplish one of his goals” (Sobel 2009). Brainstorming and thinking in the direction of clients will help the agency to define customer strategy and action plan, determine whether that clients are good fit and, then match business delivery model and values of agency with that prospective clients. “A partnership is only good if expectations on both sides are in alignment” (Fera 2012).

  1. 3.    Keep in mind that pitching is for mutual valuing:

Agencies should balance the time and intellectual resources spent and the potential benefits of winning the pitch. Good clients tend to solicit creative partners as if they’re hiring a key member of their team, not fishing for ideas

 SONY DSC

Taken by author  2013

Aspden, Leo. “Engage with your customers to boost sales.” Contract Flooring Journal (2012): 43. General OneFile. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

 

Chen, I. J., & Popovich, K. (2003). Understanding customer relationship management (CRM): People, process and technology. Business Process Management Journal, 9(5), 672-688

 

Fam, KS & Waller, D 2008, ‘Agency–client relationship factors across life-cycle stages’, Journal of Relationship Marketing, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 217-236.

Fera, RA 2012, 10 ways to fix the agency pitch process, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.fastcocreate.com/1680035/10-ways-to-fix-the-agency-pitch-process

Kindelspire, A 2013, ‘Online dating your digital agency’, Digital Marketing, 13 February, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.atlargeinc.com/blog/2013/02/13/online-dating-your-digital-agency/

Sobel, A 2009, ‘All for one: 10 strategies for building trusted client partnerships’, John Wiley & Son Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

 

The effect of organizational culture toward the relationship between agencies and clients

“I do not know much about other industries, but in communication field, organizational culture is extremely crucial’. That is what Ms Hoang Ngan who is a young and talented account executive at Mekong Communications said when asked about the role of organizational culture in the relationship between agencies and clients. Understanding clearly about organizational culture will help agencies to achieve fundamental acknowledgement about clients and their expectations. Hence, an agency can apply appropriated behaviors, action and attitude to be able to communicate effectively and meet clients’ needs.

Image

Figure 1. Reproduced from the author (2013)

Although Ms. Hoang Ngan used to study Tourism and Hospitality in Singapore, she decided to begin her career in Vietnam as an account executive at Mekong Communications. This is a digital marketing company which focuses on social, PR, media and strategic planning. As an account executive, she takes charge for pitching, meeting with clients, conveying ideas for other teams for execution and making sure that those campaigns will be succeed.

Before came back to Vietnam, Ngan had an opportunity to work for a 3 stars hotel named ‘Kam Leng Hotel’ in Singapore for 6 months in customer service department. She shared that there is a significant common thing between an account executive and a customer service employee is that she has to work with many clients who have different ‘culture’. “Getting to know clients is similar with dating a guy. If I want to begin the relationship with him, I have to know his ‘culture’ first”, she said hilariously.

Definition of organizational culture

According to Florentina and Georgiana (2012), organizational culture is “a company’s own set of beliefs, values and ways of empirical management which reflect in the company’s structure and system”. In other words, organizational culture is related to certain principles which reflect the prominent characteristics of a firm. Furthermore, these values will also effect to the way employees think and behave not only inside but also outside an organization. Besides that, organizational culture has a strong connection with Client Relationship Management process (CRM). To be specific, successful CRM performance depends a lot on capability of an agency to identify and respond to potential obstacles of culture within the corporate time with clients (Iriana & Buttle 2006).  Ms. Ngan  also agreed with this point. She said that “There is no doubt that organizational culture has the huge effect to the relationship between agencies and clients; I believe that strong understanding about culture of clients will lead to successful corporation as well as decrease conflicted situations with clients”

Three levels of organizational culture

According to Jarratt & O’Neill (2002), there are three main levels of organizational culture which are artifacts, shared values and assumption. Surprisingly, Ms. Ngan also applies these levels to approach culture of clients. Firstly, artifact could be considered as the most visible level of organizational culture including tangible factors such as work environment, dress code, facility, gender, age of individuals in a company (Madu 2011). Factors of artifact level are quite easy to recognize. When Ngan meets new clients, she needs at least 1 minute to observe outlook of clients so she can have basic knowledge about a person who she will work with. Ngan shared that “If I have young and active clients, I will positively suggest and discuss ideas with them. In contrast, I have to be careful and put my ego aside when having meeting with elder clients”.

The second level of organizational culture called shared values which are usually reflected by working style and environment of an origination such as time orientation, prestige or independence (Wanto & Suryasaputra 2012). Members in an organization do not actually realize those factors because they has get used to it. Ngan told me about a story about Japanese clients. At the first time, she felt really uncomfortable and tired when having meeting with Japanese clients because they usually ask for meeting at 8.00 am, but her company usually work from 9.00 am. “I have to work very late at night prepare everything carefully. Hence, I feel really tired, lack of concentration in meetings with Japanese clients in the next morning”, she said. Then, she knew that 8.00 am might be early with Vietnamese people but it is usual working time of Japanese people. Therefore, Ngan decided to prepare documents and go to bed early before having any meeting with Japanese clients.

Assumption is the last step but also the most difficult step of organizational culture. Assumption could be understood as an essence of beliefs which shared and taken for granted as long as employees in a company agree that those assumption and beliefs will led the organization to keep being successful (Madu 2011). Although this level of organizational culture is really hard to identify, once an agency is able to understand clients’ assumption, it will be easier to figure out the hidden things that control attitude and action of personnel in an organization. Ngan worked with a client from Korean company. The manager of that company did not focus much on a process of a campaign; he wanted nothing but the best consequence of his campaign. At the first time, Ngan did not know about culture of this client so she reported one problem to him. Then a manager told Ngan that he did not care about this thing; solving problems were Ngan’s tasks, not him. Since then, Ngan knew that she could not make any excuse to him and she had to figure out solutions for her problem.

In conclusion, after an interview with Ms. Ngan, I had more knowledge about organizational culture between businesses in reality. I think that organizational culture is the crucial step in term of establishing, maintaining and developing relationship with clients. This also helps an agency to avoid uncommitted circumstances within the corporate time.

 

Word count: 972

 

 

References

Florentina, P & Georgiana, R 2012, ‘Organizational culture and its way of expression within the organization’, Economic Science Series, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 371- 376.

Iriana, R & Buttle, F 2006, ‘Customer relationship management (CRM)- System implementations’, The International Journal of knowledge, culture and change management, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 138- 147.

Jarratt, D & O’ Neill, G 2002, ‘The effect of organizational culture on Business- to- Business Relationship Management Practice and Performance’, Australia Marketing Journal, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 21- 39.

Madu, BC 2011, ‘Organizational culture as driver of competitive advantage’, Journal of Academic and Business Ethics, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1- 9.

Wanto, HS & Suryasaputra, R 2012, ‘The effect of organizational culture and organizational learning towards the Competitive Strategy and Company Performance (Case Study of East Java SMEs in Indonesia: Food and Beverage Industry)’, ‘Information Management and Business Review’, vol. 4, no. 9, pp. 467- 576.

The journey of a farmer into business

Mr. Hung might be no one in a broad and busy Vietnamese business environment, and seems to be a wrong choice for interviewer. But do not be mistaken! Lessons do not always come from big names and famous brands. They also start from small and simple things.

A seemingly farmers look, Mr. Nguyen Huu Hung, can hardly come across as a successful owner of Tan Phat sewing workshop and as an example of effective client relationship management (CRM).  After several minutes into conversation, under the common appearance, Mr. Hung appears as a deep well of wisdom, experience, passion and professional knowledge.

The current success of this small workshop has to do a lot with the organizational culture, because it glues everything together and predetermines many decisions and courses of action. In my interviewee’s case, there is a so-called “Power Culture”, where all the decisions come from the owner himself. There can be many debates, as to the effectiveness of this organizational culture type, but for a small business, it proved to be rather effective. With eighteen employees, it is not difficult to control the operations and the workflow. In the Vietnamese economic environment, a strong leader means a lot; Mr. Hung became such a leader and support for his employees and the workshop in general and hold people together. Furthermore, he has other methods to maintain his business, and that will be explained by his story life.

Photo by Tram N 2013

Photo by Tram N 2013

Mr. Hung was born in Nha Be province, a poor and backward place in 1970s. He quitted his study at Secondary school and started to work as a farmer for living. Then he left the countryside to Ho Chi Minh City with empty hands, worked as masonry, watchman, waiter and so on. He stated that the moment changed his life goal is when he was in a job interview for a famous restaurant. He remembers that the boss came and asked him why he wanted to work there. He answered honestly that because of the uniform, he wanted to wear good outfit but never had a chance to. The boss said that one of the elements that made his restaurant different from others is that he invested to customers’ satisfaction such as uniform. He required Mr. Hung to please him with small tests and then agree to give him a job. “That was my first lesson from the boss, pleasing people in order to get the goals”, said Mr. Hung. He worked there for 7 years, became a senior manager, learned his own experience from managing employees, controlling the workload and especially dealing with customers. During that time, he read many books about business and enterprise fields, self-study English and realized that he wants to run his own career.

In 2005, he went back to hometown and bought a sewing machine to process clothes from local workshops. Small workshops usually postponed and refuse the payment, so he analyzed which is the bad debt that could not take back and ask for a half of payment only. Most of them accepted because they only see temporary profit, but lost long-term trust from partners. Thus, instead of asking for nothing, Mr. Hung gave up a half of it to keep relationship, reputation and trust to clients in the market. In the discussion paper, Kundisch (2010) explained the vitality of building trust besides customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is stated, “Companies – regardless of the industry they are operating in – should proactively invest in trust building activities.” (Kundisch 2010) Also, this is a win-win situation he achieved. Indeed, strive for mutual benefit is one of the inescapable points of reference for a wise CRM. Understanding this simple rule can be the golden standard for many businessmen.

In 2008, he run his own sewing workshop and received order from factories. At first, he had eight sewing machines with ten employees. Recently, he owns fifteen sewing machines and employs eighteen workers with stable income. The average income of his business is 50 million dongs per month, which greatly exceeds the national average around two million dongs (General Statistics Office of Vietnam 2013). Due to economic crisis, factories cut down many partners, but they still keep his workshop. He used CRM that is one of the crucial elements for any company that is oriented towards the long-term result. The ideas of continuous client acquisition and retention require a lot of hard work on behalf of the company. In theory, CRM includes four steps: acquisition, profiling and segmentation, personal offers, and tracking. These steps can help the firm to compile a solid customer database and to maintain lasting relationship. In reality, though, the process does not always unfold exactly according to those steps. Mr. Hung managed to build a successful practice in cooperation with factories. CRM is clearly visible in this relationship, because it shows the importance of long and trusting cooperation.

Photo by Tram N 2013

Photo by Tram N 2013

Kumar (2010) in the book Customer Relationship Management discusses the importance of a one-to-one relationship with the client. Kumar also suggests the use of many marketing strategies for retention of the customers and gaining new ones. As for Mr. Hung, do not be wrong that the major part of his success seems to rely on the already-established relationship, which does not require from him a lot of marketing. He mentioned that in the business, the key importance is to make the clients stick with us, and do not depend on them. Therefore, he keeps looking for new customer attraction. He revealed that he is aiming to cooperate with a foreign investment factory, and he is confident with his English in communication with new client.

Thinking about this issue, it became clear that with the right approach, the given business could become even more successful. For instance, as Woody Driggs (2013) suggested that the company would be more successful with the use of customer analysis. It is important to study the needs of the people one works with, and to make sure that those needs get satisfied. So, the suggested five steps in the article look like a rather logical and sound way to improve operations. To take one example, Mr. Hung could gain profound insights into his customer’s preferences, and then create a detailed action plan to provide for those needs. Payne (2006) reported that 60% of organization was failed when apply CRM plan into business, so that Mr. Hung’s workshop is a good example of success for small family-run business. In times of economic hardships, this small firm still manages to develop and to earn profit, as well as to give jobs to the people around.

Word count: 1099

How hard it takes to say NO to your clients?

Among 12 weeks of lectures, I found that CRM – Customer Relationship Management was the most interesting topic to me. Honestly, at first I thought “Dealing with customers is a boring job to do, because customers change their mind constantly, they obviously know nothing about the field that you’re sort of an expert in and they still keep on acting like they are full with skills and you’re a dork”. However, I found that building and maintaining customer relationship is an art which I have potential and also desire in. There are certain steps to build a strong customer relationship which are acquisition, profiling and segmentation, personal offers and tracking. Besides that, certain essences which contribute in maintaining customer relationship are attracting the right customers by market segmentation, retaining the customers through satisfaction with service delivery experiences and enhancing customer value through relationships by value-adding. Furthermore, getting in the mind of the customers is the key to win. Therefore, I had an interview with Mr. Ho Hoan Vu – current senior social media specialist at EdgeAsia. According to EdgeAsia (2013), EdgeAsia is the first South East Asian Digital Advertising Network with an Asian soul, a full-service digital marketing solutions provider, specializing in planning, creating, measuring and analyzing online marketing programs with more than 200 offices in 90 countries. Furthermore, the amount of workload and experiences working in the firm is just enough for what I desire to find out for my topic. On the other hand, he has 4 years of experiences in building and maintaining relationship with customers since he has found his longingness in the customer field no matter which position he’s in, his first job was a senior account executive at MiR Activation in 2009.

In his work life, Mr. Ho Hoan Vu has been cooperating with various types of clients, whether they are a small company or a big corporation. Therefore, I asked him what was it like when dealing with customers? Not surprisingly, he answered “Well, sometimes kissing up your customers will get you everything. Other times, it gets you nothing. Therefore, you must have different ways to deal with different customers. It gets harder when you work for the Account department and you are in a situation where you have to stand between your client and the other department in the company.” Then he gave me an example to illustrate, he once worked with Bel Viet Nam as an agency, Bel VN requested a design for their up-coming project and they kept on denying and saying bad things about the design came from the Creative department. Then, he just couldn’t come back to his company and say exactly the same thing with what the client has told him, he had to translate it to another phrase, making it easier to listen and receive feedback for the Creative department so they wouldn’t be demotivated and could moving on creating another artwork. “There is no No in client’s vocabulary” (Solomon 2008, p. 105), I asked him about this and he confirmed me with a biggest YES I’ve ever seen.

Figure 1. You can't just simply say no to your clients. Photo by author

Figure 1. You can’t just simply say NO to your clients. Photo by author

However, he states that we just can’t always say yes yes yes to our client, there’s always a safe-zone for our agency. We should always know our limitations because if we don’t, client will ask for too much, they will go beyond our capability. To support for this argument, V. Kumar and Reinartz W. (2011) clearly indicates that there are other ways rather than saying No to your client. Additionally to that, Mr. Ho Hoan Vu states that your client is always “fragile”; therefore, they cannot accept a “No”. Moreover, we must come up with how to deny a client in a more “gentle” way if we think that we cannot help them this time but make sure that if they have other needs or difficulties, they will think of us first, that’s what matters the most, according to Mr. Ho Hoan Vu. As Benjamin Franklin once said “Honesty is the best policy”, don’t wait around until your client asks you about the task, deny them gently if you cannot finish the task in order to keep them coming back to your agency and otherwise you would not want to burn the bridges because in the PR/Advertising industry, nobody cares about how great you have worked so far, but if you make one mistake, just one mistake, the whole world will aware and your reputation will go down the tube, so you might want to be more careful on every move you make.

Figure 2. There are various ways of saying NO gently. Reproduced from FreshDesk Blog (2013)

In conclusion, the interview I have conducted with Mr. Ho Hoan Vu seems to bring me a little more experiences in the keeping relationship with clients. However, some information is what he said based on his working experiences; it might not be suitable for all cases. But look on the bright side, you can still take it into consideration when dealing with clients because there are various types of clients out there. Some are nice, others are evils, they always want to get more for less price and they will push your agency to the edge to satisfy their needs and wants. Therefore, learning how to deny your clients is the most significant experience to have. Furthermore, building and maintaining relationship with clients is not easy as taking candy from a child, it’s an art of communication to satisfy them or to deny them with the guarantee that they will come back for more and you must always balance between your clients and your firm/agency.

Word Count: 921

Figure 3. PROOF OF LIFE. Photo by author

References
EdgeAsia (2013), Who We Are, http://www.edge-asia.com/who-we-are.html , viewed 27th August 2013.
Solomon R. (2008), ‘The Art of Client Service’, published by Kaplan, New York, pp.105, viewed 2nd September 2013.
Solomon R. (2008), ‘The Art of Client Service’, published by Kaplan, New York, pp.108, viewed 2nd September 2013.
V. Kumar & Reinartz W. (2011), ‘Customer Relationship Management – Concept, Strategy and Tools’, 2nd edition, published by Springer, viewed 30th August 2013.

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