Let Him Speak!
Sometimes, All Sizes Don’t Fit One!
Growing business is a strenuous exercise. The front end has to work incredibly hard for each customer acquisition. Then, sometimes, new business opportunities effortlessly mushroom up from the most unexpected quarters. Our chance relationship with Surya Sarda was triggered off by one such unlikely sequence of events.
Nineteen Ninety Seven: Cybage signed IMSI as one of its early customers. ~Two years later: some IMSI executives quit, joined rival Visio and initiated a noncompetitive outsourcing relationship with Cybage. ~Two months later: Microsoft bought Visio, and decided to discontinue its flagship line—IntelliCAD. ~Two weeks later: the IntelliCAD value-added resellers joined hands to conceive “IntelliCAD Technology Consortium” for enhancement of parent product. The consortium was to be rotationally headed by each member company of ITC. Surya Sarda, President of CADopia , was at the helm of ITC when the consortium decided to engage Cybage as its outsourcing partner.
Of course, this passing-the-parcel game had taken its toll. In contrast to our booming relationship with IMSI, our partnership with ITC was of a minuscule proportion. Fortunately, sustenance was easy, deliveries were smooth, and the tiny scale did not warrant any complex action points from relationship management front. Yet, for a service company, all customers are “important”. Important enough that they need to be periodically told that they are important!
One such telling trip found me driving down a couple of hours from LAX to Surya’s doorsteps in southern California. It is not unusual to go knocking on the doors of your small startup customers because very often they operate out of their houses. The door opened, and the formal delivery management meeting lasted all of a solitary hour including mutual weather-sharing pleasantries. As the pauses started getting longer, it was time for me to politely usher myself out. I rushed to my car to grab the customary souvenir Cybage T-shirt to hand over to Surya.
And that’s when the ‘stumping’ incident transpired! Surya blankly stared at the T-shirt for a moment, his expressions struggling to say something…then it appeared he had a change of mind as he hurriedly retreated into his house with a curt “I will be right back”. Surya was back in a jiffy, carrying a small transparently gift-wrapped parcel that looked starkly familiar. You see, it was an identical T-shirt as the one I was fidgeting with! This time, words managed to escape his lips “Please take back this unused T-shirt that you had given me last time. I had cautioned you earlier during Visio days that I don’t wear anything with third party logos”! I awkwardly made my way back to the car—the hands confusingly shuffling with my doubled possessions, the mind confusingly try to sort out what exactly had transpired!
Several years have passed. So has the confusion. When the customer speaks, and we don’t listen attentively to ALL that he expresses, we are effectively reducing him to a Gandhian monkey with his mouth better off shut! These days, many professionals spend too much time absorbing all the big things the customer has to convey. There is nothing wrong in focusing on the BIG picture, as long as we don’t forget to read the messages between the strokes on the picture! As the popular saying goes “a picture speaks a thousand words”! The question is—are we always listening??
Now before we jump over to join the next monkey troupe, I need some help to put my lingering confusions to final rest. Some say that when it comes to personal relationships, it is not the BIG issues that break up a marriage, rather a myriad of SMALL day-to-day incompatibilities between the partners. I wonder how much of this reasoning is applicable to commercial relationships! Which business association is exposed to a greater risk? a) Where daily customer synchronization is at its professional best, but there are occasional milestone slippages! or b) Where the daily interactions with the customer are poorly handled, but when it comes to milestones—they are invariably delivered in a timely fashion!