Saturday, 20 July 2019

The unprofessional supplier


When you have worked for a good amount of time in both corporate and private limited company/ business settings, you must have experienced a fair share of unprofessional suppliers especially when you live in this third world country  of ours known as Uganda – the banana republic.

April: So it was only 4 months ago when I contacted a major production house whose core competences are commercial/ large format printing, personalized digital printing, design, business stationery and promotional products. I contacted them through a sales person we have used once before to procure black basic branded round neck t-shirts that I needed produced professionally but quickly within a week. After a week of no contact I reached out to her and my quotation was sent to which I quickly confirmed and asked her to move ahead to make me a sample for approval so that my small order would be printed and delivered immediately.

Sales Agent: “Hello Joyce, the quotation has been sent have you received it?”

Me: “Yes I have.”

Sales Agent: “Can you send us an LPO (Local Purchase Order) or make payment so that we can move forward to produce your work.”

Me: “We do not use LPO’s but give me a week and your cheque will be ready for pick up please bring my sample for sign off so that there are no delays just like the last time.”

Sales Agent: “Okay.”

Now, for all of you who are blessed with a fast paced work environment you know how 1 week can fly by as you bury your head in the day to day juggling of multiple tasks. So after a week I gave her a call and received no answer this continued for an entire month until one mid-morning she finally answered.

June
Me: “Hello, how are you”

Sales Agent: “I am okay.”

Me: “I am calling to follow up on the order of t-shirts I placed a while ago that needed to be delivered in 1 week.”

Sales Agent: “Who is this?”

Me: “Joyce from company X, I was sure that you had saved my phone number.”

Sales Agent: “Oh sorry mukwano mmhhh…”

Me: “So, what happened to my sample and my entire order? You have not been answering calls for over a month.”

Sales Agent: “Yes, munange mukwano nabade mu accident ku boda boda so I was on leave,” (she responded with no ounce of professionalism.

Me: “Oh I am sorry to hear that, so are you back at work or can you refer me to someone…” before I could even finish she cut me short with this response.

Sales Agent: “Neda mukwano, kati nkomye wo ku mulimu, actually I reported today morning so I will work on you.”

Me: “But why didn’t you communicate this so that I can reach out to someone else?”

Sales Agent: “No, neda eh it just slipped my mind. So you did not actually get your order?”

Me: “No I did not.”

Sales Agent: “Eh kale, mpozi what was the order. Bambi sijukira”

So I repeated the specifics of the order and even read her the quotation number

Me: “So, I hope that there will not be any delays and I expect my sample delivered mid this week and the final full order delivered by end of this week.”

Sales Agent: “Mukwano, ngenda ku kolako.”

Me: “Alright, well I wish you a quick recovery.”

Maybe I am uptight and well over my actual age bracket but I was rather amused how a client moves from their name to become “Mukwano.” Please note that never at any time have I interacted with this sales agent in Luganda or any local dialect. I thought of an individual/ client who was in my position and might not understand Luganda might take offence to this entire conversation.

July: Anyway I digress, so I hoped that this hiccup was indeed a one off for her; sadly she did not get back to me and I was too swamped to chase her down for a while. So I eventually called her again early July and as expected she did not answer or respond to my phone calls so this time I resorted to using the company landline and asked for her or someone in marketing to assist me.

After a few transfers and repeating my order number and specifications 2 to 3 times I hang up and got a call back from a new sales/ marketing executive and she clarified all my details and promised to pick up the cheque Friday that week as I had instructed. She did pick up the cheque and brought my sample the very next Monday and although there were some issues with getting our company logo colours exactly right, I appreciated her terrific turnaround time. The new sales agent delivered my full order and she dealt with my entire order from first interaction to delivery in 14 days.

I will clearly not order from this organization again but the new sales agent made me almost reconsider because of how professional she was. A few bad apples can kill your business and no customer is too small so take the time to KYC – Know Your Customer, if bankers do it so can you. This applies whether you sell Rolexes or run a multinational brand. 

Food for thought
There are so many things that the first sales agent should not have done so to business owners who value enhanced customer value to achieve loyalty that in turn ensures return business. Here are a few tips I would like to share.

·         Know and understand what kind of person is handling your business and representing your brand?
·         Intermittently check on some of your clients to see whether they are happy with your service whether or not they have recently ordered.
·         When customers give you feedback about your staff, take it seriously and do not be biased because the member of staff is a favorite.
·         Apologize or ensure that your member of staff who dropped the ball does so to the client for their time wasted. Time is precious and customers’ time should be valued because it costs them.
·         Do not only focus on driving sales volume also evaluate your staff on how they do customer relationship management?



Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Woman’s job hunt dilemma



It is on a personal note that I begin this blog post. I recently got married to my longtime friend and partner and long before then I had been applying for jobs for positions I felt were interesting and would challenge me to grow. Fortunately or unfortunately I had never received a call back then all of a sudden in a 6 month stretch, I attended 7 interviews for 3 different positions.

None of this entire process was interesting, aside from the following conversation that transpired during one of my interviews. So at the end of one of the 2 interview I attended I was asked rather odd but unusual questions for me.

Interviewer 1: "So, if I may ask how old are you?"

Now to provide context, I wear my hair short, natural and textured (the “kyangwe” style) so my age is questioned a lot when I submit my CV so I paused briefly but answered the question.

Interviewer 1: "What is your status?"

Me: "If you mean my relationship status, recently married."

Interviewer 1: "This job would require you to travel periodically to headquarters and within the region to our operations hub in Kenya. Initially you would also travel for 2 week training in Dubai. Would that be an issue?"

Me: "No!"

Interviewer 2: "So you will be able to travel back and forth to group when needed?"

Me: "Yes."

I commend the interviewer for being very calm and tactful about how emphatic he was on the issue of travel by repeating the question so I gave him more additional feedback without any coercion. 

Me: "I currently travel bimonthly for my job and my husband travels monthly for work as well but it has always been in country. So I do not see a problem."

Interviewer 1: “Oh okay

He seemed more settled after that answer but a day after the interview I obviously took some time off to ponder this recent shift in my relationship - work dynamic.

Naïvely, I guess I assumed that although I had gotten married my day to day would have minimal alteration especially since I have been with my partner for 7 years. What I was prepared for was the shift in terms of house chores, cooking dinner and having to do more socialization with his friends and for his side of business as well.

Now what I never expected to experience was my relationship status to be a cause for my competence to be in question for a new job placement.

I must add that both interviewers were male and I did not get a call back because I emphasized work - life balance as important to me especially since I planned on slowing down from very manic work schedule which was characteristic of all my previous jobs.

At another interview with a prominent company, at the preliminary stages the interviewers were women up to the 2 final sessions. It is at these sessions where my marital status or whether I had children came up and it was never the ladies who asked the question but the men at the table.

Male Interviewer: “Are you married?” 

Me: “Yes, recently married.” 

Male Interviewer: “Oh congratulations, do you have children.”

Me: “No!”

Male Interviewer: “Oh, that makes sense, then the only question I wanted ask you does not apply.” 

So through some back channeling I found out that the question was not related to my competence but how I balance work and personal life (in the event that I had said I had a young child.)

An offer was made at this interview that was below expected rate for the work load and I was called in to explain why I declined which I did only to be told that I should not bother about the actual compensation of the package but the other attractive benefits. 

Aside from that, I was dumbfounded when it was the female in the room who mentioned this shortly after;

Female HR: “You do not have a child, right. Good because you will be on the road to visit 60% of these sites for the better part of the first couple of months and that would be disruptive.”

I think you all know that after that conversation I declined the offer and it is after these interviews that all I have to say to working women who are in top management, I have a new found respect for you. The way you continue to rise to the challenge when the bar has been set 2 notches higher because you are a woman, I do not consider myself a feminist but I would be lying if I said I left this interview cycle the same woman.

Flametree Stables – A riding Tale

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