Commitments to customers and culture-a case study

1 Goal of this post:

The goal of the case is to illustrate how people from different cultures approach the issue of dealing with making an aggressive commitment to demanding customers.

2 The customer:

The customer is a utility provider in Asia. The customer is requesting a feature which will allow households to monitor the air pollution in their home using a cell phone application, and send the data to a central data bank, enabling corrective action by the authorities.

The president of the utility has demanded that “go-live” day is in 6 months, to coincide with the Provincial Premier’s visit to the capital city of a certain province.

If everything goes well and deployment happens in 6 months, the  CEO of this utility will look very good, and more important, the Premier will  look even better.

3-The potential vendors:

Fred is the CEO of Freddy and Sons, a US based firm, which develops software for Green Environments.

Gal is the CEO of Gal and Sons, a Tel Aviv based firm, which develops software for Green Environments.

4-How does Fred handle the situation?

Fred has devoted over 400 hours analysing the contingencies.Fred has learned that even in the best case scenario, the software will be 3 months late.

Fred will now put together a very detailed plan, and then meet with the customer and try to change the timetable, or reduce the scope of what can be delivered, all this will be done in a spirit of transparency.

Fred does not want to surprise the customer and he certainly does not want an unhappy customer.

This utility is in a very large country, and the last thing Fred wants to do is tarnish his firms’ reputation.

4-How does Gal handle the situation?

Gal met with the customer and said: “we can do it”. “We can start tomorrow”, said Gal to the elated customer, who was waiting for a dithering Fred.

Gal’s “plan” is to push his people hard and see what can be done.

Gal believes the client knows he is “over-buying” (asking for something that cannot be done) and Gal believes that the client knows that Gal is “over selling”, ie, making impossible commitments.

Gal plans to build a very close relationship with the client, and if and when Gal cannot deliver what he promised, “something” will be improvised that will ensure everyone looks good. Gal has in mind three or four pyrotechnical displays which will titillate the Premier on his visit. Gal believes that the time to plan is when the crisis is upon him, NOT now as work gets underway.

5-What are Fred’s assumptions?

Customers need to be satisfied; plans enable control; transparency pays off; long term more important that short term.

6-What are Gal’s assumptions?

Customers need to be managed; plans may cripple survival, transparency can be counterproductive or idiotic; short term survival more important than the “long term”.

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2 thoughts on “Commitments to customers and culture-a case study

  1. It seems that for Gal, “relationship” is built on a combination of “all-out effort to please” the “god-customer” and, in case of failure to please, forgiveness-building. For Fred, “relationship” is the result of meeting specifications of product quality and delivery with no surprises. Gal’s approach appears as “relationship ensures forgiveness negotiability”; Fred’s approach appear as “no surprise delivery ensures controlled relationship”.

  2. Very interesting critical incident! Thank you for sharing. Feels very true to life as well. Am curious how the customer perceived both, and how it all resolved?

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