Next few weeks proceeded without much events. Routinely, I went about working on various sales leads. Some time in October, I had proposed to CEO that I would like to travel to France for an upcoming Food exhibition, perhaps the biggest trade fair in our line of business. My proposal listed out the customers whom I will be meeting with and likely quantum of business that I hope to finalize immediately on return from the fair. I also had explained in the proposal visiting the trade fair is the most economical thing to do in International Business when scouting for new customers.
CEO listened to my proposal patiently and then immediately replied that it is not possible to accept the tour proposal. He cited that there is not much liquidity in the business and a few capital expenses being planned. While he would be glad to send me abroad for business promotion in normal circumstances, he felt that the time is not ripe yet. He informed me that he is working on bringing in more finance into the company.
After a couple of days, I heard from his new secretary (Ms.H had resigned from the company sometime back) that CEO and the Director are planning to Travel to Europe again. This time their aim is to explore possibilities to set up a trading subsidiary there for which some meetings with consultants, bankers and investment brokers have been arranged. After Europe, I was told that they will fly into China for meeting with potential supply partners. My customer visits can always wait as securing business is least of their worries.
I have all the freedom to go about securing export business through telephonic calls and Emails. Yeah I am free to do anything except travelling. In the modern communications age, when phones and emails are available. is there a need for Exports Managers to see the customers’ faces?
CEO’s case is different. He has to work harder than the Managers. He needs to see the faces, stay in expensive hotels and fly in business class.
The Pizza chain budged at last and confirmed a trial order. The customer found a problem in the first shipment itself. The labels did not carry the manufacturing dates. When the complaint came in, I contacted the QA head and told him about the problem. Without any reaction, he said to me that he will check it and then revert. I waited for 2 days and there was no revert. On the 3rd day, I sent him an email on this subject, soliciting his comments on what went wrong and what are the proposed corrective steps. The customer was getting impatient and was repeatedly asking me to take back the consignment. On 4th day, I got a call from the VP.
“I keep calling you on phone since last 3-4 days. Why are you not picking the calls?”
“you called me? when?”
“I called you many times. please check your phone”
“excuse me, you never called me”
“are you saying I am a liar”
“no I am not saying anything”
“will u please pick my calls when I call you…pls give me that assurance…..tell me who are you talking to in pizza chain…I know everybody there……I talk to them almost every week…pls give me the phone number of Mr.A.L….I will convince him..I dont know what you have explained to him about this…but I can handle him quite nicely….let me call you back after sorting it out…..pick up my call this time…ok?”
I did not know what hit me. I have been battling with the customer alone on this problem for the last 4 days. VP did not call me back that day. Before leaving the office, I gave a call to Mr.A.L. and asked him if he received any call from VP. He said no one called and again said to me in a curt way that our goods are blocking their warehousing space.
Next day morning, one of the ants approached me and asked for the precise address of the warehouse from where the goods are to be picked up from. I learned that VP had instructed to him about it. I did not know whats happening. I called the VP on phone and he picked it up. I asked him if he had a word with Mr.A.L.
“oh…I tried repeatedly…and then I was told by the operator (How come operator picked up Mr.A.L.’s mobile?) that A.L. is out of station and will be back only after a week……I thought it is better to resolve the issue with re-labelling of the tins….because I always believe in timely customer service”
Timely customer service after 7 days….impressive!