As we near the end of the calendar year, I can’t help but reflect on a growing trend I’m noticing. I contemplated for about 3 months whether I should share my observations and thoughts about changing client behaviours and what they mean for our business.
I most certainly do not want to be seen to complain or even be dismissive of the changes in behaviour. Nothing is further from the truth; we want to deliver excellence all the time, but it does get harder and harder to do. What has changed in the past 8 to 10 years, but accelerated dramatically during the past 3 years, making it so challenging to deliver excellence?
I often wonder where excellence has gone – is it gone for good? Can we get it back? How does a business have to adapt to still be considered to deliver excellence?
Private Clients in the Fast Lane
In the age of technology, the internet, and instant gratification, clients have access to pages and pages of information on immigration. But no matter how well informed they are, they still need our guidance. They do not look to us for information that is readily available, but for real advice and assurance. This requires a certain calibre of advisors, not just information providers. How to build rapport, trust, explain complex matters in simple and short terms are key skills of successful IBN employees.
What, in my opinion, based on over 20 years of consulting experience, has fundamentally changed is how we must deliver our services. Our private clients are often quiet for weeks, despite several follow ups and reminders of agreed timelines, but once they decide to be ready, we must be available and react at once.
It seems that the understanding that their consultant has more than one client is not accommodated for. In the past years, we had to cut the length of our standard overview emails in half; no one was reading them fully or would fair to answer all questions. Instead, we see half answers and constant repetition. Reading previous communication also seems just for older people (like me).
There is a constant need for phone calls, resulting in a significant increase in the time every case requires.
Dropping of Corporate Standards
What is worrying is that this trend has continued over to our direct corporates and other international firms. With the workforce becoming younger and younger, and companies relying more on software rather than talented employees, I see a rapidly disappearing level of trust, fewer examples of working together one on one, and a loss of focus on the paramount aim of our work: to get assignee into Africa on time.
Building trust into our capabilities and understanding the challenges we operate in takes time, and it’s difficult to gain and maintain if our own staff and the staff of our clients constantly change. I used to travel once a year to Europe and the US to visit my biggest clients to train their HR specialists and update them on legal changes. I’d explain my own teams’ strengths and weaknesses and look for how we could work together to deliver a better service to their own assignees.
Today, most of these companies do not have offices anymore, and a 30-minute Teams call with switched off cameras (who still does that?) is not equal to two beers in the pub after work.
As a result, we experience short fuses – email warriors, who instead of a quick clearing call, shift blame and are very slow in making decisions. To be fair, most of our HR partners have way too much work, pressured from all sides with a constant bombardment of tasks.
In addition, most of the large multinationals require us to work on their own programs, resulting in some of our consultants working on 5 different systems. Yes, I know, we are still too small apparently to ask our clients to use our system. In short, I witness a disturbing trend toward a less partnership-centred approach.
What This Means for Us
I spend a lot of time training each consultant. We constantly discuss and share how we can best adapt and deliver excellence. I stress that we must be true advisors; we must have the broad shoulders to convey inconvenient truths about unrealistic timelines, find out hidden assumptions about our scope of service (don’t you know someone at DHA?) and address them openly.
We must be very careful not to rush things.
There is no substitute for being meticulous; what is the point of preparing an application quickly only for it to be rejected over errors?
We must find more modern ways and efficiency gains on how we communicate. We must comply with data protection, move away from email, and enable safe data transfer. The introduction of our case management system, RelocationOnline, has been instrumental in this process, but we remain cautious to not fall into the same trap other businesses do and rely entirely on software to do our jobs.
In addition, we must also look at our pricing. The fact is, we spend around 30% more time with private clients compared to 5 years ago and around 50% more time for some of our corporate clients, including reporting, training on their systems, and amongst other things, constant open invoice chasing (why are large corporates paying so badly?). This must result in higher prices, but we need to be able to explain this and the market must be willing to pay them.
We must continue to deliver excellence and be an excellent value for money proposition. You have my commitment that I love finding answers to challenges and I will not relent to re-discover excellence.
I hope you enjoy the content of this edition. I would also like to bring your attention an update on South African immigration: The Trusted Employer Scheme has opened for applications, and the application period extends until 20 November 2023.
I do want to congratulate to the Springboks for their remarkable victory in the Rugby World Cup! This triumph not only showcases the dedication of the team but also serves as a beacon of excellence for South Africa, something I noted previously has begun to be lacking. Their win brings pride to South Africans and shows that they have truly embodied the excellence that we aspire to see.
As the year begins drawing to a close, we hope that you, our clients and readers, have had a successful year, and our work as IBN Immigration Solutions has positively affected that!
We will continue moving from strength to strength and improving in order to meet the great standard of service you have learnt to expect from us.
Written by Andreas Krensel, Managing Director
Edited by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor