First of all, I wish you a Happy Eid Al-Fitr 1 Syawal 1439 H. Furthermore, to the readers, starting from this edition I will raise real cases that my team and I have worked on. Of course, our client’s name will be disguised.
The first case I would like to raise concerns a large European company. This company, let’s call it Alpha, had left the Indonesian market during the 1998 monetary crisis. One decade after the crisis, Alpha was attracted to enter the Indonesian market again. From conversations with Alpha executives, I caught their uneasiness. Wanting to re-enter, but facing a strange situation, because you have to start from zero.
Long story short, after my team and I submitted a proposal to Alpha, two executives from the company visited our office. The two of them acted cold. Not smiling at all. Without further ado, one of them immediately asked head-on. “We have received your proposal. Frankly we were very surprised. You are an Indonesian company, your entire staff is also Indonesian, how dare you offer a price equivalent to an international company!”
In dealing with such clients, I adhere to the principle of ‘the heart may be raging, the head must be cool’. However, we need projects for the continuity of the company, although I don’t want to be yelled at. I counterattacked in a civilized way.
I replied, “Our price is fixed price, based on the scope of work you requested. Our principle is that there is no price reduction, except based on the reduced scope. We compete with international standards, and our work meets international requirements. We do not use pirated software, all of them are original and expensive, so obviously the same as international companies. Likewise all employees are required to undergo annual training which is costly, but necessary to maintain our standards. ”
The final point, “It is precisely because our team all consists of Indonesians, we have a better understanding of the Indonesian situation. If you want the price to go down, let’s refer to the offer made. We will see the scope and reduce unnecessary ones. If we have agreed on a new scope, then I will send a new proposal within one week. No more negotiations, I just need your short answer, yes or no.”
Alpha executives gruntly finally agreed to look back at the scope of work and point out the parts they wanted to remove. In short, the new scope was finally agreed upon. We also started doing research and compiling reports. On request, we provided an overview of the economic situation from 1990-2010 and industrial developments during the same period. In addition, we also provided information on the procurement procedures for the types of products they want to offer, social, cultural and political factors that can impact their goals, as well as stakeholders that must be considered.
The work was completed according to schedule. Three months after the report was submitted, the director of Alpha company came to Jakarta accompanied by two executives who used to be frontal. The director thanked us. He said our report served as a guide for his company to do business again in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the two executives who accompanied him smiled and confirmed what their boss said.
A year later, one of the executives who attacked us frontally sent me an email. He conveyed that he moved to another company. Thanking me for the kind cooperation and looking forward to staying in touch in the future.
From a public affairs perspective, this project is just the beginning. Similar work is usually continued with more detailed stakeholder identification along with an appropriate engagement strategy. Only then did it proceed with issues management and regulatory tracking. However, this company is engaged in a very specific sector. In the future, it is possible that further work will still be done if Alpha expands the product spectrum to other segments.
Alpha is one of the toughest clients we’ve ever faced. This experience again shows that in the consulting business, we must adhere to the principles. “The customer is king”, but nowadays no king has absolute power. As professional consultants, we must have the courage to uphold the principle of dealing with client pressure if we are sure about the correctness of our position.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 39th Edition, issued on June 2018, page 45.
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