Business values and long-term relationships with clients
According to B2B International, maintaining long and durable relations with clients is the biggest challenge for 54 per cent of companies all over the world. Within the B2C segment, clients connect with companies they trust and which offer products of such high quality that the clients become loyal to the brand.
In this context, e-point’s long-term cooperation with such companies as Amway (11 years) or Raiffeisen bank (7 years) is truly impressive. However, the absolute record-holder for long-term relations with e-point is ING Bank, which started to work with e-point 18 years ago, in 1998. From the perspective of technology and the internet, 18 years is a whole era.
It was in 1998 when the Google company was registered, whose product only one year earlier was still available at google.stanford.edu. There was no Amazon or Wikipedia and with the speed of data transfer at that time, Youtube was a science fiction-like idea.
In the same year, ING Bank entrusted e-point with the design of its website. Thanks to almost two decades of cooperation, the website has been recognised as the best and the most innovative one in Poland for many years, mainly due to its continuous development and ongoing improvement. Among the site’s many awards was recognition for service quality by Puls Biznesu and in the category Bank2 in a competition organised by Polski Program Jakości Obsługi (“Polish Service Quality Program”).
“In the case of the ING Bank Śląski website, I would mention two events which boosted our cooperation. The first one is the success of Google. The search engine has changed the way we use the internet,” comments Marcin Żuchowicz, President of e-point. “Instead of reaching to all services through the homepage of the bank, a user could go directly to the website he was interested in. This, in turn, meant that each of the websites should be treated as a landing page which required the same attention to design as in the case of a homepage,” he underlines. “The second event which forced us to change was the arrival of smartphones. Again, the way people use the internet has undergone a revolution. We have quickly realised that Responsive Web Design (RWD) was the solution for mobile web browsing and we moved in this direction to develop CMS technology and ING Bank Śląski website. Following these changes, we have spent the past several years on an intensive restructuring of the bank’s website.”
The role of technological transformations in long-term relations is also highlighted by Norbert Pabiś. In his opinion, the real revolution in the provision of services via the internet was the emergence of cloud computing.
“IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS are the shortcuts that dominate IT directors’ discussions in many companies. In our practice, cloud computing meant not only learning about solutions such as AWS and how to use them efficiently, but also understanding access to components for building private clouds for the purposes of our clients,” he says. “Thanks to this, we can offer a simple computing model and instant availability of additional resources in situations when the company policy or legal framework do not allow the use of public clouds. It is especially important in the case of such a sector as finance. Now it is a part of our everyday life, but when we were starting to work with clients such as Amway or ING, these technologies existed as remote ideas.
First steps in a marathon
The experience of e-point has shown that developing a long-term cooperation such as the one with ING Bank has to start from the very first day of cooperation. “The beginning always absorbs. I would compare it to the beginnings in a new job, but I have been working at e-point for 19 years now and I don’t know if I can sound credible in this situation,” smiles Michał Waszkiewicz, a strategist in e-point. “This requires exploring new ground, an understanding of the market, determining who chooses the client’s services and why... Only with such knowledge it is possible to discuss what would make the client’s business move forward,” he explains. He emphasises that a good partnership with a client is built with small steps. “A business partnership is a relationship, a relationship is trust, it requires work and commitment. One cannot build a deep relationship in just a few months. To achieve significant results, it is not enough to replicate knowledge acquired during other projects; you must understand the unique nature of a client.
Konrad Zimoląg, Board Member, who has been responsible for the cooperation with ING for 16 years, confirms these observations, confirms these observations: “You need a positive attitude which for me means openness, authenticity, commitment, and self-esteem. As we adopted an ‘Ideas worth coding’ rule, every single project is an interesting challenge for us, a chance to make something new.”
‘Are you always so engaged in a project?’
In Marcin Żuchowicz’s opinion, ideas and values are the key issues in maintaining long-term relations with clients.
“We are looking for projects and clients that we can provide with true value. In particular, we care about meeting the expectations of end users, so that the platform that we deliver serves them well and encourages them use it further,” notes Marcin Żuchowicz. “One of our clients asked us: ‘Are you always so engaged in a project?’” He was surprised how much attention we pay to the usability of our systems in terms of communication as well as UX Design and graphic design. We engage ourselves because we want our systems to be willingly adopted by end users, and our clients to be role-models in their markets. ”
Konrad Zimoląg also points out the role of values. “We have to know the business, organisation, and surroundings in which a client functions, and understand his challenges and ills. Without it, a relationship may be detached from the context, and thus, very difficult. Sometimes, it is worth asking yourself: what do I find important in other people’s attitudes? Whom do I enjoy working with? The answers for these questions may be helpful in understanding another’s attitude and their expectations.
Building trust is just a beginning
Thanks to being driven by values and fostering existing relations, the way in which companies cooperate with each other substantially changes.
“After many years of cooperation, developing mutual trust, we no longer talk about classic sales. In my perspective, we cooperate as partners and together we are searching for solutions which develop the client’s business, and the client does not buy, but invest in his business,” notes Konrad Zimoląg.
“I remember a situation when we came into a room in which a dozen or so bank employees were talking to clients,” says Michał Waszkiewicz. “We could hear snatches of conversations and the computer screens of each of the employees were displaying our system. It is a great feeling to know that someone truly needs your work.
“To a large extent, our clients are from the financial industry, careful by nature, leastwise because of numerous legal regulations,” notes Norbert Pabiś, Director of Implementation. “The process from approval to the launch of a project often takes a lot of time. The risk in this business means to put a lot at stake. However, the openness of companies is growing and we even meet questions on what is trending today, and what actually would bring value to my company and my clients,” he says.
“I know from experience that clients with whom we have good and durable relations do not mind asking them questions, such as: What are you doing this for?, What do you want to achieve?, What do you expect?, Does it make any sense for the business? ”, lists Konrad Zimoląg. We are their partner and experts in the area of internet systems. They expect our commitment, opinion, suggestions, and active participation in undertakings which they plan to launch. They do not interpret it as “destroying their dream about internet systems” but rather as an advisory opinion.
Specialists from the company warn against creating relations with clients through clichéd thinking and an attempt to follow beaten paths. “Laziness may have damaging consequences. It is necessary to take care of relations at all times. We approach it with enthusiasm, commitment, and keenness. We are, at the same time, authentic, because we really like cooperating and building relations with people, and implement projects – this makes us stay positive,” thinks Konrad Zimoląg “Besides, it guarantees us success, as without a proper attitude each challenge would be an ordeal doomed to failure.”
Success as a lesson of humility
In Marcin Żuchowicz’s opinion, long-term relations with clients teach you more valuable lessons than continuous search for next opportunities. “We have learned humility. We have realized quite quickly that every client is different. Even two clients operating in the same business can have a different strategies, business models, IT architecture. Thus practically, every time we had to ‘rediscover the world’. In banks, we often digitalise sales processes of financial products. It turns out that the same product may be sold in many models – directly through a bank in one or many channels, by partners or agents. This causes that even digitalisation of the same product in seemingly similar situations result in a very specific implementation. As a result, each of our solutions is tailor-made,” he sums up.