While Unleashed is a regular presence at ASAE national events (see you at ASAE Annual!), our team recently attended the Georgia Society of Association Executives (GSAE) Annual— our first state-level association executive event.
Following an invitation for Unleashed President Michael Spinosa to lead a session on the importance of integrations to an association website, we packed our things and headed down to Chattanooga, Tenn., in early June. Our goal was to get to know the associations and better understand their business needs, digital strategies, and common challenges and obstacles.
Welcome to the South, Y'all
We were unsure of what to expect at the state level, yet what we found was a reminder of the importance of hospitality and courtesy. We were an unknown quantity to many of the attendees, but the GSAE leaders quickly made the Unleashed team feel at home with a bunch of Georgians in Tennessee. We were truly charmed by their southern hospitality.
In addition to reminders all around us in Chattanooga, featured speaker Bob Pacanovsky drilled home the hospitality mindset further through his session, "The Black-Tie Experience." He discussed the importance of all the minor interactions we have with our clients, partners, colleagues, and the community. These little interactions accumulate and create a steady reminder of your role in their lives. Pacanovsky cited a quote from Maya Angelou to best represent this philosophy:
"People will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
While Pacanovsky was speaking to member services and support from associations, it was easy to see how it would play across industry types, whether B2C or B2B. Industries we are familiar with, including banking, manufacturing, retail, higher education, transportation, etc., each has touchpoints with buyers and stakeholders, and those interactions leave a lasting impression. This is also undoubtedly true of web technology services and support provided by Unleashed.
Why We Should Be Hospitable
As a technology company, our reputation is based on our deep understanding of front-end and back-end web development and creating websites and web applications that are unique and tailored to our clients' audiences.
However, beyond our expertise, our high levels of customer satisfaction and client retention are driven by the services managed by our excellent project managers. Many of the traits we find in hospitality are the same ones we look for in our project managers.
According to Mike Muller of MBB Hospitality, the nine fundamentals of hospitality are:
- Welcoming, friendly, and courteous
- Communicates effectively
- Instills trust
For those with project management experience, these traits may seem eerily familiar. Some elements – knowledgeable, efficient, well-timed, consistent, and flexible – are baselines and more tangible elements for us to assess. Moreover, communication (or over communication) is fundamental to Unleashed's project management structure and is a required component that is built into our processes.
Friendliness For All
However, one of the most memorable items to the client (especially when the other characteristics have been met) is welcoming, friendly, and courteous service. This factor is also the most difficult to assess and the one that is easiest to forget.
When a project manager juggles various resources and feels the pressure of deadlines, it is sometimes easy to forget the challenges – both personal and professional – that the client representative may be balancing. It may also be easy to forget the impact that a few kind words or a light-hearted joke may have on someone. A few sincere questions and genuine interest in another person can completely change their perspective. Additionally, it may empower that person to let down their guard, be more open about their challenges, and be more receptive to what solutions could be implemented to address those challenges.
This is often referred to as a "soft skill" that is sometimes forgotten. However, the fact is the project manager often serves as a sort of therapist for client representatives. At a minimum, the project manager should be able to limit the amount of stress a project may add to the client representative's work life.
It's All About Trust
The final hospitality fundamental of "instills trust" is a culmination of all the other. A friendly approach can be helpful, but it is ultimately a finishing touch on the trust you have built through consistency, communication, efficiency, and more.
Trust allows the client to sleep at night, and it is the reason they can enter a meeting with a relaxed, open mindset. This allows them to open up and share, their issues, and it may have ancillary impacts on the project. Trust empowers the client to reveal the whole picture with the website vendor and divulge vital information about the organizational goals and business strategies.
Of course, trust isn't easy, and it’s also very fragile. It must be earned through excellent organization, consistent and honest communications, and a little bit of southern hospitality. The ultimate goal is to make all parties feel accepted and supported —only then can you earn the client’s trust.
While our project managers are often steeped in technical knowledge and project management best practices, that is rarely what delivers the most memorable impact on our long-term clients. Unleashed's commitment to partnerships built on trust, communication, and empathy sets us apart from the rest and builds our clients up for success.