Part one in a two-part series
Daniel Dargham, CEO of Lohika, an outsourced software development company, is charming, soft-spoken and eloquent. His experience and education spans decades and continents, and he's obviously put much time and attention into crafting his company. And his business practices, while certainly inspiring, would be considered by many to be unusual.
For instance, unlike most companies, which strive to earn as many clients as possible, Dargham estimates his company rejects two-thirds of its potential clients. He's also crafted a unique partnership model that includes non-binding client agreements, sets incredibly high standards for hiring and employee retention, and isn't too high up the chain of command that he doesn't interact personally with clients.
Unusual? Yes. Is it working? Definitely.
Dargham says his company has 100 percent referenceability. What's that mean? Not most, but allof his clients would recommend his company.
Here are some of the features that set Lohika's customer service apart from the pack:
Transparency means allowing others to see what you're doing. So Dargham uses both a communications ethos and up-to-the-minute technology that allow his clients to know what's happening at any point in their engagement. Another component of transparency for Dargham is proactively delivering bad news along with good.
We don't try to protect ourselves to look good. Many companies wind up waiting until the last minute to tell their clients they can't deliver, hoping against hope they'll be able to correct the situation in time. We tell as soon as we knowthis helps makes the customer a real partner. We let them see our internal workings and invite them to help solve the problem.
Customer service benefit: Transparency meets the customer's need for information and for stewardship of its company's doings. Customers can be as involved or as remote as they wish, and they never have to wonder what's going oninformation about the project is always at their fingertips, or a phone call away.
Executive stewardship means at least one high-level company executiveusually Dargham himselfgets involved with each project Lohika takes on. It's not enough to oversee and delegateLohika's C-level folks actually interact with what's happening. Whenever we have a new customer, about a month in, I call the appropriate manager and visit the customer to see how we're doing, especially at the beginning. My engineers know that I do this. I go to customers and ask, How are we doing?' I used to walk the hallways in Ukraine and ask two questions: How are you doing?' and How is the customer doing?'
Customer service benefit: Executive stewardship means a client never needs to ask to talk to a supervisor because the executives are involved in every project. This builds a sense of trust to go hand-in-hand with the empowerment and respect created through the transparency.
Making sure each customer is "delighted"
I ask each team to come up with a 'customer delight' itemsomething that will totally blow the client away; far above and beyond what they ask for. Most companies tend to think, If we do what they want, we'll make them happy. We try to deliver something they wouldn't ask for or even think to ask for.
One day, our customer was going to be in a bind because one of their key engineers was leaving on a three-week vacation. They were concerned that questions only he could answer would remain unanswered during his absence and delay projects. We sent an engineer from Ukraine with the same knowledge to sit at that person's desk in the Bay Area, to answer questions in his absence.
Customer service benefit: Customers of such a company can relax knowing that whatever concerns they have will be addressed with the best possible outcome for them in mind.
Click here to read the second part of Jill C. Nagle's interview with Lohikas CEO Daniel Dargham.