Client Expectations Don’t Always Equal Yours

Part of our trip to Southern Africa was to visit a greenfield sugar cane project in Mozambique for which Uncle Pete (father of the bride and Ian’s best mate) is the Project Manager. This project is huge – and that’s an understatement. When developed, it will consist of over 20,000 hectares of irrigated sugar cane, and directly employ some 4,500 Mozambicans.   Indirectly, the project will positively influence the lives of some100,000 people who live in one of Africa’s poorest countries that is still struggling to shake off the effects of a vicious civil war. The cane will be irrigated from a giant dam that was built in the 1960’s, but has never had the opportunity to create wealth for the country due to the aforementioned civil war.  The dam wall is 5.5 km long! (Compare that to the dam wall of the Wivenhoe Dam near Brisbane at 2.3km long).

Massingir Dam Mozambique

Massingir Dam Wall – 5.5km long!

The road to Massingir is long – a good 6 hour drive from our base in South Africa – through a part of Kruger National Park and across the border into the adjoining Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.  Once across the Mozambique border, the road deteriorates quickly.  The last 65km took about 1.5 hours.

By the time we reached Massingir, I was feeling a bit off and with a very rumbly stomach.  (I blame the disgusting toasted sandwich I had on the way. I have never in my life before seen a toasted ham cheese and tomato sandwich actually drip with oil. Never again!)

Our accommodation for the night was to be a newly established Game Lodge some 35 km outside Massingir.  The owner, a truly lovely man, is a friend of Uncle Pete, and a more gracious host you would not find anywhere.

Hardekool Camp Massingir Mozambique

As an added bonus, the lodge has two lion cubs which were found and rescued by the owner.  It’s an interesting experience having two lion cubs playing at your feet and rubbing themselves on your legs – just like kittens only a lot bigger!

Lion cubs Mozambique

We stashed our bags in the cabins, and set off back to the main lodge. On the way, I noted the presence of a Donkey. For those of you who have not been to Africa, a Donkey is a hot water heater which consists of a water drum, often a 44 gallon drum, with a fire under it.

African Donkey Water Heater

African-style water heater, commonly known as a Donkey

What could be better after a long day than a very cold beer and a quick game drive before dark? This is why we keep returning for holidays in this amazing country. We also inspected the new bush camp being built on the 8,000 ha game farm.  It’s going to be beautiful.

After dinner, some interesting chatting with our host and the other guests, and a few glasses of wine, my rumbly tummy decided it was time for me to retire to my cabin. Having seen the Donkey earlier, I knew that there was a lovely hot shower to be had before crawling into bed.

Wrong.

I had left my run too late, and the fire had died down.  I should have not stayed chatting and drinking wine for so long!  So my nice hot shower became a very quick, lukewarm, rinse.

Another business lesson here.

On my trip in to the cabins I had seen the Donkey, and had built up an expectation in my mind of a steamy hot shower – I had an expectation which was subsequently not fulfilled, (even though it was my own fault!)  As a former user of a Donkey when we lived in Swaziland, I should have known better I know, and I have absolutely no complaint about our stay (we shall return!).

But clients are fickle things, and they don’t always see things the way you do.

Do you understand what your clients are really thinking? 

What are you doing to really understand them, and their expectations? Are your clients looking forward to a hot shower and then getting a lukewarm rinse?

By Bronwyn Reid
10 November 2014

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