Thursday, 20 February 2014

Client Service

When you find yourself working in a white-collar sweat shop or any kind of service orientated industry, the lines between business and pleasure can often be blurry. It's no longer just about making the sale anymore; it's about actively nurturing and maintaining the relationships that come with it. Sometimes it requires the occasional round of golf or that five-star schmooze-cruise on a rented yacht followed by complimentary shots of tequila and lap dances by Mavericks' finest. Spa treatments, boozy sushi lunches and complimentary giveaways are just some other tools used to gain momentum in the race to senior approval. Having the understanding that business relations relies heavily on keeping your client happy is crucial to the path of success, even if it means entertaining throughout non-billable working hours.

It comes as no surprise that in order to get ahead in business, one needs to make certain concessions and sacrifices that sometimes compromise our values and moral integrity. When you're young, motivated and mounting the corporate stepper of success, a die-hard approach and willingness to go above and beyond the client's needs will get you much further than your competitor ever dreamed of. It also manages to get the shareholder's attention. Suddenly, you've got game and no one is really questioning why or how you got it. All they care about are the six-figure accounts that keeps coming in making their pockets fatter.

So how does one become "the one to keep an eye on"? Is it all about the hard yards, long hours and ethical ethos that keep you in the running or is it one's ability to tap into their client's personal interests? And what if those interests are clearly unsavoury and slightly inappropriate? Can sex be construed as a weapon of choice in the professional arena or does it completely violate the professional code of business conduct? It's always been easier for boys to dazzle their clients with their toys, but for an ambitious businesswoman up against some stiff competition, why shouldn't she tap into all of her god-given resources? All work and no play make Jack a dull boy but does it necessarily make Jackie a slut? When hard work and research fail to pay off in a male-dominated society, should we fall back on charms and good old fashioned hair flips?

"The service industry is no better than one big prostitution ring. Where there's a client in need, there's a pimp to send in some whore willing enough to bend over and take it." Anna Banana, a 31 year old TV producer at a local ad agency, had discovered that the key to her success meant taking one for the team from time to time and understanding that the client always comes first, no matter how inappropriate the proposition. She was tired of missing out on career opportunities to male juniors that worked half as hard in twice the time all because she didn't have a dick or a platinum membership to Teazer's, Durbanville.

While the moral integrity of mixing business with pleasure at this kind of level seems indecent and what sexual harassment cases are made of, I couldn't help but wonder just how effective Anna's techniques were. "I'm not saying you have to have sex with every single client that walks through the office door, but just allude to the fact that sex might be on offer. Make yourself available in every way. There's nothing wrong with using one's sexual prowess to get ahead in your career. Sex is just another form of power that needs to be exerted for some kind of satisfactory gain."

"I was 26 years old when I went on my first client dinner with a Brit. The senior VP's had made all the arrangements at his favourite restaurant and told me to throw on some make up and dazzle. I went in there not knowing that I had broken the first rule of schmoozing which is never to talk shop in a leisurely setting. I could see that I was losing him so I immediately stopped babbling about business and ordered another bottle of his favourite Grenache and quite literally let my hair down. Now that got his attention."

"We spoke about his interest in cars and the stock market, fine wine and Europe and I felt myself finally making a personal connection with him. It started feeling less of a business transaction and more of a date."

"We continued our bonding session with a little bit of dancing and more alcohol in the form of J├Ąger bombs. The next thing I knew we were back at the hotel in his suite fucking like animals. The sex was great but extremely surreal. I was so mortified about the whole experience that I casually slipped away in a walk of shame thinking, 'shit Anna, you blew it!' and I literally did. Later that afternoon, blood shot and spun out, my boss came over and shook my hand. "Good work, Anna. We landed the account.". He knew my name. Seconds later I received a text message saying, "thanks for the great time you crazy bird. I look forward to doing business with you :)"

There's a reason it's called an "Old Boy's Club" and just like the great Lily Allen once said, "it's hard out here for a bitch." You've gotta do what you gotta do to survive. While most women wouldn't dream of crossing the line of professional misconduct, using one's sexual allure in the realm of business can prove to be very effective. Whether it's as innocent as alluding to the idea of sex or going the whole nine yards is entirely up to you. At the end of the day we're all getting screwed or giving some form of head in order to get ahead.

When it comes to client service, I couldn't help but wonder...just how far are we willing to bend over?

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