It was during the Enterprise 2.0 event in Boston, when I was interviewing some recent graduates of the YearUp! program, that I realized ‘create your next customer’ means a lot more than lead nurturing, social networking, or figuring out which chatski to giveaway at a booth.
Now chatskis are important, don’t get me wrong. I still have those stuffed Spencer Katt animals from the 1997 Comdex. But if the fundamental process of creating your next customer is building a relationship that endures through job shifts and career development, then programs like YearUp! must be on every vendor’s agenda.
In the spirit of full disclosure, while I am not affiliated with YearUp!, I did serve on the board of the now defunct (we ran out of money) Youth Tech Entrepreneurs of which some of the YearUp! execs are connected. Also, Enterprise 2.0 is part of UBM which is the company that pays my salary. Enterprise 2.0 selected YearUp! as a non-profit beneficiary at the event and held a panel discussion on closing the opportunity divide.
Okay, now that all that disclosure is over, what does YearUp! do? Their program puts motivated, inner-city kids through a rigorous one year program which includes academics, business operations, presentation skills and an internship. About 4,000 students have gone through the program into mostly technology oriented placements. Eighty-four percent of the students are either employed or attending college full time within four months of completing the program.
What do programs such as YearUp! have to do with creating your next customer? Your most loyal customers are the ones that have grown along with your company. Loyalty is about relationships, and the vendors that build early relationships by supporting workers at the earliest stages of their careers will be remembered. Some of the largest, most successful vendors know the value of supporting workers early in their careers. Microsoft, Dell and Cisco come immediately to mind as having strong educational programs. But you don’t have to be a Dell-sized company to have a big impact.
“The most important thing in customer service is how to relate to the customer,” said Sangit Tamang. Sangit and three other YearUp! grads were sitting around a conference table at the Enterprise 2.0 event talking about technology, education and the big change and challenges of growing up as a minority youth and entering the business world.
Sangit came to the United States as a shy teenager unable to speak English. Today he is the Desktop and LAN Administrator at the Administration and Finance department of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is working on multiple college degrees in technology and business and has his goals set on a Master’s degree and an upper level technology position.
It was Sangit’s comment about customer service and how you relate to the customer that got me thinking how creating your next customer is really about educating your next customer at an early stage in their career. It is a thought all vendors should embrace.