A catering company in Uganda wants to offer more baked goods and contacts Senior Expert Contact (SEC). But how is the establishment of a new product line via online remote consulting to be successful? And as if that wasn’t already difficult enough, the internet connection keeps failing. The customer and expert alike were full of doubts at the beginning, but in the end, they were both positively surprised.
Frans van Eijk would not be able to test the smell of the croissants, the sweetness of the muffins nor the airiness of the bread during his remote bakery assignment. Nevertheless, this SEC expert decided to support the Ugandan catering company “Mr. Jones Mobile Catering” online for three months. It helped that he had already been to Uganda during 25 years of volunteer work. He also draws on a wealth of experience as the master baker of a family business that is over 120 years old.
“It was my first remote consulting assignment. I first had to figure out how this would work best,” expert van Ejik says. Every time he met with the client via Skype or WhatsApp, he set up a small bakery in his kitchen. So, the client in Uganda and the expert in the Netherlands baked according to the same recipe side by side, screen to screen. Often there were internet interruptions. Van Eijk always remained patient at these moments and got creative. For example, when everything stopped, he would shoot a short video with the instructions and send it to the customer. Together, the expert and the customer were able to work on twenty new baked goods recipes.
About the client “Mr. Jones Mobile Catering Services Ltd.”
The company “Mr. Jones Mobile Catering Services” provides lunches for offices and does catering for barbecues and cocktail parties. To better meet the needs of its clientele, it needed to expand its product range. The company found that there was a strong demand for baked goods such as fresh rolls and muffins. Managing Director Lubowa John Rogers was therefore delighted when he received confirmation in early 2020 that an SEC expert would support him in the development of a bakery product range. However, an in-person consulting assignment was not to be. “The Corona pandemic stormed the world and dealt us a heavy blow,” Rogers reports.
Rogers was dubious about a remote consultancy mission: “I had never taken online lessons before. I was convinced it was neither practical nor effective.” In addition, internet data packages in Uganda are very expensive and power cuts are frequent. Like many, he hoped the situation would improve this year. When it became clear that in 2021 only remote consultations would be possible, he reconciled himself and started a remote assignment with van Ejik in June 2021.
Success all the way along the line
The results of the operation are impressive: The newly-introduced products, such as baguettes, croissants and chocolate muffins, are enjoyed by the customers; so much so that revenues increased. The company was able to increase its market share. Rogers says, “We were able to create two new jobs, while similar companies had to lay off employees (due to the lockdowns).”
For Rogers, it’s a success across the board. His business is doing better and his doubts about online teaching disappeared. He appreciates van Eijk’s great commitment: “He gave me an immense number of practical tips on how to save costs and how to bake with locally available raw materials. For example, he showed us that we can use oil instead of margarine when baking cakes.” Mr. Jones Mobile Catering is invigorated by the remote assignment and plans to create more jobs, because sales have been steadily increasing since the assignment. The launch of the new product line has been a big success.
Interview with SEC expert Frans van Eijk
How do you assess the results achieved and which factors contributed to the assignment’s success?
The result achieved was much more than I expected before the start of the remote assignment. For me it was a challenge to find out how to do this remote assignment, but most of all was the willingness of the applicant that has given this result.
What impressed you most about this remote assignment?
That my effort was successful together with the willingness of the applicant.
What surprised you or what didn’t work as expected?
I really had a bad feeling before the start because to give knowledge in this way was also for me a new experience. But during the assignment I had to change my mind after I saw the result in the bakery of the applicant.
Where did you encounter limits with this type of consultancy?
The internet connection sometimes gave problems. So then I made videos and sent them to the applicant to show what they had to do.
Are you still in contact with the client after the end of the assignment? With what kind of support?
Several times a week I’m in contact with the applicant by WhatsApp. I also call with WhatsApp to explain a difficult recipe.
How do you assess the influence of the Corona pandemic on the client’s business?
The Corona pandemic was worldwide bad for business, but this remote assignment gave the applicant a new boost for the future.