As an IT consultant (or reseller, or VAR, or whatever term you prefer), the IT industry always try to position ourselves as a “partner” or “trusted advisor.” Those companies or decision makers who are looking for a partner are very critical (and rightly so) of the myriad of consultants trying to woo them to earn their business. Likewise, the VARs are doing their best dog-and-pony show to convince the potential client of how awesome they are. Somewhere in the sales cycle, something clicks between the two parties enough to give a particular IT consultant the business and a chance to prove themselves.
Throughout the engagement, as long as things are going well, everyone is happy. However, the real test of the “partnership” comes when things don’t go so well. Yes, I said when, not if. From the consultant’s viewpoint, they are trying to save face, or save the project, or even save the relationship. From the client’s perspective, they are concerned with not only the success of the immediate project, but also with whether they made the right choice in an IT partner. Usually both parties know what is at stake, and tensions can rise very quickly.
Personally, I have to admit that since I spend the vast majority of the time on the consultant side of that equation rather than the client side, it’s easy to delude myself into thinking that I’m doing “everything” I can. This is why I cherish, as unpleasant as it may be, when I get to be the “client” working through a tough situation. This typically plays out in a scenario where I’m calling in for vendor support on behalf of my client. When I’m on the phone with VMware, or Cisco, or HP, or vendor XYZ, then I am taking the role of the client and get to feel the same range of emotions that my clients feel when they deal with me or my team.
It’s important to understand I’m referring to more than just a technical support case. Those are, by nature, technical issues and usually have more options to work around if the root problem cannot be easily solved. I’m talking about true partnerships, where there is no option but to make the situation work. Replacing a data center built on VMware because we had a technical issue is simply not an option, at least not in the short term.
Working with these vendors when I get to be the client gives me invaluable insight into what makes a truly great, or nightmarish, partnership. Given enough time, problems will always arise that test the bonds of such a relationship.
Here are some of the questions and criteria I use to evaluate my vendor interactions. In turn, I use these same criteria to become hyper-critical of myself and my team to make sure we are giving our clients the proper treatment they expect and deserve.
- How do the “first responders” treat me?
- How difficult is it to get a case opened, or escalated?
- What communication channels and points of contact do I have?
- How are status updates communicated, and how often?
- Are they concerned with making sure I’m satisfied, or just “closing the case”?
- How do they help me plan for the future and grow?
Are we perfect? By no means. However that is one thing that I personally take great pride in at NetGain Technologies – we hold ourselves to a very high standard, and are constantly looking for ways to improve. We take every opportunity possible to learn from past experience (good or bad) and evaluate how we can improve our process to deliver a better experience for our clients.
If you are already a client of NetGain Technologies, I’m asking for your help. You’ve no doubt seen the Client Satisfaction surveys that we include with each project or service ticket. PLEASE give us feedback. We regularly evaluate the feedback we get to find ways we can improve our processes.
If you have not worked with us before, I look forward to earning your business. Find out what we mean when we say with NetGain Technologies you should “Expect Best In Class.”
Contact us to learn more about our IT partnerships.