Whether you are working in a complete custom software development shop with little vendor interaction or a technology integration shop with vendor solutions integrated with other vendor solutions on top of yet other vendor solutions, you will have to manage vendor relationships to some degree as an IT manager in a MidWestern company. This series looks at the complex arena of IT vendor management and offers some tips to make the arduous process a bit less arduous and possibly discover some additional benefits along the way.
Vendor Management Category
- How to Leverage Tech Support
In the previous article, we looked at the importance of opening a vendor support case for technical issues and following the process to the letter to avoid process fumbling to reflect poorly on you and your team. In this article, we look to engage the Vendor Sales Cheese when the vendor technical support case isn’t getting resolved effectively and how to turn this around to drive beneficial pricing.
Drag the Vendor Sales Cheese into the technical support problem
One thing a good Vendor Sales Cheese is effective at is getting folks within his or her organization to move quickly to close a sales deal. Why not leverage that ability to your advantage to put more pressure on solving your technical support issue so you and your team can move on to more important work?
If you haven’t had your technical support case solve the problem, your technical support case probably looks something like this:
Day 1 = Your Team: problem reported, steps to re-create the problem shared, log files capturing the error shared.
Day 2 = Vendor: “Try changing setting <blah>.<blah>.<blah> from TRUE to FALSE and provide the log files if it doesn’t fix the problem.”
Day 2 = Your Team: Setting changed, problem still exists, support case updated, log files capturing the error shared.
Day 3 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 4 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 4 = Vendor: “Please download patch 3498345, apply and provide the log files if it doesn’t fix the problem.”
Day 4 = Your Team: Patch applied, service now crashes immediately upon starting, support case updated, log files capturing the error shared.
Day 6 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 7 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 8 = Vendor: “Please uninstall patch 3498345 and download patch 3498350, apply and provide the log files if it doesn’t fix the problem.”
Day 8 = Your Team: First patch removed, second patch installed, problem still exists, support case updated, log files capturing the error shared.
Day 9 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 10 = Your Team: request status on case
Day 11 = Vendor: “Please download patch 3498351, apply and provide the log files if it doesn’t fix the problem.”
Day 11 = Your Team: update the case with “we are not even running that version of your software on our technology platform as already indicated in the case and thus we cannot install that patch. Now what?”
Day 12 = Your Team: request status on case
Clearly, you and your team are burning hours on this issue and not making much progress and worse, not getting quality service from the vendor without any real resolution in sight. Time to get the Vendor Sales Cheese involved:
Boss: “Hey, Vendor Sales Cheese, it is Boss from ABC Company. Can you take a look at support case number 596784 we just opened? I think we are getting the run around after the case has been opened for 12 days. Heck, the last entry from your support asks us to install a patch that doesn’t even match our technology platform which is clearly needed to open the case in the first place.”
Vendor Sales Cheese: “This doesn’t sound right. Let me look into this right away and get back to you.”
Boss: “By the way, we need this issue fixed otherwise it is going to be brought up in our license renewal discussions next week/month. I can’t believe it is time to talk about new licenses already.”
Vendor Sales Cheese: <with even more urgency> “Don’t worry; I’ll get to the bottom of this straight away.”
The key to this whole exchange is to link the need for this technical support case to be closed to the next sales opportunity. Besides being in the Vendor Sales Cheese’s positive relationship interest, now, more importantly, it is a barrier to a sales interest. You now have a highly motivated sales person to put pressure on the technical support arm of the vendor’s organization to clear through the process morass and get the problem resolved as quickly as possible.
Finally, how can consistent tracking of vendor technical support cases drive beneficial pricing?
By keeping an accurate track of each poorly handled support case and creating a plausible story that suggests a consistent struggle with the existing support arrangement can pay dividends. Those dividends may not be in explicit price reductions, but thee could be. Rather, you may find you have leverage to get an improved support arrangement for the same price. The Vendor Sales Cheese may be able to add in something similar to:
- Ability to use a “priority code” to have your tickets skip the first level of support and go directly to a stronger second tier
- Ability to use an inside “customer advocate” that you can drag into cases the minute they start trending negative or as soon as you open the case and want to impress upon the vendor the urgency or severity of the issue and need for fast resolution
- Improved SLAs which actually improve your ability to get cases routed to experts rather than just artificial improvements such as “response time for a new case from 24 hours to 12 hours” which look good on paper but only provide case acknowledgement slightly sooner and no change to resolution expectations
Thus, not usually direct dollars off the top, the ability to negotiate an improved support arrangement without impacting the price ultimately benefits you, your team and your company with lower overhead involved in getting product technical issues resolved more quickly.
In addition to these perspectives on achieving beneficial pricing, can anyone share additional techniques to link poor technical support case experiences to squeeze out the best pricing scenarios for your company? Look for the next article to pick up where this article left off with more MidWestern IT perspectives on the topic of the “Product Versioning and the Upgrade Cycle” in the spectrum of vendor management.