21 Mar 2008

On Service

Author: q | Filed under: Pontifications
As a service provider (aka “vendor”) to my clients, I”m very cognizant of what constitutes good service and bad service. We strive to provide outstanding service, as I”ve been endeavoring to do in the 20+ years I”ve been in this line of work. Choosing to work in the SMB space has given me some new insight into the “service” we often put up with as small businesses or small business advisors. Some enterprise organizations who have entered the SMB space haven”t yet figured out how to best provide service to the smaller customer, and it can get very frustrating to be stuck in the middle of the client who needs to have an issue resolved and a large vendor who doesn”t pay as much attention to their smaller accounts.

So when I encounter notable service, either good or bad, I make the effort to provide feedback. When the service needs to be improved, I make an effort to reach out to the people behind the service process and share my experiences in a matter-of-fact way, trying to avoid a heated or angry discussion. When the service goes beyond expectations on the positive side, I try to provide feedback about that with the appropriate parties within the company, and sometimes share those positive experiences with the greater community.

Today I encountered service experiences on the extreme opposite ends of the service spectrum and I wanted to share a brief summary of each here.

A vendor I”ve been working with for almost two years has a great product that I continually recommend to the community, and is pretty much a required component for many of our customer”s systems. However, my experience with their support department has not lived up to my expectations. This afternoon,I called my sales contact with this company and asked who was the appropriate person to share feedback with,and my contact gave me the contact information for another person within the organization. I left this person e-mail and voicemail explaining the crux of my concerns and why the level of response I”ve received was not acceptable. In the last year, I”ve had reason to contact their support organization three times. All three times I used the “support request” form on their web site, and all three times that request has effectively been ignored. The most recent was the request I put in this past Sunday. I received the auto-response immediately, and haven”t heard a peep from them since. Fortunately, this particular issue isn”t affecting performance, but four days without a response is simply not acceptable, especially since that”s the only way they advertise to reach their support department. Tomorrow I will be calling the technical resources within the company that I”ve called on before when I had to escalate. I shouldn’t have to do that, and that”s the message I”ll be passing along to the individual who I attempted to contact earlier today.

On the other side of the coin is Scorpion Software, who provided a status update today on an issue that they”ve been working on with one of my clients who made a minimum purchase of their AuthAnvil system. This client has a single-purpose need for the AuthAnvil solution, and they”ve run into two major issues with the implementation. One issue was resolved by a modification to one of the components of the AuthAnvil suite, and that was turned around within a week. The other issue turned out to be a problem with the software they”re trying to integrate AuthAnvil with, but Scorpion Software have taken it upon themselves to work directly with the other vendor to get a resolution. And even though it wasn”t necessary, they”ve kept me in the loop through the entire process.

I”ve also encountered two issues with the AuthAnvil software in our deployment. In both cases, a quick contact with the company, and specifically with Dana, has turned into two very quick resolutions.

It”s clear to me that some vendors “get” service while others do not. Dana and the rest of the staff at Scorpion Software get it. They have embraced the SMB market, and even though their product is head and shoulders above the competition, they”ve not developed an attitude about it. I’ve learned a few things in my interactions with Scorpion, and I”m going to try to incorporate a couple of elements of those experiences into the way we run our operation, so that we can continue to provide outstanding service to the clients we work with.

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