Vendors need to build loyalty and relationships, and look beyond quarterly sales figures when dealing with customers.
I recently had an account manager from a vendor I have a long history with ask me out for a coffee, where he told me he would be tendering his resignation later that afternoon to take advantage of another business opportunity.
He confided in me that he informed just two people prior to him handing in his resignation, a colleague from his work place, and me, a long standing customer. Over the years we had established a partnership which surpassed normal vendor client relationships. In the years we have been working together we had ups and we had downs, but through it all we worked together without ego, manipulation or exploitation.
He will be sorely missed and truth be told it will change the basis by which I evaluate that vendor. I knew I could count on this individual for anything and now my confidence has been impacted.
So it drives me crazy when vendors do yearly changes to their sales and support structure that consistently bring in a revolving door of account and sales reps that have no appreciation for the partnership in context of history. Equally more and more vendors preach a 'customer first' mentality yet in reality lack of authority or ability to make things happen in the interest of the customer.
Most vendors know precious little about partnership or driving value. They only know quarterly targets and have little freedom to 'make things happen' when it isn't driven by increasing sales targets. The biggest void in customer relations from IT supplier perspective is that business such as mine put more of an emphasis on managing and optimizing what we have while vendors focus on new things to sell and memories are very short.
I have a vendor right now that is trying to muscle me to buy new product in order to correct a mistake they made in a previous sale. They are steadfast in their assertion that the only way they can make amends is through additional discounting of future sales. I find this unacceptable and presumptive. After all why should I buy more product when we have not settled old scores?
Vendors are becoming increasingly short sighted when it comes to managing customers. This account manager was an invaluable asset to the company he represented and through focusing on relationship versus sales invariable improved the value of our account to the organization.
Loyalty is a very fragile commodity and vendors who view customers as commodities without the need to develop a true partnership are doing themselves and their customers a disservice.
Partnership is a precious word in my world and it mean collaborating to drive value for both parties. These days vendors who truly value partnership with customers are increasingly rare and this impacts not only on customer loyalty and cost but also the successful adoption of services and equipment into IT departments.
Vendors need to make partnership a priority and not just lip service. They need to promote loyalty and collaboration above new sales and revenue. If they do that the revenue will follow and the customer will never leave.
The Naked CIO is an anonymous technology executive.
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