Recently I was contacted by someone that used to work for one of our clients. It must be 10 years since we last spoke, however she still had my cell phone number. She has a new job at a different company and they have a problem similar to what we helped her solve before. She hasn’t worked with us at all in these last 10 years, but she thought enough of us to recommend us to her new employer.
What was it that compelled her to call? We aren’t close by; we are 1,200 miles and one time zone apart. There are others that do what we do, and provide the solutions we have, in their city. There are many alternatives to solution providers for their particular product and plenty of different products out there as well. We aren’t the cheapest; there’s always someone that will cut price to win a deal. I’m sure she could think of other reasons NOT to call, but she did!
It would be easy for me to sit here and pat myself on the back for being a great guy and say “We’re the BEST at what we do!”, but I know a lot of great people in our industry that also take great care of customers. Here are some reasons why this former customer called DTI:
- We were concerned about her business – We wanted more than just a successful project, we wanted a successful customer. We were committed to her and her company and she knew it.
- We developed history together – we worked with that company and this contact for several years before she left. We earned her respect through a series of successful engagements and being there when she needed us. We had more than a vendor / customer relationship, it was a partnership.
- Our solution evolved over time – Technology evolves and so do companies. The right solution today, probably will need to change at some point in the next 3-5 years. We were able to help her through several technology transitions, upgrades, and finding new solutions that had a real impact to their business.
- Flexibility – Because we were not bound to any one particular product or suite of products, we were able to design, source, and deliver the right products and services in the best way for her company. We delivered “out of the box” when it worked, but could also tweak and tune solutions when necessary to deliver the custom tailored fit when needed.
- Support was the top priority for DTI – Knowing that we were always there when she called was a great comfort. I wish I could say they had a 100% flawless implementation but that is not reality. In fact, I remember some significant challenges over the years of working with her. Sometimes issues were software bugs and sometimes there were issues with their systems. We worked through them together and made sure she was kept in the loop until the issue was resolved.
These are key characteristics of a successful working relationship between a client and a software support firm. While the 'partnership' mentality may not be for everyone (nor is it required), having timely, responsive support from a partner who has demonstrated their commitment and reliability is critical. Sometimes this can be accomplished by the software manufacturer, but more often their focus is the ongoing development of their products, and support takes a back seat. Many companies opt to work with a software reseller, who is able to fully focus on the ongoing, evolving needs of the customer and is unconstrained by a particular product set. Whether you are going with a reseller, or the manufacturer, be sure to ask for references; a quick conversation with the references will be your best indication as to the type of relationship you could expect to have with the support provider.