Do you view your vendors as products or partners?
Your answer to this question may be a leading indicator on how you view the quality of your stack.
A few weeks a go I was having a discussion with a colleague I hold in high regard. He made a comment that stuck with me and became the genesis for this post. While talking about our vendors he told me how surprised he was at how close I am with my vendors. At first I was taken aback, but as the conversation continued I realized that this was a compliment. A tight relationship (partnership) with your vendors can be the difference between failure and success.
Too often, companies don’t focus on customer success or retention until the contract term is nearing completion. By then, it’s usually too late and they are likely to lose the customer. When vetting potential vendors or partners, understanding their churn should be a large indicator in your selection process.
- Successfully train, onboard, and coach their customers
- Maintain a semi-regular cadence with frequent follow ups and touch points in between
- Take time to fully understand the challenges and ideal outcomes customers are looking for
- Stay late and help you pull data for deadline sensitive reports
- Organize user groups for you to connect and learn from peers using the same tools
- Cross pollinate training and product knowledge to various individuals in a department
- Come onsite for reviews for no other reason than face time (not to upsell)
- Provide flexibility for changing business needs and requirements and allow changes outside of contract terms
Sometimes you are lucky and form relationships with your partners. Over time, you get to know each other and in certain situations that extra mile drives meaningful personal gratitude. A few examples of these are below:
- Give you opportunities to evangelize your story even when you’re unproven
- Send your wife a bottle of champagne when your flight gets cancelled (on her birthday), even if the event isn’t related to that vendor
- Give you baseball caps for your kids when you attend their event so they have something special that represents the city you visited
- Genuinely care about your success, your teams success, and the success of the company
Inserting a cliche quote- “People do business with people they like and Trust”
If you’re reading this as a buyer – find the vendors that go the extra mile, they will become your trusted partners. If you’re reading this as a vendor – go the extra mile and don’t just call your customer when they are having issue or renewing a contract. It’s easier to keep a customer than find a new one.
(I hate the Red Sox, but my kids loved the hats – Thanks Morgan and Venessa!)