As a business owner I have worked with numerous other businesses, organizations, and individuals over the past 24 years in the IT industry. One of the things that always intrigues me is why people make the decision to change from a particular provider, software, vendor or any other business partner. Creating long-term business relationships is what we all want. So the decision to change has to be rooted in some kind of major driver. It used to be those were mainly focused on adding new features, getting a better price, or getting more bang for the buck. Those items are still important, but I think businesses are shifting from a value perspective to an experience perspective when it comes to their strategic partnerships with vendors.
Time For A Change
Here at DaZZee we have gone through some of the same changes in recent months with our vendors and partners. We have had a long standing relationship with a large hardware provider for almost 15 years now. When we first started out in this business we wanted to partner with the biggest vendors that delivered solutions to the enterprise customers to drive home our value to our clients and the related skillset it took to deliver those solutions. Over the years we invested huge amounts of money to maintain the training and certifications to keep those partnerships intact and updated to the constantly changing requirements. The relationship always had it's highs and lows, but we stuck with it because we felt like they were the biggest guys on the block. Towards the end of 2017 we got burned by the vendor pretty badly, to the point where pricing wasn't honored, customers had contracts in place and we had to pay out of pocket to make sure our client still got what they were supposed to.
The relationship had soured between us and our vendor. During this time we went back and forth with multiple contacts, with dozens of emails, calls, and messages. At the end of the day, our partner ignored our frustrations, and scoffed at our threats to no longer offer their products. At this point, our decision making was not about the vendors product line, it was about our EXPERIENCE in dealing with them. As a result we have since partnered with another vendor. A smaller vendor. The new vendor has bent over backwards to help make sure our EXPERIENCE with them was a positive one. So much so that at the recent conference we attended, the partner manager searched us out to sit down with us and spent almost an hour talking through our EXPERIENCE and making sure we had what we needed to move forward.
Another example of how a bad experience fueled a change in our company is with our internal customer management software. We have been on this platform for almost 8 years. Again, when we started with this software we made the decision based on who was the largest and had the most features. Over the years we invested heavily in the hours it took to get the system setup to match our processes and we paid a hefty sum on a monthly basis for the application. What we found was that while they were the big guys on the block in the software arena, we still had to make concessions in the way we worked with the software because they couldn't/wouldn't work with the way our business worked. The final straw came after our 3rd bad EXPERIENCE requesting support in a period of 30 days. Our issues were significant. In fact one issue kept us from working for almost 2 hours. But the game changer was the experience we had in trying to get support. We were blown off and told that someone would get back with us "sometime".
Fast forward about 6 weeks and we are in the process of moving to a smaller provider. Yep, another smaller vendor. The sales rep at the new provider spent almost an hour on the phone with me answering questions and going over their solution. When I still had questions in regards to the support process and needed features that they didn't currently have, his answer was - "Hey can I setup a meeting for you and our COO and co-founder? I think you will get the assurances you need from that discussion". Sure enough, after a phone call with the COO, we are now in the process of moving to their software platform and they are developing code and features just for us.
The Big Guys May No Longer Be The BEST Choice
Both of these changes were not easy. Both involve investing in a tremendous amount of time and money to get our solutions in place, train our team, and get things changed over. But, we made the decision because we felt like we deserved a better experience.
Today's economy which allows new startups and companies all over to the globe to compete in spaces that were once reserved for just the big guys, now allows customers to demand better. Better products, better results, and better EXPERIENCES are now the new criteria for decision making when it comes to business products, relationships and solutions.
The two previous examples really hit home with me and how much the client EXPERIENCE matters the most in today’s business environment. As a result, we have turned that same focus on our own internal operations. We want DaZZee to provide an EXPERIENCE for our clients that they can not get anywhere else in the small business technology management arena. Some of the key initiative we are putting into place are faster ways to get in contact with our staff, better communications throughout projects, client dashboards to keep them on the same page as our team, more relevant and actionable data, and a host of other small but important additions and or changes. Our entire team is working to make sure the DaZZee Experience is a memorable one and look forward to highlighting this with our clients in the coming months.
The question that I would challenge any business owner or manager with is - what is your customer experience like? Do you have any way to track or measure it? The tools are there. You just have to take advantage of them!