The problem that we are having with about a dozen desktop scanners has caused me to think about those scanners, and the things I could have done better when I bought them, when they failed and as I try to replace them. This experience has also caused me to think about the vendors I deal with. I have written in the past about a small handful of great vendors that we rely on and trust. Today, I need to talk about the larger group of vendors, the ones I really have to wonder about.
I will start with the ones involved in this current problem from which I derive two important messages. One, when you (vendor) have a problem with your product, admit it, fix it and do something to repair the relationship with the customers who bought it. Two, stop advertising capabilities as if they are features. If I own your product and it has a problem, I expect you to fix it. If you do fix the problem, my opinion of you improves. If you fail to fix the problem, or if you make me fight with you, my opinion of you suffers. However, if I buy your product and discover that I now have to buy some other product to get yours to work, your product is going back and you are off the list. Simply put, “I expect problems, I won’t tolerate lies“.
My next message is to the vendors I work with, and it is a simple message: “use the information you collect“. Given the amount of information I provide when I purchase and register a product, I should never receive a blind call from an existing vendor again. If you want to sell me more stuff, that’s fine, but at least recognize me as a previous customer. If you want me to enter my customer number into your voice mail system, that’s fine, but then don’t ask me to provide all my customer information when I do reach a human being. While I am talking (in theory) to our existing vendors, please align your compensation practices with your marketing message. There are companies out there that advertise how important their customers are, but give lower or no commission for renewals and follow-on sales. I once had a cell phone saleswoman tell me she would process the one new phone I was ordering but asked me to process 10 renewals at the local store. The “problem” from her perspective was that since we already had high minutes and a data plan, there was nothing left to “sell” me! One more thing, drop those stupid sales programs. I also had a salesman ask me to wait a week to buy a product because he wanted the sale to “work down his funnel“. It seems the “funnel” sales process is one that rewards the salesman for “working the customer”; if the customer buys too soon, the salesman, apparently wasn’t necessary.
I also have some advice for the true cold-callers out there; oh wait, it’s the same advice, “don’t lie to me!” Don’t tell me you read our web site and then ask me questions that are blatantly answered on the home page. Yes, we are a type of “association”; yes we have “members” – no, we don’t want to buy software to help us collect dues and schedule pool parties. I told a vendor at the AIIM show that I liked his product but didn’t think I could afford it. He said: “you can install this for less than $100 per user“. OK, $99 per user is less than $100, but he neglected to mention the $5,000 per-server component until we asked for a quote. Finally, for the marketing managers out there, when did “15 minutes” become the defacto insignificant amount of time? The number of phone calls, emails and voice mails I receive asking me for “just 15 minutes” has increased at an alarming rate in 2010. Trust me, in far less than 15 minutes, I will know whether or not I am interested in your product.
I don’t respond to spam, but I am a pretty nice customer. I try to not be rude, I respond to legitimate email inquires and I will explain why we don’t need, or can’t afford a product / service; occasionally, I even buy something. Like every person in the work-force, my time is valuable (I am getting paid while I talk to you); I work hard to not waste my company’s money. That includes not going to the store to buy something you can sell me over the phone, not reminding you of the information you have collected in the past and not giving you 15 minutes of my time so you can ratchet me to the next step in your sales program.