Last week, I wrote about customer service and why we (SharePoint/ECM/IT practitioners) should make it a priority. This week, I want to add a few thoughts to that argument from the customer point of view. I would suggest that if you don’t feel like reading this, then skip to the end, because after I turn this back to SharePoint, I have an announcement to make about something new on this blog.
In an earlier post on my personal blog, I ranted about how some things would end in 2012. I wasn’t trying to predict the future and I wasn’t reading the Mayan Calendar; I was simply announcing that I had reached a point where I could no longer tolerate certain behavior by services, marketers and vendors. Last week, something big changed at work, and I was both sad and proud to have made the decision to make the change. Without naming names, we dropped a vendor with whom we had once enjoyed a great relationship. Over the years, the vendor had moved from treating us like a good customer, to merely a customer to a revenue source and finally to a payable item; it was time to stop the bleeding.
I will point out that I wasn’t exactly suffering in silence with this vendor; I had complained numerous times, I had threatened to end this relationship and I had called every member of the account team that was handling our account. When I ignored the renewal invoice, I received an email chastising me for forgetting to pay for maintenance. I responded to that email by telling the maintenance service manager that I wasn’t sure we were going to renew the contract. I added a few of my reasons, let’s say enough to send the message that someone should call me. Instead of a phone call, I received another terse email and this time my boss was copied. Several days after the maintenance contract expired, I received an email from the Sales Manager asking if I wanted to talk about the changes they were making that he hoped would eliminate my problems – nope, too little, too late, color me gone.
Since I had been a customer of this company for over a decade, and since the sales manager did reach out to me, I felt he was entitled to an explanation. I didn’t really want to talk to him, but I wrote a lengthy (surprise) email detailing the history of our growing frustration. This is where I’m going to end the description of this saga and turn it back to SharePoint – your users aren’t going to be as considerate as I was. When your users get upset with you, your department, your solutions or your lack of attention to them, they are just as likely to move on without warning as they are to approach you for a discussion. I know of businesses around here that have fully licensed and provisioned SharePoint shops that are now also running a different ECM solution. I think just about every SharePoint professional knows of users that have gone off-grid and built their own SharePoint solutions, in fact some of you make a living supporting these rogue installations. From a customer point of view, customer service isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement.
I feel better after having severed a relationship with an inattentive vendor, but I feel better still knowing that most of the vendors that we have chosen to work with are flat-out great organizations. If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I have called some of these people out on occasion for special recognition. Today, I am launching my “Who we like and why we like them” page. It’s not the most beautiful bit of HTML, but if you have been reading for a while, you remember that “make it work, then make it pretty…” mantra of mine. I wanted to say this and I didn’t want to wait until I could make it pretty. Please take a look at the page, and if you need the services that these people, companies and organizations offer, consider using them.