Loyalty has its limits!

This week I finally quit using Internet Explorer and started using Chrome.  I finally got tired of all the problems I was having with IE simply deciding not to come up at all – just spins the icon and then stops with no errors in the Windows logs or anything else useful to track the problem down.  Google searches for a solution only reinforced the fact that others have the same problem and that Microsoft suggestions are useless.  Microsoft is big enough that they can deliver reliable software if they really want to.  They must think they simply don’t have to.  How many other companies act like that?

In itself, this isn’t a momentous event – just a change to a different browser.  In a larger context, though, it is so typical of software vendors who may spend a fortune acquiring a new client only to lose that same client some time later simply due to lack of attention or lack of responsiveness to even minor issues.  I have witnessed this in many vendors – not just a few.  With a little TLC and attention to detail, those vendors could keep their hard-fought-for clients and not lose them to the next pretty face.  Unfortunately, most clients I have seen simply move on to another vendor who does the same thing to them. What a shame.

I have always held the belief that by signing a contract, your client trusts you to provide a system that protects them and their business in some way.  When you don’t deliver, you can cause them real damage.  The damage is bad enough but the loss of integrity, loss of faith and trust, are inexcusable.  What I found over the years was that the clients that you take the best care of are the same clients that stick with you for years.  They ultimately provide you more profitable business than a new client that you spend many dollars courting.  This isn’t rocket science.  Why can’t vendors compete on quality and service?

Think about your major vendors.  Do they deliver what they promised to deliver before you signed the contract?  If you have a problem with the software, how soon it is resolved?  If you actually have SLA’s spelled out in the original contract, are they honored?  In the latest contracts I have worked with, the clients have added “liquidated damages” associated with SLA’s.  When I was in the software business, I would have hated that but what I am finding is that only companies who are afraid (or know) they won’t deliver (probably because they haven’t in the past) are really opposed of them if they are structured properly.

If you think that liquidated damages associated with SLA’s are too one-sided, a good solution is to make them work both ways.  That is, if the vendor fails, they pay or at least give up maintenance payments, but if the vendor exceeds the SLA’s they get rewarded financially.  It can be worked out.

While I am beating this horse, you should try to identify who your allies are among the vendor’s employees.  If you purposely maintain a good relationship with the technical staff, you might do better with them than trying to deal with people more interested in the next contract rather than yours.  In my experience, the technical people really want things to work and often fight for the rights of the clients even when they aren’t allowed to specifically say so to those same clients!  Most technical people I know and ever read about, complain constantly of being forced to release software before it is ready.  I’m not talking about just association software vendors either.

Anyway, it took me too long to finally change to Chrome.  I should have done it sooner.  Perhaps out of laziness I put up with the problems longer than I should.  Then again, I wasn’t paying huge maintenance fees every month either.  If you are, then don’t settle for anything less than what you were promised during your client-vendor courtship.