January madness that’s what we call it, the start of the new year heralds a run on prospective companies who feel compelled to test and benchmark their current supplier/vendor against customer service and price.
Speaking with a prospective customer about a payroll project, I didn’t hold back when I said what is it about UK companies and the month of January that compels them to undertake a review of their current supplier? Is it poor customer service?
Going to the marketplace, collecting proposals and quotes, wasting their valuable time, resources and the suppliers time not to mention time spent in gathering, collating often extensive detailed costings, background company and fiscal information.
I had to ask, ‘presumably your current supplier is coming up short on customer service, or is it something else, perhaps you’d be kind enough to elaborate for me’.
Er no, not quite it’s just that we are two years into a three year contractual relationship and we wanted to see if there is anything better or something we are not getting.
I sighed and thought, you’re kidding me right?
If the process had been documented and specified by the incumbent company in the first place the company would be secure in the knowledge that the market place had been thoroughly researched, the list had been narrowed down to a short-list of of potential providers, let’s say three.
Each one would have been invited for a discussion or even visited if the service warranted it.
The specification would have been agreed internally by the stakeholders prior to looking for suppliers so that costs submitted were accurate.
All KPI’s and deliverables would have been laid out at the point of specification making the final choice easier for the company to make comparisons with the others.
Leaving you safe in the knowledge that your final choice was the right one to deliver the service or solution for your company.
I know I’ve simplified what can often be a more detailed process into a couple of paragraphs but if the job has been done why do companies want to test what they have?
What really matters to customers is customer service or is there more?
The web makes doing business transparent, companies that are in the market for a new product, service or solution are likely to have visited your website and found the information they need about your company, quality and customer service.
They may have even made some tentative inquiries in regard to the service they are looking for.
This forms part of their list of potential suppliers.
Going back to the above interaction do companies really believe they can get something better for less?
That by somehow going out and benchmarking their existing supplier they will be able to get the same service for a lot less.
What do we all want and rarely get? Great customer service.
Why, because if your decision is based solely on price and price alone then you are dead in the water except where you are restricted by a budget in which case, the price is the prevailing factor on which your decision has to be based.
If you are confident in your current supplier and know you are getting the best service then surely this cost exercise is a waste of everyone’s time.
It’s a conundrum and one that I question when I’m talking to prospective customers.
What do they think is missing?
What do they believe they aren’t getting?
Do they think they can better the service they have already assuming they’ve done their research right?
As a current supplier, if you know you are delivering the best service is there any reason why you think your customer is evaluating the marketplace?
The analogy is a bit like buying a house, you may not be thinking of moving but if something gorgeous pops up on your radar and suddenly it becomes your dream home, then your perspective changes and you find yourself wanting to move.
If your company provides solutions or services then surely one of the primary objectives is to consistently deliver the best you can and seek to improve the service offering after all it’s the job of the company to make the customer aware of new innovations, updates and upgrades.
But I wonder if the reason many companies look elsewhere aside of the new year and new budgets is not because of poor customer service, or that the solution or product is the problem but good old fashioned business to business relationships based on human interaction is actually missing.
In an age of social online interactivity it is easy for companies to hide behind customer support and use social media as the way of helping the customer by answering complaints rather than good old fashioned face to face conversation.
By contributing to the customer directly whether on the phone or in person you are making them feel more important and valued and that you genuinely care about them.
The digital world can’t provide the human touch element.
So my question to those companies wanting to benchmark their current service or solution is ‘are you wanting to change simply because you are not being loved enough or aren’t there any incentives to continue with the service?’
Aside of poor execution and delivery.
In which case ask what it is you want or are looking for so that next time when you review your current service or solution you can ask the prospective supplier can you do this for me/can you deliver this for me?
That way you ensure you are getting the best out of the relationship.
As for the aforementioned customer who contacted us wanting a detailed proposal when I asked what they weren’t getting from their current supplier, the response was we just want to make sure we are getting the right service at the right price.
I rest my case.