Beware Vendors “Who Wing It”

A man is almost finished getting a haircut, and the barber holds up a mirror so he can see the back of his head. Before the man can say a word, the barber says, “Pay me.”

The customer is shocked. “Don’t you want to know how I like my haircut?”

“No,” says the barber.

This is no way to treat a customer. No business can operate effectively without useful feedback. Small problems turn into big ones. Mildly annoyed customers turn into furious ones. Revenues go down, down, down.

That’s why your company should never do business with vendors who fail to effectively measure their performance. Such an oversight is a warning sign of low standards, sloppy performance, and questionable value.

To avoid getting caught in this trap, you should ask your vendors to tell you specifically how they track and measure the quality of their products and services, and how they gather – and use – preferences that your company and employees share.

Don’t settle for “we conduct an annual survey”, or something to that effect. Most surveys are anonymous and responses do not benefit directly the people who filled them out.

Insist that there be a way for your feedback to directly impact the service you receive moving forward. For example, if you tell a vendor that a single department in your firm needs one-hour service response rather than their typical four-hour response, the vendor must be able to show you:

  • How they will deliver faster service to that one department
  • How they will ensure that all your other departments still receive the less expensive normal service

You don’t want to pay for more service than you need, and you don’t want to receive less service than you paid for. The only way to avoid such situations is to work with vendors who track their performance carefully and provide accurate reporting to you.

Well-run companies have solid management control systems, which is a fancy way of saying that managers know exactly what is happening on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Systems aren’t dreamed up out of thin air. They aren’t something a salesperson invents in response to your request for solid metrics. They either exist or are little more than a fictional invention. Just ask to see reports for the past few months, and you can smoke out imaginary processes.

Companies that “wing it” tend to be unreliable. You can wait six months to discover that a new vendor fits into this category, or you can skip that costly process altogether, simply by asking, “How will you track your ability to meet our needs?”

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