Access is a technology company. More simply, we create eforms and esignature software, sell it, implement it, and then we support it. My primary function has been selling our technology to customers. Through the years, I’ve been involved in countless situations where a prospective customer evaluated our solutions against competitors’ offerings. After all that exposure to the “technology sales process,” I’ve noticed a very interesting paradox: Technologies are intensely evaluated. Vendor relationships are not.
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s quite simple. Technology is scrutinized, studied, dissected. We fill out RFPs that rival “War and Peace” in length. We demonstrate the technology onsite, coordinate reference calls, and sometimes überskeptical customers require a proof-of-concept experiment.
That’s great, and certainly if you’re spending resources on acquiring technology, you should take a hard look at the solutions. Do that, do it thoroughly, and do it EVERY time!
What happens after you make the purchase? Better asked, “What happens when something does not go as planned,” which happens 100 percent of the time? I don’t care how good the technology is, no implementation is perfect (largely because humans are involved). That’s when reality sets in, and instead of just working with technology, you start to work with people.
I’m talking about real human-to-human interactions, and sometimes there are emotions involved. When this happens, as the cool kids say, things get REAL. When you have an issue with this amazing technology that you vetted, you quickly find out the true value of a vendor relationship. In other words, do they simply continue to be a “vendor” by apathetically putting you into a queue, making you wait, and dealing with you on their lackadaisical terms? Or does that vendor cross a line, do something special, and actually become a “partner?”
Want to hear what a CIO has to say about picking an eforms and esignatures vendor?
San Juan Regional Medical Center discusses their decision to rip and replace their first solution.
We all have experiences on both sides. Take the cable company, for example. You’ve stayed on the line listening to someone read a script (Yes, I’ve freaking reset the box four times before calling!), then you get transferred a couple of times, finally to get an appointment where they say they’ll meet you at your home (you know what’s coming) from Tuesday at 10 a.m. to Friday at 3:35 p.m.
Alternatively, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a special vendor that actually treats you like a human being. They listen empathetically to your issue, they apologize for your troubles, and then they work relentlessly to resolve that issue. At that point, the vendor becomes an actual “partner,” and the value of the vendor AND technology are exponentially greater than just the technology. Furthermore, the customer knows they can trust that partner, and the relationship grows from there.
That’s how it should work! That’s why at Access we have one simple principle—we want to be your favorite partner to work with. That’s it. It’s the North Star that guides every action we take.
The question I’ll leave you with is this. As you evaluate a technology, how are you able to evaluate not just the bits and bytes of the tech, but the heart and soul of the company?
Remember the RFPs I mentioned earlier? I’ve seen sections that ask for references. How are you going to approach those references (that the vendor can prep) so that you actually gain insight into how they deal with problems? Do you call the references or just send them a passing email? Also, in all of my years, I’ve NEVER been asked this question:
QUESTION: Please describe a few times when things have gone wrong—something happened and your customer had a significant issue. How did you help them overcome it?
If the vendor says that’s never occurred, then RUN FORREST RUN!
Consider the following graph that I quickly sketched on the back of my airline ticket as I was waiting on a flight. Does it somewhat represent your own experiences? Remember, it’s not a question of IF something will go wrong, but WHEN will something go wrong. And when it does, will the vendor you selected turn into a partner, or will they become the cable company in your vendor list portfolio?