Magazine Article | July 2, 2018

Get Proactive About Client Care

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

Don’t call us, we’ll call you.  It’s a common phrase that connotes rejection, suggesting to a pursuer of information that time spent waiting by the phone is likely time ill-spent. In certain contexts, however, don’t call us, we’ll call you is a positive phrase that connotes proactivity and exemplary customer care.  One such context is the business of provisioning manufacturers’ products and services, as VARs and MSPs do.

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes.  Buying IT infrastructure and managed services comes with a hefty price tag.  It’s a serious investment with serious implications. When you pay a lot for something that matters a lot, you enter into the transaction with expectations of a certain level of service beyond contracted warranties and SLAs.  This is a paradigm not limited to B2B products and services.

I recently made a significant consumer purchase. Shortly after the purchase, I received a customer satisfaction survey from the manufacturer.  Ninety percent of the survey inquired about my experience with the dealer, which was exemplary of a satisfying experience. Ten percent of the survey inquired about my experience with the product itself, which was far from satisfying.  It had required multiple, inconvenient returns to the dealer for warranty work.

I answered the survey honestly and the manufacturer responded.  No response would have been better than the one I received.

“We are contacting you in receipt of the survey submitted. You have denoted a low score in one or more area(s) of your survey that we would like to discuss further if you wish ... If you should still have items pending, please feel free to reach out to us.” 

The company’s response to a troubled customer was effectively, “Hey, seems you’re unhappy with your purchase. We’d like to talk about it, but only if you want to talk about it, so call us if you do.” 

Let’s put this in the perspective of the client care you deliver as a provider of technologies and services.  There are a number of considerations to unpack here.  Most importantly, how much confidence do you have in the quality of the vendor products you’re supporting, and how much confidence do those vendors have in you?

The aforementioned customer satisfaction survey from the manufacturer felt a bit like an inquisition into the dealer’s performance, as though the manufacturer was looking for a reason to somehow exercise its authority over — or justify its confidence in — the dealership. As the end user of the manufacturer’s product and the dealer’s service and support, I felt compelled to defend the dealer, who entertained the front line of my dissatisfaction and got a raw deal on the warranty work.

In the channel, the parallel situation is exacerbated because there’s typically little to no direct end-user access to the manufacturer.  The VAR or MSP bears the brunt of customer dissatisfaction with vendor products almost completely.  The deal gets even more raw when they swallow expenses associated with warranty and service work.

The relationship between service providers and hardware or application manufacturers requires more consistent consultation and interaction between both parties than it ever has, and that’s driven by the end user’s demand.  Vendors and service providers are in it together, in good times and bad.  When problems arise, neither should put the onus on end users to seek out a resolution. Automation and the elimination of ad hoc inefficiencies are among the premises of managed services, after all.  You shouldn’t expect, nor want, customers to call you. But for the love of client care, call them.