Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about ITIL, focusing in on the technologies, strategies and processes that make up the IT organization. However, those are only part of the story. In order for an ITSM solution to truly bring value to the business, IT leaders and service vendors must establish a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship that drives measurable success for both parties from the moment services begin.
Makes sense right? However, all too often in IT, client/vendor relationships can quickly sour even just a few weeks after signing the agreement. Poor planning, rocky implementation, misalignment of scope and expectations, etc., often lead to contentious affairs that put a strain on staff resources, waste time and ultimately, fail to deliver the projected ROI to the business.
However, things don’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are plenty of things you can do to improve or maintain happy, healthy associations with your ITSM vendors. Here are just a few signs that correlate with a successful client/vendor relationship in IT.
1. Responsiveness One of the most common questions we hear from the IT leaders we talk to regarding their IT vendor relationships is, “just how responsive are they to our needs?” Whether its providing full-detailed notes from the RFP stage, to proactive communication and planning in the implementation phase, to staying on top of operations and always being there to make sure that the application or service is functioning the way it’s supposed to. Being responsive in both communication and action shows commitment to the customer, which leads right into the next point.
2. Trust and Credibility This is a big one. One of the telltale signs of a great relationship between ITSM tool vendors and customers is the amount of trust built up among the various departments and their faith in both support and services. Providing a great product is important, but in the age of Software as a Service, providing great support and maintaining that product over time is just as imperative, if not more so, to the customer.
This is especially true for ITSM tool vendors. For most industries, the service desk is necessary, but ultimately isn’t a revenue driver for the business. So, those leading IT organizations have an obligation to choose a solution that will help to keep overhead costs low and ticket volume to a minimum. Once they invest in a new tool, it can be very difficult to migrate over to something new if problems arise. So part of that investment must be allocated toward the trust in the vendor to be responsive, keep costs low, and be willing to align and customize the solution in a timely fashion, without causing gaps in ongoing services.
3.Transparency and Expectations
This is one that can make or break a client/vendor relationship. We already talked about building trust, and one of the stepping stones to building that bond is the amount of transparency the vendor provides right off the bat. It’s so important for a vendor to be proactive, and set clearly defined expectations and goals right around the time discussions for implementation begin. At this point in the customer journey, the client should be on board with the tool solution, and their questions around their RFP requirements should have been answered.
It is now up to the vendor to lay down some key action items:
- Lay down the implementation roadmap and timeline for services to be introduced into the organization
- Set a plan in motion for the migration of user data into the database(s)
- Establish key processes and manage expectations around customizations and workflows
- Establish KPIs and metrics that will measure success
- Set key goals that align with requirements set in the RFP (i.e. reduce ticket volume by 30%, increase self-service engagement among end-users by 18% in Q2, etc.)
A completely transparent partnership between both parties will help to build trust as neither side will feel cheated, mismanaged or abused. However, for this transparency to be established the correct way, the next point is vital.
4. Excellent Communication
Communication is the cornerstone of any great relationship. Whether in business, a marriage, familial, etc., you’re not going to have a happy partnership unless both parties feel they can talk to each other openly and honestly. Without a regular channel of communication, deadlines can be missed, work expectations may shift causing mismanagement of ongoing project milestones, action items may get neglected, and those building blocks of trust will start to deteriorate.
It’s important for account managers, support technicians and product specialists working on the vendor side to regularly engage with their clients. They should give them regular, ongoing feedback, notes about changes to process/technologies, new features on the horizon, or just check in to see how things are going. The more engagement a client gets, the more he or she feels like the vendor values their business and is treated like a VIP customer.
5. They Care
In my opinion, this should be rule #1 for any service desk vendor that practices excellent customer service. They should genuinely care about helping their customers succeed and have the passion to back up the services they provide. Demonstrating this passion will not only lead to positive client/vendor relationships, but it will help to build highly-engaged, champions of the product who may invest in new upgrades and give testimonials or referrals to their colleagues. What we’ve learned in our time in this business is that if customers are happy, they want to see their vendors succeed. The practice of sharing success is mutually beneficial and can only lead both parties to bigger and better things.
These are just a few indicators of a happy, healthy client/vendor relationship in ITSM. Do you have any stories or anecdotes to add? Feel free to drop a comment below!