Saying I am not musically and theatrically gifted is the understatement of the century, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize an exceptional performance when I see one. I was lucky enough to attend Hamilton in Chicago a few weeks back (probably around the time I was supposed to have this blog done for my marketing team), and the show was so good I ended up buying the soundtrack on the way home.
So Monday night I’m driving home from work, listening to Hamilton, with a blog deadline (two weeks past due) and contemplating what to write about on the not-so-riveting, but highly useful subject of Vendor Management. When suddenly, the infamous Aaron Burr gave me the epiphany I’d been waiting for:
Alexander Hamilton: Congrats to you Lieutenant Colonel, I wish I had your command instead of manning George’s (Washington) Journal
Aaron Burr: No You Don’t
Alexander Hamilton: Yes I Do
Aaron Burr: Now be Sensible, I’ve heard you’ve made yourself INDISPENSABLE
If you want to give it a listen, fast-forward to about 1 minute in.
And becoming INDISPENSABLE is the absolute key to success in a rapidly commoditizing Managed Services space. Just as Alexander was the point of correspondence/secretary for George Washington, you as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) are providing a service that is at times perceived as easily replicated by those around you.
How then do you become INDISPENSABLE?
Strong MSPs are notorious for simplifying all aspects of IT. Forward-thinking MSPs aggregate the hardware, software and all services into a monthly payment, and become a fully outsourced IT department.
It is the Solution Providers with the strongest customer relationships who take it one step further and implement Vendor Management for their customers. This essentially makes you the point person for all of the other technologies you don’t necessarily provide or directly service.
What is Vendor Management?
A typical business has so many different technologies on their network, from their IT, to their line of business applications (LoB), their copiers, their phone systems, and now even lighting and energy conservations products. If you provide true Vendor Management then all the issues with those technologies are funneled to your help desk first and you provide predictable, top-level service, with a single point of contact. YOU are responsible for communicating with the providers of the technology to resolve the issues becoming the one throat to choke that makes life so much easier for the clients.
How Vendor Management Looks in Practice
The most common form of Vendor Management services comes with LoB applications. Let’s say your client is operating QuickBooks, and they are having a problem creating invoices. In the past, the Accounting Department would call QuickBooks to resolve issue. They’d get placed on hold until QuickBooks could find a technician, and wait (im)patiently until they were back up and running.
Under Vendor Management, instead of the Accounting Department calling QuickBooks, they would open a help desk ticket, and your help desk would call QuickBooks to resolve the issue on their behalf.
Questions to Ask Yourself?
Vendor Management seems a small kindness, but can be the difference between keeping that $3500 a month contract for 10 years instead of 3.
Outside the obvious of saving your customer large amounts of time (ROI) and immediate frustration, how else does Vendor Management truly impact your relationship with the customer?
- If all these things are on the network, and you are responsible for said network…even if it isn’t your fault, who will take the blame?
- Do you truly feel your customer’s other vendors will provide (or have the financial incentive to) the same type of experience you will?
- How much of a relief is it for your customers to have ONE phone number to call to get top-notch service every time?
- If you successfully implement Vendor Management, the knowledge of your customer’s business and challenges will be so deep, it will be more difficult for a competitor unseat you.
Think on that last point for a minute. You’ve made yourself INDISPENSIBLE. In Hamilton, later in the play, Alexander was sent home from the war to be with his wife at the birth of his child and things went south quickly. A whole song was dedicated to George Washington “getting his right-hand man back” in order to finish the war victorious. Similarly, on that rare occasion your customers are foolish enough to leave you, how quickly will they realize what they have lost? They cannot survive without you. Congratulations, you are no longer a commodity!
And for those of you who say this will take too much time, effort, and cost to implement successfully, you’ll have plenty of company while failing to differentiate yourself.
Do yourself two favors. First, if you are not providing Vendor Management, be sensible…create an attack plan and begin. If you don’t have the foggiest idea on where to start, GreatAmerica can direct you to Peer Groups and resources to help. Second, go see Hamilton. You won’t regret either decision.
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