Dear IT Director,
One of my long-term vendors messed up last week, and we are dealing with the fallout. They know my company really well and I don’t want to look for a different vendor.
Angry in Akron
I feel your pain. Anyone that uses vendors has dealt with this problem. One of their people makes a mistake that causes extra work for your team. They push a problem into production that impacts your users. They build something that requires rework that blows your budget and schedule. They supply a person who just isn’t up to the normal skill level.
There are a few things we can do when this happens, and, yes, one of those options is finding a new vendor. Let’s walk through them.
One thing we need to keep in mind is the inevitability of this problem. If you use vendors for any length of time, this will happen. It might happen on the first engagement, it might happen on the tenth. If you have used a vendor for years and they never made a mistake, congratulations, you won the vendor lottery.
Generally, I try to treat vendors well. By understanding how they make their profit and the challenges they face, we can understand what is important to them. Having a win/win relationship with vendors works better than being adversaries. The better the relationship with the vendor, the better they respond when something goes wrong.
So what are our options when our vendor screws up?
- Shrug our shoulders and move on.
- A simple example is when we buy software from a vendor, and the relationship is very transactional. If there is a bug or a change that causes us problems, we may not be able to do much about it. Think Microsoft, Adobe, etc. We can report the problem but chances are nothing will happen, at least not immediately.
- Find another vendor.
- This is a big step and often options are limited. If we are buying a commodity (windows computers, report writing consultants, etc.), it may be easier to switch.
- Have a conversation about expectations.
- I find that this is usually the best route. Keep an open line to your account manager. Send an email about the situation, the impact, and how disappointing it is. Be flexible on acceptable fixes, keeping in mind what is important to them. Make sure that they understand the ripple effect on your organization.
How the vendor responds to the mistake is a big driver on how we handle the mistake. If you have a good relationship with a vendor, they will probably work to make things right.
Mistakes happen, what matters is what happens next.
If your vendor makes a sincere effort to fix things and generally has been a good vendor for you, stick with them. If not, well, curating your vendor list is part of the job. Whichever you do, make sure you have your eyes on the big picture.
Good Luck Angry,
The IT Director
If you would like to ask a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.