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A successful service depends on the relationship between customer and provider

Jun 02, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Service provider promises vs. your expectations

Depending on whether or not you’re an optimist, the promises of technology developments and the promises that service providers offer will either excite you or draw out your deepest skepticism. During the past few weeks while visiting NetWorld+Interop and a large organization that is in the process of deploying a security platform for its wireless infrastructure, I was once again reminded of the challenge of filtering through promises to uncover the reality.

One of the truisms of technology is that virtually anything that can be conceived can be implemented given enough time and resources. So promises often seem to demonstrate that the desired outcome is within reach with the provider’s help. The role of the sales staff is to understand your needs and to communicate how their product or service addresses those. The issue occurs when the promises go beyond what is possible with the product or service in order to win the sale. But, the issue is often two-sided.

When we are purchasing a product or service, should we expect to find a product that is exactly what we seek? In the IT world, it is usually the case that products solve our problems and address our needs reasonably well, but may do so in a different way than we had planned or may lack a few of the specific features that we wanted. However, through our experience of the possibilities of technology, we tend to expect to receive exactly what we want from our technology providers. As a result, relationships between customers and providers are often strained from the very beginning.

The impetus for addressing this early and working through the issues actually falls on both parties. Customers might consider that an excellent relationship with a service provider is likely of higher value over the long-term than a product or service that addresses the needs as currently understood.

Similarly, service providers may find that constructing the relationship on the basis of service and support while addressing the key needs will create appropriate expectations and give the relationship with their new customer time to solidify before challenges present themselves.

In the end, the best business relationships are built as relationships between people and organizations working together to accomplish common goals and recognize that the goals of the constituents can create a symbiosis that drives long-term success for everyone.

I suspect at this point you will either consider this to be obvious or think that the development of such a relationship isn’t possible. Given the dichotomy of reactions to the construction of such relationships, communicating early and often about both setting appropriate expectations and building long-term relationships may be valuable.

This may be even more vital in the development of relationships between service providers and their customers. The relationship is often conceived as a long-term one, and setting expectations clearly and realistically is the first key to success.

The second key is for customers to understand the value of the relationships long-term and accept some limitations in the near-term in order to capture the highest strategic value from the services. We all know that it is much easier to get new services or changes from a provider with whom you have a good relationship.

Suggesting up front that the two parties work together to develop a mutually trusting and open relationship can go a long way towards ensuring successful implementations and the value that all of us seek in a service relationship. Let’s be the ones who work towards this mutual benefit and see the positive results for ourselves in the process.