Friday, February 26, 2010

Winter Keeps Coming Back, Like Customers

January was busy, February was like the snow storms, problems dumped on us and no matter what we did, more kept coming.

Oddly enough they all also went away as fast as they came.

When you think you have reached the end, there is no end in sight sometimes.

Products need fixing, patching, servers need rebooting, routers need replacing and if companies are hiring again they need licenses, computers, telephones and office furniture.

Who is doing this for your clients? If it isn't you, does it bother you? What could you do to change this?

At some point a network can not really run based on one person knowing it all or owning it all. It just leads to a very long delay in anything ever getting accomplished.

So how do you get out of this rut? Hire temporary employees? No, they take your knowledge and leave.
Hire more permanent staff? Perhaps
Find a local business to work with? Hopefully but not always likely in every situation.
Bring in a Business Partner? Preferred

Why a Business Partner?

Because IBM, HP or whatever the company is really is not designed to help every customer based on size or location. However, they all have business partners which are trained, experienced and ready and willing to help you....but you never call.

Is a Business Partner more expensive than a temporary employee? Sometimes
Is the BP going to be cheaper than the original vendor company? Always
Will the BP get the project done correctly or manage expectations appropriately? Usually, no one is perfect and we all have had situations that were not so rosy. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
What if the BP doesn't do X,Y or Z? They should have in their organization other vendors to work with to accommodate your needs. Admittedly some requests are way out of scope but most are well within a domain of people they know and trust.

If you need electrical work done do you call a plumber? No, and neither should you ask your local PC support people to fix your infrastructure, unless they have a corporate/server division or can recommend one for you.

Yet many times we hear on our client sales calls how:
the vendor sold us their product and then we never heard from them again and when we had problems we couldn't get help so we bought a new product and moved on.

Not always in such nice terms of course, but this is no different if you sell cars, tax services, computers or televisions.

Some people say "we will call you when we need you".
But if you leave it at that, you may never have any other business. Or worse, for you, your competitors may get that business.

Sometimes you do need to have some space between contacts as part of the normal business schedule. It's hard, but stay on target, gentle reminders via phone, email, IM or Twitter, etc will get some answers. And if you aren't asking for business, you aren't receiving any business either.

Today it's cold weather, tomorrow will be warmer, then cold again next week (I live in South Florida after all) and customers always need help. Sometimes when the power is out or just restored is the best time to call them and lend a hand, honestly help them if possible and work with them even if it causes you some logistical issues.

You can't help everyone all the time and sometimes it may seem like no matter what, you can't find any business, other times business finds you based on the effort you made upfront.

So think about how to bring your customers back before they need you or look elsewhere for their help. It may be as simple as a phone call once a month but make the time, do it right and keep them coming back for more.

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