If you are reading this, chances are you are outsourcing some part of your technology investments to a third party support provider. You’ve already done all the research on the pros and cons of working in this regard and, for you, the pros outweigh the cons. Congratulations on making this leap of faith and trusting someone other than yourself to properly manage and maintain something on your behalf. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship!
Or is it?
In any long-term relationship, it takes all involved parties to proactively invest time and energy into making it work. If they don’t nurture and care for the relationship, it will soon wither and die. It is no different when working with a support provider. Both parties should be proactively working on keeping the relationship healthy and thriving. You’ll hopefully be working with them for a long time so why not be intentional, and invest yourselves in the relationship; and expect them to do the same.
As the VP of Delivery and General Manager of the Growth & Support group at Phase2, I am responsible for overseeing the support, maintenance, and growth of our clients’ custom products. Through my experience, I’ve noticed that the best client/support provider relationships require a real investment in time and energy to nurture the long term partnership. These 5 tips for working with a support provider will ultimately help you develop the ideal client/support relationship, turning that vendor into a true partner:
1. Support partners should absolutely care about you as a client
While it may sound cliche, support partners should care about you as a client and as a person. Without you, they wouldn’t be in business. Without you, they wouldn’t exist. You are absolutely the most important thing in their professional lives. If you are thinking to yourself, “Uh…my vendor certainly doesn’t care for us as a client.” then I would say that something is fundamentally wrong, and you need a heart-to-heart conversation with them.
2. Recognize you hired them because they are the experts
The reason you outsourced support work is because you needed an expert to ensure that your technology investment was well-cared for. You chose a specific company and did the due diligence to select them for their overall value. Your provider should be an industry-specialist and should be spending considerable time and energy ensuring they are staffed with the best and brightest in the field and are knowledgeable on all the latest technology trends. If you have your own internal technology staff, there will come a time where you will have differing opinions with their suggestions, approach, etc.
3. Meet them in the middle
Technology support partners value clients who will meet them in the middle when a difficult situation arises or when a clash of knowledge occurs. When something does go unexpectedly, know that it didn’t happen out of malice, laziness, or disregard for your technology investment. Good partners are people too and they will occasionally make mistakes. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, and meeting them in the middle, will work wonders for your relationship.
4. Understand the difficulties in planning for the unknown
A true technology support partner should do everything they can to react to your changing needs. While all efforts should be made to plan support activities proactively, it is inevitable that unexpected events will occur. A good partner will do everything they can to respond and react accordingly, including making constant adjustments to their own schedules and resources. Having an understanding for the difficulties in executing in this manner will go a long way in creating a better partnership.
5. Work along side, not across, from them
The best type of client/support partner relationships are the ones who sit “next” to each other at the conference table, not “across” from them. This is more of an attitude or behavior and is hard to quantify. Yes, you are absolutely paying for a service, but the best way to work with your technology partner is collaboratively, not transactionally. They will always work harder for you if you treat them as a partner and not as a vendor. Always.
Now that you’ve partnered with your support vendor, here are some tips to help you kick every project off on the right foot.