Many associations struggle with the relationship they have with their software vendor. There are many reasons for this, but a primary one is expectations. Too often, associations expect immediate response from their vendors, and perhaps more importantly, they expect immediate resolution to their problems.
Rob Gates of SHRM recently posted the following note to the TMA Resources users group forum, and with his permission, I'm re-posting his thoughts. (Thank you, Rob.)
Rob was responding to a question about how quickly TMAR responds to customer issues. I think Rob has hit it right on the head with his thoughts about how to work with your AMS vendor. (Note: I've edited his post for clarity.)
While the initial response and the resources devoted by TMAR to fix our issues has almost always been at a reasonable level, the actual resolution times have at times been much longer than one would hope. We have a high level of complexity in our setups and operation which has made resolving issues a lot more complicated than for many customers. So while TMAR has responded quickly, that doesn't mean issues have been resolved quickly.
What has been very helpful for us has been maintaining very strong lines of communication with our account rep – adjusting priorities, working together to resolve things, negotiating workarounds, etc. Also, being thorough in your issue reporting speeds things up – providing specific examples of the issue, details of screen names or tables affected, patterns you've identified, processes involved, details on any environmental changes, etc. The more information provided up front, the less time will be spent going back and forth to gather than information. We've also often had faster responses on workarounds than on actual solutions – and if your organization can be comfortable with workarounds (scheduled data correction scripts, etc) and more patient for root cause fixes, that will make life smoother for your customer service experience. Finally, being fair and balanced in your rating of issues helps. Labeling every issue you report as critical or catastrophic when they may not really be such in the bigger picture makes it hard for them to know when an issue really *is* critical or catastrophic.
Rob highlights some important points, including:
Long-term success with your AMS is in very high degree dependent upon a positive relationship with your AMS vendor. Rob's tips are worth serious consideration.
“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”
“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”
Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan
“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”
Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance