Working with your vendor

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:

  1. Communicating clearly to the vendor what the issue is, including providing specific examples, screenshots, patterns, etc.
  2. Being flexible enough to accept workarounds when necessary.
  3. Being far about what is critical vs. what is merely nice to have.

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.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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