3qtr2003 - Ask the Coach: Better Vendor Management
Question: I can't seem to get my vendor contacts to help me when I really need them to. Can you offer any suggestions?
Answer: During my tenure in the wacky world of telecommunications, there were times when I really needed my vendor contacts to drop what they were doing and give me their full, undivided attention and assistance. It wasn't that I was some ego-crazed customer (well maybe it was!) just wanting to make someone jump through hoops for a laugh. No, there was a systems outage, or a service failure, or some major scheduling problem that needed IMMEDIATE attention, no ifs, ands, or buts.
The way I'd train my newer contacts was to ask them one simple question: "Is it that you don't WANT to help me or you don't know HOW to help me?" It was amazing how clarifying the question could be because, "If you don't WANT to help me," I'd continue in the most respectful of tones I could muster, "then get me your boss so I can get someone on this account who WILL. But if you don't know HOW to help me, then let's talk to your boss TOGETHER so we can get you the resources and support you need to clean this mess up ASAP." Interestingly, I only needed to use this approach one time per person, if that much. I think it helps when people know the choices.