Why Relationships with Your Tech Service Providers Might Be Waning

The pandemic may have negatively impacted relationships with critical technology partners. Here are some thoughts on why this has occurred and what can be done about it.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

December 14, 2021

4 Min Read
IT workers on virtual call with service providers
Kateryna Onyshchuk via Alamy Stock

Forming strong business relationships between technology service providers and enterprise customers in 2022 and beyond can get tricky without the right mindset. As businesses continue outsourcing more of their technology needs to various technology and service companies, customers must work to form a bond that, when necessary, can significantly improve the type and speed of service received. Let’s look at why these relationships are waning, the potential business impact, and some tips on how to rebuild them.

Days of Lunches and Outings Are Dwindling

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was common for technology vendors and service providers to get together for frequent lunches or outings to “talk shop” with their customers. Although these activities still happen from time to time, opportunities to get together in a face-to-face setting are indeed dwindling.

Due to a lack of in-person interaction with critical partners that help drive a business forward, IT leaders run the risk that a service provider will lose sight of your specific business needs and goals and begin looking at you as just another faceless client. If this happens, it can have a detrimental effect on the level of service provided and expectations of future partnership engagements in the future. Additionally, critical lines of communication may not be available to your business when rapid response from the service provider is needed.

Communications in Flux

Although COVID-19 and work-from-home (WFH) policies have been around for nearly two years, many IT decision makers continue to believe that the day will come where everyone comes back to work, and business relationships can be reformed and repaired quickly. However, as the days, weeks and months roll by, this scenario is looking less likely all the time.

If WFH policies are expected to remain for the foreseeable future, both parties should work to reestablish communications channels. However, this may take a bit of extra effort from the customer-side of the partnership as opposed to the service provider. The reason is that service providers are still trying to figure out how to best re-engage their customer base given these uncertain times we live in. What they’re likely finding is that the type of communications and methods used to communicate vary drastically from one customer to the next. Therefore, it may be prudent to help the provider proactively understand how they can best communicate and collaborate with your organization.

Use of Intra-Company Collaboration Tools

Over the past two years, the use of inter-company communications using enterprise-grade voice, video and team chat collaboration tools have kept teams and departments on the same page from a business goal perspective. What’s great is that these same tools can be leveraged for convenient and informal B2B communications with customers and their service providers. Collaboration tool vendors have been working hard to extend the reach of their products for use in cross-company situations.

Depending on the collaboration platform used within your organization and those of the service provider(s), cross-company collaboration channels can take the form of guest accounts, direct/open federations or cross-platform integrations where each party can collaborate using differing vendor collaboration platforms. Regardless of the desired cross-company integration strategy, conversations between the customer and service provider must be made to determine what is possible from a communications technology perspective on both sides.

Insist on Formal Interactions, Too

While creating an avenue for quick and informal communication between customers and external service providers is useful for rapid responses for day-to-day tasks, formal quarterly or semi-annual meetings should be established and put on calendars as well. Again, voice/video conferencing tools can be used for these types of meetings. However, keep in mind that there’s still tremendous value in face-to-face contact in terms of solidifying this partnership and truly understanding the needs, wants and limits of both parties. Regularly scheduled formal meetings should focus strictly on what has worked on the past as well as anticipated plans.

Again, this is a win-win situation for both sides as formal meetings can get to the heart of what the customer wants and what the service provider can deliver. Providers are always interested in understanding where their customers are headed from a technology and business standpoint. Collaborating using this type of road map information helps establish a shared set of goals between the two organizations.

Flexibility is Key in 2022 and Beyond

It’s safe to say that no one really knows what the business landscape will look like in 2022 and beyond. While the pandemic may indeed fade away at some point, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Because of this, it’s no longer wise to continue neglecting service provider partner relationships and assuming that bonds formed in the past will remain strong in the future. Instead, now is the time to come up with a handful of flexible communications strategies aimed at rebuilding those bonds. Doing so will help to restore business partner governance and lower the overall risk of miscommunications, misunderstandings and missed opportunities between organizations.

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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