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January 25, 2016

Four ways to stay happy with your software vendor, for now

Software vendor, INTIX conference 2016

A shot from the floor of INTIX, the 2016 International Ticketing Conference.

My phone rang from across the room. I caught it right before it sent Carrie, one of my clients, to voicemail. “Hey, Ron — do you know a good fundraising system that actually returns calls? I’m sick of mine.”

I get this type of call a lot.

Sure, I know a lot of good systems. It’s one of the things we do. Some have great customer service. Others, not so much. Each system has strengths and weaknesses, and there is a “right one for me” for every client.

Changing to a system that is a better fit is always an option. But the switch isn’t going to happen overnight, and you need to get stuff done, now.

Have you given up on your vendor being able to help you? Have you asked?

Just as in our personal relationships, we tend to drift away from those we don’t want to spend time with. We don’t want to be around unpleasant or frustrating things. I see it happen with clients and vendors all the time. But we’re not talking just about a bumpy relationship. At the moment, that vendor and that ticketing or CRM or fundraising software is the lifeblood of your organization. Without it, transactions will come to a grinding halt. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

Of course many software vendors have clients who love them, and who have been with them for years. That’s the ideal. But when things aren’t working, attitudes can crash real fast.

So if you feel that your vendor relationship is on the rocks — they aren’t getting back to you, their system is unmanageable, the cost is eating you alive — here are a few tips on how to keep going for right now. And if you play your cards right, for a good while longer.

Customer service is lacking.

The relationship started off great, and the customer service was amazing. But now that you’ve been with them for a while, response time is getting longer and longer. Document everything, and bring it up with your vendor rep. Tell him/her that you’re feeling unloved, and that you want some quality time on a regular schedule. If you’re not getting the response you want, take it up the food chain to a manager. Keep calm and state the facts, but be insistent, and very clear on exactly what you expect from them. Just don’t stay silent. That negativity you’re feeling is only going to get worse, so let’s get it out in the open.

The system doesn’t have the functionalities your organization needs.

People and organizations change. That’s perfectly normal. But maybe there is another way to do what you want to do. I like to focus on the goal, rather than the technique. Explain the end results you want to your vendor. There may be a way to do it in the current system. Ask if the feature you want is in development, and get a timeline for when it will be released. Document your conversation: who you talked to, and what they said, so you can reference it later. I don’t recommend storing these notes in your CRM. 🙂

Cost is too high.

Technology is supposed to get cheaper over time. If you feel like your rates keep getting increased, find out why. Ask around — what fees do other organizations near you pay? Document the differences and bring it up with your vendor. Really, they want you to be happy. If you’re about to leave and go somewhere else, you’d be surprised how much leverage you have.

You have more experience with another software system. 

If you have a lot of experience with a similar piece of software, the one you don’t know will always feel clunky. “But it was so EASY to run this report before!” Frustrating, I know. Does your vendor have a support network of other users you can ping on how to do things that are new to you? Is there free training (keyword: free… I believe you shouldn’t have to pay to be trained on how to use software you’re paying for). This one is often just about getting over your personal frustration. Again, focusing on what you want to accomplish and not how it is accomplished may allow the vendor to show you the right way to do it.

In the end, it’s all about keeping the lines of communication open, and being real with your feelings.

If none of the above tactics work and it is time to find a new system, give me a call.

I’ll make sure to catch you before you go to voicemail.

About Ron Evans

I am an arts marketing and consumer psychology researcher, and principal consultant at Group of Minds. I advise leaders on behavioral psychology, marketing & technology to nudge audience behavior. Get in touch via email, on Twitter, or Google+: +Ron Evans