The customer is represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the partners and the suppliers.

April 11, 2018

5 Min Read


C.P. McGrowl

By C.P. McGrowl, Chief Channel Curmudgeon

Gary Vaynerchuk, a serial entrepreneur and CEO, and author of The Hustler’s Digest newsletter, has a great line he uses about how crazy it is for people to do business one way, and then, as consumers, expect to be treated in a completely different way. It’s just common sense: Sell unto others as you would have them sell unto you.

Still, even with as much sales and marketing advice as our industry consumes, we don’t seem to learn. Have you seen the Net Promoter scores for our biggest suppliers?

Sometimes, you can break through. This author once wrote these lines in a complaint to a Fortune 100 telecom company I had a billing problem with: “Aren’t you consumers also? Have you EVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH A LARGE FACELESS CORPORATION THAT PROMISES TO FIX SOMETHING AND DOESN’T? You’re humans … right?”

Amazingly, they fixed the problem the next day. Still, for every tale of redemption, there are 8 million stories in the naked city that don’t end nearly so well.

Here’s one, delivered for your consideration as a case log of my first experience with a supplier’s “managed support” SD-WAN service. The value proposition for me was that the company promised to manage, as a third-party, other suppliers’ internet connections. Anyone who’s tried to wrangle a bunch of constituent SD-WAN connections will immediately see the appeal. This is a well-respected company with smart people, so I thought, “Let’s try it out. They’ve got the resources, scale and ability to deliver.”

This is their story.

Case log: Received an email telling me the SD-WAN was non-responsive at a customer’s site. It’s a single link, a decision based on price. I asked the customer to power-cycle their equipment. You know how people love to hear, “Did you try turning it off then turning it back on again?”

This is a big, important customer, so the problem had my full attention. (Case note: Yes, of course, all my customers are important, point taken.)

Meanwhile, the supplier sent an email to the customer and me asking, “Hey, does your site have power? Because we noticed your SD-WAN stopped responding … ”

(Case note: Yes, it would have made more sense for them to have instead called the site directly to verify if it had power.)

Anyway, I immediately called the supplier myself and, to its credit, a tech answered on the first ring. I explained why I was calling and asked, “Did you contact the service provider to verify service before sending an email about power?”

His answer: “No, we just assumed the power went out.”

To be clear: This customer is paying a premium for proactive third-party support, and this is Step 1 of the as-advertised process: Open a ticket with the internet supplier to confirm if service is working.

(Case note: Starting to think the customer should have spent the money on a redundant link instead.) 

Next step, I asked the tech, “Would you please call the internet supplier and check to see if there is a problem?” Not adding: “As your contract states you will.”

Spoiler alert: There was a KNOWN AREA OUTAGE affecting multiple customers.

The tech called me back a few minutes later: “AT&T says …

… there is a problem in the area, and I opened a ticket with them to work on it.”

Spoiler alert: AT&T is not the customer’s internet provider.

I told the tech that the problem isn’t with AT&T, and he replied: “Huh. Odd. That’s what the computer says.”

My obvious response was, “How do you put in a ticket with a company if they don’t service the site?”

Cue the crickets.

I had to provide him with the correct info — making it the third time I’d given the company this information. It got the data during provisioning, again during install because someone didn’t update the records correctly, and now.

Meanwhile, back at the customer site, because of that “check your power” email, the customer had wasted an hour with its tech team member power-cycling and checking gear. Now the very angry CEO is texting me.

Eventually, the SD-WAN service came back up on its own. That angry CEO is now buying additional backup links for his offices, but he’ll never forget the poor service he received from his former third-party, premium SD-WAN service supplier.

Case log conclusion: This was an easily avoidable situation, but the supplier is still thinking and acting like a telecom company – “We stop at the MPOE sir; it must be a problem with your equipment” – instead of behaving like a managed service provider that has to get its hands dirty, sometimes down to the single-user level.

Being a successful managed- or digital-service provider is a very different business from being a telephone company. The irony is that if this company had simply followed the processes that it promotes in its own marketing, my customer would not have been a former customer.

Remember: Sell and deliver unto others as you would have them sell and deliver unto you.

C.P. McGrowl, chief channel curmudgeon, is a recurring feature on Channel Partners. Since 2018, a rotating cast of characters have used this space to vent about what’s sticking in their craw. The Channel Partners editorial staff pledges to protect the identity(s) of C.P. McGrowl, up to and including a night or two in jail on contempt of court charges. Heck, that would add to their journalist cred. Bring it, DOJ.

Got something to say? Email the editior, and tell her McGrowl sent you.

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