CollaborationIn another era, I ran my own business selling software on eBay. As the business grew my staff and I developed our own system for managing auctions and payments, and fulfilling orders involving Excel spreadsheets and an MS Access database. It wasn’t totally manual but it eventually became rate-limiting. As it was still early days for eBay developers began popping up in the community offering management platforms designed specifically for sellers. One day I was approached one such developer that seemed to have the answer to my challenges. They gave me a demo, showed me case studies, provided references, and promised training, educational resources and technical support. Despite the price tag which made me feel a little sick, it all looked and sounded great, so I signed a contract and proceeded with implementation and the promise of success.

What followed was many long weeks of trying to get it the application to work the way I needed it to. The vendor’s support team, despite claims to the contrary, was not generally available. A training session happened with a person who didn’t seem very interested or very knowledgeable when he had to go off his script. My staff were unhappy and reluctant to use the new system because they had to adapt procedures to fit the new tool. Ultimately, to keep my business going, I had to revert back to the same manual system I had used before. I canceled my subscription as soon as I could and left that dud behind but not without significant investment in dollars and time.

About 6 months later, I went on the hunt for a different vendor for a similar type of solution and found one based on the recommendation of a fellow seller. The pre-sale process was much different and they took the time to understand my business, and what I wanted to accomplish.

They offered a solution that was a good fit for my operation at that time, and that had room for growth and change. They provided comprehensive training for me and my staff, and had an inspiring library of self-help resources. When things went wrong, their Support team was available and committed to resolving it in a timely manner. And so began a partnership that lasted until the business came to a close many years later.

At least I was able to learn a couple of things from that first experience. First, I should have recognized that if I had to change my process to use their product, it probably wasn’t the right fit. Turns out there were indicators but the vendor didn’t make the recommendations and I didn’t know to ask. Second, I learned that the quality of the vendor has as much to do with the potential for success as the quality of the product and that pre-sale support is just as important as post-sale.

Jump ahead to the present and I can offer you these pieces of advice when searching for a video collaboration partner, or an IT partner in general:

1. Find one that seeks to understand your objectives, uses and priorities to ensure that the solution is the right one. A video vendor in particular should take the time to understand how plan to use video and should propose a solution that enables your organization now and in the future.

2. The solution should match the resources you have available in terms of people and existing infrastructure. It’s the whole round hole, square peg thing.

3. You need to know who to call when things go wrong. If you can count on a crack team that always answers the call, minor technology issues won’t be a barrier. You’ll get the ROI you were promised for your investment and all will be right in the world.

In my current capacity, providing marketing support for Telemerge’s Channel Partners I have been fortunate to work extensively with several of the Long View Team from various parts of the organization. It’s clear that a commitment to getting it right for customers (before and after the contract is signed) is a value upheld at every level and that customer satisfaction and success are part of everybody’s job.

A service provider that’s as interested in my success as I am, and ready to help when I need it? Now that’s a good partner, indeed.

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