1) Show true respect for your vendors. It does not matter if we are talking about the hot dog vendor, the dry cleaner or the manager of your company 401K program. If you are working with a representative at your vendor with whom you simply cannot "connect", respectfully ask for a new relationship. It is critically important that you have a person within your vendor relationship upon whom you can rely to help you when you need it. I recently posted a blog that applies to this concept. For example, our business relies on Indianapolis job openings and hiring trends and we need all of the local support we can get. Your vendor could potentially be your next customer or referral source. Be respectful of the services your vendors provide and the knowledge and potential influence that they have.
2) Be an educated user of their product or services – ask questions, look for answers on your own before reaching out for help, take the time to really understand the resource or service you are engaging so as not to waste time with peripheral conversations. Better yet, make intelligent suggestions about how they can improve their product or service based on your active use as a customer. You will maximize your vendor investment if you just take the time to be a mid-level or advanced user of their services vs always operating at a beginner level. (ie: is your computer not working because it is not plugged in?)
3) Dive deeper – gain as much of an expertise in their knowledge base as you can. Help them, help you. It is very likely that your contact person at your vendor knows a lot of things about not only the product or service that you use, but about how your competition is using it successfully. Not only that, but given that these are really human beings, they also have a lot of knowledge as a potential user of your own product or services. Talk to them about what they know about your industry, you will be amazed at the reciprocal input you can get.
4) Recognize the service that you receive…good or bad. Recognize good service with praise and bad service with constructive feedback. You win either way, most of the time. Most vendors are always seeking feedback on how they can improve their service to become more competitive in their industry. If you can provide feedback that is constructive and not destructive, you are helping them with their quality improvement initiatives.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to meet our database vendors in person. We are not one of their bigger clients, yet they took the time to dedicate resources to a personal introduction to their company to those of us who were new users. The owner of the company took the time to have a personal conversation with me around some ideas I had for how we use part of the product. We arrived with educated questions and ideas and we left with a much improved respect and understanding of the mutual benefits of the relationship. This is the same type of relationship we strive so hard to build with our customers at That’s Good HR as an Indianapolis staffing company. This is where our business goes from being routine to infinitely valuable for us and for our customers.