Is Quality Service Disappearing?
This week I was with the top executives of a F500 firm. I listened in on a discussion regarding strategies for negotiating contracts for both new ERP software and a systems integrator. Before the meeting could get underway, these executives were still buzzing about the meeting they'd just completed with one of the finalist software vendors. That vendor said, in effect, that if the client wants a higher level of satisfaction with their services people/work, then the vendor would add a 10-15% premium to the services component of their proposal.
That's right. The original proposal apparently wouldn't provide the client with a satisfactory experience.
If you bought an automobile and the dealer withholds a non-value added option like 'clearcoating', of course you can decline it and not loose sleep over it. However, if the dealer withholds something like an engine, then what are you buying?
Selling services without any regard for whether the client is satisfied or not is just unprofessional. It is ethically challenged, too.
From the vendor perspective, I have some insight as to why this trend is occurring. Software vendors have usually offered service staff in point-excellence roles and not as self-contained teams with overall project implementation responsibility. Further, these services are sold by a sales person who has no connection to the delivery process and a very distant connection to the on-going account management. These sales people don't care about the long-term client relationship as they've gotten their commission and have moved onto the next software prospect. As services becomes more important in software companies, sales people are promising more, putting more service people on projects but not stepping up to the program and client management needs these initiatives require. The leaders of these service groups are discovering that they must add more program management time to projects but since Sales isn't baking enough time into their proposals, Services must eat this extra effort or let client satisfaction suffer.
Clients are not creating this scenario, software vendors are. Vendors need to update the way they estimate and manage projects. Both of these disciplines, by the way, often lag those of systems integrators. If vendors are taking on integrator work, they need to step up to the requirements of the job. They need to get the program management religion.
Clients have an expectation, a reasonable expectation, of receiving satisfactory work. Vendors must construct the means to do so. Providing services with no expectation of or responsibility for client satisfaction is unconscionable.