As an entrepreneur, a management professional, or a buyer of any service, you face multiple scenarios where you have to make decisions. When it comes to buying decisions for business services like internet, marketing database, telecom services, etc., you would rather test the services before you buy. You often make decisions like where to buy from, what brand to select, what is the key priority – durability, quality, cost effective, and so on. What do you do when you have to make an immediate decision?
As a Director of a firm involved in decision making, trust me when I say this, vendor reliability is a vital aspect to consider; whether it is a one-time relation like installing antivirus software or an ongoing relation like your internet service provider. We often subconsciously condone the importance of service providers’ involvement in our business, even when they are critical and directly impact the continuity of our business operations.
There are several steps involved in selecting the correct vendor:
- Identifying the actual requirement
- Search for potential vendors
- Screening of vendors (w.r.t.service/product features, quality and pricing) – sites like Gibli can aid you for the comparison
- Offer evaluation & purchase negotiations
- Final agreement & service delivery
Vendors’ involvement in business can often be associated with growth. They truly are your business partners when it comes to uninterrupted business continuity. One should always evaluate 3 parameters in a vendor – Dependability, adherence to quality of committed services & value impact (ROI).
When vendors fail their commitment, you don’t want to chase them 20 times a day, get frustrated and sit on their head for getting things fixed. Of course you expect your vendors to be reliable and not someone who drags their feet though the sand. Believe me, a lot of us can safely say – been there, done that; as do I. When interruptions in work increase, they affect the productivity and performance of the employee – though indirectly, but you wouldn’t want to sacrifice them due to an unreliable vendor, would you?
While excellent marketing campaigns & competitive purchase offers often make product / services appear like the icing on cake, but the real essence lies in their utility. While choosing a vendor for your business needs, one must be sure of what is the exact requirement & expected utility from the purchase and match it vis-à-vis what the vendor has to offer. This does not just refer to the product / service but also the after sales services like promptness, quality, efficiency, and most importantly reliability. No matter how pretty the packaging of the offer is, you need to ensure there exists a quality product or service after all the layers of packaging is stripped.
When you purchase business products / services, even if it is referred to you by someone, one question always pops up in your mind – is the service going to be same for me? Like our case of the internet service provider. Our office was earlier in a business park which is located in the city suburbs. We were referred to use their internet services by a close friend of mine. On usage, I realized that since my friend’s office happens to be located at a reputed business park in the heart of the city, the internet drops were more frequent for us than for him. The reason was simple; the service provider has laid out better infrastructure and provides better services in city center as compared to city suburbs due to higher number of consumers in city center.
This brings us to that one vital step that can ensure conviction of service commitment, a Trial Run.
Remember ever stumbling upon something like this?
Trial runs give you an opportunity to evaluate the reliability& consistency in commitment and also the promptness in communication (in case of any problems) from the service provider. Over the past 6 years of service procurement, I realized that fallbacks are most often a part of any service, what is important is how soon you recover. When attempting to evaluate a vendor as a replacement or a secondary option to the existing service provider, Trial runs provide you a unique opportunity to evaluate potential losses arising from a bad product / service, before you actually incur them after committing to depend on them.
Studies show humans are more trusting and receptive to a practical demonstration they see, rather than what they just hear in a sales pitch.
Finally, Trials runs are a good opportunity to evaluate the value proposition too. During evaluation of value proposition with primary vendors, you match their offered service claims vis-à-vis the actual experience and opt for a suitable service. While evaluating value proposition with secondary vendors, you should of course, “When I already have a service, do I really need a secondary option? Is the trial run really required? Do I have sufficient time to optimally use the services provided during the trial run?” Well,you can always take it at a time when work is flexible and you can invest at least some time to review the feedback from actual users. This would be truly helpful in effective evaluation.
Trial runs are a little time consuming in the short run, but in the long run, they prove their time worthiness.
When your business has stringent budgets, time loss for you is equal to opportunity loss. You of course don’t want to risk that. While consumers located in Metro cities often experience a much professional and pleasant experiences with service provision, consumers located in tier II and tier III cities witness lower service level commitments & professionalism from services providers of internet, electricity, telecom, etc.
However, in case of providers of service like online subscriptions, marketing & research, the trial runs provide you a lead over their usage, when you actually need them. So even when you do not have an existing need to employ a vendor,Trial runs give an opportunity to assess them for a potential backup or secondary option for an urgent deployment in future.Of course you don’t want to dig the well when the house is on fire! In such scenarios, you would unquestionably opt for a reliable and sustainable vendor, even better if tested before.
For instance, in case of Recruitment database like Monster, Naukri etc, a trial run of their services in advance of actual need will help you evaluate relevance of candidate profiles available in their database, accuracy & age of information, and so on. In addition, if you were to test their after sales support, you can give some ad hoc requests and their responses can give you fair inputs on their promptness in communication & solution provision. Sometimes a vendor might be perfectly suitable for your needs and sometimes the value proposition may not exist for either party.
A successful trial run means a win-win for both, the vendor and the supplier. For you as a client, it will make your decision making uncomplicated and aid in selecting the best-fit vendor. For a vendor, trial runs mean potent sales opportunities (prospects) and “things to remember” if you were to provide a more than satisfactory service to the client. For sales professionals, regular trial runs & their high conversion ratios means happy bosses and a better chip to bargain in annual performance reviews.
Overall, Trial runs mostly result in happiness, immediate or future, and they are less likely to hurt your business. So why not try! Happy trial run folks.