With the New Year upon us, it’s common to reflect in order to avoid making the same mistakes of the past. Last weekend I was at my parents’ house and while observing them, I admired the amazing relationship they continue to have after 58 years of marriage. On the drive home, I was reflecting on their success.
It led to an epiphany. At the core, personal and professional relationships are a two-way street and a leap of faith and the successful ones are comprised of the same fundamentals. This blog will list some of these fundamentals and how they relate to building healthy client/ member software vendor relationships.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Honesty is the best policy.” Being open and honest from the onset builds the foundation of a pleasant AMS software implementation and lasting relationship. At the beginning of an engagement, withholding information regarding the process and what other vendors are being included is not advantageous for clients or vendors. Similarly, the vendor needs to be honest regarding the ability to deliver, the capabilities of the product, and ultimately the status of the project.
2. The past is the past
Everyone has been burned at some point. While it is imperative to learn from previous experiences, there is a balance between learning and bringing too much baggage from the past. The fact is, we all need each other. Enter with an attitude of a cautious optimist. Regardless of all attempts to eliminate risk, the bottom line remains that entering into a client/vendor relationship is a leap of faith on both sides. Discuss the issues from the past, share experiences, and move on. Bringing baggage from previous relationships is not productive…Think clean slate!
Understand expectations and understand the people involved on both the client and vendor sides. Member software vendors will have clients that are self-sufficient and others that require more guidance. Each relationship is different. If a vendor treats every client the same, the opportunity to have the best possible client/vendor relationship is lost. Know the people at the client, and match the vendor resources with those who will be ideally suited to the each other. There are formal tools for determining this. Have you taken the DiSC personality assessement before?
Open and frequent communication is essential on both sides. No one, outside of a few “reality stars,” is a mind reader. Don’t wait until something that can be resolved simply becomes a larger issue. Generally these situations are caused by a lack of communication.
Communicate both issues, initiatives, and areas of desired improvement. Give the vendor an opportunity to rectify situations and be part of your overall mission. What isn’t known cannot be fixed or improved.
There is nothing worse than feeling that there is no response to an expressed need or issue. It is essential that both clients and vendors are responsive once needs or issues are communicated. These responses need to be in a timely manner and with an actionable plan.
Mutual trust is essential to all healthy relationships. People approach trust from different angles. Some will say you have it until you lose it, while others say trust is earned. Both have merit. I purport, that in the professional arena, the latter of the two is a better approach. The member software vendor needs to earn the trust of the client by delivering quality product in a timely fashion and by being responsive to concerns and issues. Clients maintain a level a trust from vendors by accepting responsibility where applicable. If all issues are viewed as one sided, then it is highly likely the same issues will continue to occur.
In order to be truly responsive and working together, you must be able to “put yourself in another’s shoes.” Empathy comes from understanding how a potential decision, action, or issue affects others and this is a key component to ensuring a lasting relationship. As vendors, what may seem small can be a major issue to the client requiring immediate attention.
8) Mutual Respect
Again, like trust, respect is earned. By openly communicating, exhibiting empathy, and being responsive, these are some of the actions that build this mutual respect on both sides of the client/vendor relationship.
9) Realistic Expectations
I think we can all agree, no person, product, or process is perfect. Both vendors and clients need to be realistic in their expectations. That does not mean compromise on the expectation of quality and what is needed. However, if communication occurs on areas of improvement, on either side, the expectation can be on the level of responsiveness.
10) Relationships Take Work
In closing, the most successful relationships are between two parties who recognize that relationships take work and constant maintenance. Getting complacent can lead to a breakdown in just about all of the aforementioned items in this list. Always be communicating, the good, the bad, the ugly. Breakdowns in client/vendor relationships often occur when there is a changing of the guard. As soon as there are new people and new staff, introduce them to your vendor and get them trained. This a major part of the maintenance of a strong working relationship.
All relationships are a two-way street from beginning and through the middle. Hopefully by building this foundation, there will be no end, and many years later (probably not 58 years) your organization will still have a strong relationships with your vendors.