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A Bad Vendor Experience: how should vendors communicate?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 March 2010

How do we know, in advance, the difference between a vendor who will be terrific, and one who will be hell? One who will do what we want them to do, and one that will blame us when they get it wrong? And how angry are we when we end up paying just to get them out of our lives? Rhetorical questions to be sure.

The hardest thing for me to do on my Cranky Tuesday post today is to not mention this guy’s name. He’s a good guy, and certainly meant well. And I trusted him – surely, and mistakenly, I did. Until I didn’t, and by then it was too late.

NEW SITE DESIGN

Here’s the story. I decided it was time to make my site more user-friendly, capture more of the mainstream thinkers suddenly coming to my site, and get folks to purchase more product so I can actually teach people the model rather than just have them gather a few quick bytes and leave the site without being able to do anything different.

I called someone whom I’ve known for a couple of months and asked him if he could help me create a site on which I could convert visitors into buyers or readers. Sure! Of course! No problem! Right.

I spoke with him at length about the differences between folks truly wanting to learn Buying Facilitation™ and those who just discovered my ideas and were curious to know what Buying Facilitation™ was, the folks who were ready for corporate training and those who wanted to license my programs. I said that underlying it all was the fact that Buying Facilitation™ is not normal, not sales, outside the box, and outside of most people’s thinking. He made me some promises, and gave me a general overview of what he was going to do, and wrote me out a ‘complete’ list of what he was going to do.

And then he proceeded to do that – and so so much more that I hadn’t asked for (but he thought I needed), that I didn’t agree with, that wouldn’t work for my site or my audience, that went against my beliefs. Much of which he put up was done without agreement (“Oh. I just put it up for you to see and react to – I can always change it.”… um… and why not get permission or have a discussion first and save both of our time?), and certainly out of the context of my requests and my beliefs and values. For example, at the top of my Corporate Training section, he put up a ‘call to action’ to Hire Sharon Drew NOW!!! Excuse me, but when corporations are going to go through that level of change, are they going to read two lines and click to hire me? I don’t think so. And I had told him over and over.

And then he wanted to know why I was so annoyed that changes weren’t being made. “They will be made eventually. Just because you ask for them doesn’t mean I’m going to do it now. Who says it has to be on  your time scale?” You know the rest here: the changes were never made, and he sent a few – not all – to my web guy to do.

WHO IS THE CUSTOMER?

But the worst was when he told me the project was ‘spiraling out of control’ and he wanted more money to finish because he ‘should have asked me when he needed to do more work beyond the scope but assumed that I would want it’ (He had given me a ‘project price’). I agreed, with a few caveats and a ‘lecture’ as to my feelings about his non-communication and he said, “Since you’re the great communicator, why didn’t you show me how to handle this differently?” I’M THE CUSTOMER you dolt!

In the end, he wanted me to go live on his time scale (and I should have trust that all was well at that point?), and left behind a long list of things he hadn’t fixed. While he had promised that he’d fix errors at no cost, there were many things he didn’t think were ‘errors’ even though I did, and he refused to fix them as it was ‘outside the scope of the project’ even though they were things he had done without permission and that greatly went against my integrity.

Eventually, I sent the new site design to a colleague who works with site design. He hated the new design, telling me that the ‘calls to action’ actually took people away from what I needed them to do most – learn about Buying Facilitation™ – and that making any purchases would come after they decided they agreed with my models, not before — like I’d been saying all along.

So I have to pay the guy what I owe him to shut him up, and then go back to the beginning and do it all over, hire my friend, have my web guy do some, etc. Double cost to me in money and time, and a delay on my site redesign.

I’m annoyed, to say the least. Shoot: I ran a tech company, and as I told this vendor, I taught my folks how to get criteria set before any coding or changing took place. I even sent this guy a list of Facilitative Questions and he couldn’t figure out what to do with them (He could have started by using them on me, no?). Note: he did tell me at one point how much time he wasted re-doing stuff that folks ‘changed their mind’ about. Hmmm.

Since it’s Cranky Tuesday, I thought I’d vent. I’m sure I’ll end up with a better web design in the end. But dealing with these types of techies – beliefs they are right and the user is stupid, inability to get appropriate criteria up front, assumptions, assumptions, assumptions that cost –  leave a bad taste in my mouth. It’s such a cliche to say that techies can’t communicate, but all of these problems could have been avoided with proper communication, or even using the parts of Buying Facilitation™ he could find on my sites. I’m just saying.

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