This incident of poor customer service was performed by a software vendor that I have chosen not to name. The vendor was attempting to come out with a completely new version of their product instead of fixing the existing version. The version of the product that I had was mostly adequate but had some bugs in it that interrupted the functionality of the overall package. Instead of creating a bug fix, the vendor had chosen to create an entirely new code base that included new functionality in addition to correcting the issues with the prior version.
This new version was to be delivered the end of January. Based on past experiences, the office and I were expecting the software around the middle to end of February. By the end of February, we were getting anxious. The response from the vendor was that they “were working on it and we should have it soon.” By the second week of March with the same response from the vendor, the office manager called the vendor’s management. They were aware of the delay, but had no new information to impart. They offered no suggestions as to what we should do next. This sad situation with no details coming to us other than “we’re working on it” continued for the next two weeks.
Internally, we had already made plans to use the version of the software we had, bugs and all. Finding replacement software was an option, but not in the time frame or budget that we had to work with. By the first of April, the vendor finally admitted that they had been stumped on how to implement a function of the software and that the new version was now ready. At this point in time, it really was too late to use the new version, as we didn’t have time to test it to make sure the software worked as promised, and we had proceeded with our own plans and were already training users on the version we had in place.
The vendor was onsite, as usual, for the event. The fee for the event day is outside of the contract and normally has a charge associated with it. We felt that this fee should be a concession from the vendor due to their delivery breach and poor quality communication about the breach. The fee removal took a month of management to management negotiations to drop this event charge.
The vendor’s failure started before they ever missed the completion deadline. In addition to needing better communication with the customer, the vendor had internal gaps in their communication and abilities of their staff. If the vendor had communicated when their completion deadline had been breached that they were having a problem with the code behind one of the screens, we could have discussed the issue to determine if this screen was needed and what could quickly be done. The vendor also could have said, “We are going to continue working on the issue, but in the meantime, you should prepare to use the version you already have.” The vendor’s “concession” to us with the event fees should have been communicated to us much earlier before the event and we should not have had to fight for the concession after the event. The vendor forced us to fall below the zone of tolerance with their service and their product which made my office no longer feel comfortable with the vendor’s staff and products.
The vendor needs to examine their organization to find where they have internal gaps of communication as this was one of their biggest failures. The vendor also needs to examine the abilities of its staff and make changes, including providing training if this is the issue. The vendor may want to consider a patch system, instead of just creating a completely new version. The vendor needs someone to communicate with some frequency and trustworthiness with the customer, especially when there is the possibility of a service delivery breach. In the event of a breach, the vendor needs to respond with a contingency plan, including communication to the customer of a delay. Service Recovery should be done in sequence of the issue and not after the problem has passed.
With poor quality communication from the vendor and a service delivery breach, we as the customer changed our opinion of the vendor. Given the circumstances, the vendor’s software was not unique, but we were locked into some of the hardware needed to run the software which made it not impossible to change vendors, but expensive.