Many often ask for my thoughts on traditional enterprise vendors compared with their startup and mid-size contemporaries. Without going into naming names, let me outline a few real situations that happened in just the past week alone. Each of these are large traditional enterprise providers and publically traded on either the NYSE or NASDAQ exchanges:
Direct line to sales
Last week, I called the main number of an IT services provider from their website. In the phone menu, I selected ‘sales’. Someone from ‘operations’ answers. I state that I’m looking for sales and was told “we take information for sales and pass it along for them to return the call.” It has been 5 business days and someone has still not returned my call.
Companies need to offer customers (and prospects) a direct line into sales. It is ok to leverage inside sales, but responses need to be quick while the customer is still engaged.
Keep reasonable hours
In a separate case, I called a second company that provides telecommunications, IT and cloud services. I used the main number from their website. Theoretically, telecom should be part of their strong suit. Unfortunately, the experience was not. My call was met with a greeting “Thank you for calling <name omitted>…Our hours of operation are 8-4:30pm Eastern Standard Time.” I was calling mid-morning Pacific Time, well within their hours of operation. But then the phone just rang and rang. No answer. After a few minutes, I hung up and called back a while later. Same thing, the phone just rang with no answer.
Two problems here: 1) their hours are 8-4:30pm Eastern? That means that anyone from the West Cost of the US better call in the morning before 1:30pm Pacific. That assumes that 2) there is someone to take the call. Even if not, there should be an option to leave a message with a quick callback. For a telecom company, this seemed like a big miss on multiple fronts.
Listen carefully to what the customer is saying
In yet another case with a third company, I wanted to explore their cloud services. First, getting to the right person was not trivial. Once I did, I clearly stated what I was looking for and wanted to understand more about their products. The person kept coming back to a script that involved a process to evaluate my needs before talking solutions. In most cases, this would be stellar. However, I knew what I was looking for. I just needed to know which of the vendor’s solutions fit best. It seemed that was not possible without running some involved tool that characterized my environment for some period of time first. I kept asking for more information about their solutions to no avail. They were not budging. Eventually, I had to actually state, “I don’t know how to explain what I’m looking for any other way.” And that was the end of the conversation.
Simplicity over complexity
Let’s face it; working in a big company has its issues. Big companies are complex beasts that are hard to traverse. In the first case, I’m certain my request for sales fell through the crack somewhere and may never surface again. Even if it does, I’ve already moved on. In the second case, I finally got to a person that could help me out. But not without the help of social media and a few extra hops finding the “right” contact for my specific situation. Again, far too many people in the process. In the third case, the person was not listening to my needs. They were more focused on the official company process.
Comparatively for their mid-sized contemporaries, the process was far more direct, complementary and simple for a customer to traverse. It is clear that mid-sized competitors do have an edge on their larger, established enterprise companies.
As a result of the experiences above, 2 of the 3 enterprise IT providers lost the opportunity. The third almost lost it, but barely made the running…for now. Unfortunately, those are not good odds.
My point of view
If enterprise IT providers are going to play in today’s ecosystem, they need to change their game. The game itself has evolved and is quickly leaving them behind. The sad part is that most of them either 1) don’t realize it or 2) refuse to believe it. My advise: believe it, step up and make a change.
Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 2/9/2015