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Do I stay or do I go? - when to change your CRM reseller...

One interesting question that came up this week was ‘when is it right to change my CRM reseller?’ To position this a bit, a lot of CRM packages, Microsoft CRM being a good example, are sold through resellers and implementation partners rather than direct from the software vendor. This approach has its attractions in that it allows organizations to move on if they’re unhappy about the service they are receiving without having to purchase a whole new suite of software. Deciding if it’s right to move on though can be a challenge.

One of the keys is to determine why you’re looking to move. If your concern is that your existing system isn’t delivering value, then, in my view, a change of reseller is unlikely to be the answer. As I’ve covered ad nauseum in this blog, vendors and resellers, while understanding their own technology, don’t get business. They fail to implement high performance systems because they don’t have the knowledge and capabilities to apply their technology operationally in a way that generates value. A switch of vendor in these circumstances is unlikely to solve the problem, and is likely to waste a lot of time and money. It would, and I know I have a big fat vested interest here, be far better to look to an independent CRM consultant to help bridge the gap between technology and profit.

If your current vendor is holding back the performance of a successful system, then it may well be right to move. Before you make this decision however it’s worth noting that there’s more of a cost than many suppose in changing supplier. Firstly there’s going to be a time cost in seeking out and vetting alternative resellers, then there’s likely be a cost associated with getting them up to speed with your system, and then the potentially very significant expense of them wishing to re-engineer your system into a form they are happy to support.

Another consideration is that, in my opinion at least, the average UK reseller quite frankly isn’t very good. If you broke the reseller marketplace down I’d suggest 10% fall in the rogues and incompetents bracket, 70% in the poor to just about OK bracket, 15% in the good bracket, and a mere 5% in the very good to excellent bracket (hopefully that all adds up). In other words if you were to randomly select a reseller, the odds are you’re not going to get a very good one, which means the process of selecting a new partner deserves considerable care and attention.

Over the many years I’ve been involved in CRM, I’ve seen great systems destroyed as the result of the injudicious selection of a ‘new’ reseller, and I’ve also seen great systems destroyed as the result of the lack of a timely response to diminishing standards of support from an existing supplier. As I touched on in a recent post about how CRM vendors may be impacted by the economic challenges we are all facing, I noted that the one of the first casualties of tougher times for vendors and resellers will be the quality of support they are able to provide, so I suspect more and more CRM users are going to be faced with the ‘do I stay or do I go’ question in the next few years.

My advice would be that any move shouldn’t be taken lightly bearing in mind the costs of moving that I touched on earlier. It’s generally sensible to engage in a dialogue with an existing vendor to spell out the level of services you expect, with a view to managing an appropriate improvement in performance. If this can’t be achieved and the decision to move is made, then I’d suggest that significant effort in placed in locating one of those rare high performing resellers, and then even more effort placed in making sure you get the best out of them. As the saying the goes ‘the grass may be greener on the other side but you still have to mow it’.

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