Ongoing Vendor Management in Visual Studio .NET

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Since the decision to select a retirement plan vendor should be considered a medium-term decision, it is imperative that you manage this relationship assuming at least a five-year tenure. The key step is establishing clear communication channels between your organization and the vendor. That is why we consider it imperative that you meet with the vendor s service team (in addition to any salesperson) personally during the evaluation phase. You need to get a feeling for this group who will be responsible for taking care of you and your plan once the sales process is complete. Many times we are hired by a client when a vendor relationship has gone south. The reasons that vendor relationships sour include:
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New personnel on the vendor side. This is the number one reason why we are called in by clients. We hear things like, XYZ just reassigned us to a new group because . . . and we don t like the new person. Those are the easy ones to fix. Sometimes we hear, Karen at XYZ just left. She s the fourth service rep to leave in two years. We always have to train new ones. This one goes to the core of the vendor s business management retaining their own employees. In our practice, if you are experiencing this type of vendor service, you may be best served by moving your business. Poor communication between vendor and client. Many times we hear clients say things like, Whenever Mike from ABC responds to a question, we don t understand his answer so we call you. Or, consider
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another case that just happened to a client of ours. The chief financial officer received a form letter from their bundled service vendor signed by someone they did not know, saying, Due to quarterly contribution requirements, you must make a $2 million contribution by next week or else. . . . No call from the main client service representative, no other communication, just do this or else. My message to clients is that if you are getting this type of service, you should look around. My message to vendors is, you can always improve client communication, and if any of the things above sound familiar, you have serious problems and will be faced with one of two scenarios: your clients are already searching around and you do not know it, or your clients are too busy to do a search right now, but when they free up, they will do it and be gone.
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Lack of follow-through by vendor. This is probably the next biggest issue we find. An example of this would be a client asking for a report of some participant elections. The client service person says that it will take two days. The client does not get it for two weeks, or worse, never gets it and has to call the vendor again. Clients and vendors are all businesspeople and understand schedules, timing, and staff management, and that some things take time. What clients do not like is to be told to expect things by a certain date and not get it. Mistakes. We list mistakes last, because in fact, this is the least common issue that clients call us about. Some typical mistakes we see include payroll for the preceding month not being entered into the system for nine days due to a programming error, a benefit calculation done incorrectly, a participant communication letter with typos, and so forth. Clients understand that mistakes happen, but in the vast majority of cases mistakes can be fixed. What clients need is the trust that when mistakes happen, vendors will fix them and work to prevent them in the future. This trust is the key. I could have also written respect. When mistakes happen, vendors should take responsibility for them, treat their clients with respect and dignity, and work to fix them. In fact, in many cases when we have been called in to help a client through a vendor situation due to errors, the client/vendor relationship is improved. Vendors dig in, fix the problem, work to communicate the solution, and move on. That s the way it should be.
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Overall, we see ongoing vendor management as an extension of the search process. First, we recommend that you have an annual service review in which you review successes and failures during the previous year. At this meeting, we recommend that you focus on the goals and objectives
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