Competence is King

How do you establish trust in a service provider? When you bring your car in for service, do you go to a certified dealer or the local mechanic? How did you choose – based on your relationship with the mechanic? Your loyalty to the dealer? Your concern about the car?

As a consumer you have many options and factors that influence your decision to buy services.  In the long term, however, you continue to engage in your service provider at a minimum because that provider demonstrated competence in what you seek.  The same principle applies to companies, large or small, that rely on partner firms to solve business problems.  Quite simply, any consultant needs to be competent in solving relevant problems for the client or it will not work.

One of the clients I work with is in the top 250 internet retailers, a small family-owned and operated business that moved years ago from a paper catalog to the online channel.  The catalog makes up 10-20% of its business today, and bricks-n-mortar another 5-10% – but the online channel took off.  As an early adopter of IBM Websphere Commerce, the client engaged a partner firm 8 years ago to help maintain its website.  As the online channel grew, it became apparent that a small technology shop was not suitable to maintain a best of breed site.  As recently as March of 2007 the company still used a modem to download it’s orders on a daily basis. 

Enter my current firm.  As one of the top business partners for IBM Websphere Commerce, we were able to demonstrate not only our knowledge of the product but the deep relationships to IBM’s Websphere labs in Toronto.  With core expertise in the internet retail industry, we were able to demonstrate how we could more effectively manage the website for the client and build a long term roadmap for improvements to keep up with an evolving industry.  We not only constructed a multi-year deal to maintain the Websphere Commerce installation, we have been able to make substantial impact to the business in other areas where we provide relevant expertise:  creative support for campaigns, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) driving significant % in additional revenue, and in the long term a substantial upgrade and conversion focused redesign.

The point is that through bringing the relevant expertise to bear, we are able to demonstrate through competence in online retailing, Websphere Commerce, SEM, and interactive design that we can both have a fundamental impact on the client’s business, provide value and demonstrate ROI in a long term fruitful business relationship.  Not to mention a happy client is a fun one.

How do you decide what service provider you engage, from babysitters to car service to business partners?