An Inside Look At The Challenges Faced When Trying to Deliver The Best Customer Service and Solutions Working for A Large VAR or Consulting Company

Having worked as the lead network architect for a national, multi-billion dollar network integrator, I understand all of the behind the scenes issues and challenges when trying to work within a large organization to deliver first class customer service, and network solutions for customers.  These issues often lead to a suboptimal network solution, implementation, or service experience, especially given a large enough window of time. It is ultimately, why I left a large organization to start a small, boutique network consulting business as I felt I could deliver solutions, and a level of customer service, that cannot be matched by most larger organizations.

So let me list some of the issues.  Now please understand, a particular item may or may not be found in a particular organization.  Any combination of these challenges and issues could be present.  If you have been on the customer side for any length of time, see if at least some of these resonate with you.  I am sure you are aware of some.  Others may be an eye opener.

  • Sales people that are just that, sales people.  Sales people rarely have the same level of technical expertise as an engineer.  They are driven by sales and often push or promise products and services that are difficult for engineering to deliver, or are not the proper solution.  They may be likable and have lots of personality.  Which is great.  Or they could be the worst kind of sales person, the kind that frequently call or harass you to explore your network needs.  This is sales talk for what can we sell you.
  • COMMUNICATIONS: Sales often doesn’t have perfect communications with pre-sales engineering which often lacks perfect communications with the technical engineers that implement the network.  Often I would see sales or pre-sales sell a solution only for it to then cross the desk of implementation engineering for the FIRST time.  As a field engineer, we were forced to cover up or make a design “work,” even if we knew it was a mess. How about a customer who hires a large company that handles the phone system, network cabling, and networking, hoping that those departments will be tightly integrated, yet behind the scenes communication and organizational issues cause those units to act practically like 3 independent companies?
  • THE VAR OF THE MONTH CLUB: So you finally found a great engineer that did a great job for you.  So is he available next month to assist you as well?  Will he be available next year?  Do you get his direct number or do you need to call a help desk and be assigned a ticket?  Will he be available and dedicated to being the ONLY engineer to service your account or will you have to explain your network or familiarize any number of engineers each time you have an issue or need an add, move, or change of significance?  How about when the salaried engineer leaves the VAR, as they frequently do, to go to another company for more money??  How about when your sales person leaves the company and then solicits you from a new one? What about when that large VAR or consulting company gets swallowed up by another company that changes and restructures everything? What about when the large VAR goes bankrupt or out of business? In the 20 years we have been in business, we have seen large network solution companies come and go, yet our small business is still here serving customers.
  • While large integrators and VARS seem like they have limitless resources, rarely is that the case.  When push comes to shove, they often have a small group of truly high end individuals within a particular region.  You would be surprised how often my old Gold VAR had to scramble for resources.
  • POOR TRAINING: Integration and VAR engineers are often poorly trained even compared to their in house counterparts.  They look and talk the part.  However, they are often forced to learn on the fly at your expense and “make things work.”  They are often spread so resource thin within a large organization that there is little time or ability to take them out of service rotation to get valuable training.  Budgets are often tight and promises of training, “when it makes sense,” turn into it rarely, or even never, making sense.
  • OUTSOURCING AND SUBCONTRACTING: You would be surprised how often network integrators subcontract work to other companies and represent them as their own employees or staff.  You may think that you are getting an in-house resource when, in reality, you are getting another operation that could be with the VAR today and gone tomorrow for any number of reasons.

OK.  These are just a FEW of the challenges faced with your typical integrator or VAR.  I could write a book on this.  Better yet, I would be happy to have the conversation by phone or in person.  I can discuss each item and go into detail as to how and why we are different. Quite simply, we aim to consistently deliver a network engineer and level of service that the big boys simply can’t match.

– Edward Kay, CCIE #5032, ECSE Advanced #38