One of the benefits of being a small company is that you can define your own path in the marketplace and focus on a niche that suits your culture. As the founder of MicroAutomation, I have always been customer-focused and have tried to cultivate that same passion with my staff. The road has been difficult, but after 25 years in business, I can confidently say that we have accomplished that goal.
Of course, embracing a philosophy of putting the customer first has not been without its challenges. Most small companies like ours depend heavily on partner relationships to provide the core set of products and services that make up our offerings. After all, you need something to sell in order to operate a business.
But in order to be truly customer-focused, you can’t tie yourself to products from just one partner. You have to be vendor agnostic.
What Does It Mean to Be Vendor Agnostic?
Vendor agnostic is the term we use at MicroAutomation to convey the fact that we select the products to use for a customer based upon the customer’s requirements and not a vendor that we are aligned with. In short, vendor neutral. For instance, if our customer is interested in implementing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, we want to recommend to them the best platform based upon their specific requirements. If they are planning to maintain the IVR themselves and modify the application, we might select an IVR with an easy-to-use Graphical User Interface (GUI) development environment.
Conversely, if they wanted a solution that can handle high call volumes and grow with them, we would select an IVR that is streamlined for optimal performance and has the ability to scale.
To provide such objective guidance requires a company that is familiar with all of the technology in the industry and is able to maintain a fully functional lab environment to constantly evaluate different platforms.
And, there’s the rub.
How is a small company supposed to provide objective guidance to customers looking for the best solution when they are tethered to just one partner?
Manufacturers vs. Necessary Objectivity
For the longest time, being a partner of one company meant you could not be a partner of their competitor. In fact, most manufacturers expected their partners to be exclusive to them and sell only their products. So if you claimed to be “vendor agnostic,”manufacturers feared you might use a competitor’s technology for an opportunity over their own. As a result, manufacturers were selective with their partners and were reluctant to share opportunities with any partners that were not fully committed to the brand.
Meanwhile customers yearned for companies who were truly vendor neutral and were familiar with all of the popular platforms to provide objective guidance. Call centers, in particular, preferred to use “best-of-breed” components. Companies familiar with a wide variety of products and capable of integrating these best-of-breed products were in demand.
Why This Philosophy Works for Us
Being a vendor agnostic, system integrator for the past 25 years has provided MicroAutomation with a distinct advantage over our competitors since we have groomed subject matter experts (SMEs) in all areas related to the contact center.
So when it comes to recommending solutions, we have been able to put aside vendor allegiances and select the solution components based upon the merits of the technology. The goal has always been to be a trusted advisor to our customers and provide them with unbiased recommendations. While it has been difficult to establish strong partnerships with this philosophy, the rewards of having long term customer relationships has far outweighed the partner challenges.
Times Are Changing
Fortunately, times have changed, and the business environment of cooperative competition or “coopetition” has emerged. Manufacturers now know that partners are no longer exclusive and will sell products from multiple manufacturers. The real differentiator is whether the company understands the pros and cons of each product or solution and is able to determine the best solution for the customer based upon the requirements.
So, lucky for you, the challenge of finding a vendor agnostic company is a little easier now since everyone today sells everything. But, the key is still to find a company that is knowledgeable in all of products and can objectively recommend the best product/solution for your requirements.