Asking the ‘how’ when it’s time to change

Typically, we ask what prospective service providers if they can replace our current provider. But too often, we fail to ask how.
Breaking a piggy bank

My friend Bob had reached the end of his rope with his bank. Getting an answer to a simple question had become a nightmare; being switched from one person to another, taking up precious time, and still not getting a logical explanation for the answer. Somehow his bank seemed to have forgotten how to make an international wire transfer, and the “improved” website was impossible to navigate and crashed frequently.

“Is my money safe there?” he wondered each time the website went down. He had lost confidence in a long-time partner. “Maybe I’ve simply outgrown them,” he thought. After a meeting with the bank president, and listening to endless excuses, he was now convinced, more than ever. “It’s time to change, we’re going to switch banks,” he told his management team. You would have thought he told them to walk into a burning building!  

Have you heard the expression, “I hate my bank, but I hate changing banks even more?” This was Bob’s dilemma. Several of his staff would be directly impacted; finance, accounting, payroll, purchasing – they all depended on the bank for services, and most of all the ability to move money around, provide reports, pay employees, suppliers, and service providers. But, despite these objections, Bob knew it was time for change – but how was he to satisfy himself that his staff would be on board?

As a business leader, you are going to face this issue at some time or another. There are certain services you depend on that must be able to keep up with your needs as your business changes and grows. So how do you make sure the new provider will be up to the task? There are the customary methods of asking for recommendations from other business leaders whose opinions you value, interviewing candidates who provide the services, checking references, etc. We all do these things but still end up uncertain and lose sleep over the decisions. Why? Are we asking the right questions? 

Typically, we ask what the prospective service provider does to make sure they can replace those being provided now. But often, we fail to ask how.

  • What will the transition look like? Is there a plan?
  • Does the plan include check points along the way and contingencies for responding to the inevitable, unanticipated problem? One should not only ask if there is plan, but one should also ask to see it. 
  • Additionally, we need to know how the services we need are going to be delivered; is there a documented process for each activity? 
  • What is the process for escalating problems when the initial solutions aren’t working? 
  • Who is in charge of each activity? Ask to meet them. They will have the keys to your kingdom
  • Will there be regular check-ins on the part of the service provider to ascertain if you are happy with the service?
  • Is there a process in place for having regular business reviews and forward planning to keep up with your need as your business grows.

Changing service providers is a daunting consideration no matter how painful the existing relationship might be. But, by asking the right questions and getting the right answers, you can make the switch with confidence.

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About Davis Merrey

Davis, is Owner/CEO of TeamLogic IT of Oklahoma City, part of an international network of franchisees providing IT support for businesses. He brings many years of experience in a variety of technology related industries, leading teams in providing technical solutions that respond to critical customer needs. The company culture is defined by its Mission Statement: “To help our fellow employees and clients be successful”.

Davis earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute and an MBA in Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He serves on several business related and non-profit boards of directors.