This blog first appeared on Best in UC.
Your potential integrator is walking slowly through his presentation. He shows a slide with logos of his clients. He flips to another page that lists capabilities. Finally, he flashes you the awards.
It’s tempting to ignore those medals that boast excellence. After all, can’t any integrator find a way to win some kind of award from a friendly association or desperate equipment manufacturer?
That may be so. But in some cases, awards really do matter.
Consider this example from our industry. Among small and mid-sized businesses, ShoreTel is a vendor of choice that manufactures unified communications solutions. ShoreTel does not sell these systems directly, instead relying on a network of integrators to install them for customers.
Each year, ShoreTel presents 10 of its integrators with the Circle of Excellence Award. These partners are chosen based on two factors:
- Revenue success, meaning that the integrator is installing a significant number of ShoreTel systems
- Customer satisfaction of 90 percent or better, as measured by an independent third party
This provides a prime example of when an award is an excellent indicator of vendor quality. First, ShoreTel ensures that these vendors are working at a high volume, demonstrating they have extensive experience installing its solutions. Then, it uses an objective organization to determine customer satisfaction levels.
In fact, ShoreTel’s customer satisfaction scores are particularly challenging to keep at an elevated level. Customers rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 4. While a rating of 4 is 100 percent, a 3 is only 75 percent. It takes only one or two mostly satisfied customers who rate the integrator with a 3 to quickly bring their rating down to a number under the required 90 percent threshold.
In addition to awards, vendor certifications are an often-ignored sales point that can be a good indicator of integrator success. For example, we ensure that our technicians and engineers earn the highest certifications offered by our key partners. Rather than relying on team members with general telecommunications experience, we provide our customers with ShoreTel Certified Installers and ShoreTel Certified Engineers.
How can you decide whether awards and certifications matter? In short, awards and certifications are important when they affect how your implementation and ongoing support will be performed. To help you choose a high-quality integrator, ask these questions when you are shopping around:
- Have you earned any recognition or awards from this UC manufacturer (ShoreTel, Avaya, Cisco, etc.)?
- What specific qualifications does the manufacturer use when handing out these awards? Is it based on revenue alone, or does service quality come into play as well?
- What is your customer satisfaction number, and how did you arrive at that number? Was it determined by an independent third party?
- Does your team have certifications for this manufacturer’s products, or just general industry experience?