I was chatting with fellow Small Business Specialist Andy Parkes recently. Andy was sharing an experience he had with a large hardware manufacturer before the Christmas break. Now that’s not an unusual conversation for us to have but what was unusual was that it wasn’t the usual Vendor Rant-o-rama (the term a certain wag dubbed my blog last year – not that I can honestly disagree with him…) that you might expect two SMB IT Consultants to exchange about shoddy service, poor customer support or unreliable hardware. No – instead Andy described how he had experienced a fairly serious problem with some kit, and the hardware manufacturer involved had solved that problem for him quickly and without pain!
I’ve encouraged Andy to blog about his experience, as during the course of 2007 I can recall reading dozens upon dozens of postings from people within the SMB Community who were displeased, upset or plain furious with the treatment they’d received from Vendors that had cost them time or money – but I can probably count on one hand the number of people who had a good, or (gasp!) excellent experience and decided to share that with others too!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anyone of filling my blog postings with tales of woe! I guess it’s human nature to complain about things, but more rarely do we also share our positive experiences.
So in the spirit of positivity, allow me to share my general experiences, and one particular experience I had with one of my suppliers earlier this month – Broadband ISP Arnolds & Andrews – more commonly known as AAISP.
I’ve been using AAISP to provide Broadband Internet to a number of my clients since early 2007. Why? They were recommended to me and I’ve found that they are excellent at provisioning new ADSL lines – set reliable dates for installation, keep you informed at every step of provisioning, and will even deal with the beast that is known as BT without fear. They allow you to manage your client accounts well – from easily viewing usage and uptime/downtimes (sending you an SMS text and e-mail during outages) on ADSL lines, to allowing you to easily view invoicing and charging details. But most importantly, they provide good support. Everything else is just icing on a non-existent cake if, when things are going wrong, you can’t get anybody at the supplier to help you get to the bottom of things and give a credible answer to your clients.
Today was one such time when something went wrong. AAISP experienced routing issues on their network, meaning that one of our own in-house ADSL lines and additionally and more importantly some clients ADSL lines had intermittent problems that were causing problems with connectivity.
Now I’ve been in this situation before with some very big ISP’s indeed, and I can tell you that they might learn a thing or two from AAISP – a provider much smaller in comparison. The usual procedure goes – check big ISP’s System Status Web page – no problems shown – therefore telephone ISP’s Support Line – put on hold for what seems like forever. Finally reach a human who lets you explain the problem in full and then proceeds to tell you that yes, they are aware of the problem and it’s a system-wide one. No, they don’t know when it will be fixed. Grrr.
In this case I checked AAISP’s System Status page and at a glance was told what the issue was and what they were doing to fix it. I could then drill down to the specific issue, which was regularly (as in, every few minutes) updated with engineers comments on their troubleshooting. If I wanted more, AAISP have an IRC chat channel and a Usenet newsgroup with more information.
So bravo AAISP! They had an issue, as every vendor will do from time to time, but they managed it and more importantly kept me informed to resolution.
I ranted about many vendors and suppliers in 2007, and I no doubt will again in 2008 – but I’ll be sure to share more positive experiences like this with you too (provided they happen!) – so in no time at all you’ll know this blog not as Vendor-Rant-a-Rama but as Vendor-Praise-a-Rama! (probably)