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Optimizing Multi-Vendor Support Collaboration

Today’s robust technology is made possible by the interoperability of many disparate technology products and components.  When something goes wrong it can be difficult to sort out which component is at fault and which vendor is needed to assist with the troubleshooting and resolution.

Customers expect vendors to cooperate to resolve issues. They grow frustrated when they are passed between vendors without a commitment to own, or a plan to address, their issues. This is why you need a strategy to optimize multi-vendor support collaboration.

What is Multi-Vendor Support?

Multi-vendor Support is a formal process involving two or more vendors that collaborate on the resolution of Support issues.  Multi-vendor Support collaboration may occur among original equipment manufacturer, software publishers, communications service providers, as-a-service providers, and others.

Survey Says, Multivendor Collaboration Pays Off

In a study conducted by ServiceXRG and TSANet of 78 technology service providers 7.2% of all support cases required multi-vendor collaboration to resolve an issue.  While this is a relatively small percent of cases overall, it adds up for companies that handle thousands of cases per month.  In the study we find:

Multi-vendor cases:

  • often require more time and effort resulting in higher costs to resolve.
  • are likely to contribute to higher levels of customer dissatisfaction.

Cases resolved through multi-vendor collaboration:

  • are resolved faster.
  • at a lower cost.
  • result in higher customer satisfaction.

Although not all cases will require cross-vendor collaboration, it is important to have a well-defined multi-vendor support strategy.

Challenges to Implementing Successful Multi-Vendor Support

The top challenges to implementing a successful multi-vendor Support capability include:

  • Informal collaboration obstructed by legal and data privacy requirements.
  • Most technology vendors have plenty of support cases to manage on their own without having to take on issues brought to them by other vendors.
  • Customers may not have cross-vendor support entitlements necessary for the level of assisted support required to resolve issues.
  • Limitations of systems and process to collaborate between vendors or track issue escalation and ownership.
  • Support staff may not be incented to seek multi-vendor collaboration – may be easier to refer the problem to another vendor and close the case.
  • The full extent of multi-vendor issues are not tracked, and positive/negative impacts are difficult to quantify.

Key Elements of a Multi-Vendor Support Strategy

To facilitate successful multi-vendor Support collaboration, companies should have:

  • An established legal framework to define the formal relationship between vendors to describe how work will be shared and how customer data will be managed and protected.
  • Formal collaboration paths and processes to describe the service levels for how multi-vendor issues will be identified, managed, and worked on.
  • Systems and tools to manage escalations and identify contributions to and ownership of multi-vendor cases.
  • Training to educate support staff on processes and procedures for handling multi-vendor issues to minimize customer frustration and set realistic customer experiences.
  • Defined metrics to indicate multi-vendor collaboration performance.

TSANet: A Multi-Vendor Technical Support Community

Establishing a formal, unified approach to multi-vendor Support is important for managing cross-vendor processes and assuring optimal customer outcomes. Companies may have partnership programs and cooperative technology agreements that include some provision for support collaboration. These agreements are seldom “owned” by Support and the terms and conditions for collaboration may be difficult to implement, enforce, or keep up to date.

Fortunately for the Support industry more than 750 companies have come together to form a multi-vendor technical support community​ through TSANet.

TSANet is a not-for-profit industry organization founded in 1993 to provide a common legal framework and technology platform to facilitate vendor collaboration.  TSANet is a member run community that offers the following capabilities to streamline multi-vendor support collaboration.

Standard Legal Framework

TSANet offers a standard legal framework to allow members to establish relationships. All TSANet members use this common standard Code of Conduct which contains the required legal language to engage in multi-vendor support collaboration including confidentiality. ​This removes the complexity of negotiation and maintaining separate legal agreements with all your support partners. The framework defines:

  • Support availability
  • Confidentiality
  • Service levels

TSANet Connect

TSANet Connect provides a standard user interface that provides a consistent method for collaborating with other members. The API-enabled architecture enables members to automate inbound ticket creation and to make new outbound requests for multi-vendor collaboration from within their existing ticking systems or from their collaboration platforms.

Multi-Vendor Best Practices and Continuous Improvement

TSANet is a community-led organization. Regional focus group in Europe, India, Australia, North America and Japan allow member organizations to share ideas and best practices and provide input to enhance the TSANet strategy.

Conclusions

Multi-vendor support collaboration is inevitable. Whether you have informal relationships with other vendors and partners or manage multiple one-to-one relationships, multi-vendor support collaboration is important yet can be difficult.

TSANet

If you do not have a multi-vendor strategy or are looking to streamline the way you cooperate with other companies, I encourage you to take a look at TSANet (www.tsanet.org).

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