There isn’t a day that goes by where someone on Twitter isn’t complaining about some vendor. I do it myself. Sometimes it seems as if we are all shouting about the same thing and nothing is ever done about it. While the smaller vendors tend to be open to honest feedback, you wonder if the larger ones even care.
Let me frame the discussion. Back in April I was upset, again, at having to jump through hoops to get Cisco TAC to open a support case on a piece of hardware that was covered under a maintenance contract, but which I was not entitled to. For those that don’t know, even if a particular piece of equipment is covered, you cannot open support cases if that particular contract is not associated with your cisco.com user profile.
For your average corporate end user, this isn’t as much of a problem as it is for those of us who work for Cisco partners and deal with a variety of clients. There are plenty of instances in which I happen to be lending a hand with a client that my company did not sell the Cisco SmartNet maintenance contract to. Some other reseller did, so my account is not entitled to that particular contract. In order to fix that, the customer has to authorize the attachment of the contract to my profile with Cisco. Then, I can open up support cases on any of the hardware covered under that contract. The problem with that approach is that I don’t always have the luxury of waiting for that process to work itself out. Consider a network outage that crops up and the client expects my company to drive the issue with Cisco TAC. While the outage is ongoing, I am having to plead with Cisco to get my account authorized to simply open the case. This is something that tends to happen on a fairly regular basis. Thus, the following tweet was spawned:
A big part of me hopes Cisco loses enough money on SmartNet in the near future to fix it. It seems that’s the only way they’ll do anything.
— Matthew Norwood (@matthewnorwood) April 27, 2013
Not long after that, I was contacted via Twitter by Cisco. They wanted to forward my contact information to someone within Cisco that worked in the SmartNet arena. I provided my info and a phone call was setup.
I was able to talk to someone who manages SmartNet and explain my issues. I mentioned the following:
1. Why do I need entitlement on my cisco.com profile to open a support case on a device that is covered by an active maintenance contract? Other vendors do not have this restriction. Once a serial number is provided to the vendor and support coverage is verified, the case is opened. No questions asked. As a Cisco partner/reseller, I am in and out of accounts that I may not have done much work for in the past. It is frustrating for the customer as well as for the partner since support cannot be rendered until the administrative access piece is worked out. This causes delays during outages that cost companies money.
2. Why is it so hard for end customers to determine what devices are covered and when that support contract expires? SmartNet renewals are always a painful process. It is even worse when multiple resellers are used to purchase hardware and software from Cisco. Other vendors provide this information to customers with relative ease. By being able to quickly identify support status, the renewal process is a lot less painful and support can be continued with a lot fewer delays. If the customer happens to use the Smart Care service, they can get this information via a web portal. There is a hardware appliance on their local network that goes out and discovers their Cisco devices and is able to provide them with a report showing coverage levels and expiration dates. This service isn’t meant for large customers though.
I was able to have an open and frank discussion with someone at Cisco regarding these 2 issues. Some possible solutions were suggested by Cisco about how to deal with these problems. I also mentioned to them that I understood that a company as large as Cisco cannot just make changes to the entire program as quickly as a smaller vendor that only serves a fraction of the customers that Cisco does.
I don’t know if or when these issues will be solved. I can tell you that after having that phone call, I have a lot more hope that they will be fixed sometime in the future. It is important to acknowledge that vendors like Cisco are listening. They could have very easily ignored my complaint and I thank them for taking the time to at least hear my concerns and look at ways to fix the issues.
Social media has given the average person a voice that didn’t really exist in years past. If you complain about something, whether tactful or not(I was probably a bit negative with my tweet.), and the vendor engages you, take the time to talk with them. You never know what can happen.
Have you experienced similar results as a result of voicing a concern with a vendor? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about it and see who is and who isn’t trying to make things better for you.