Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the few different experiences on the importance of communication. Both of these involve to situations with vendors used by my business, both of them included circumstances that were in and out of the vendors’ control, and both of them were handled differently, with differing results.
On December 21, we ordered several new systems for one of our clients. They had wanted to have the new system was deployed as soon as possible, so we placed the order as soon as we received it, expecting the systems to be delivered before the end of the year. After a week at gone by, we did not receive the systems, so we attempted to track the order. At that time, I saw that they had not yet even shipped. Concerned, I called and emailed my sales rep. She said didn’t have any details, but she would look into it and get back to us. A day went by, and we didn’t hear anything. We called and emailed periodically, asking for status updates, but if we heard anything, it was that she would check and get back to us.
Eventually, we found out that the reason for the delay was there was no stock on the systems that we had requested, and special rebates had been applied to give us special pricing on the systems we ordered. Because of these circumstances, the systems were shipping directly from the manufacturer has opposed to coming from our distributor’s warehouse. That said, we still had no idea where they were or when we would receive them.
On New Year’s Eve, our representative was gone on holiday break, and we reached one of her associates. Her associate, after I explained the situation, said that she’d would see that the units would be shipped no later than Monday. By this time, 10 days had elapsed. I was promised that the systems we needed would ship the following Monday, January 4, and they would cancel the previous order, but that the price would remain unchanged. Satisfied, I prepared my staff for deploying the new systems during the first week of the year.
Monday came around, and we still had no computers. By Tuesday, I was very concerned. We had still not even received tracking information on the shipment. On Tuesday afternoon we were informed that the units had been shipped from the manufacturer as originally planned, by some freight carrier, and were not expected to show up until January 12. I was very unhappy, as apparently, the promise of canceling the first order and shipping from a nearby warehouse was completely reneged upon. Worse yet, nobody had even told me about the change.
So, I called my sales representative’s manager and complained. She told me that she would have the systems we wanted drop shipped from a nearby warehouse, and we could just return the original order. She then said she needed to speak with our sales rep to confirm this, and that she – the manager – would call back in about 10 minutes.
After about 20 minutes, our sales rep – not her manager – called us back and was very sad and apologetic, but essentially informed me that they would not be shipping us replacement systems as again promised by her manager. She said we could order them if we want it too, but they would not honor the previously quoted price, nor would they ship the units overnight free of charge.
It took considerable willpower on my part to not scream at my sales rep, because after this for runaround that I had been getting for two weeks, I was outraged. It now seems that our distributor knew all along that the product would not ship for weeks, but never told us, and furthermore did not want to admit the problem or offer a solution.
Shortly after we placed the order for these systems, the data center where we host all of our websites came under a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Without getting into too much technical detail, malicious actors were going to great lengths to make it difficult or impossible to access servers hosted at several different data centers that we use. As a result, several of the services we offer were affected; websites were down, emails bounced, phone systems were offline, etc. Our own contingency plans, which relied upon multiple data centers from the same provider, failed because we had not planned on multiple data centers being attacked and unavailable.
As soon as it became apparent that our own plans had failed, we responded by moving critical client services to content delivery networks (CDNs) which were more resistant to this sort of attack, and could keep their sites available, even of the actual servers were taken offline. (Pretty cool!)
Throughout the attack, our provider was very good about publishing frequent updates about what was going on. They didn’t deny that there were problems and, while details were sparse, they did tell their customers what services were affected and that they were aware of and working on addressing the problems. We did our best to relay these messages to our own customers so as to keep them informed. Even though we could not do much to fend off the attacks, we kept our clients up to date as to what we could do and were doing, as opposed to just going silent.
From my perspective, the latter incident was much more serious, but because of the efforts made to simply communicate what was going on, it was much less frustrating. The former issue, which should have been much easier to remedy with just a little clear communication, has me in discussions with other vendors because of the lousy service we received. Had our data center provider chosen to say nothing at all, instead of keeping us posted, we would be searching for a replacement for them, as well.