Strategy for dealing with suppliers

2018/06/21

This post has been at the back of mind for a while now because I often encounter randoms and family who have had poor and frustrating experiences dealing with  suppliers over the phone. There is a lot a customer can do to make the experience easier and more productive.

I have had to deal with various services over the phone over the years and I have developed an approach which works well, helps you to gain accountability from the provider and ensures you have an effective tool and information for when things get rough.

Why write this?

We’ve all had to deal with it in one form another, we’ve bought something online and it hasn’t arrived, some sort of technical fault has occurred with a device or service, or you’ve had some sort of poor customer experience when dealing with a supplier. In your conversations with the supplier things have not gone well for you, you’re not comfortable that the supplier has understood the problem or not taking your needs seriously. Maybe you have already spoken to them and the supplier has made a commitment to you and that commitment hasn’t been met or wasn’t up to the standard you expect. If you’ve had an experience like this then hopefully the following tips will help you to help the supplier to help you.

Do’s and Don’ts

Starting with some simple do’s and don’ts for how you approach and handle the situation…

  • Be polite. Regardless of who the supplier is, where they are located or how angry you are remember that the person you’re dealing with is a fellow human and almost certainly isn’t to blame for the experience you’ve had. Ensuring you are polite with the person you’re speaking to gives you the best chance of having that person take on an advocate role for you inside the supplier organisation. Often people in these roles are dealing with hundreds of customers who have an axe to grind. The customers they are likely to remember and go the extra mile for are the ones that treat them well, like a colleague or friend. Your kindness and empathy makes you stand out.
  • Be patient. If the supplier is a large organisation then things can sometimes take a while to work their way through the system. Yes you’re likely to end up in a call queue, more than once, probably a few times. Yes its poor customer service for suppliers to let their customers rot on hold however that is not your beef here. Your mission is to get the outcome YOU want. If you want a supplier that responds to customers quickly then do your research and find one that can do that. It is also common to experience heavily scripted first contact calls with suppliers. Be patient, answer the questions and let the supplier process roll. Being angry or frustrated about a call script isn’t polite or patient.
  • Be open. Be clear, open, direct and don’t make stuff up. You want to own the moral high ground in the interaction, not look like some goon trying to get something for free. If things have been rough when dealing with the supplier, explain this to the person you’re dealing with so they can understand your frustrations. Tell the supplier on the phone that you will be taking notes. Ask Open Questions. Remember though, above all, be polite.
  • Keep a Log. One of the easiest and most important things to do is to keep a log of your interactions with the supplier. Date, time, name of the supplier agent you spoke to (its reasonable for you to ask for their first name, some suppliers even allow their staff to supply some sort of employee ID, its NOT okay to ask for their full name though), the topics of conversations and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the commitments and information the supplier gives you on the call. Critically, it’s important to also request a case number, ticket number or some sort of identifier that the supplier uses to track customer interactions. If a supplier isn’t using such a system it’s almost certainly time to find another supplier.
  • One problem at a time. Try and deal with one thing at a time at the start. This makes it easier and quicker to get the ball rolling and get the supplier engaged. Services staff will often ask at the end of a call if there is anything else you need help with. This is the time to bring up the next issue. Ensure you treat the issue the same way as you did the first. Prepare and Execute.

Preparation

When you are starting off an interaction with a supplier to get a matter addressed or resolved, spend a few minutes before you pick up the phone or send the email and make a few notes for yourself to help you focus on the issue and get it resolved as quickly as possible.

  • Problem Statement Start with a brief sentence which describes the problem you’re having or the need you have.
  • So far I have… Write down a few points about the actions you’ve taken to try and address the problem yourself and any observations about the problem that may have changed.
  • Recent Changes Think about anything that might have changed recently.
  • I would like… Describe what the best outcome for you is but also describe what a bonus outcome might be.

Execution

Now the time has come to contact the supplier. The best way to do this depends on what sort of service the issue is about and where the supplier is located.

If the problem relates to a product or service from a supplier that is based overseas then email might be the best way to contact them. If the supplier is a local supplier then phone might be better. Either way the execution is largely similar.

The goal here is to produce an experience log you can share with the supplier or, if things go badly, a regulatory agency later.

Contact the supplier, state the problem and request help. For each interaction you have with the supplier, include the following in your log:

  • How you contacted the supplier. Phone, email, web form etc and what the number, address or URL for that contact was. A neat trick when calling suppliers who have complicated IVR phone systems is to write the number you called and then the keypad options you dialled. This way you can quickly refer back to the numbers you dialled if you have to call again and you have a better chance of ending up with the same team you spoke to the first time.
  • The date and time you made the contact, the name of the person you spoke to, the location (suburb, city, state) of the call centre where the call was answered and what the result of that contact was.
  • Notes and comments about the supplier conversation.
  • Pay careful attention to what the agent is saying and telling you. Some agents, particularly new or junior operators may do or say things to you that just aren’t true or show that they do not understand what you are telling them. If you suspect this is the case you should request an escalation to a more senior person. Be sure you note the date and time of the request.
  • If you seem to be getting a little roadblocked by an agent, its often useful to keep coming back to your original problem and invite them to comment on what needs to happen to have it resolved. If you turn the conversation around on them and force them (politely!) to present options to help you get things resolved then that can often get you some traction.
  • Agents will often say “someone will get back to you”. When you are told this, push hard (politely!) for a timeframe where someone will get back to you. Agents can be very evasive about this for several reasons. Your job is to get them to set a day, date or timeframe for when you will be contacted and the role of that person. If they refuse to give a number, throw a speculative number at them.
    • You: One year?
    • Agent: No.
    • You: Six months then?
    • Agent: No.
    • You: One week?
    • Agent: Oh yes, absolutely within a week.

And this is the important part, you state back them your understanding. “Thank you, I will expect a call back from from the Escalations Team no later than 5pm next {DAYNAME+7 HERE}.

A good approach to take is to assume that the notes you keep will be shared with the supplier in the future. If you keep your notes clear, concise, polite and factual then if/when things go off the rails you can easily share the log of information with the agent directly. Don’t ever put anything in the notes you don’t want the supplier or regulator to read.

Going to a regulator

Some suppliers are subject to government regulation such as telcos, banks, other government agencies. A regulator can help you get your issue resolved when you have been unable to do so with the supplier directly.

Before contacting a regulator though, advise the supplier that you are considering taking the issue to their regulator. Some suppliers (like telco’s here in Australia) are very keen to ensure that customer issues do not end up with the regulator. There are various reasons for this. Sometimes the supplier will escalate your case to special team within the organisation for dealing with these situations.

My preference is the three-strikes method. When a supplier has had three attempts or opportunities to resolve your issue and have been unable to do so, advise the supplier that you will be contacting the regulator. If the supplier still doesn’t come through for you, look up how to contact the regulator and open a case with them.

Regulators almost always expect you to have attempted to resolve an issue with the supplier directly before they will take on your case. If you have a detailed log of all the interactions you had with the supplier then this helps the regulator enormously because they can see at a glance everything you have done and when. This also increases the likelihood that the regulator will take your case on for you.

Common Challenges and Pitfalls

  • Look out for the up-sell. Some less reputable suppliers might try and convince you that you need to give them more money or purchase an alternative product to have your issue addressed. Do not give in to this. If this happens to you, focus on getting the issue resolved and then find a new supplier.
  • Sometimes something bad happens. I once spent 4 weeks working with a supplier to have an issue resolved. The case ended up on their Asia-Pacific Vice President’s desk and was resolved in very short order from there. I was only able to get this to happen because the suppliers IT team migrated their issue tracking system to a new service in the middle of my case and lost all my history. I was faced with the task of starting again or being polite yet firm to get an effective escalation. The VP was very apologetic and I learnt I wasn’t the only customer who wasn’t please about the situation.
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A mapping (no not a Swardley thing) of On Prem, AWS and Azure Security Components

2018/05/28

A useful one pager to compare the various security products of AWS, Azure and the usual on-prem suspects/capabilities.

via Conceptual Mapping of On-premises Infrastructure Security Components to Cloud Security Services by Adrian Grigorof CISSP, CISM, CRISC,CCSK – physical, providers, security function | Peerlyst


Spectre 2.0

2018/05/08

More Spectre like goodness in the pipeline. I suspect the Cloud platforms are madly patching their millions of servers as we speak.

And to think, people still like to run their own tin.

If your patching processes haven’t matured this FY (WannaCry, Spectre v1 and now v2) then you’re doing it wrong.

Despite positive first quarter results for 2018, Intel faces continuing issues with its foundries, both with the oft-delayed 10nm, as well as its own modem production in 14nm. Intel revealed in the earnings conference call that volume 10nm manufacturing had been delayed to 2019, without specifying which part of the year.

Source: Intel Foundries Continue to Face Issues and Another Spectre-Like Vulnerability Disclosure May Be Looming


Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac

2018/03/12

Mac users have a few choices when it comes to an RDP client for MacOS. There is the one that comes included with MacOS or there is the the one from Microsoft in the App Store.

There is also a beta version of the app store version available from here which, if you like to run beta stuff to get access to new and improved features and bugs is also useful.

I blew away my Mac on the weekend and did a fresh OS install etc because reasons. Unfortunately for me I didn’t remember to save/export my config from the beta client. Fortunately I had my TM backups and was able to grab the config file out of it and copy it over to my new profile. Problem is is that the App Store and Beta versions seem to store their configs in different files. **FURIOUS EYE ROLLING**

For the benefit of other people and for my own future reference the beta version of the app stores its config in `~/Library/Application Support/com.microsoft.rdc.osx.beta`. So, to recover your settings quickly and easily, quit the app, copy the file above from your backups and then restart your Mac. After the restart when you open the beta client you should see all your configs restored.

Edit:

I had a response from the team that develops the tool to my question about this. They said:

hi Andrew, they are stored under:
~/Library/Application Support/com.microsoft.rdc.osx.beta/com.microsoft.rdc.application-data.sqlite

this will only transfer your saved desktops, remote app feeds, gateway, and usernames.
it wont transfer your passwords, as they are stored on the keychain.
also please note that this is not an officially supported scenario


Azure AD Connector Configuration Dumper

2018/03/06

So today I discovered that if you inspect the Azure AD Connector config via its GUI the config it gives you is actually about 5% of what is actually there. Specifically, the GUI doesn’t display the rules for OU filtering.

To work around this you can use the sync tool to display the OU filtering config. You’ll need to login as your in-prem AD sync user though to do this. If you don’t have those credentials then you can gather the config using the tool below and then turn it into an easier to review HTML output.

Be warned though, a small AD I ran this against produced a 3MB html file of stuff. There is A LOT of items in AADC that average admins wont ever see or hear about.

Microsoft/AADConnectConfigDocumenter: AAD Connect configuration documenter is a tool to generate documentation of an AAD Connect installation.


IPv6 with Synology RT2600ac via HE tunnel

2017/12/31

Very quick and dirty steps required to get IPv6 over IPv4 working in your Synology RT2600ac.

Head over to https://tunnelbroker.net and create an account. Create a tunnel service and note down the following details:

IPv6 Tunnel Endpoints

  • Server IPv4 Address
  • Server IPv6 Address
  • Client IPv4 Address
  • Client IPv6 Address
  • Routed IPv6 Prefix

Open the SRM admin page open the “Network Centre” app.

Select “Internet”. Under the “Connection” tab click the “IPv6 setup” button. Select the following settings:

  • IPv6 Setup: 6in4
  • IPv6 Address: {CLIENT IPv6 ADDRESS AS ABOVE}
  • Prefix Length: 64
  • Prefix: {ROUTED IPv6 PREFIX AS ABOVE} You dont need to include the trailing /64. Its already entered for you.
  • Remote server IPv4 address: {SERVER IPv4 ADDRESS AS ABOVE}

Press “Okay”.

Back in the “Network Centre” app, select “Local Network”. Under the “IPv6” tab, tick the box to enable IPv6 and select your “Prefix” from the drop down menu. Press Apply.

Now onto validating and testing.

Back in the “Network Centre” app, click on “Status”. Next to the “Internet Connection” heading, click the little drop down and select IPv6. It should say “Connected”.

Finally, check a client machine in your local network and make sure it has an IPv6 address auto-assigned. From that machine browse to http://ipv6-test.com/

 


Useful man pages in your browser

2017/12/21

A new useful *nix tool popped up in my Twitter timeline a while back.

http://tldr.sh/

Lede says Simplified and community-driven man pages and it does what it says on the tin.

If you’re a *nix admin you know the drill of looking up man pages for *nix tools. You’re solving some problem and need to grok an *nix command options and/or refer to a sample of how the tool is used. man {toolname} is the way to do it.

Frequently though the result is usually page and pages of esoteric information about the tool most of which you will never learn and will take you a lot of time to wrap your brain around. Sometimes there will be examples, waaay at the bottom of the page and often those usage examples are pretty light on information.

This is where http://tldr.sh/ comes in. Put your *nix tool name into the sample at https://tldr.ostera.io/ and it will display useful help. Example: https://tldr.ostera.io/tar

But it doesn’t end there. The page also has many community contributed clients. Scroll down the page at http://tldr.sh/ for the full list.

My favourite use of it is to add the https://tldr.ostera.io/ as a search provider in your browser. Chrome in my case. Open your Chrome settings and add a search engine with the config as below.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 11.36.16

Now, in any search bar in Chrome you can type tldr {toolname} eg tldr tar and it will display the results right there for you. A convenient way to get useful information about *nix tools.