Last year, I was invited to write an article for the technology issue of Western Independent Bankers’ magazine, Western Banker. That article, “Managing Technology Service Provider Relationships” (download the article below) was based on customer experiences that were shared with me in several of my past core vendor evaluation engagements with community bankers.

The key to achieving a beneficial vendor relationship is managing the relationship. Managed by the bank, not the vendor. Accepting whatever your vendor provides without interaction (or sometimes intervention) has the potential of leading to a broken relationship. Your bank must manage the relationship, actively manage it. Too much is at stake to take a passive role, otherwise.

When the relationship breaks, eventually everything is at risk, including the technology as well. And, I have seen several broken relationships recently. More often than not, a dysfunctional relationship is the underlying reason why I am engaged to manage a core vendor search. It may not be obvious at first, but before the engagement is complete, I can usually point to a relationship break down as the most significant contributing factor.

I’ll be offering in the weeks ahead a few suggested measures to help improve the relationship with your vendor. If the relationship is good, it can probably be better. I’ll be taking the vendors to task in the future blog posts; however, if a bank-vendor relationship deteriorates, it may not be entirely the fault of the vendor. Granted, the customer is never wrong, but sometimes customers can be “more right.” Sometimes, your bank’s actions can actually improve your vendor relationships. Sometimes, sometimes not.

Begin by evaluating your relationship with your vendor. Does your bank consider your vendor to be a trusted strategic partner? Your bank needs to be able to do that. Does the vendor represent itself as a trusted strategic partner? It takes two willing partners in order for there to be a trusted relationship. Does this relationship exist? Ask yourself, is your bank doing everything to optimize the relationship? In many engagements, I have found the customer has been far too passive.

So let’s begin by measuring how well your bank interacts with your vendor. Do you participate in user groups? Do you take advantage of training opportunities offered by your vendor? Does your senior management participate in scheduled meetings with your vendor? Is your bank up-to-date with system releases? Take the time to measure the efforts at your bank and then apply my suggestions where applicable.

Managing Technology Service Provider Relationships