Bad Business 101

My company is in the process of a major Web redevelopment, and I’m the point guy on the project. Among other things, it was my job to identify, solicit and make the hiring call on the vendor. I’m happy with the company we wound up with, but as the letter below indicates, it was an odd and frustrating journey. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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Hi Jeff. I wanted to get back to you on your recent bid for our Web redevelopment project. We felt like XYZ Interactive represented an outstanding development resource, and in the end I was convinced that you were the most capable vendor we solicited. Additionally, you came in with the lowest bid.

However, we decided to award the business to another vendor. Since best quality and lowest price is usually a winning formula, I thought you’d appreciate some explanation.

You no doubt noticed, the last time we spoke, that I was pushing very hard for the ability to control and manage site content on my own. That I be able to create new pages, adjust basic navigation, move things around as needed, etc., was essential for our particular operation, but you were adamant that this wasn’t how it worked. I’m not sure who established your firm’s development and operations model or the reasons for it, but XYZ basically insists on owning all of these processes, even the really simple ones.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this approach doesn’t address our requirements. I can understand why having your company offer this kind of hosted, fully managed service would be a valuable option for many clients, but I can’t quite fathom why it’s the only option. In our particular case, the person running the site – me – has been managing site content for nearly 15 years. I founded one of the first 2,000 sites in the world; I directed a large, enterprise-level internal operation for a Fortune 150; I was managing editor of the corporate site for a prominent software company; and my “hobby” blog was one of the 124 sites credentialed to cover the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Clearly, there’s no reason why my organization can’t manage something as simple as adding a new PDF to the case studies page on our site.

After a couple of exchanges, you finally shut the conversation off by telling me this: “I’m sorry, but that’s a service we don’t offer.” At that point XYZ Interactive lost the business to a more expensive, slightly less capable competitor. That company had already accepted that they weren’t going to get the contract, and they were shocked to learn that they had.

I’m not writing all this to berate you, and apologize if I sound like I’m lecturing. After all, I doubt this was your policy and you did an outstanding job in understanding the scope of the project (this one issue notwithstanding) and presenting me with a highly competitive bid. But I thought that you and your bosses would like to know that I wanted to work with you, but you lost the contract over rigid adherence to what looks like, from my perspective, an unnecessary policy. It’s as though I’d gone into Burger King and ordered a Whopper, only to be turned away because they absolutely refused to make it without tomato.

At some point down the road I feel certain I’ll need someone to develop another Web site for me, and since your portfolio is nothing short of outstanding, I hope when I call on you I’ll find that you’ve changed your offerings so that they’re aimed at accommodating the customer’s requirements instead of your own preferences.

I appreciate your time and consideration, and wish XYZ Interactive all the best.

Sincerely,

Sam Smith

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