Due Diligence Series Post #4 – Manufacturer Considerations, Part 3
In your manufacturer considerations thus far, you’ve vetted potential big-ticket equipment vendors for flexibility, both in attitude and ability to deliver. Those are both pillars of a solid vendor foundation. But what about the things that set them apart from the competition? What about surpassing your expectations into the realm of “above and beyond?”
The ability to deliver in this realm rests largely upon business philosophy and the vendor’s sense of their mission. This is the area where, handled properly, everything else in your manufacturer considerations becomes run-of-the mill. In this area, even parts of the rest of the transaction that may have seemed ho-hum turn into the Deciding Factor; the thing that exceeds expectations and delights the buyer.
Have It Your Way
Those of a certain age will remember the old 1974 Burger King commercials, proclaiming “have it your way.”
It was a brilliant campaign that allowed the #2 fast food provider to pull a lot of market share away from McDonald’s. The #1 giant had demanded everyone simply accept that their burgers were going to be delivered with the standard ketchup, mustard and chopped onions…no exceptions.
It was a classic example of the business success principle of putting the customer first, rather than trying to shoehorn them into what works best for you as a business. It’s no less effective today.
With that in mind, you need to ask of a potential equipment vendor is whether their standard stock is all that’s available, or if they offer customization. Clearly, the ability to have an off-the-shelf item tailored to the specific way you and your crews will actually use it is a serious advantage; not just in outcomes, but also in making that equipment pleasant and satisfying to use.
When you’re shelling out the kind of money it takes to outfit yourself well for CCTV inspection, why not hold out for a solution from a vendor who’s happy to let you have it your way?
Help Along The Way
One of the significant determiners of satisfying, long-term business relationships with an equipment vendor is whether the manufacturer works through a dealer network to help with delivery and repair. While the manufacturer must set the tone of how they expect customers to be treated, it’s often far more convenient to work with a local distributor or dealer, whose primary business is the service of the products he delivers. These middlemen more than earn their keep by helping you navigate any warranty policies and performing maintenance work on your purchase close to home.
It’s no secret that CCTV equipment necessarily has parts—such as the optics—that regardless of ruggedization by the manufacturer, are still vulnerable to the harsh environments and sometimes necessary rough handling they’re subjected to. So when those or other parts need replacement or repair, it’s important to have someone not too far away you can depend on to get you back in the field and productive as soon as possible.
Along those lines, we all know that sometimes, a part may take a bit longer than expected to arrive, or some other factor can cause delay in getting your equipment back. But the jobs don’t wait, and you don’t want to create a disgruntled customer. Does your potential vendor have a loaner policy, providing a temporary replacement to keep you working until yours is returned? This is one question that you may never really need to know, but if you do, it can make all your due diligence efforts worthwhile.
Can you get the equipment the way you need to?
Another really important question to ask, if you’re responsible for purchasing equipment for a municipality, is whether the vendor makes its products available through the channels you’re required to use to buy it. More and more public works departments are coming under blanket purchasing laws that require them to use online purchasing cooperative interfaces, commonly referred to as “buy boards.”
If you’re one of them, you want to make sure that the equipment you spec in your capital expenditures is available for purchase through this channel, or you can find yourself out of luck and disappointed when it comes time to issue the purchase order.
Increasingly, manufacturers serious about competing in the marketplace are understanding that they need to have a presence on these boards. Although lack of such a presence doesn’t automatically disqualify a vendor from consideration, it should raise concerns about how serious they are about maintaining a serious, long-term presence in the industry.
So when you’re considering a vendor for such big-ticket items, it’s clear that doing your due diligence is an investment of time and effort that can pay off long into the future. We hope this series has been helpful in outlining some best practices in planning for and protecting your equipment investment.