Vendor relations, part the next

I got a call from a vendor this morning who wanted to send me review copies of her publications.

First point of interest:  I’ve told this vendor to stop calling me and instead call our Reference selector.  I’ve provided his name and contact information.  I’ve done this several times, because they are solely a reference publisher and I do not do anything with reference materials other than allocate the budget.  The vendor is not listening to me, and so the call is pointless from moment one because I’m never going to select reference materials.  Updating their database when a customer gives them this sort of information would save them a useless sales call and save me the time of talking about how it’s a useless sales call.  (And would generally make me like them more because they listened to me.)

Second point of interest:  I cut her off midway through her first sentence because it was clear she was trying to send me review copies.  “I’m sorry, we don’t do review copies.”
“Can you tell me why not?  We think they’re a great way to show off new materials.”
“I’m sure that they are a great way to learn about new materials, but they create an added workload that we just can’t support with our current staffing levels.”
“Oh, I’m sure they’re not that much more work.”
“Actually, they are.  They have to be received by our staff who sort the mail, routed to the correct selector, reviewed on your timeframe which may not be convenient to us, and then returned if they’re not appropriate to our collection.  Every step of that process is an added workload over selecting materials from review sources.”
“Well, you could always call our customer service line and ask for an extension to ease the deadlines.”
“Which is another added workload.”
“I suppose it is, because someone would have to pick up a phone and make a call.”

The conversation trickled off from there, because her tone when she said “pick up a phone” implied that we were just being lazy, and my tone got equivalently frosty.  She didn’t even offer to send email or print pre-publication information before she hung up, which I would have eagerly accepted (as long as she sent it to the reference selector).

Vendors can try to sell me things.  They can try to sweet-talk me, flatter me, charm me, or wow me with their products.  They can offer me trinkets that I’m unable to accept by law, they can feed me at conferences, they can stop by and buy me coffee in our cafe (as long as it’s on ‘nominal value’) while they tell me all about their company.  They can send me emails and do webinars and slideshows and presentations.  They can, in short, build a relationship with me as a customer and try to sell me their products.

They may not ignore my input, imply that I’m lazy, or tell me I’m wrong.  Because that’s a bad way to build a customer relationship, and it’s a great way to make sure that I never want to deal with you again.  I can go elsewhere for my information products and services, and I will.


  1. I *love* how people sometimes “try to do their job” by implying that I am failing to do mine…by failing to do theirs. Nope, that does not inspire me to take advantage of what they have to offer. I have the feeling that at some point in the process, things will become significantly more challenging for me as a result.

    I don’t envy your position, but I do think that you handle it well.


  2. If the folks on our computers wouldn’t give me dirty looks, I’d be cheering right now. Through their complete lack of customer service skills, one publisher caused us so many problems last year that I plan to never do business with them again. And since I’m only in my mid-30’s, that’s potentially a lot of business.


  3. In this day and age, it’s never “just a phone call.” A phone call means playing phone tag, usually multiple times, to get ANY situation resolved, unless the call is to a small company or agency. I figure ANY phone call I make means at least 5 minutes, possibly up to 15 just to leave a proper message with the right person. And then there are the follow-up calls when the message isn’t understood, or is not handled correctly.


  4. Aim, YES. It’s somehow my fault that my organizational structure doesn’t accommodate her preferred sales tactic. Um, NO.

    And there it is, Kirsten — I’ve got a lot of years left of librarianship (say, 30), all likely to be spent in a position of responsibility that vendors will be interested in. And while I’m unlikely to write off a corporation long-term — there are too many changes in the corporate environment not to give them a second chance if I think they deserve it — I’m going to be very reluctant to spend my limited dollars with places that give me limited customer service.

    Because, like Cat said, it’s never just a phone call, for any of us. It’s your connection to the customer.


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