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Why partners should go beyond SLAs

Radhika Nallayam | Sept. 19, 2013
Anybody who believes that the customer is king is living in a bubble. A bubble that a dull economy and increasing competition have burst.

And this is one quality that Pertisth Mankotia, the IT-head at Sheela Foam, finds remarkable. "The first thing I look for in a partner is his value system. If he is honest and committed, everything else will fall in place," says Mankotia.

An epitome of the right value system, says Mankotia, is Gupta. He sees a trustworthy advisor and consultant in Gupta, who can be approached every time he wants to buy something new.

For instance, being an open source-focused company, Keen & Able has come across the open versus proprietary discussion on multiple occasions. But he has never played the open source evangelist game with Mankotia. "If there is a better option in the proprietary software side, there is nothing wrong in admitting it," says Gupta.

Mankotia has seen great value in this approach. "He is not just honest, but has helped me many times to get the right solution. His willingness to share knowledge has helped me find the right direction in many circumstances." As a result, Mankotia was ready to pay more than what was quoted by Keen & Able in subsequent business dealing. That is the right price for a partner who ensures his customer gets the right solution, says Mankotia.

At Your Service

Giving the right solution or not giving a wrong one alone won't win you the battle. That's why Gupta focuses on providing the right kind of services to Sheela Foam, at times when the company badly needs it. He has gone out of his way to fix problems that are completely unrelated to the products he provides. According to him, providing mission-critical support to the customer is easily the best way to retain a customer forever.

That's something Mankotia agrees with. "A few years ago, one of our foaming machines went down and we were trying hard to fix the problem. The manufacturer could not give us timely support and getting a new machine would have taken us a lot of time," says Mankotia, for whom a downtime of few hours has significant impact on business. A troubled Mankotia called up Gupta to check whether he can help.

Within a few hours, Gupta and his team ensured that the system was up and running. "The best part is, he did it at no cost. It shows that they care about the relationship," adds Mankotia. It thus comes as no surprise that Mankotia never goes by SLAs and signed contracts. He has seen many incidents in the industry about how SLA driven relationships can fail miserably in avoiding downtime.

"Some SLAs specify support during working hours. What if something goes wrong at midnight or during a weekend? Sheela Foam has a network of 45,000 dealers, 100 distributors and multiple manufacturing facilities. I can't afford any downtime" he says. That's something Gupta will take care of.

 

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