I have witnessed many instances where 911 Comm Center staff members are shopping for new equipment, but they will not call any references of the vendors-in-question. I am not sure why this is? Maybe the dispatch managers know that the companies they’re looking into will only send them the “good” references, maybe they simply do not have the time to call around, or maybe they just feel silly asking someone else if they’ve made a good choice or not.
Any company in the 911 industry, or any industry for that matter, gets the request for references from time to time. Word of mouth is what we (the salespeople) tend to live by, so we want to have as many good references as we can. However, not all companies value this sentiment as much as others do. It is really up to each company to do the right thing when the need for quality service comes up. All too often, I hear stories about bad customer service, and I also hear about too many times when a product did not do what it advertised. Regardless of these companies’ poor reputations, I still see them selling to 911 centers and going to trade shows every year.
These vendors most likely continue to conduct substandard business because the people who are buying from them don’t bother to ask past clientele about their experiences. Calling references is a great way to verify if you’re making the right choice when it comes to investing in new equipment, and to help you out, here are a few tips on how to get the truth:
- Ask around at smaller state meetings where vendors are not invited. This is a great chance to hear what is going on and who likes what. Simply ask, “Who has equipment from XYZ, and how has it worked for you?”
- Go tour your neighboring center. Trust me when I say that you are almost always welcome. The 911 industry has a strong fraternity of dispatchers and managers who know they need to help each other out in order to be more successful.
- Create a list of questions, and email them to your cohorts. You can get into in-depth detail by asking open-ended questions, or you can make it quick and easy by only asking questions that require short answers. Example questions are below:
- In-depth questions:
- How is the product holding up?
- How is the service handled?
- Did the salesperson deliver on what they promised?
- What did you learn about the vendor during the purchasing process?
- Quick questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you score your vendor?
- Do you regret buying this?
- Have you seen anything better develop in the past few years?
Don’t be afraid or too busy to reach out to another 911 Comm Center for a reference. I know of several cases where the lack of good service has ruined the experience with a good product. If the vendor showcases poor customer service, such as not honoring their warranty, it will haunt you for years. The best way to avoid nightmarish situations like this is simply by doing some homework and taking advantage of the great network system already built into the 911 community. Happy shopping!