Guest Contributor: Joanna Nelson, Assistant Sales Manager
Look, we get it: the bottom line when it comes to securing Chromebook parts or services is pretty much all about...the bottom line. Many schools are required to take multiple bids from suppliers and repair shops, and then required to opt for the lowest cost. Fair enough — at least until those shipping dates get pushed back or those knockoff batteries go kaput, and there's no one picking up the phone to explain why your students are going back to the Dark Ages for the next month or more. Let's face it — that is not the basis for a lasting relationship.
Wouldn't it be nice to have your motherboard and reserialize it too? To be able to rely on your Chromebook lifecycle partners to not only offer the cheapest prices, but also deliver on promises and take accountability for mistakes? To have rapport with sales staff and customer service that communicate and accommodate based on the needs of your budget and your fleet? A company that — dare we say — cares?
This might sound like sappy stuff (and maybe it is), but it's good business. When it's time to go a-courting for tech needs, there are a few time-tested tricks to finding that special someone:
Make the Call
...or email, or whatever. Google reviews are a good option to collect some intel, and a Better Business Bureau rating can certainly clue you in on a base level of reliability, but details matter. Establishing contact is the chance to get a feel for the company before committing — and maybe find out if you have any common interests. How soon can they ship? What are their rates? (Our shipping is free, by the way.) Will you have a dedicated sales representative and customer service agent? Do parts come with a warranty? Is there an option for Grade B or C alternatives? And just how negotiable are those prices? Compromise is, of course, a major part of any healthy relationship; any serious suitor has to come to the table ready to compete.
Look For Warning Signs
Delays and mistakes happen; nobody's perfect. But how a potential partner conducts their business can be crucial, and honesty is the best policy. Nobody likes RMAs, but is the process clear and as painless as possible? Money is always a touchy subject, but are quotes and invoices clear and accurate? Maybe you don't expect them to remember every little detail about your fleet of devices, but listening is appreciated, and general tech knowledge should be expected. And most importantly, if anything goes wrong, no one likes to be ghosted; reliable communication is key.
Attend Some Mixers
There's no substitute for meeting face to face, and one of the best ways to do that is to scope out tech mates at an EdTech conference. These get-togethers are the perfect time to express your school's particular needs, from the quantity and models of your devices to the budget constraints you're working with. Naturally, it's also a great place to get some swag; a free tool kit or tee shirt might just sweeten the deal.
In the end though, conferences are about getting to know the people you may be working with on a personal level. And with so many companies present and vying for your attention, you can gauge how well they play with others. Conferences present the opportunity to coordinate cooperation, ensuring your Chromebook devices will be taken care of through their entire lifespan —from the initial purchase to the inevitable recycling.
Building trust in the EdTech industry can prevent a multitude of headaches and hangups, and can help make sure that IT directors are getting devices back in kids' grubby little mitts on time and within budget. But how does one suss out the professionals from the pretenders? The friends from the frauds? The crackerjacks from the straight-up quacks? As with most lasting relationships, a strong bond takes time to cement, but taking some simple steps can lead to a long and productive partnership.