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Re: Comments on Journal Subscription Agents Christopher Allen Waldrop (16 Apr 2004 20:58 UTC)

Re: Comments on Journal Subscription Agents Christopher Allen Waldrop 16 Apr 2004 20:58 UTC

One thing we've done recently is have written contracts with our
subscription agents. Most libraries have these, but we made sure to
include language in ours that specifically stated our expectations
of our customer service representative. Because of problems we've
had in the past, and not necessarily with one specific vendor,
we've made sure to specify that, among other things:

1. Our customer service representative will respond to all queries
within 24 hours. An answer to our question isn't necessarily
needed, but at the very least we do expect an acknowledgment that
our query was received.

2. We will not have to wait for the subscription agent to get a
refund from the publisher if the agent made a mistake in billing

3. All appropriate discounts will be applied to our subscription.
The burden is on us to let our agent know in advance that we're
eligible for a particular discount (for instance, if we're Project
Muse subscribers) but if they fail to apply the discount they're
responsible for refunding us the overcharge.

All of this may sound pretty obvious but surprisingly we continue
to have some of the same problems even with vendors who have agreed
to those terms. Being able to point to that in writing, though,
gets their attention most of the time.

--On Tuesday, April 13, 2004 7:51 AM -0500 Judy Casada
<jcasada@UARK.EDU> wrote:

> Lesley's first paragraph is right on the mark; it describes our
> experiences with various agents with remarkable accuracy.
> At 10:45 AM 4/13/2004 +0200, you wrote:
>> Hallo Greg,
>> During my time here, we've worked with five major agents, all
>> well-known names.  I hope agents are reading this posting.  The
>> agent is reputable and not about to go bust.  Each agent we've
>> worked with has been outstanding, good, or awful depending on
>> the quality of the contact person, so I don't think the agent's
>> name matters as much as all that (solvency aside, of course).
>> You can get what you think is a good agent, and then the contact
>> person changes, and it all goes downhill.
>> BTW: if you have an automated system and are not a very big
>> library, then with reasonable planning, changing agents isn't
>> the end of the world.  During my time we've changed our
>> principal agent three times. So if you aren't happy, you aren't
>> stuck for ever.
>> Agents try to save on salaries, but if your contact person can't
>> follow through on an inquiry or doesn't have the authority to
>> solve problems or offer in-depth assistance, you're in trouble.
>> So ask about the command structure in the organisation, and get
>> the names and titles of people at various levels of the
>> hierarchy whom you can approach for in-depth advice or
>> assistance when the regular contact person isn't enough.
>> Billing operations are in a different universe from supply
>> operations, and agents don't seem to think customers need to
>> know about the billing side, so get a good contact there.  Ask
>> for a very clear, detailed description of the billing procedure.
>> We had an agent who sent us a renewal invoice based on estimates
>> which proved to be hugely wide of the mark, so that right at the
>> end of the fiscal year we got a $10,000 credit that had to be
>> spent in more haste than is comfortable.  Not only that, but
>> because they had in effect re-priced every single title, we had
>> to go back into all of our records making credits for each one.
>> This makes a big difference to your workload.
>> How much hands-on help are they ready to give if you have an
>> automated system that is supposed to allow electronic claiming
>> or electronic invoicing?  In my experience, you *will* need help
>> with these!  Are they willing to visit?
>> Will they supply invoices in Excel format as well as on paper,
>> if this helps to simplify any of your procedures?
>> Will they give you an alert when a title is going to increase by
>> more than a certain percent?
>> Good luck,
>> Lesley Tweddle
>>, tel. 797-6912
>> Head, Serials Department,
>> American University in Cairo - Libraries & Learning Technologies.
>> American University in Cairo, Library - Serials, 11 Youssef
>> el-Guindy Street, Bab el-Louk, Cairo 11511, Egypt.
>> FAX 792-3824.  International dialling code from USA 011-202;
>> from UK 002-02
> Judy Casada
> Serials Department
> University of Arkansas Libraries
> 365 N Ozark Ave
> Fayetteville  AR   72701-4002
> Phone/Voice: 479-575-5416
> Fax: 479-575-4817

Christopher Allen Waldrop
Serials Coordinator
Order Services Department
Vanderbilt University Library
Ph: 615-343-3831
Fax: 615-343-8834