What questions should you ask vendors to determine their true character?
Here are 10 groups of penetrating questions to ask Customer Service and IT Help Desk vendors to determine their true character.
Ask these questions early in your qualification process to focus on the vendors that will be there for you long after they have your company's money.
Use these questions to poke and prod at your long list of vendors, and then listen very carefully when they speak. What you learn will save you a great deal of time and money. Make sure to get their responses in writing!
- After my company pays for your software licenses, what if we become dissatisfied for any reason? Perhaps the product does not work as demonstrated or promised. What will you do?
- What if better technology comes along after we purchase your software licenses? Perhaps your company is not keeping up with evolving industry standard enhancements. Are we stuck with your software licenses? Can we trade in your software licenses and receive a pro rata cash refund to purchase a product that meets our evolving needs?
- How quickly can we be up and running on your product? Does it work "out of the box"?
Will it take a week, a month, a quarter or six months or longer to deploy? Will you provide an implementation plan in writing and commit to it? Who will initially pay for set-up, customization and configuration costs? Who will pay these costs on an ongoing basis? Do we need to learn a programming language to administer and customize your product? If so, what is the approximate size of the developer community, and what is the average hourly rate?
- Please prepare an estimated Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your product over four years. Consider all the acquisition and lifetime costs of ownership. Document all your assumptions; and we will provide you with our assumptions for the analysis, as needed. How does your product TCO compare with the other companies we are evaluating? Are training, set-up, customization, configuration, support, integration and any usage fees all included in this TCO?
- What exactly is included in annual software maintenance? Will we receive major releases or just bug fixes and minor enhancements? Can you please show us exactly where this is documented in your Software License Agreement?
- Of course, we hope that we do not have to do this, but my company may want to cut costs in the future by not paying your annual software maintenance. Our CFO is concerned about commitments for ongoing fees. Can we stop paying software maintenance any time we want, but continue to use the software licenses? Do we need a license key from you each year? What happens if we stop paying annual software maintenance, and then we want to start paying again to obtain support? Do we have to "back pay" all the fees for software maintenance we did not previously pay?
- What is your roadmap for future product development? How can my company be assured that you will deliver on this roadmap? What are our options if you do not deliver?
- If we have a support issue that requires some reconfiguration, does your company charge professional services fees for this work, or is it covered under routine support?
- We will probably learn a lot about your product after using it for the first six months or even a year. If we want to do additional customization and configuration work after the initial deployment is completed, does your company charge professional service fees for this work, or is it covered under routine support?
- Does your company provide Respond and Resolve Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for support service requests that your company is committed by contract to meet? If so, how can we measure if your company is meeting or exceeding these SLAs? Can we terminate our contract if your company does not meet these support SLAs? Is there a clause in your contract to allow termination for material breach of support SLAs? How do I get support? Do I have to send an email, open a web request, or can I call your company and speak with a live person? What are your standard support hours? Do you offer extended support hours for evenings, weekends, and non-USA regions? Is there a fee for this?
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