Ask Vendors Key Questions - IT Help Desk & Customer Service Software

Ask Vendors Key Questions - IT Help Desk & Customer Service Software
Whitepaper Series: Avoid Mistakes When Buying Any Software or Cloud Services
This whitepaper is part of a series to help avoid mistakes that even the most senior and experienced professionals make that cost companies a lot of time and money. Now, learn to approach the software and cloud services buying process in a much more rigorous and analytical manner.

Key Point: Ask Vendors Key Questions Early and Often

  • Quickly share complex "must have" & "deal killer" requirements to eliminate vendors.
  • Ask for an estimated price quote. In budget ball park?
  • Ask for customer case studies and references. Quickly determine vendor reputation.
  • 30-day supported production trial? Expect to pay costs for professional services.
  • If unhappy, money back? Free resources to reconfigure/customize? Do they believe in their product?
  • Poke and prod and then listen carefully.

Ask Vendors Key Questions - IT Help Desk & Customer Service Software

Once you have documented your product feature requirements, share them with a preliminary list of vendors. Share the most complex "must have" requirements first. This will help you eliminate vendors and save time. Saving time and narrowing your list is your top priority. Engaging with vendors is very time consuming; and the more vendors you engage with, the more your daily productivity will decrease. Perhaps you have complex requirements related to workflow, customization, integration, or reporting. Put the "must haves," which are your "deal killers," on the table and carefully listen to vendor responses. If any vendor cannot meet your "must haves," quickly cross them off your list. It is important to be efficient and disciplined as this approach. Remember that engaging with vendors takes significant effort and is very time consuming. It takes your people away from their every-day responsibilities, which they are expected to perform.
If you think that all the vendors are starting to look the same, then you are not asking the right questions. You may be focusing on the lowest common denominator (i.e. the simple and basic requirements). Instead, discuss your most complex requirements quickly. You do not have to give each and every vendor a thorough and detailed evaluation. If you have carefully documented and prioritized your requirements with a cross functional team, then narrowing down your vendor list can move along very quickly.
Ask vendors early on for an estimated price quote to compare with your budget. If you cannot afford a vendor's products, then do not waste your time engaging. After some discovery discussions, most vendors will generally provide price estimates. Vendors will need to know specific modules, the number of users required, customization and integration requirements, etc. Most vendors will want to listen to you speak about your requirements and pain points before providing an estimated price quote. If vendors cannot meet your requirements, then they will not want to spend time engaging with you. Also, vendors do not want to spend time with prospects who cannot clearly articulate significant check signer pain points because without significant pain points probably nobody in your company will authorize a purchase. If you have carefully followed all the steps we discussed in the other whitepapers, then requirements and check signer pain points have already been identified by the time you speak with vendors.
Ask for case studies and customer references to understand vendor reputations. Read the case studies and ask account managers follow-up questions. Vendors will generally not provide customer references unless a prospect is close to purchasing a product. However, you will still want to ask early about reference availability, just to make sure a vendor is eventually willing to provide them. You also do not want to waste your time checking references too early in your evaluation process since you have not made a final decision.
Customer reference checking is usually the last step in the purchase process. If a vendor has case studies on their web site available, then that may be sufficient. A customer reference provided by a vendor is probably not going to give you any unique insights, as the reference may just reiterate what the account manager has already told you.
It is important to determine the reputation of the vendor in the areas of support and innovative product development. After you become a customer, your company will have to continue to engage with the vendor for product technical support. Many independent research studies on customer service and help desk software vendors indicate that many vendors fall short in this area. These vendors are often companies with broad product lines that were acquired by buying other companies. Often, as a result of acquisition, the acquired company's support infrastructure is eliminated to save money and often personnel with deep technical expertise are not retained. During customer reference checking, remember to ask about the quality and responsiveness of customer support.
After support, the next most important area of concern is innovative product development. Once your company becomes a customer, your feature needs/requirements will no doubt change. How are these going to be met throughout the future? Will the vendor continue to innovate and evolve their products? Research and development is expensive, and it is easy to cut budgets to boost profits. Ask the vendor how many product releases they have had in the last two years. Ask them for a copy of all the release notes so you can determine if they are adding new innovative features or just fixing bugs. Determine if the new features are just minor enhancements, or if they are more substantial. Ask them to demonstrate the new innovative features.
Ask the vendor if they will allow your company to use their products in a fully supported, 30-day production trial. All products look outstanding in demonstrations. Usually, most account managers and system engineers have significant experience in performing product demonstrations. They can anticipate most questions, and your team will probably walk away from product demonstrations generally impressed. The problem is that your company environment is very different than a one-hour demonstration environment. You will only learn the value of a product when your team starts using it during its routine workday.
Ask the vendor if they will assist in configuration and customization to get you up and running on their product so it is tailored to your requirements. Since you have already documented your requirements, configuration and customization should be easy. If vendors are going to assist you in a production trial, most will require you to pay for configuration, customization and support costs. This is reasonable policy since production trials require significant vendor resources, and from your perspective this is a wise investment to help you make the right purchase decision. If you are going to do a production trial, make sure that technical support will be provided or purchase a 30-day technical support contract so that you can make an assessment of vendor support.
A 30-day production trial in advance of a purchase is the best way to carefully evaluate a product. If your company cannot do such a production trial, go ahead and purchase the product and ask the vendor for a 30-day cancellation clause. This clause will allow you to cancel the contract and return the product if your company is not satisfied.

Giva White Papers - Tough Questions to Ask Vendors

Giva has three white papers that will help you ask the right questions to more quickly qualify and evaluate and software or cloud vendor and specifically customer service and IT help desk software vendors. A software vendor is like a spouse--while "dating," it is better to understand what life may be like after the "honeymoon." Ask these questions early in your qualification process to focus on the vendors that will be there for you long and after they have your company's money. Use these questions to poke and prod at your 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!

Part 1 - Tough Questions to Better Qualify Any Software or Cloud Vendor

This white paper discusses ten groups of penetrating questions to ask any software or cloud vendor (for example, Customer Service and IT Help Desk) to help make a more rigorous and objective comparison.
Some topics covered include:
  • What if my company is dissatisfied?
  • What if my company finds better technology?
  • Deployment "out-of-box" vs. time and cost of customization/configuration
  • Preparing and comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of all alternatives
  • Most overlooked critical fine print in software maintenance agreements
  • Vendor product roadmaps and commitment
  • What are the costs for post-implementation customization/configuration?
  • What qualifies as routine technical support vs. professional services fees?
  • Using uptime and support service level agreements to manage our relationship
  • Termination clauses, contract term commitments, discounts and hidden fees

Part 2 - Tough Questions to Better Qualify Any Cloud Vendor

This white paper discusses ten groups of penetrating questions to ask any cloud vendor (for example, Customer Service and IT Help Desk) to help make a more rigorous and objective comparison.
Some topics covered include:
  • Using uptime and support service level agreements to manage our relationship
  • How to qualify the reliability and security of a data center; SSAE 18 (formally SAS 70 & SSAE 16), Trustwave PCI Certification and SysTrust Compliance
  • Access to your data and rights in the cloud
  • Source code escrow rights and responsibilities
  • Termination clauses, contract term commitments, discounts and hidden fees
  • What if my company is dissatisfied?
  • What if my company finds better technology?
  • Deployment "out-of-box" vs. time and cost of customization/configuration
  • Preparing and comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of all alternatives
  • Most overlooked critical fine print in software maintenance agreements
  • Vendor product roadmaps and commitment
  • What are the costs for post-implementation customization/configuration?
  • What qualifies as routine technical support vs. professional services fees?

Part 3 - More Tough Questions to Better Qualify Any Software or Cloud Vendor

This white paper discusses ten more groups of penetrating questions to ask any software or cloud vendor (for example, Customer Service and IT Help Desk) to help make a more rigorous and objective comparison.
Some topics covered include:
  • What happens if we have a disagreement? Mediation/arbitration or litigation?
  • What are the costs of additional modules and licenses purchased in the future?
  • What are license options for part-time usage?
  • Are customer case studies with business results achieved available?
  • Are your customer references compensated in any way?
  • How will our future feature requirements be obtained?
  • Will we have an Account Manager (i.e. one neck to squeeze)?
  • Are thirty-day supported production trials available without obligation?
  • How many new releases are provided per year?
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