By Barton Goldenberg
In my last post I discussed three significant phases in the Social CRM software selection process: writing the system specifications, vendor RFP response review and the Social CRM demo. Now, here are some key questions to ask each potential vendor to help you select the most suitable software for your organization.
Having a structured process for selecting any software vendor is important. Vendors come and go, and technology enhancements often mean that no one’s platform remains state-of-the-art for long. ISM recommends using the following 12-question checklist as part of the due diligence process.
Question 1: How Long Has the Vendor Been in Business and What is the History of Its Business?
While longevity is not necessarily an essential characteristic of a solid vendor, experience and a track record of success has value.
Question 2: Does the Vendor Have Experience and Customers in the Organization’s Industry Sector?
Software vendors who demonstrate understanding of your specific industry offer a real plus. Ask about the vendor’s other customers in the industry, and if the vendor is willing to provide references.
Question 3: What Is the Vendor’s Technological Direction?
It is important to understand if the technology direction of a potential vendor aligns with your organization’s own vision. Hold a technology session with the vendor’s chief technical officer to determine where the vendor is headed and how they plan to meet your organization’s needs in the future.
Question 4: Who Are the Members of Vendor’s Management Team, and What Are Their Backgrounds?
The cumulative background and experience of a vendor’s management team can provide insight into the firm’s stability and credibility. Ideally, one looks for a mix of business disciplines.
Question 5: How Is the Vendor Financed?
Determine the financial backing of any potential vendor. Ownership is important in that it can influence vendor behavior.
Question 6: Is Source Code Included with the Product?
More and more software vendors are providing source code and toolkits that let the customer make changes without using third-party partners. If the vendor does not provide the source code, ask why not? Pay close attention to the fine print regarding what is and what is not provided.
Question 7: What Training Is Offered for End Users, Train-the-Trainers, and Systems Administrators?
Remember that over the life of the system, the cost of training can be up to five times the cost of the software. Does the vendor provide training, or do they pass the responsibility to the implementation partners?
Question 8: How Does the Vendor Support Its Software (Does It Have a Guaranteed Response Time)?
Many vendors provide support services. Find out what types of support are offered as a part of the maintenance agreement.
Question 9: What Is Included in the Maintenance Agreement?
Get specifics on what exactly is provided by the agreement, the time frame of the agreement, and who will provide the service and support. Ask the vendor how upgrades and updates will be made available.
Question 10: What Is the Warranty Period and Bug-Fix Policy During This Period?
Find out what type of warranty policy the vendor has for its products. Find out from the vendor how, when, and where software fixes, updates, and upgrades are handled.
Question 11: How Does the Vendor Implement the Software?
Ask questions about the qualifications of the vendor’s implementation staff. In the case of third-party implementation partners, find out about the type of certification and length of training required to become a vendor partner.
Question 12: How Important Is Your Business to the Vendor?
Will the vendor commit necessary resources to ensure the successful implementation of the organization’s Social CRM system? Secure guarantees from the software vendor that they are prepared to commit the necessary resources to make your organization’s Social CRM project a success.
Once you have the answers to these questions, apply business judgment to determine which of these questions are most applicable to the success of the project. Then decide which software vendor best meets your organization’s needs.
In my next post, I will provide important tips for negotiating with vendors for the payment and implementation of a Social CRM system.
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Barton Goldenberg, is the founder and president of ISM Inc., customer-centric strategists/implementers serving best-in-class organizations globally. As a CRM leader for 30 years, he was among the first three inductees in the CRM Hall of Fame. Recognized as a leading “customer-focused” author, his latest book, The Definitive Guide to Social CRM, is hailed as the roadmap for Social CRM success. Barton is a popular speaker on “maximizing customer relationships to gain market insights, customers and profits”. He is a long-term columnist for CRM Magazine and speaker for CRMevolution and frequently quoted in the media.