10 Questions to Consider When Selecting Technology Vendors
November 01, 2023 | 616 Views
When evaluating new technology for your hospitality organization, your team will likely ask the obvious questions to the suppliers about cost, implementation time, included bells and whistles, customization options, security measures, and their track record in the industry. While these areas are important to cover, there are other questions that are often overlooked during your due diligence that can reveal key insights into whether a particular solution will be the right fit for your company and your budget.
To make sure you know exactly what you are getting into and don’t end up with any post-purchase headaches, consider asking these less common but critical questions as you vet potential partners.
- “If we adopt your platform/system/equipment, how many additional administrative hours will be created for my team per week?” – Don’t get so focused on how much work the implementation will be that you forget about all the time needed afterward to keep the system running, monitor performance, deal with problems, assist users, run reports, etc. You cannot assume the automation = no effort, so quantify the amount of employee workload before buying in.
- “How much of our historic data can be imported vs. needing manual re-entry?” – Converting legacy information to new systems can be hugely time-consuming, so ask about any data migration limitations. And if the vendor says they will handle it all for you, make sure you know how much extra that might cost.
- “What level of ongoing support, maintenance, and service is included?” – When dealing with the sales team pre-purchase, you can usually expect great service and instant responses…but what will it be like after you sign on the dotted line? When you need assistance, will your team be able to reach out to a dedicated account rep who knows your company history and can get answers quickly, or are you going to be communicating through a generic support email address (or chatbox) with whichever random rep happens to be available at the time? You should also inquire how quickly you can expect an answer when something stops working, especially on nights and weekends, and how much the support will cost so you don't get nickeled-and-dimed down the road.
- “If we are unsatisfied and want to leave for another vendor, what is the process for getting out of the contract?” – Look into whether there is an out clause in case the tech turns out NOT to be aligned with your needs and find out what the conditions and costs are to leave before the agreed upon term ends. Also, if you need to signal your intention NOT to renew an agreement by a specific date, mark that date clearly on your calendar so it doesn’t slip past, and you end up unintentionally paying for another year.
- “How do you handle data/content ownership and portability?” – Following up on #4 above, if you decide to switch to another vendor, ask about the terms regarding data ownership, access, and the ease of migrating. What will you be able to take with you when you leave? This question is especially important with an LMS that comes with a proprietary authoring tool for content; if you design content for that LMS using their tool, will you be able to use that content elsewhere, or is it only going to work on their system (and you’ll have to redo everything once you switch)? If that is the case, you may want to invest in an external authoring tool that will allow you to create content for any LMS you choose, as it will save you time, money, and effort in the long run.
- “How will you help drive employee adoption and properly train end users?” – My rule is that if a vendor doesn’t offer training for my team members, then I won’t do business with them; I am only going to select a partner that will properly support usage acceleration so that we can achieve our ROI as rapidly as possible. Follow-up questions you might ask include the types of training available (Is it live, self-guided, onsite, or virtual?) and any extra costs outside of what you are already paying.
- “How many of your clients actually use all the features you demonstrated today?” – Most vendors are going to try to dazzle you in their demos by bragging about all the fancy features offered with their technology, but you should cut through the hype and ask for real-world usage data on advanced functionalities. If you only require the core items and won’t be using all the extras, then perhaps you don’t need the more advanced model/system and can make do with the more basic version.
- “What new features are on your product roadmap for the next 12-18 months?” – Speaking of features, get insights into the vendor's plans for product updates to not only ensure continual innovation, but also ensure alignment with your long-term goals/needs. And, of course, ask if there will be extra costs for any of these improvements. Additionally, if frequent system upgrades are planned, what disruptions might be caused by them, and will your technology be offline for any lengthy periods of time? Understanding the vendor’s complete roadmap can be a valuable investment of your time.
- “What sets you apart from your competitors?” – This question could lead to a variety of answers: the way they charge for their system, exemplary service levels, proprietary features, or even that they are located in the same city as you (which can be helpful in an emergency). Whatever it is that makes them unique, assess if that selling point is something of value to your team.
- “How does your company measure success/satisfaction among clients?” – My final question is one that we ask of ourselves in the hospitality industry, and it’s one we should be asking of the folks who supply our technology as well. Do they have benchmarks they are trying to achieve, or do they have measurable ways to track their performance? And what happens if they do not meet those standards with your team?
Taking the time to dig deeper with vendors on these critical areas will ensure you find the strongest technology partner for your hospitality organization's needs. By asking these critical questions during the discovery process, you can make informed decisions that align with the company's goals, enhance both employee and guest experiences, and promote the long-term success of your hospitality business.
Now, what questions would you add to this list? If you have an area to explore that I didn’t include, please mention it in the comments section below so that other readers can benefit from your wisdom.
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Great advice. Will definitely come in handy down the road.