Over the years we’ve evaluated thousands of vendors as part of our work to help our clients select the best software for their requirements and to meet their business objectives. Vendors have included Tyler Technologies, Oracle, SAP, Infor, Accela, CRW, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, Agresso, IFS, Faster, Lucity, Springbrook, CityView, Cityworks, IBM, NetSuite, Salesforce.com, Workday, Highline, Ultimate Software, PDS, Multiview, Maestro, Cenium, Ungerboeck, Delphi, Certain, Deltek, Epicor, SunGard, GovPartner, TruePoint, Harris, CSDC, Syspro, Abas, Consona, QAD, EnerGov, Radiant, Micros, Vormittag, Southware, Intuit, Blackbaud, AutoDesk, Exact, Acumatica, and many others.
We’ve observed that the top vendors have the following characteristics:
- Maintain contact with their customers, do surveys (customer satisfaction, suggestions, etc.), and focus on customer satisfaction.
- Maintain contact with consultants like us (even though I know they don’t like to deal with consultants!), keeping them informed on new products, services, etc.
- Have retained excellent staff who know their customer’s industry and are customer service focused; many are actively hiring.
- Quickly respond to customer complaints and issues in a positive manner.
- Have active user groups that they get input from.
- Make continuous improvement a priority, particularly with improving the user interface, improving reporting and ad hoc query functionality, and meeting customer requirements.
- Seek input from wherever they can, particularly on their shortcomings and areas for improvement (e.g. prices are too high, too complex to implement, not user-friendly, technology issues, etc.) and make it a priority to get these corrected.
- Constantly monitor their competitors and respond to changes in the market.
- Develop strategic partnerships and alliances, and maintain good relationships with these entities.
- Think “out of the box” to meet their customer’s needs. E.g. some now waive the first year’s annual maintenance and support fee, tailor the payment schedule to the customer’s cash flow or funding needs, structure their incentive compensation to include customer satisfaction and retention goals, include free training as long as the customer is current on its annual maintenance and support fees, etc.
There are other vendors who blame their eroding customer base, and stagnant or declining sales on everything they can think of (the consultant is biased against them, the economy, employee turnover, the customer was biased against them, their competitors used under-handed tactics, etc.). They blame these other factors when they should look critically and objectively at their solution, services and customer service (or lack thereof), and making it a priority to develop their solution and work with their customers to improve their services.
How about your software and professional services vendors? If they fall in to the latter group, how satisfied are you with their software and service? Do they have a lot of employee turnover? These may be symptoms of future problems ahead. Now may be a good time for you to look at other solutions so you know what options you have and how much lead time you will need to change.