Within our company, we have always invested heavily in technology to help our business be effective, efficient, eliminate risk and maintain our rapid growth. Some of our experiences with these tools have been better than others.
Over the past few years, I’ve consistently heard clients talk about their business needs, their “must haves” and technology requirements when evaluating solutions to integrate with their use of Salesforce.com. Here are a few phrases I often hear:
- What are your security requirements?
- Does our data leave our Salesforce org?
- What is the architecture of your application?
- Are you a managed package?
- Can you provide concrete examples of your solution scaling with global organizations?
- Who is the typical end user who will be managing your solution: Business or IT?
- Can your company prove that they are SAS 70 compliant?
- What level of support and response times do you provide?
The ones around client service requirements and expectations for post-sales support are continuing to stand out in popularity. What I’m noticing is that companies of all sizes are ranking easy implementation, post-sales support and thought leadership much higher as priorities than price and product features. They don’t just want to buy software. They want someone to help them learn how to use it. It makes sense, doesn’t it? How fast is a Ferrari with no gas? How clutch would Michael Jordan be without Scottie Pippen? How would Led Zeppelin sound without Jimmy Page or Robert Plant?
I’m exaggerating a little, but there is some truth behind those questions, and sadly more and more business models continue to be: “Hey Mrs. Client, that’s not part of your support program, so you’ll need to figure that out.”
Traditionally, companies who have purchased enterprise software have received a mediocre level of support at best. Yes, there are companies that “get it” — companies that continue to invest heavily in customer success, take a thought leadership stance and approach the client lifecycle in an appropriate and honest way as they realize the purchase is the beginning of the relationship, not the end. But then there are still the many times when it’s just the opposite — when companies invest in a solution and then rarely hear from their “preferred vendor” or “partner” for the remainder of the agreement. Why? Why? (Yes, that was a double Why.)
The agreement is where the fun begins and to be blunt, where the real work starts. When you invest in technology, it is the vendor’s responsibility to make sure you’re gaining value, getting a return on your investment and becoming a customer advocate.
Take that into consideration as you ask potential vendors your questions. And you don’t even have to do all the work yourself: You can rely on third-party sites to help you find answers to a vendor’s support strategy, too. One great example is G2 Crowd. In fact, the G2 Crowd team just recently dug into their customer success data set from more than 20,000 reviews to determine the top-rated products based on specific survey criteria. Some of the categories included ease of use, ease of set-up, support and ease of doing business with, among others. You can take a look at who tops these lists here. (I’m proud to say that you’ll see LevelEleven on most of them!)
So, if your 2015 plans include evaluating new Salesforce apps , or really any new technology in general, during your due diligence, be sure to dig deep into support research and ask yourself, “Are they going to just sell me software, or are they going to teach me how to be successful?”