Fancy technology and seemingly-unlimited innovation are great things to see with a new potential vendor, but what happens when things go wrong at 2:00 pm on a Friday during the second month into a 3-year contract? Do you have an advocate on your side? Customer service is a vital part of the vendor selection process but often overlooked when a new vendor is courting you. You can help avoid a customer service nightmare with a future vendor by asking these 5 questions before signing on the dotted line.
1. What are your customer survey scores?
Any vendor that cares about making sure their customers are happy will conduct customer satisfaction surveys, and will either use a standard customer satisfaction score or a rigorously defined one they use internally. The Net Promoter surveys are what I have found to be the most simple and effective way to gauge customer satisfaction. Ask your potential partner what types of customer surveys they use, how often they survey customers, plus when the last survey was launched, and what the past and current scores are.
If your suitor is unable to produce actual survey results it probably means they don’t take the time to actually survey customers. And that means they're only telling you what you want to hear.
2. Will you have a dedicated resource assigned to our account?
Ask any potential vendor who will make up your future team. It’s okay to ask for a named resource along with professional biographies of the key team members. Some vendors will even allow you to meet the person in advance.
If you are unable to get a named individual, you should ask how much industry experience a normal resource will have, how long they have been with the company and any other industry-specific background information.
Oftentimes, your relationship with this person can make or break the partnership, and you want to make sure they are set up for success with your account.
3. What's your customer AND employee retention rate?
Next, ask what the vendor’s customer and employee retention rate is.
Customers don’t go through the long process of finding a new vendor if they are happy, but they absolutely will if they're having a bad experience. In fact, about 67% of customers list bad customer service as the reason for leaving a vendor, and most individuals will avoid a vendor for almost 2 years after a bad customer service experience. It's best to figure out what the customer retention rate is, and why past customers may have left.
Also, if employees are happy and long-tenured, it's likely they also have happier customers. A low employee retention rate may be a sign of a toxic work environment that will only leave unhappy employees who are sticking around because they have no other option, or who turnover frequently, leaving you with new account managers every other month.
4. Where can I find more reviews?
When looking at a potential new vendor, you can trust but should also verify. Ask them for references and reviews, but also do your research in social circles, industry groups, or on review sites.
When you ask for references, a potential vendor will cherry pick the customers for you to talk to. You should also:
- Ask your industry peers who they use.
- Ask for references from former customers.
- Review your potential vendor on peer or paid review sites.
- Review your potential partner on GlassDoor as employees will often tell you exactly what the culture is like on the inside (and happy employees generally lead to happy customers).
5. Tell me more about your service team
This comes down to KYC - Know Your Customer (Service Team). Ask where the team that will be supporting you, along with any other critical operations teams, are located and what their hours of operation are.
Check and double check SLAs. If you are located on the West Coast of the U.S. and your team is on the East Coast, or overseas, there is nothing more frustrating at 2:00 pm (your time) than to hear "They are gone for the day". Avoid that by finding partners who work on your time, not only theirs.
What do other questions about customer service you typically ask potential vendors?
Get in touch with EdgePoint Learning today to talk about customer service training courses that are made for today's employees, for today's world.
This article was originally published on eLearningIndustry.com on December 17, 2017.