10 Revealing Questions to Ask Enterprise Software Vendors

Christie Hoffman

Picking a new software vendor is a big decision, especially for large enterprises. In the digital customer engagement space, many companies over-promise on scalability and under-deliver (or even worse, crash) during times of high activity, to name one example. Signing on with a vendor is either the beginning of a beautiful partnership, or a tumultuous game of empty promises and failures to follow through. You can make the right decision for your brand by reading up on the vendor’s offerings, talking to existing customers with similar needs or business models — and knowing which questions to ask vendors to get at the truth behind their marketing messages.

Make the right decision for your brand by reading up on vendor offerings, talking to existing customers, and asking the right questions.

Nothing beats the power of peer reviews to provide an inside look into a software’s strengths. Start with researching potential vendors using tools like TrustRadius (you can see Khoros’ TrustRadius review here). Then, use these questions to help you further qualify if vendors can assure the quality of service at scale that your customers need.

1. What percentage of your customer base are enterprise customers with over $250M revenue?

If you’re an enterprise-level company, you want to make sure your vendor can scale to solve the pain points you’re paying them to solve for you. If they can’t give several examples of their work for existing customers of similar size to your brand, then you might want to reconsider if they have a powerful enough solution and reliable support team for your enterprise brand.

2. How many years of experience does your company have in offering this solution?

While it’s sometimes exciting to partner with an up-and-coming software company on the cutting edge of their industry, you want to make sure you’re choosing a vendor who has enough experience in their space to do the job really well.

3. How do you communicate best practices of your solution and facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing?

Nothing is worse than getting a killer demo, inking the contract, and then hearing the eerie chirping of crickets post-implementation. Your newly onboarded employees who didn’t yet work at your company when this new vendor was selected will need access to training materials, and possibly an introduction to the CSM for some product coaching. If your vendor evolves their product, how will they let you know about the changes? Make sure to ask.

Newly onboarded employees will need access to training, while all employees will benefit from peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.

No matter how communicative a company is, there will always be new insights to be gained from talking with fellow users. Does this vendor facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing through an online community or events?

4. How do customers participate in product development and roadmap?

Who knows better what the gaps are in a solution than its end users (that’s you). Some vendors will assume what their customers need and build out unnecessary features or product capabilities. You want a partner who will take your feedback to their team to see if it makes sense across their solution offering and thoughtfully add, remove, and move around product features.

5. How often are there new releases of your software?

You want to be able to plan for any downtime, but most importantly, you want to make sure that your vendor is constantly innovating. Who wants to use a tool exactly the way it was five years ago? Digital customer engagement is constantly evolving with new platforms, features, and integration needs. Although a software provider must be large enough to support enterprise needs, they also need to be agile enough to adapt as those needs change.

An enterprise software provider must be large enough to support your brand's needs, but agile enough to adapt as those needs change.

6. How do you promote user adoption of new releases?

When a product gets a facelift, are you going to be left to figure it out yourself? Fumble around with some afterthought pop-up windows? Or is there a plan (and a team) in place to help communicate with users like you, explaining why there was a new release, how to use it, and what it means for the user experience?

7. What percentage of your annual revenue is invested in R&D for this technology?

This really drives home the point that you’re looking for a vendor who cares about continually adding value for their customers and proves it by innovating. They might have to get back to you with an exact number, or they might say this information is proprietary, but they should still give you a ballpark percentage.

If the answer is “I don’t know,” you’re better off running. Not knowing or not stating an R&D amount speaks volumes: Companies with a culture of innovation and a focus on product excellence will have an ample amount of stories to tell about how much they invest in R&D and the benefits these investments have brought to customers.

8. If you are a privately held company, what are your company's yearly financials and funding plans?

Sure, you can take a chance on a young company, but make sure they have a strong financial foundation in place and plans to grow. Bonus points if they are actually profitable — which many young companies might not be. Being profitable means they are spending more time thinking about how to take their product to the next level and how to retain customers (like you) — instead of focusing on where the next paycheck will come from or how they're going to impress investors.

Make sure the vendor has a strong financial foundation in place and plans to grow.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a competitive and agile field. If you skip this question, you run the risk of investing in a new solution, committing time to train your staff to use it, and having to do the process all over again if the company behind the solution goes under.

9. How does your platform differentiate in the market?

A company who really puts their customers first will share their winning go to market philosophy. What is this vendor doing to win in their space? What kinds of value are they providing to your brand, from the practitioner level all the way up to the C Suite?

10. How do you help customers measure and prove ROI of your technology?

Whether your budget is $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000, you’re likely going to be asked what the return has been on such a hefty investment. Make sure your vendor will provide you with analytics to report back to your leadership team. Even if you’re not asked to provide such information, it’s always smart to know what you’re getting out of your partnership.

Ask for analytics that demonstrate the return that this investment can provide.

With answers to these questions, you’re armed with the knowledge you need to make a very important decision. Furthermore, you can face your legal and ops team with confidence by sharing these findings as proof of your due diligence.

Khoros can help

Looking for a digital customer engagement partner? Khoros delivers best-in-class enterprise marketing, care, and community solutions that help your brand create customers for life. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to find the right solution by downloading our RFP checklists:

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