BIG NAME CUSTOMERS
We all have them. The BIG NAME CUSTOMER that everyone recognizes. We throw their name around to impress potential buyers. We say "Look, if our software is good enough for BIG NAME CUSTOMER, then it is good enough for you." Never mind that they only have one user in one department; that is not important. We don't mention that they are using it for something completely different from what you need either. What's important is that you recognize the name and think WOW! those guys are great. Does it really make sense to make purchasing decisions this way? I'll let you decide.
Let's pretend that you own a medical practice with five doctors. You have a small office with nurses and administrative staff totaling about 30 people. You have a patient billing system, but almost everything else is done with paper; patient charts, personnel files, invoices, policies, procedures, meeting minutes, and everything else it takes to run the business. You decide that you are tired of buying file cabinets to store everything in so you decide to find a solution. Which business would be more like yours?
- 1. A 2000 Room Hospital located in your city
- 2. The National Institute of Health
- 3. A five doctor practice on the other side of town that you've never heard of
Which reference customer is the Market Leading software company going to tell you about? Remember, you are supposed to be very impressed when you hear about it. Which one do you think you should look at? If you chose number 3, you get an extra point. This doesn't mean that what they are doing is right for your business, but it does mean that there is a better chance that it is. You still need to look at how they operate their practice and decide if it is similar enough to yours to use as a reference. You should already have a good idea about what you are trying to accomplish. If you are going there to learn about how to operate your business, you should not be involved with a vendor anyway.
What you are trying to learn from the reference customer is how well the vendor has performed. Have your questions ready before you go and go without the vendor. Don't ask Yes or No questions, ask open ended questions and then listen to the answers. Have they expanded their initial solution, if so to what areas of the business? If not, why? Find out about the customer support. What happens when something goes wrong? How are issues resolved? Ask them for the references that they talked to when purchasing and then follow up with them.