Who is responsible when HCM technology and service vendors fall short of delivering on the desired outcomes?

Are vendors over promising, or are buyers making assumptions about technology and services during their evaluation process that haunt them later?

After two decades of sales in both the mid-market and enterprise HR space, I have seen a dramatic shift on how buyers and vendors engage.  In the late 80s and early 90s, prospective buyers had to rely on direct interaction with sales representatives to learn about products and services and sales representatives needed to meet with prospective buyers to learn about their businesses and their requirements.

A face to face meeting fostered relationships and established trust.  Sales representative were trained to conduct a thorough due diligence process and share their findings with the buyer. This evaluation process wasn’t perfect, and you don’t know what you don’t know, but the responsibility to deliver positive outcomes rested heavily on the vendor.

What has changed?
  • Over 60% of all research on a product or service is done online prior to even contacting a vendor and with the significant amount of information available on the web, most buyers feel certain they know enough prior to engaging in a discovery meeting.
  • Websites like SoftwareAdvice or SelectHub exist to help buyers narrow down their search based on core buyer criteria.
  • Through social media, blogs, chat rooms and industry forums information exists on the pros and cons of each vendor’s offering directly from consultants and current clients.
With all this information available, why do vendors fall short on delivering on their client’s expectations?  
  • No two customers are exactly identical and each vendor has a list of features and functions along with service gaps that don’t address specific client requirements.
  • Client uniqueness may be driven by employer size, industry, demographics, geography and overall workforce complexity
  • Vendors don’t voluntarily share their list of functional and service gaps. If sales representatives don’t know enough about the client requirements, outcomes can be jeopardized.
  • Buyers are reluctant to have open transparent discussions, quality time to conduct due diligence sessions and far too often limit vendor access to key team members of the team that possess certain intellectual capital.
  • RFPs and RFIs are used for the basis of determining feature and functional gap alignment, but inherently, they are flawed, for they are frequently influenced by the vendor community.
  • The cost of travel, virtual teams and packed calendars all have played a role in the breakdown of effective vendor and buyer interaction.
So what is the answer?
  • Vendors must take on more responsibility to adequately determine if they have enough information to ensure they can deliver on the client’s desired outcomes.
  • Vendors must invest in additional training for their field sales force and sales engineers to know how to ask the questions that must be answered by the buyer during the evaluation cycle.
  • Vendors must live up to their integrity value statements to ensure adequate transparency on those functions of their deliverables that can potentially impact their clients in an adverse way.
  • Buyers must be more accessible and flexible to accommodate their finalist vendor’s request to gather more information. If the vendor is not requesting more time, buyers should be concerned.
  • Buyers must be more transparent with their internal challenges that may prevent them from executing on their objectives.
  • When appropriate, buyers should ask for a list of some functional gaps that are being addressed in future releases that may impact the success of the project.
  • Buyers must be clear on how they will define and measure success and those results must be shared and owned as well by their vendor selected.
So who is responsible?  We both are!

When it comes time to search for a new HCM partner, it’s critical to take the time to conduct thorough research and have those in-depth conversations about your organization’s unique challenges. After all, the cost of a bad decision will outweigh any upfront investment you make in selecting the right partner.