4 questions to ask when evaluating vendor customer service

Ask these questions to determine whether vendors will provide the service and support you need to maximize ROI.

At a time when most healthcare organizations are especially cost-conscious, bringing on a new technology vendor may feel risky. One way to help ensure you’ll see a return on your investment is to go beyond just looking for a great product and seek out vendors that can serve as true partners.

Michael Rasbury, Senior Director of Client Solutions at Phreesia, recently discussed this topic on the Becker’s Healthcare podcast. If you’re thinking about bringing on a new vendor, he recommends asking these four questions to evaluate the quality of service you’ll receive.

1. How quickly will we see the results of our investment?
Your healthcare organization undoubtedly spends significant time and resources researching and evaluating technologies. As a part of that process, it’s important to consider how quickly your organization will get a return on investment—or what Rasbury calls “speed to value.”

Implementation times can vary based on scope, vendor resourcing and the size of your organization, so it’s important that your vendor is communicative and honest about how long it will take to get their product up and running. Established vendors often can expedite this process by drawing on their own experiences with other clients and the solutions they’ve previously found for common challenges. 

“When an organization has done thousands of implementations over many years, they’re going to have already spent a lot of thought and energy making every aspect of the customer onboarding and implementation process better, faster and more successful,” Rasbury said.

In addition, vendors that consolidate feedback and needs across departments, especially in the final days before a go-live, will help smooth the sometimes-rocky process of launching new software. “You want a vendor that has the experience to shepherd you and your team through those last-minute scenarios or questions that inevitably arise,” Rasbury said.

2. What types of training will be offered to ensure that all of our new tools and features will be used efficiently?
One of the most significant factors that will impact your organization’s “speed to value” is how well your staff are trained to use new technology and their alignment with its overall goals. Training should be easily accessible, so be sure to choose a technology vendor that provides staff with virtual training resources that are always available.

“Vendors should offer a personalized training plan that includes an online learning management system where end users can learn and stay up to date on new features at their own pace,” Rasbury advised, noting that this is especially important for health systems and enterprise organizations with large teams.

But virtual training shouldn’t be the only option. If your organization requires in-person training, it’s important that your vendor is flexible and has the scale to offer that instruction. Make sure to confirm that they have the bandwidth to not only train your staff onsite, but also to provide live virtual training after their team leaves your facility—not just training videos.

3. How often will we interact with our dedicated support team?
While it’s important to have access to 24/7 technical support, your vendor also should assign a specific representative who is familiar with your organization and can offer advice on how to make the most of your technology investment.

“You should have a dedicated individual or team that you can email or call directly, not just a 1-800 number to reach out to,” Rasbury said. “That dedicated team should know your organization’s goals and objectives and ensure you have everything you need to achieve them.”

Beyond that, your account manager should be constantly studying analytics and offering solutions within their platform that could help improve your performance. For example, they may notice shifts in payer mix, patient satisfaction or other metrics within specific facilities that you hadn’t been aware of. They should also understand the market your organization works within, Rasbury added.

“You want them to be aware of what’s happening with the healthcare facilities in your area, as this is going to help them anticipate your needs,” he said. “You’re going to need someone who’s going to be on your side in these really challenging and competitive situations.”

Most importantly, your vendor should meet with you as frequently as you want, Rasbury said, whether that’s on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

4. How will you grow alongside us?
The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, and many organizations are growing. Your vendor should be able to scale their product and support as your organization changes, whether because of an adjustment in strategic direction, added providers or locations, or a merger with another organization.  

Rasbury noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing staffing crisis also have shifted priorities for many healthcare organizations. Your account manager should be aware of what’s going on at your organization and anticipate your needs as they change.

“You’re going to want to find a partner that has the product and services structure to support you, not only today, but for the future,” Rasbury said. “They should ensure the products that you’re paying for are actually getting adopted and utilized,” no matter what changes may come your way.

Exploring new technology but don’t know where to start? Read our customer service guide for tips on how to evaluate potential vendors.