Selecting a sales incentive and/or recognition platform is never easy, even when your program needs are fairly basic. After working with a variety of organizations, the one constant I have found is that every client has a unique take on what they want their program to do. Still, there are some common considerations to keep in mind when determining which service provider to choose among the many that are out there — relative to overstated expectations, misunderstandings and even disillusionment.
Because program administrators commonly shoulder the burden of vendor selection as well as ongoing program management, here are important feature breadth, depth and support questions that should be a part of any vendor conversations, and/or incorporated in your next RFP.
- Whose platform is it? Is it a proprietary platform that the vendor developed or is it a white label platform developed by someone else (and sold by the vendor)? If the latter, who will be responsible for fixing any issues that arise?
- Can my different programs be centralized on one platform? Can you consolidate a variety of programs and award types for service anniversary, recognition, wellness and sales incentives on one centralized platform? What types of awards are included in your online award catalog?
- Can I easily set up program criteria based on my organization’s mission, values, and goals? Does the system support simple award issuance, approval, and reporting modules, both online and mobile?
- What can I expect during implementation? How long will it take to implement the program? What should I plan on in terms time, money and people? Who needs to be present and when?
- How will data migration be supported? Migrating and mapping organizational structure, participant and sales data can be daunting. Ensure you have a clear understanding of which side will be doing the heavy-lifting – client or vendor.
- After set-up, what will be required of me, as an administrator? If you’re as busy as most administrators, you want a platform that pretty much runs itself after set-up, or supports simple self-service admin consoles where organizational, program, communications and content can be easily changed on-the-fly.
- How do you handle customer support? After implementation, does the vendor have a dedicated account executive for your organization or a dedicated client support team? Alternatively, is this outsourced? Can program participants contact a customer service representative directly or will questions need to go through me?
- How will you train us? Committed providers support simple training videos and tutorials as well as comprehensive online documentation; if not, look elsewhere.
- Can You Demonstrate Successful Similar Implementations? Many vendor solutions look good in their online videos, sales slicks, and demos, but the proof is in the delivery. When you are charged with managing deployment risk, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you are not the first company to have implemented the specific platform components you are planning. Look for in-kind client implementation examples as well as business value. The vendor should be able to demonstrate that other clients have used its platform to solve the same program challenges you need to address.
- How robust is the reporting module? What’s standard? Can I build dynamic custom reports? Does the system support real-time dashboards and tools? How good are the reporting, querying, dashboard and scorecard features in the system?
- Is the program mobile-friendly? At the very least most are, but don’t assume the vendor’s platform is responsive design. You need to ask. As an extension, you should also inquire about the vendor’s ability to deliver cross-platform mobile apps, assuming they are not included in the base configuration.
- What data protection measures are in place? Data security and compliance are essential criteria for evaluating program service providers. Your organization is accountable to customers, employees, business partners, and regulators. Thus, you should not consider using a particular vendor unless they have adopted a comprehensive and technically sound security program approach, and have the necessary certifications.
- What is your current technology roadmap? A provider who regularly scans the customer landscape for future requirements and makes investments to the core technology is committed to its current customers. A provider who only makes investments as required is most likely not committed to supporting a great platform as they are to getting sales. So ask the question.
Make sure the program and platform stay close to the plan — improving program effectiveness and changing behaviors. Additionally, ground your questions in business requirements that enable the program that is ultimately designed to drive strategy. Determine how each provider approaches these broad functions; you then can develop a sense of their strengths relative to your needs.
Many incentive and recognition service providers will not be able to meet your unique requirements, so make sure anyone you consider can answer affirmatively to the questions presented here. Then you’ll be on your way to program success and a productive relationship with your new provider.
Do you have channel partners? Check out our white paper, “Getting the Most From Your Channel Incentives.”
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