e-learning e-learning vendors learning management system LMS

The 5 most common LMS complaints from end users

LMS vendors have long had major problems when it comes to their current, new and potential clients. Rather than take care of the complaints, they do nothing.

Ahem.  You are failing to hear my words. You are not listening to me. This is not what you showed me.  The salesperson told me this and what I got was not what they told me. Your support stinks. What? I have to pay extra for that? 

Your platform is not working.  I found some bugs here and they are not the crawly kind.  My issue is important and your tech people have not responded.  I ordered a hamburger without cheese, got home and it has cheese on it. (I was just seeing if you were paying attention. But is it me or do you often get ripped off going drive-thru?)

Complaints – Legitimate Gripes

As someone who has had the wonderful experience of buying (leasing) a LMS and the issues that arose beyond that, I can tell you that I feel your pain.  There is nothing worse that spending the money, selecting the system, implement it, then it runs into problems and your end users – blame you.

You buzz the assigned project manager or tech support person and listen to the whole “we hear you” and get back to you verbiage. Then you wait and wait some more. In 30 minutes you have had it – “It must be three hours now. Why are they not calling back? Don’t they realize that people are complaining?”

Next you call your salesperson and chew them out like a piece of meat that has too much grizzle.  You want and expect results or there will be hell to pay.

They listen. They will solve it.  They hang up.  Then they do one of four things:

  • Call tech support and see what is going on
  • Write it on a piece of paper and say to themselves, I will e-mail/call support later
  • Do nothing
  • E-mail support and hope someone responds

Meanwhile you are quite content and say to yourself, “I showed them”.  Right.

#5  Salesperson says one thing then fails to back it up

I hear this complaint all the time from end users.  As a complaint goes it is always in the top ten of gripes. What makes me sick to my stomach (or maybe it was that chili) is that this gripe has been around since LMSs arrived on the scene.

Now there are plenty of salespeople who are honest, and truthful, but it only takes a small group of nefarious humans to ruin for everyone else.

If you think “nefarious” is too strong of a word, trust me, if this happens to you, the term will be rated G compared to what comes out of your mouth.

What drives this approach?

I see two factors:

  • Person really doesn’t know the product inside and out and so they tell you want you want to hear. “Yep, our system works all the time with Oracle.” Then you find out that they have to heavily customize it – charge extra – and the interface is buggy
  • Person is all about sales and not about you. I know of some highly seasoned salespeople that do this frequently to potential clients

#4  Demo Dupe

I seriously believe the song “I never promised you a rose garden” was written by someone who once worked at a LMS company.  The demo switcheroo is a big time gripe.  It follows a similar style

  • You see an amazing demo with all the bells and whistles
  • You hear the tell, you are drooling
  • You buy the LMS
  • It doesn’t come with everything you saw in the demo
  • You are mad
  • The salesperson says, “Oh, didn’t I tell you that” OR “Yes, I mentioned that in our call” – of course you remember they didn’t

#3  The system costs more than what they quoted me

I always remind people to have their pricing itemized with each factor listed – (i.e. 1,000 seats, 500 active per month – $20,000), tech support 9 to 5 EST (free – included at no charge), 20 project management hours (no charge), webinar training ($500 for three sessions), an autograph by the CEO (priceless – no I’m just kidding).

However, I have seen quotes that drop everything together including the discount OR itemize some items and not others  OR some itemization and some stuff written within a paragraph – which people often skim.   One of the zingers that appear frequently is the API angle.

You ask if they can integrate your APIs (on whatever). They say yes. They fail to mention that it will cost you X dollars per API and it will take six weeks to add one.  The latter is becoming a common gripe.   I remember seeing some pricing online by a LMS vendor and then when I got the contract it had different pricing on it.  You see they had items you needed but they did not mention it on their web site.

What items fail to appear often when people post or tell you about their pricing?  Setup costs – and they can be anywhere from inexpensive to outrageous – even for systems that are low cost.   Skinning for additional portals/tenants, etc. E-commerce – especially those who charge a yearly price.

Removing their name from the platform.  See the price doesn’t mention that it costs extra to pull their name – so when you ask for it (and you should always find out) they will pull a rabbit out of their LMS hat and tell you it costs ABC (please realize that for the majority of vendors they remove their name at no cost).

#2 Not listening

I often wonder why LMS vendors have their salespeople focus more on their qualifiers than asking the right questions first before “seeing if you are ideal for them”.  How about, “how many employees/customers will be using the system.” There are some vendors who will only deal with clients who have over 10,000 employees – so this quick qualifier will streamline the process. Or there are vendors who only work in certain industries/verticals. So, asking what is the client’s industry would take care of that.

But noooo. You have to listen to a series of qualifiers to see if you are the right fit – whatever that means. Listen, assuming that the two qualifiers above are not factors, unless you are from Planet Neptune and have 65 eyeballs you will qualify – and even in my Neptune weird creature example – you will find plenty of vendors who will take you.

I once had a boss who would say, “I know you can hear me, because I can hear my own words.”  I think this should apply to every salesperson who is pitching their product.

#1 Tech Support

  • Company receives issue via e-mail, support center or phone – or any combination
  • Company place the issue into its queue
  • Company sends e-mail to whomever is the LMS administrator or contact person – notifying them they received the issue and are working on it
  • Company using their own tech priority level – rates the issue, low, medium, high or for some clients – get it fixed now
  • If it is low, you have a better chance of hearing crickets then getting it solved in a day or so – but don’t worry you may get multiple e-mails telling you it is being worked on
  • If it is medium, someone is doing something about it, but it still may take a day or two to solve it
  • If it is high or get it fixed now – then someone or some folks are busting their buns (it is a Rated PG site here) to solve it. They may follow up with you or your LMS administrator for more information and even have you on the call for a period of time or whatever.  Typically they follow up via the phone, your salesperson may step in and follow up too – after all you probably sent them the issue too
  • If the issue takes more than a couple of days – it is likely that you have contacted tech support to complain and even talked to your salesperson. E-mails do not apply here – although what does it hurt to send one to tech support, your salesperson, the head of tech support, even the head of sales, etc.
  • Issue solved.
  • Then next time, you re-live the experience again

Excluding massive bugs or issues that are totally brand new to the company, tech support should be relatively quick and painless. There is a reason why some vendors have a knowledge base, community forum moderated by company employees and super users, and other – they are trying to minimize phone calls to tech support – because – it costs them money every time someone calls or sends off an e-mail to solve a problem.

Rather than hiring 45 salespeople, why not hire more than five tech support/customer support people to solve the customer’s issue? 

For clients – the only people who should contact tech support are either the LMS administrator, whoever is running training or e-learning division or a combination of both.  I’ve actually heard horror stories where the customer allows anyone to call their vendor’s tech support.

This should never happen.  Also, there are plenty of times when the tech issue is due to the client and not the vendor. 

For example, I recall a few folks telling me that their system didn’t work with Windows 2000 (yep, they had it on their computers and it was a large size public company). The LMS didn’t support it.

I remember asking them if they asked the vendor if it worked with Windows 2000 – guess what? They didn’t.

Bonus: Sales Training – What is it good for? Absolutely everything, say it again!

I am always stunned at the number of vendors who provide ZERO sales training for their staff.  Not only that, they never listen in to sales calls to see if their salespeople are doing it correctly and following the VP of sales approach or some type of script or process.

Now since the e-learning industry’s core is tied to training, you would think that having sales training would be a requirement.

Bottom Line

There are hundreds of books out there on how to resolve customer complaints. Hundreds of videos, even a ton of them on YouTube. Books written on the subject of listening, effective tech support, sales training, sales support and service and great customer service.

You can surf the net and find all these topics and more readily available and free.  Rather than do nothing, do something.

It requires the LMS vendor to fix what is not working.

The problem though is they don’t see it as an issue.

They see it as yours.

E-Learning 24/7

6 comments

  1. All valid issues and concerns that I have seen as well. AND…(I didn’t want to say BUT) I’d like to add a few thoughts. First: can we finally stop limiting this to the LMS? Let’s agree to refer to these issues as impacting any of the Talent Management components. Second – and I’m not saying I agree with this philosophy, but TMS vendors are in the business to sell software (period). They are competing against a very robust market and internal sales quotas. They do not feel that they have the time to take the deep dive required to understand the business needs that should drive the purchase decision. Third but related – prospects are not in the day to day business of purchasing these systems – they are end-users. So they have no idea how to select the right platform(s) for their needs. And with the recent cannibalization in the industry – there is no way for them to keep up with how these acquisitions will impact their purchase. Meaning, as one example, if a well-known HRIS vendor purchases a Performance vendor and then in turn purchases a LMS vendor but doesn’t fully integrate the features from the installed LMS into their new SaaS product – how in the world would any potential purchaser know that? And what salesperson, in their right mind, would offer up that weakness? It’s easy to blame the vendor but the truth is the issue is complex and exists somewhere between the prospect not being in the business of purchasing these systems and the vendors not being in the business of L&D. And finally (many more but final for this post) – customers are also under the impression that these systems are “turn-key.” This, admittedly, is perpetuated by the vendors as no one wants to position their product as needing some other additional work while their competitors are saying otherwise. But the truth is that while a LMS/TMS will provide efficiencies and make your life as a practitioner so much better – you have to have a well defined talent strategy and processes to make the thing work the way you want. It’s a cloud solution designed to meet the needs of diverse industries. There are numerous configuration decisions that all need to be married with business processes. If you don’t have a succession strategy – no system will magically know what you want it to do. If you don’t capture HR business partners hierarchies in your HRIS no Performance System will magically know to send a review to HR for viewing or approval. If you don’t have a content strategy no LMS will magically know what courses to suggest as part of a development plan. Listen – the vendors do a lot to work against themselves but would anyone seriously yell at Microsoft to change the “ribbon” from 2010 because they don’t like it? Of course not. Going to the cloud creates a lot of scalability but also limits customization. The “problem” is on both sides of the table and it takes a knowledgeable partner to help navigate these pitfalls and bridge the gap between the software and the business.

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    1. Follow up:

      1. While true with TM systems, the blog focuses on the LMS platform rather than TM, hence the LMS directory and not TM directory. TM has a whole other bag of worms in terms of issues. Also some vendors offer/include TM components, which fall within the LMS, but a pure TM platform will not offer learning. Lastly, the list includes vendors who are more a HCM, but who still imply that they are heavy into the learning angle.

      2. I disagree with the turnkey statement from you. Of the 560 systems I track, the vast majority are turnkey. I mean changing the skin/adding it, adding your logo – are still within turnkey. The greater mass populus will not request special created reports, will not want to have a completely new customized look – which costs extra, will not seek any type of interface into anything else. You could say, well Fortune 500 do – but that is not true either.

      I would also argue that having your own API added does not fall under any lack of turnkey. It still is – because vendors who offer the additions of APIs may or may not charge for it.

      The days of heavy customization within systems are long gone. That is why the mass systems out there and every next gen lite LMS out there are out of the box SaaS solutions. Granted you could be the client who wants more power and capabilities than the initial platform, but that is not the norm.

      If your LMS costs over 150K for 1,000 users, and you need a mass overhaul, I’m sorry but you made a poor selection. Now if you want to buy a platform that runs over 100K and still desire mass customization, then go for it – but to say that “turnkey” doesn’t apply is wrong.

      3. I know for a fact that there are sales people who will be quite honest and state that it does not work with this or that. Even with TM platforms. This includes interfaces. I know of salespeople who will tell clients that their product which offers other companies they purchased, that their product does not automatically interface with the other (which they also own). If such a scenario exists and you have to pay for that, after for example you dropped millions for such a full ERP implementation, then honestly you shouldn’t have to pay for such an interface with the same vendor who sells say a LMS. I mean when I worked at a company who dropped 250 million dollars to implement SAP – with 13 modules – across the entire global enterprise, and if SAP had owned SF at that time (which they didn’t) and I wanted the Learning within the SF only, I shouldn’t have to pay extra for that interface. It should already be in place.

      But going back to your direct point – there are sales people who do the right thing, because it only hurts them to say otherwise. You – as the consumer should ask your salesperson (on a side note here) if they have ever run into any issues with interface into another. I always do it when discussing interoperability. Every vendor has problems.

      In the case of interfaces – they all have to be fully customized – but we are not talking about you buying a LMS, rather you need that interface and again an ERP is a fully customized solution – it is not turnkey, so each ERP is different based on the customer, so why would you expect the LMS interface into the ERP to be turnkey. If you weren’t aware of that – here you go. Now, you are : )

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      1. 1. I mention TMS instead of just an LMS because I believe (just my opinion) that purchasing a LMS alone is shortsighted. Pushing out learning without any tie to Performance is not the best use of technologies. Unless your only desire is to deploy and report on compliance that is. Otherwise – why go through the effort of measuring cheeks in the seats? As a L&D professional I think it may be better to measure the impact of learning on people development or business impact. Showing x people took y courses means nothing as compared with how those people USE the learning to improve capabilities that impact the business strategy.

        2. I think our definitions of turnkey are vastly different. I wasn’t referring to any type of customization. I mean installing the solution and expecting it to mirror all of your existing processes. As with the examples I provided, system configuration needs to support your intended results. If you do not have the strategy or processes defined – no system will be able to provide the processes for you – they all have the capability (more or less) but they require configuration. I see clients upset when they try to migrate existing processes but the platform won’t mirror what they have and the client isn’t willing to make any changes. I’ve seen this as a client and as a implementation consultant.

        3. I agree with you – I know a lot of salespeople that do the right thing. I’ve also been asked by salespeople how I expect them to tell a prospect that they shouldn’t purchase a LMS if they haven’t the resources or processes to support it? If vendors focus only on system features it puts the “good” salespeople at a disadvantage to focus on the true needs and support requirements. In the end it makes for better business, realistic expectations and re-newels – so I do hope the majority focus on the right things.

        And yes, all data integration needs to be customized. Again – my point was that the client who has never done this before may not have the knowledge of what data needs to be mapped to get the intended results.

        I wasn’t disagreeing with any of your comments in the post. I was only adding additional aspects that need to be considered by both parties. Setting realistic expectations for prospects is key and, as you said in your post, most salespeople are not as knowledgeable in their product or L&D as a client may expect. Being better prepared to ask the right questions is the key to the process…the issue, in my opinion, is that most prospects don’t know what the right questions are.

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  2. The 5 issues listed aren’t really specific to LMS. They apply to any IT application. If you have any experience with IT applications, you expect these issues when you purchase and implement an LMS system. Perhaps the real issues is that trainers try to implement instead of teams consisting of trainers and IT professionals.

    The issue that I’ve experienced with LMS systems is that they’re designed by IT folks, not trainers. As a result, they won’t support the work that we’re doing. I’m lucky that my vendor does respond and is interested in building a partnership. But, I habitually end up teaching them my business, and explaining why their system isn’t working to support me. They always respond with updates and changes. But, it’s frustrating to have to constantly be explaining my needs to people who ought to know.

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    1. I think that the comment, it has been designed by IT folks is misleading. Yeah they built it, but there are plenty of systems that get it. If you are seeing systems that are not, than you need to look at some others.

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  3. I have worked with several LMS,LCMS, etc products, both in-house and off-the-shelf. They all share some of these issues. I am convinced the only way to control for these is to have a formal 60 day trial during which no money is exchanged, the product is configured and tried out, then evaluated by selected users. If it succeeds, the contract is signed. If it fails, move on to the next product on the list.

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