When your LMS BFF is no longer

Posted by

I’ve been there.  Having a close BFF and then one day, that BFF is gone – in the wind, out of sight, out of my keyboard touch. You ask yourself – was it me? Was it something I did? 

Did I send the wrong item? Did they misconstrue my concerns?  Or was it them?  Did they fail to respond when I needed it?  Did they lash out and leave me contemplating my whole existence in this virtual frontier?

Yes I have been there and according to the latest study from Capterra – many of you have too. 

Capterra’s LMS study, found 26% of folks were unhappy with their LMS (based on a survey of over 100 LMS customers).   I’ve seen higher.  Even worse, I’ve seen higher with a higher number of respondents – but it all points to one big thing.

The big elephant in the room that we hear so many times and vendors love to pitch (to get you to their system), but rarely the vendors themselves will admit to – many have only themselves to blame.

Why, Oh Why do I lose the love?

There are a lot of reasons on why, someone would lose the love of their LMS.   Sometimes, it is the client’s fault and sometimes it is the vendor’s fault.

I know, I know it is never your fault (client) – its those nasty LMS vendors, but as with the failure to recognize, often more than not it is duality, at least at some level.

Reasons for hate

Hate is a strong word, and many consumers (clients) rarely say it out loud, but if your system isn’t doing what you were promised and the calls from your learners are coming in OR worse they aren’t using it because of these issues – you are mad.  And mad turns to hate.

What are the factors or reasons behind such animosity?  Let’s delve right in.

Salesperson lied to me

It is a big one and yes it does happen.  Just as in any industry there are people who lie or as we say “misrepresented” their product.  I have run into the same issue – salespeople who say their product does A but in reality it does not. 

Heck, I even have dealt with folks at a higher level (senior execs and a CEO or two) who say they can do this (in the product itself) and then you find out they can’t.

Sometimes I wonder if they just are not familiar with their product and hence the “misrepresentation” or do they know and just making up stuff to land the buyer?

If there is one thing I hate (and yes in the strongest meaning possible) are vendors who flat out lie about their product and then are stunned when you find out.  It hurts everyone.

Anyway, lying does occur.

Salesperson did not mention that

When this happens the buyer tends to go right after the vendor.  “They didn’t tell me this, and now my system doesn’t work the way they told me it would.”

In this case, there are two key people usually involved in this reason – you and the salesperson.

Here’s why.

For the buyer/consumer it is your job to ask the right questions about the system. 

I know there are plenty of people who say, they are new to the industry and systems and have no idea on what to ask – which is fair, but there are some things you can ask and should know, if you did some due diligence on your part.

Due Diligence

One of biggest increases I see in the industry is the lack of due diligence on the part of the buyer.  If you are a vendor you are likely to see it too often and it appears when the “potential customer” sends you a RFP without ever talking to you prior to. 

Or they send the RFP after a discussion, but before seeing the product.

Nowadays it is easy to just send off that RFP without doing any due diligence.  I mean you may look at their web site (vendor) or you may not.  I still see 20-30 even 40 page RFPs that are sent to vendors.

The whole irony in all of this are us (the buyers).

Overwhelmingly we provide some sort of training or learning to our employees or our customers. 

One of the first things any training director/manager or L&D professional should do is a skill gap analysis for their own employees or for their customers.  We all do it, I mean that is a huge initial step in designing effective training.

So why do we fail to do it when seeking a LMS?  We fail to start the process at where it should start – at the beginning. And at the beginning it should include a gap analysis.

For your employees it is simple to do.

  1.  Use a likert scale and ask statements on their training/learning needs
  2. Since we know that the majority of employees (excluding hourly, seasonal or union) use the LMS out of the workplace, your “survey” should include browser, level of broadband including Cable, DSL, Sat or whatever.
  3. If you require employees to use a VPN to enter the company’s site prior to going into the LMS, that internet access speed is important, since some people will say “I can’t access” only to find out it is because of their speed hitting the VPN and then going through it (which slows it down).

I recommend the Likert here because if you go open ended, you will want to hurt yourself the moment someone responds with pages of information.

Since it is highly likely you are going to have a SaaS LMS, finding out whether you are using a MAC vs PC is not relevant, since vendors are browser agnostic (more on that in a sec. though).

By pulling this information you will have some sense of what may become an issue for you – I mean if I know that 35% of my employees are using IE7 – I need to tell them to upgrade to the latest version.   Thus a potential issue is removed from consideration.

I always recommend finding out what my employees, even my customers’ tech skill is when it comes to using a computer. 

You are not trying to find out if you have programmer levels here, rather if people know how to access the internet, how to use or even if they know what a “URL bar” often cited as the “Address bar” is, can they open PDFs and documents on their computer.  Again, Likert works best.

Always be aware that on average, people tend to rate their “tech skill” or “skills” for that matter one level higher than it actually is.  Studies back that by the way.

All of this is important and an important step in due diligence. 

I put it this way, you wouldn’t walk onto a car lot and say I want a car and then randomly pick a car and say I’ll take it.

Nor would you go into a retail store interested in a TV and then picking a random box that has a TV in it and go, “I’ll take that one”. 

At the minimum, you have either researched the TV online or enter the store and go and look at the TVs on the wall that are showing you their picture screen.

Which gets back to the LMS point, why would you not research that item, when you do for everything else.

A LMS is one, if not the biggest budget item you will purchase.  Much like a car is often the biggest if not the second biggest item a person buys (even leases).

You have to think of your LMS in the same way.

This gets back to the “salesperson” didn’t tell me thing. 

Yes, your salesperson should ask the right questions and they should ask about your work environment (if employee only) or some idea about your customers.  Sadly, the vast majority do not. 

They focus so much on what you plan to do with it, who is your target audience and so forth that they rarely if ever ask about your own work environment (again, assuming internal only).

Equally though, you should have done a gap analysis or at least know your own work environment to let them know that you use X or Y and so forth.

I recall a large, global healthcare insurance company who griped that their LMS did not support the company’s computers.  Why?  Because the company was using Windows 2000 (in 2012 no less) and the LMS vendor did not support Windows 2000.

Did the insurance company’s lead tell the vendor what they were using? No.  Did the vendor ask?  No.

So who’s at fault?  Both in this case.  The issue equally arose when the healthcare company found out the LMS did not support IE6, which the company used.  Again, both at fault.

Here are some items you should know

This does not represent all LMSs but more than some:

  • IE7 is no longer supported – best way to find out if you use it, ask the vendor if the salesperson doesn’t know – tell them to find out
  • If the vendor still uses Flash, you will need the latest version – a)security wise it is better; if your computers can’t handle it, find out what is the minimum you can use : the same applies to PDF readers and so forth
  • OS – Operating System.  Again, if you are using Windows 2000 – might be time for an upgrade.
  • Certain browsers work better than others; although vendors will tell you not so.  In all my time doing this, only eight vendors have ever said to me – this browser works better than this one;  the one who suffers the most – Chrome unless it is heavy video intensive then it is Safari

Overload of Information

Vendors you win this one – the fault is all yours.  I am a big practitioner of neuromarketing and for anyone who has ever read at least one book on neuromarketing, you would know that your brain (even if you are MENSA) cannot handle certain things.  Multi-tasking is one (sorry folks who say they are awesome at it),  too many choices is another.

Need to do a demo?  Do one and get it right. 

Want to confuse people?  Do two or more.   Trying to tell people about your system, focus on what they need to know and more importantly on what they are interested in knowing.  What to quash it?  Shove as much info as you can at one time, that will take care that.

Demo Death Trap

We all do demos.  Heck,  I do them all the time and two things are for certain: the person doing the demo either asked what I was interested in seeing prior to the call or they didn’t.

A third usual zinger is the demo script.  I can always tell when someone is following a script. It may not be written down, but it is there in their head.

Ask them something that requires them to bounce off that script and watch the action begin – usually at fail level.

I admit many a times, I say I’m not sure, but once we start the demo, I’ll ask about specific items.  Some vendors can flow with that, others say they can and sure enough, they can’t.

The same problem arises when they say the infamous, “stop me at any time and ask questions”, which results in me doing that at – some handle it well, others ignore and continue pressing on with their information.

I’ve had vendors tell me they are mobile responsive.  I tell them, I know what it is and they do not need to show it to me.  Usually they ignore that statement and show it to me or tell me.   It’s all about that freaking script.

Want to smash your demo to pieces, here is the way to go about it (and yes, I see it often)

  • Vanilla appearance – as in they did not skin it at all – not with the client/potential customer colors – so it looks dull.  Then they say, well imagine it looking like this – the problem?  Your brain cannot see it in that “appearance”.
  • Follow the script and don’t deviate or if you do deviate get right back to that script as soon as possible – G-D forbid you think for yourself, rather than be a robot
  • Don’t find out ahead of time what the “potential customer” wants to see.  Best to just wing it and guess along the way.
  • Don’t find out ahead of time what is the customer’s experience or knowledge on LMSs.  Best to just assume – I mean assuming works so well all the time on everything.
  • Go into excessive details on certain features especially in the admin side.  Nothing like overload of information. 
  • Don’t listen.  I mean who really cares about their questions.
  • Speed through it. You only have an hour – so best to zip through it, since you failed to schedule it for 1.5 hrs with questions. 
  • Forget that the people you are showing it to are in training and L&D and thus have that background.  Best to show up late, be unprepared and focus all on yourself rather than them.   This especially applies when you are doing a face to face demo.  Nothing says “awesome” than not making sure everything works before you start AND/OR not having dummy data in your system including courses. 
  • Do not have dummy data and fake courses in your system.   I love this one.  This way I get to guess what it might look like with people in there.  Please, show it again, show it again!
  • Turn on everything even if I am not buying that piece (this is for vendors who include or offer add-on mods).  Assume (hello) that I will know.  Another winner in my book.  This way, when I get the system and it doesn’t have it, I rejoice and personally thank you.
  • Don’t follow up and thank me.  Ahh, this one is my favorite.  Better yet, wait a day or so, rather than follow up immediately. I mean, “follow-up” is soooo overrated and after all, I have things to do.


Stinks. Who is at fault? Vendor.  How hard is it to fix this?  I know of vendors who have the audacity to tell people they have awesome support, but tell me privately they know it is poor.  Want to change it?  Here is how.

IMC requires that their support people have a minimum of two years. On top of that before they even start providing support they have to go through rigorous training.  Next, when they start providing support they still go through training.  Examinations after the initial training is required.  

That is the way to do it, as in on-going and pre-training. 

Funny, for an industry whose folks are in training/learning, the thought that many vendors do nothing in regards to training their own people should be an outrage. 


Vendors at fault.  Train your people on how to train people to use the system.  This might be a shocker to folks, but the vast majority of LMS vendors do NOT have a training person provide the demos, let alone actually train the customer. 

Rather they have either salespeople and/or tech/customer support.  

When I was working in training, I always have trainers provide walkthroughs on our products to our customers.

I didn’t have the salesperson do it or some person I saw walking the streets.

Invest in having a person who actually was/is a trainer, especially a tech trainer.  It will make a world of difference. 

Bottom Line

There will always be people who are unhappy about their LMS.  They will leave either for one or some of the reasons above, or for something else – maybe this just don’t like you or they don’t like the vendor or whomever bought you.  Or maybe there are dozens of other reasons.

Equally, stop telling us your retention rates.

Yeah, I know it is great marketing, but no offense here, why it is always 95% or higher?  I have never heard a vendor tell me 90%, let alone 85%.   

Retention rates are about as worthwhile and valuable as YELP reviews of restaurants.

Ever been to a restaurant that has awesome YELP reviews only to come away with indigestion?

Try this instead. Be honest, forthcoming and truthful. 

I am aware that plenty of vendors do it – and I say, thank you for doing so.

That said, if you want to stop having people bolt, find out why then do something about it.

Fix the issues (the faults) above and go from saying people are unhappy with their system, to saying here is why my system is the right one for you.

And for consumers do the same thing. Spend some time doing the research. Explore and examine.  You do it every day on in your life, so why stop when seeking a LMS?

It’s really simple to fix for all parties involved.

Then it should stop the bleeding for many, but realize it won’t for all.

E-Learning 24/7

Want to start with your own due diligence?  Then purchase the Top 50 LMSs for 2015 Report by me. Contains detailed profiles on 44 LMS vendors. Information that is right to the point.