Learning System Vendors Support Ratings

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If you are like me, the importance of training should be paramount. Especially since each one of you (I surmise) are involved in some aspect of providing knowledge, whether it be as an educator, a trainer, L&D, training, HR if providing training, and so forth.

And if you are like me, having outstanding support when it comes to your learning system should equally be of high importance.

Yet in both cases, for the most part, the results on the part of learning systems in the past has been mixed.

There has never been an accurate number of how many learning system vendors actually have a training department, let alone trainers who provide said training, or customer education.  While I have conducted random sampling (as you would have with any polls out there), and data collection as part of my LMS RFP Template (New version now out), I believe it needs to be expanded.

The same holds true when it comes to support.  Every vendor will state to you, if asked, how great is their support.  Ask about SLA and percentage, and the numbers quoted are always 90% and higher, usually in the upper 90’s.  

However, behind the scenes, some of those vendors who say we are above 90%, are well, lying ( I can find no easy way to say this).

I know for a fact one vendor, who was in the 60s and recently says they are now in the 90’s.   Based on track records, heard from folks who have systems, heard at trade shows, or randomly asked or my experience over the years, support continues to be a hot topic.

Not every vendor has bad or average support.  Many truly have outstanding support.  There are plenty who have an actual training department. 

Go thru rigorous process when hiring support agents, including one who required each support person to go thru an assessment of skills AND have a min. number of two years working in support.

Poor support continues to be the number one reason, people leave their system for another system.  This is not a new trend, rather a constant trend for several years.  When folks spout “We HATE X”, repeatedly and when asked why, surprise, surprise, support plays a major role.

Yet, when viewing RFPs and RFIs from consumers, I rarely see questions regarding support and training in them.  Most never have one question, not one inquiry about the vendor’s support track record.  

My template has repeatedly provided questions for support.  You can download it here.

But more needs to be done.

Support Rating Card

I am launching a Support Rate Card for learning system vendors.  The Card asks questions from basic to advanced.  It asks for metrics from the vendor.  It asks for processes, surveys conducted by the vendor (if applicable) and other consumer training/education.

Upon receiving back the results, a number will be assigned – i.e. a weight if you will to each question.  Some are weighted higher than others, but every question is relevant in today’s industry.

Vendors who fail to disclose any information, including metrics, will be called out in a future blog post (September).  

I believe that if a vendor says how great their support is, then show us (via data).   If a vendor tells you their SLA percentage is above 90%, then providing metrics shouldn’t be an issue, since, after all, it is quoted in a pitch.

I know there are some vendors who use the “we cannot disclose this” statement. I say, poppycock (so Victorian). 

I’m sure there will be vendors who hide behind legal reasons for holding back information, but again, why?  If your support is so amazing, wouldn’t you want others to know about it?  I mean, knowing it is such a problem as a whole in the industry, truly showing and thus proving the results via our Support Card, should make 100% sense.

The Ratings

Yes. those ratings.  As with the September post of vendors who declined to respond or declined to answer each question – and thus identified for doing so,  there will be in the same post, a list of vendors who will fall into one of five categories.

a. Gold –  Highest Level of Support – as identified by The Craig Weiss Group Support Card.  Vendors will be able to show they have attained this level, via an icon they can include on their web site, and via statements thru whatever means they select or choose.    Vendors who achieve Gold will be recognized on the post.

b. Silver.  Second level.  Silver still is good, quite good, but not at Gold status.  Again, vendors will have an icon indicating as such, and will be presented on the blog.

c. Bronze.  Third level.   Above Average Support.   Vendor icon and presented on the blog.

d. Average Support.  I guess I could have call it, “Bland” but just saying Average I think folks will get the idea. Vendors presented in blog.

e.  Poor –  I mean you are either Average and above or below and Poor.  And while semantically you could say, hey below average isn’t as bad as poor, I think both stink.  That’s just my opinion of course.  Vendors presented in blog.

f. Fail to Disclose.  This is a wonderful list of those who did not answer every question, for whatever reason, that only they know and want to keep secret.  Vendors presented in blog.

The Support Card

Here it is, available for Download Support Card 

Vendors must include their e-mail address to download, but you will not be spammed.  It is only for authentication purposes.

Upon completion, please send back to Craig, by Sept. 1st, 2018. 

That is more than enough time for a vendor to locate the data and respond accordingly. 

Let’s Break it all down – Support Card

Starts with Training

  1. Do you provide free training (for administrators)?   It is either a Yes or No here. Again, this is asking about free training for administrators and not the entire populous. 
  2. If yes, what is included in the training?  A vendor should be able to provide specific information here. 
  3. If no – i.e. training costs, what is included and what are the fees?  A vendor should be able to provide this information, quite easily to be honest.
  4. Do you have a training department?  Yes or No.  
  5. Community or Knowledge Portal?  Can be something similar, some vendors provide online video tutorials (that’s fine, but how often are they updated?) 

Next, we move onto general support questions

1. Is support included when client purchases system? Is support only for one administrator or if the client has multiple administrators (do they receive support too)? If an additional cost, please state fee(s).    

My personal feeling is that support – free should be included when you buy a learning system.  It is like a warranty.  You wouldn’t buy or lease a car without some level of free service, so why would you with a learning system?

2. How many people do you have in support? Do you have support agents that speak any other languages besides English? If yes, list the languages. Where are your support agents based (i.e. located)?   

I always ask this question with my Top 50 Learning System Report.  It is an indicator in terms of the support infrastructure.  If someone has 500 clients and only three support agents, that would set off red flags to me.   Now I am aware that there are vendors who have “teams” of folks to handle support and other issues, sort of a professional services approach with support intertwined (not the same as PS department though).  

If that is what your company uses, that’s fine, but how many folks are on each team and how many clients can they handle per team?  I mean you have four teams with three folks each, and 2,000 clients – I’d be concerned.

3. Do you constantly provide training to your support agents (technical/customer)?    I hope the answer is yes.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is sort of, or no. 

4.  If yes, are the courses online?  And if yes, are they 3rd party or did you build them?  Do not be surprised to find out that vendors in e-learning, do not offer online courses for their support teams.  And if they do, they purchased 3rd party, even if they offer a custom development team themselves.

5. Do you regularly (at least four times a year) assess your support team? And if yes, what is your process? (i.e. random calls recorded and listened afterwards, assessment of some kind, etc.)   

I hope the answer is yes, I mean even retail places go with a secret shopper (okay some do).    Plus, we are such an assessment oriented society, especially in business and education (mid-terms anyone?), I’d think there is something there.  Could be wrong.  I prefer scenarios to assessments myself, maybe they do too.

6. What are your hours of phone support?   Very important to know. 

7. Do you offer support on the weekends?   Let’s not forget that not everyone in the world, is off on Saturday and Sunday, especially Sunday.  

8.  Do you offer e-mail support?  I’d be stunned if someone says “no”.

9. Do you offer 24/7, 365 days a year support?  Some do it for free. Some do not.

10. Do you offer higher levels of support (fee based)? If yes, what are the tiers and what are the fees? What does the client receive for the tier(s) or higher level of support?

There are vendors whose support is 100% free.  I thank you each and every day.

11. What do you consider low, medium and high when it comes to support issues?

Best to know ahead of time, because everyone thinks their issue is of high importance.

12. Do you offer end user support? If yes, what are the fees and what is provided to each end user? Lastly, what are the times available for that support?

It’s not common in the industry, I’m not a fan of it (I mean, the folks buying it are in training or L&D, and honestly, shouldn’t this be part of you job?).  It is always fee-based and can be quite expensive.   This is BTW, not that built-in help desk vendors have in their system.

13. Do you provide job aids, reference guides and/or any other materials, which are editable templates and can be used by learners

Again, I’m a believer that if you are running training or L&D you should build your own materials.

Last question, before metrics.

14. How often do you follow up with any support call/e-mail from the administrator (every day, every two days, etc.) And what is/are your methods of communication?

A big problem in the industry is the lack of response to administrators and time to do so.  I’ve heard horror stories.  

Metric Time.. And no, the United States is not returning to the metric system, which was a monumental failure in the 70’s.  Not even Schoolhouse Rock could save it. 

  1.  What is the average response time for a priority one support call, during business hours? Please state in minutes. 
  2. What is the ratio of support tickets to number of clients?
  3. How many tickets in 2017, did you receive for high (priority) and medium issues?
  4. How many clients submitted support tickets during 2017?
  5. How many clients have submitted support tickets in 2018 (Jan thru May)?
  6. How many were priority level? (Jan thru May) 2018
  7. On average, how long does it take to solve a priority issue, with your system?
  8. Do you send out an anonymous survey to all your clients regarding your support? If yes, will you provide a copy? And will you provide us with the results of said survey?

Likert Scale works the best here, five points is all that is needed.    Comments section too.  Telling me you have a “Focus Group” as your only method, is uh, not good.  How can 10 people know what 1,000 others are thinking? 

BTW, in today’s world of polling it amazes me that it is based on folks answering a phone call, and how many us of do that, if we do not know who is calling us?  I mean, I am a text first guy, not answer the phone first. 

Lastly, there are two questions – one of which asks who is running support (shall remain confidential) and how long have they been in their current role (i.e. at your company – also will remain confidential).

No NDAs, Sorry Vendors, tricks are for kids or uh, whatever that Rabbit said..

I never understand why vendors want me to sign an NDA when they discuss their support.  Again, they love to share the greatness of their support with everyone and anyone, especially in marketing materials.

I say spread the love around.  So, unless every one of the folks who reads online or sees it at a trade show – or hears it from the vendor (on support and training), then nope on signing an NDA.   And yes, happy to state on the blog post in Sept. which vendors said I needed to sign an NDA, in order to provide their responses. 

Best to spread the joy I say.

Bottom Line

Data drives business.   Data drives results.

Data drives everything.

And vendors love to quote SLA percentages and support data when it comes to a prospect.

Wouldn’t it be great to know the actual results?  To know via an independent process, which is fair, regardless of the vendor?

To be provided with valuable data, that can be shared with your customers or for the potential customer to see, to make an informed decision?

If you value your customers as you state, then provide the information.

After all, the only reason to hide it..

Isn’t because you having nothing to fear,

Rather, it shouts “fear” to everyone. 

E-Learning 24/7

 

 

 

 

 

 

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