Before diving into our semi-annual, readers question and answer, I’d like to talk about a subject near and dear to me – acquisitions. In the past few months, many of you probably have noticed a slight uptick in to the number of vendors who have been acquired either by another vendor in the market, or outside of the e-learning space or even a Private Equity firm.
While from a global standpoint the percentage of acquisitions is still below .1%, the pr you see, seems to indicate a massive upheaval in the M&A angle, especially in the learning system space.
Yet one of the items that is never mentioned are the customers and employees of the vendor who has been acquired. On the customer side, if you are the client of said “been acquired” vendor you may be asking yourself, what can I do?
I can tell you, that you will face an uphill battle if you are trying to get out of your contract (if you have one). Some vendors will be flexible with you, and allow you to leave if you so desire, others less so. There have been plenty of horror stories where clients are stuck in a contract with zero recourse.
From my experience, vendors do have some options
1. They could be understanding and if you want out of your contract, they let you go. After all, word of mouth is still huge even in the digital world today, especially with social media. Is bad mouthing something a vendor wants?
2. See if there any loopholes. Sadly, I often find consumers who really never look at the contract and just sign on the dotted line. It happens way more than you might think.
3. Just go forward and hope everything turns out okay. Now, if it is a vendor you just dislike, this is not an ideal option, but look, I hate people ringing my doorbell, and so I let my dogs do the barking, err talking.
What can you do going forward?
Let’s say you are about to sign a contract with a learning system vendor or even an e-learning vendor with another product. To safeguard yourself, in case the vendor is acquired, here is what you should do.
- Have them put in an opt-out clause, so that you can get out of the contract. You request it to be 60 days notice (as in you have to give them 60 days minimum if you plan to leave)
- Make sure the opt-out clause states that you are not penalized either financially or on some other manner and that the vendor agrees to work with the new vendor to move over your data (if this is applicable)
- If the vendor wants their own opt-out clause, go ahead. I had a vendor who once wanted it, I said go ahead. They never opt-out.
There will be vendors who will tell you they will never been acquired, but how do you know? And heck, how do they know – especially the salesperson. Most of the times, they are kept in the dark. There are systems today looking to be buy others (privately – i.e. not being made public). There are some on the market. Heck, there are some I wonder if they will be around by the end of 2020. You just don’t know and so, the philosophy that you can trust the vendor is, well, a mistake.
Some vendors will say, there isn’t a contract per se, and you can leave at any time. If you signed something with them – i.e. a contract, that even says you can leave at any time, it is still a contract. And the “leave” any time is misleading. Sure you can leave, but any money you paid, you will not get back. If you paid up-front, sorry Charlie (a famous Tuna), no refund for you.
Now onto your questions
My company continues to have issues with support by X (vendor name withheld). They never return phone calls or e-mails. Worse, when I am able to connect with them, I seem to go into some loop. We are getting frustrated and I get the feeling they just don’t care. What should we do?
Demand less Muzak on the phone. I mean, the seventies, really? In all seriousness though, there are somethings you can do.
- Go on LinkedIn and find out who is head of customer support/tech support/services then reach out to them. Explain at a very high level (you only have a few sentences) that you need to contact them. Tell them you are a customer of theirs and you are considering leaving them. Trust me, they will connect.
- Ask the support person who is in charge of support and you want their contact information. Be polite. If they stonewall you, find out who is the CEO of the company – doable on LinkedIn, and contact them. Similar to head of support, threaten to leave and express displeasure. They will connect, but if not.
- Make it known on LinkedIn in your own posting, that you are having issues with the learning system vendor as it relates to support – now you will get other learning system vendors telling you to come over to them, but you will very likely get someone from your said vendor. I’d add the Twitter angle to, but make sure you do “[email protected]” – when you put the “.” in front of the “@” this means it goes to everyone who is following that vendor, which likely includes their customers. Nothing worse then being called out and it is seen by the customer base.
- Stay focused. It is easy to get frustrated. If you are at your wits end, then look to jump ship. Look at your contract and see what you can do.
- The number one reason, people leave learning systems is due to poor support. Vendors know this, and some have fixed it, others have not.
I’ve seen the “we will respond in 24 hours” e-mail and that is utter baloney. Worse, it is often comes from an e-mail address that you can not respond to, which only adds to the frustration. Now, you could play the game of guessing, by seeing how they do their email address. I’ve done it before, and you might get a win out of it. But generally speaking, you might get a lose at it.
If you are concerned that they may not be opening up the e-mail, let’s say you have their email address, then subscribe to an e-mail tracker. There are plenty out there. The read receipt ones are worthless. Some of the trackers will show you who else opened up that e-mail, beyond the person you sent it to. I know it may sound squirmy, but hey, you are at the point where squirmy is the least of your concerns.
We are looking at some LMSs. We want a system that is somewhat under the radar but one that you like or have on your map as potential. Any recommendations?
There are always systems that I am in the “hmm, they have potential mode” and are on my radar. In fact quite a few. That said, here are some that you should explore, depending on your criteria.
- Spoke by Unboxed Technology – They have a built-in BI (business intelligence) component, which I really like. The UI/UX is slick. Lots of very good functionality. The gamification component includes some nice wins. They also have a sales enablement platform too, called Hub 360. And if you go into FindAnLMS.com, you can see schedule a demo with them, right within the system, and see price ranges, user ranges, functionality too.
- Bolt Learning – I think what really intrigues me about this system, is they are the first ones to use facial recognition specifically for logging into the system. I repeat, only log-in to the system (some folks think it is for assessments, it isn’t). Instead of the end user having to remember a user name/password, their face is solves that. Could you log-in the old fashion way? Sure, but hey if you are using this via mobile and concerned about security, your face is the way to go. Unless you have stolen someone’s else face, like Cage and Travolta did in that weird movie about two decades ago.
- CD2 Learning – They have been around for more than a decade but are really under the radar. With a new management team in place, including a new CEO, I think they are about to turn the corner in a good way. Not robust by any stretch, but has some nice feature sets. Definitely on my “potential list”. They are on Findanlms.com, too.
- EthosCE – Another vendor who has been around for numerous years and yet, I am still surprised how many folks have never heard of them. By far one of the best systems I have seen for the medical care industry and even healthcare. CE functionality is outstanding. Definitely under the radar. Skip Healthstream (over-rated and average, and expensive) and check Ethos out.
I attended ATD’s show and walked around the show floor talking to some vendors. They scanned by badge and said they would follow-up. No one has so far. Is this common?
Way too common. I never understood why sales people or whomever is in that booth, scan badges and then never follow-up. I can’t decide if it is because they are on some goal angle where they have to scan so many badges or if they are just lazy and couldn’t care a less.
I’d love to be the fly on the wall so to speak when they talk to whoever is running sales, and tells them, they got a lot of leads, but fails to mention they never contacted them.
I should note that there are some vendors who hire people to staff the booth, but who really do not work for them. Is it lame? Absolutely. But it does happen.
Plus, I have seen way too many salespeople who really need a crash course in how to work a booth. Personal favorites include
- Eating in the booth. It is very easy to leave a sign, “back in 30 minutes” and go and eat or drink.
- Looking at their mobile phones. You want do to that? Then wait until the show is over or you are on your break. It tells me that you do not want to be there, so why should I stop by?
- Poor edict in your booth. I’ve seen it all – nose picking (it is like a train wreck, you can’t turn away), laying on a couch relaxing (as if you are at a home), reading e-mail which is visible on the monitors at your booth (it was seen at learning solutions show) and dozing off (really, get some sleep or uh, sleep on your break).
But by far, the issue I see most and you identified it – is scanning and ignoring. Vendors pay a lot of money for a trade show, at a minimum about 10,000 USD and I know of vendors who have dropped over 100K for booth. And to think that some one is just taking up space is offensive. Unless they are sleeping on their own couch, then it is magical, in a lazy and exhausting kind of way. As an added bonus, they had their shoes on. Yeah!
If you were post your rankings today, who would be in your top three?
Good question. Right now, I have the rankings split with LMSs being one, and LXPs being the other. Unless otherwise indicated, all can be found on Findanlms.com, where you can search by filters, contact them, send them an RFP and schedule a demo. Yes, I hype the site, but I have focused on having the best systems in the industry there and we continue to add them weekly. So more are coming!!!
Top Three in Rankings as of today.
LMS (In no particular order)
LXPs (In no particular order)
Two vendors in the LXP space, very new to the market, I am keeping an eye on. Both will be on FindAnLMS by July.
There you have it. The latest on readers Q and A along with insight into the acquisition component.
One reader did ask me how many dogs I have and their names. They said they were a pet owner and noticed that I have included a name of my dog in the past.
Voodoo, Spirit and Cali are their names. All rescues.
And all special.
No response from the vendor or follow up, This isn’t an an excuse for no follow up from a vendor, but do check your spam mail if you never do after a show (and know where to look as there are often more than one). After a show mine goes up, and often there are emails I want there – sometimes with no obvious reason for being marked spam – but my spam checker didn’t want me to have them! Sadly getting connected can be harder than it should be for both parties even if everyone is using reputable services to connect.
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