We’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse. That feeling when—after much deliberation—you finally make a purchase only to be left with some sense of regret and guilt. You fear you made the wrong choice, or acted too impulsive and extravagant. Some may suspect they were overly influenced by the salesperson. If you experience something similar after a new shirt shrinks in the laundry, it’s unfortunate but not disastrous. If you experience this after a larger, more costly purchase, it can feel much worse.
How many of us have experienced this after selecting venue & event software?
After a seemingly flawless demo, there isn’t initially much room for hesitation or doubt. But as the software is actually implemented, it’s as if you were looking at another system entirely! A demo that was so impressive ends up falling utterly flat in practice. Having spent a large part of my adult life around software for the events industry, I’ve experienced the good, bad, and downright ugly of this firsthand. Software buyer’s remorse happens when there isn’t enough clarification in the initial sales/demo process, so I’d like to use my experience to offer the following six approaches for the next time you hear a sales pitch:
1. Be clear about what problems you want the software to solve.
Make sure the vendor understands these needs and demonstrates how they intend to address them. Don’t let them recite the script and steps of the “standard” demo they show everyone as a blanket solution. Of course their standard demo is going to look good and run smoothly. If they are able to dictate what they show you, why would it not?
2. If the system is web-based (as most event software should be these days), make sure they show you the functionality LIVE.
Not via Powerpoint screenshots, not running locally off their own machines— but LIVE. It amazes me how many vendors promote their “web-based” solutions yet always have an excuse as to why they perform a demo from their local machine or share screenshots because “the internet might be a bit slow.” If their software doesn’t work on a standard internet connection, that is a major red-flag. In your day-to-day use of the software, the internet IS going to be slow every now and then. Your new system should be able to easily cope with this. After all, you can’t revert to Powerpoint to keep an event running!
3. If you ask about a particular functionality and they say, “We don’t have that yet but we are building it,” don’t accept that statement blindly.
Ask if they will share the content of their development roadmap with you and the timeframe for that feature. If you have other requests they claim will be developed in the future, ask about the usual timeline for implementation. Then request an existing client reference (or two) whose need for development has recently been met so you can compare real client experiences with the vendor response.
4. Ask about their implementation timeframe: practically and as a whole.
Not only should you ask how long set-up will take, you should also ask how long it will be till you can actually use the software to manage your day-to-day tasks. Again, ask for real client references that have recently adopted their software so you can hear about their experience. A vendor won’t tell you it’s going to take a year or more—that would scare prospects away— but you need an accurate idea of this before you purchase. No longer should you invest the time or money into a system that will take a year or more to set up. That concept became obsolete when the world moved to SaaS / cloud-based software. You could build another venue in the time that some vendors take to implement their software!
5. Ask what exactly their price includes.
Too many vendors have “additional services” (hidden costs) that you find out about later on, only when it’s too late—after you’ve locked in a contract and invested too much to walk away. What happens if you need more training than initially suggested? What about updates to the software? Support—and this is a big one, what is included in customer support? Some companies only count technical questions as support. Answers to “how to” questions come at an additional cost. Don’t accept this tactic unless it is clearly defined up-front. One of the “hidden costs” that never ceases to amaze me is the need for an entirely new employee—a hire or transfer from another position within the venue to be the sole “administrator” of the new software. Their sole job is to know how to use the new system—because that is how complex and unintuitive it is. Be sure to ask the vendor if any of their clients have an employee whose main role is dedicated to the software (better yet, ask your industry peers). If they do, ask yourself WHY. If a system is so convoluted that you need to create a new position (think salary and benefits) to sufficiently understand it, there’s a fundamental issue with the usability, interface, and intuition of that software. The vendor’s role is to make sure the software works for you—you shouldn’t have to add staff members to work “for” it.
6. Ask what the options are for a trial or “sandbox” environment to experiment with before you commit.
Some companies might let you have access for a couple weeks, while others might provide login access to a demo version of the product. If you do this, understand that it probably won’t be a reflection of how your venue will customize or tailor the software once it’s actually purchased. It will, however, give you an idea of how intuitive the software is. If a vendor claims you can’t have trial or demo access because you’ll need training to understand how to even try it, that should signal a major weakness in it’s of ease-of-use. Obviously some training will be necessary once the system is actually implemented, but in this day and age any system “worth it’s salt” should be easy enough that you can login and find your way around almost immediately.
Overall, the best advice is to do your homework—especially through speaking to others who have used the software you’re interested in. Ideally, try to speak to your own colleagues in the industry, and not just references the vendor gave you. After all, what vendor would suggest a bad reference? Honest opinions you can trust are the best litmus tests you can get.
Steve Mackenzie is President at EventBooking, an innovative venue management solution that serves over 1,000 venues around the globe, and with regular polling of its clients has an unprecedented 99% customer satisfaction level.