Checking Vendor References

One task that should be part of every IT managers is performing reference checks on potential vendors. A vendor reference check goes beyond the sales pitch to reveal the true nature of a product or company. If you’re not performing reference checks you are susceptible of falling prey to a slick sales pitch with nothing but trouble behind it.

Vendors only provide the customers they are certain will give a glowing endorsement. You need to know the right approach and the right questions to ask. If you do, you can ascertain quickly if the vendor is right for you.

Your purpose must be to determine if the vendor is:

  • Honest and Trustworthy
  • Reliable
  • Appropriately priced
  • Easy to work with
  • Performs well
  • Supportive

If possible you should always ask for former clients as references. They will likely be more honest about their relationship and reasons they are no longer clients can be insightful.

It’s important to first start at a high level, then drill down into the specific services or products that you are looking to implement.

Questions to Ask:

(customize to your specific needs)

1. Introduction

  • Tell me about your company and relationship to the vendor?
  • What other vendors did you consider?
  • Why did you choose this vendor?
  • What did you bring this vendor in to do?
  • What products or services did you use?
  • Did they deliver on time? Were you satisfied?
  • Did the vendor fulfill promises?

2. Implementation?

  • How long did the implementation take?
  • What sort of resources did the implementation take?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Was the vendor responsive to your needs?
  • After implementation how was the ongoing support?

3. What do you like?

  • Does the product or service perform as expected/required?
  • How easy is it to use?
  • How has it performed?
  • What impresses you the most about product / service?

4. What do you dislike?

  • What are the major friction points?
  • What are the limitations?
  • Are these easy to work around?
  • How supportive is the vendor when you have issues, questions or concerns?

5. Training & Support

  • Is training required?
  • How long does it take for an individual to become proficient?
  • Does the Vendor provide training? If so is it adequate?
  • How expensive is it to train new employees?
  • How knowledgeable are the support staff?
  • Was the vendor willing to go the extra mile to help?

6. Conclusion

  • What kind of results have you seen from using product?
  • What surprises did you encounter?
  • What advice do you have?
  • Would you recommend this vendor (for our needs)?