As an online benefit administration vendor, we respond to thousands of inquiries about products and services. These requests come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from social media DMs to lengthy requests for proposal. The goal is always the same – determining if Benelogic’s products and or services meet the needs of their company.
Not all evaluation methods are equal.
Before you can solve a problem, it is critical to clearly define the problem. A surprising number of companies conduct evaluations without truly knowing the problem(s) they need to solve. Some understand their core problem, but during their evaluation discover features and functionality that distract their attention and make them deviate from their goals.
Before you ever ask a vendor how they can help, start by knowing the answer this critical question: What problem(s) do you need to solve?
While the question is simple, the answer often is not. In fact, it can seem downright daunting, but without clearly defining the problem, the likelihood of wasting time, money, and resources substantially increase. And your odds of success substantially decrease.
Benefits administration solutions are not a one-size-fits all and it is important that the solution you ultimately pick solves your problems.
So how do you get your best outcome? How do you find real solutions to the problems that need solving?
Benelogic has assembled the following short list of recommendation for companies and consultants to help get to the root of the problem and yield better and faster results:
1. Skip the Formal Request for Information (RFI)
An RFI is a fishing expedition to determine if a vendor is worth engaging in further conservations. In today’s world of digital information, skip this step and look at the content on a company website. If you are still unsure, see step 2.
2. Begin with a Conversation
Start by having a dialog with several different vendors. You may be at a disadvantage not fully knowing the problem or the solutions available, so take advantage of the knowledge this “Product Expert” can provide. A good salesperson should ask the right questions and help you get to the root of the problem that needs to be solved. These conversations help focus both sides and vendors will often direct you to products which are the best fit, not necessarily their own.
If the person you speak with does not take the time to ask you questions about your company, culture, benefits, disparate systems, and processes to get a full picture - run and run fast. If they cannot take the time to learn about your unique challenges and provide an objective education, will they be a good long term business partner? Make them earn YOUR trust by proving THEIR knowledge.
3. Dig a Little Deeper
If you have not selected your vendor by this point, you at least have a better idea what you are looking for in your ideal solution. Now it is time to issue an RFP (Request for Proposal).
4. Seek Clarification
Once you have collected all your RFP responses, don’t be shy about seeking clarification again and again until you are satisfied you have all the details you need. While nobody wants to drag a process out longer than it needs to be, companies that make decisions solely on written responses may make assumptions about product and service capabilities which are later proven untrue. Again, the goal is to find the right solution for the problem and by skipping this step, you might rule out the best solution.
5. Bigger Is not Always Better
Take the time to become familiar with prospective vendors’ business profiles. The history of a company, including whether they are public or private, impacts business practices. What motivates the vendor? Is it system growth? Is it recognizing results for shareholders of the company? Is it coming up with creative solutions to their unique client needs? Weigh this information against what is important to your company. If you want the prestige of working with a big-name company, that’s one thing, but if you are looking for partner who takes pride in being nimble, responsive, and service-oriented, that is something different.
In conclusion, selecting a vendor partner may feel like a daunting task. After all, your neck and reputation are on the line. Rather than stress about it, go into the process as you would if you were purchasing something for your home or family. Don’t hold back on asking questions or providing crucial details for the sake of preventing a sales pitch. Seize the opportunity to utilize expert resources to create greater clarity about the problem being solved and the potential solutions available. The evaluation process is a test drive, so you feel confident you have a clear understanding of how a vendor’s product and services are going to make your situation better. In the long run, being more forthright and organized upfront can save you time, money, resources, and frustration.
Of course, Benelogic is always here when you need us. Please do “Benefit From Our Experience.™” We pride ourselves on helping good companies solve complex problems, With a wide range of online benefit administration solutions that are completely customizable to any company's needs. Our expert staff is always just a call or email away.