The right vendors can be a powerful support network for your firm – and the wrong ones can lead to seemingly never-ending problems, including IT headaches, unhappy clients and frustrating workdays.
When choosing a vendor, keep in mind the following to wind up with a decision that has a positive impact on your firm.
Figure out what problems you need to solve
Lawyers are often bombarded with requests from vendors to take a look at the latest software, tool or product. While there are times when solutions you may have even thought can pop up, it’s more likely that you’re going to run into true issues and inefficiencies that the right vendor can help fix. Knowing the problem you need solved can also help you determine if the vendor’s capabilities are the solution.
If you have staff, it can be good to bring them in on the conversation. Pull together a “needs” and “wants” list where you clearly lay out the exact items you know are a must-have and then other items that would be nice to have, but aren’t deal-breakers.
Get a referral
Talk to your colleagues and trusted resources to get input and recommendations. Not every vendor is the right fit for every firm, so if someone had a negative experience it could be helpful to learn why. If you receive rave reviews for a specific vendor, that can help make the decision making process easier knowing you’ll have peace of mind in trusting them.
Get a trial if possible
If available, always try out the product or service beforehand. For example, most practice management programs offer a trial so you can test whether or not the software is truly the right one for your firm. If working with a service vendor, consider giving them a small scale project to start. For example, you can have a potential marketing agency work on creating the social media marketing for the next month to get an idea of their response time, creative capabilities and knowledge of the industry.
Ask the right questions
Once you have your problems and needs list, you can ask the vendor the appropriate questions to see if they’re a good fit.
Depending on your firm’s needs, here are some sample questions you can ask potential vendors:
- What is your average response time for support?
- How do you ensure quality control?
- Is the primary point of contact always the same?
- Are any services sub-contracted?
- What specific features does your product have? Do any of these have an additional cost associated with them?
Always make sure to get any promises or agreements in writing. If you’re selecting a service vendor, it can also be helpful to get a performance guarantee or similar in the contract.
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