Navigating technology: Controlling the conversation with providers
Once you’ve identified your achievable, short-term and bite-size changes that are tangible for your agency, as outlined here, your next step is vetting technology solution providers. With so many options, it’s important to keep the process on your terms. With a predictable question and answer script, you will be equipped and able to assess the legitimacy of each solution based on the provider’s ability, or inability to give you the information you seek.
If you’ve sat through at least one product demonstration within the past twelve months that appears to solve every marketing, sales, servicing or renewal need at your agency, you are not alone. Here are ten questions to change the conversation, and help you cut through tech jargon, attractive presentations and grand promises of a better world for your agency. Consider these in discussions with a solutions provider, demonstrating your objective approach to adopting technologies that enhance your ability to grow and retain customers.
Technology Vetting Script Questions
- How old is your product, and how long has it been in the hands of agencies?
Consider how long a product has been in market and the extent of agency testing in a real-world environment. Weigh the risk of choosing a mature solution against selecting a newer product that may require more of your time and feedback to ensure it meets your agency’s needs.
- What is your process for conducting feedback sessions with agencies, and do you have an advisory council for ongoing development?
Agency councils and available feedback loops identify opportunity for your voice to be considered and the ability to take an active role in the evolution of the product. This level of engagement implies a willingness to build to the specifics of the intended agency market.
- How has your solution increased profitability/customer retention, decreased time per task/volume of inbound customer requests (or insert other metrics tracked religiously by your agency)?
A technology company’s ability to comment on business metrics that truly move the needle for your agency means they understand proper levers and have been able to impact the priorities of agencies.
- What is your net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) score?
Many software as a service (SaaS) companies understand the importance of loyalty and referrals (i.e., NPS) as well as sentimentality (CSAT) and measure it. Seeking responses above 20 for NPS and at 8 or above on CSAT as starting points are ways to quickly determine legitimacy.
- What is your average customer?
Technology companies should be able to share retention metrics just like you and be ready to celebrate them if they have been in business for multiple years. Note that true startups will not have these metrics or enough months to matter. In the case of a startup, you will be one of the first contributors to that metric if you choose to partner.
- If you do not integrate with my agency management system (AMS), how will you accommodate that dependency?
This is the leading question during technology vetting. Many companies do not have an integration with one or multiple management systems and they will rely on you to help advocate for integration in some cases. What is important to weigh is the product’s value and viability regardless of the AMS integration. If the technology partner builds a strong customer base , that is usually when other leading firms take notice and entertain integration partnerships.
- What are your security protocols to protect against cyber issues and are you able to provide copies of your compliance and disaster recovery guides?
You’re seeking proof of tech assurances that protect you from liability. Technology firms understand how critical data protection and uptime are to your agency. After you receive documentation, be sure to review with your internal or external IT team to confirm compliance.
- Who owns the data collected in your system and do you reuse the data in conjunction with other parties? If so, please name the companies?
You want to know every hand that touches your data and it’s a personal call on data ownership. Answers to these questions allow you to weigh your comfortability with the companies involved in the exchange of data originating at your agency and weigh the pros and cons of ownership and access outside of your agency.
- What is unfinished within your product and what is in your product roadmap for the next four quarters?
Technology is never done. You want to ensure what you’re compelled to buy now is actually in market as well as understand what enhancements you will be able to access and when. A roadmap also demonstrates longevity and planning on behalf of your prospective partner.
- Are we able to try it before we buy it? Are you open to quarterly contract arrangements with an outcomes measurement meeting to judge what we expected versus what you delivered?
Many technology companies will have monthly or annual contracts but asking about creative ways to partner demonstrates you are results-oriented and objective. You are setting the expectation up front on how you want to measure your partners and this helps position your role in the relationship.
With this script, you should feel empowered to drive conversations with technology providers to meet your decision-making needs. By de-prioritizing the presentations and even online demonstrations, you can focus on what will check the boxes for success in achieving your strategy.