Giving ThanksFor IDD Service Vendors!
It’s a fact of life – the only way commercial IDD service providers (i.e. providers caring for multiple individuals who are not relatives) can comply with all regulatory expectations as well as provide care is by utilizing the services of third party vendors, partners or consultants.
Even though vendors are critical to IDD service operations they are people/companies we don’t generally think about very often. We pay them to do a service and (hopefully) they do it – end of story. However if your vendors are doing a good job (or even if they’re not) it’s a very good idea to let them know.
So how do you choose vendors that make you want to give thanks for their guidance, expertise and excellent customer service? The type of vendor that will make your definition of success their definition of success? Well, the end of the year is a good time to ask these questions as you review the needs that your current vendors are paid to fill and consider the characteristics of potential vendors you might work with in the future.
This Thanksgiving week, our blog is based on an article by Greg Hong for entrepreneur.com (4 keys to choosing a vendor) and comprises four characteristics to look for so you end up with praiseworthy vendors!
You and your vendor partners should be on the same page about what the project/challenge is, what you need them for and what you’d like to achieve by working together. In order to be clear on how you’ll work together, it’s important to choose a collaborative partner; one who’ll listen and adapt. Of course, you won’t always get exactly what you want when you want it. However they should acknowledge your questions, concerns and comments and there should be evidence that they’re listening to other clients in the product lines developed, as well as any references they provide.
Using the example of an EHR vendor some basic requirements are a given – a secure place to store client information that allows for remote access and easy retrieval. Other critical features to ask for are prompt excellent customer support and a history of innovation ie consistent introduction of new features. Even if the EHR fulfills most of your company needs now make sure the vendor has a history of consistent updates. The industry and regulatory environment are constantly changing; make sure your EHR company can keep up. How fast does customer service respond? What method of response do you prefer – calls, emails? Does the company accommodate this preference? Nothing is perfect and you will need customer service. And since this is your business you will need customer service fast! If your team can’t wait 2 weeks for answers from a black hole ticket type email customer service system then no matter how ‘cheap’ or ‘established’ a company is they are likely not a good fit for you. In fact according to the business website Raconteur customer service is more of a priority than price for B2Bs (businesses serving other businesses).
Make sure that the vendor(s) you work with ask the right questions about your processes, and what your team needs for success. When a vendor cares about learning about your business and wants to know your long-term interests, it’s likely you’ll be aligned on the project and define the success of the partnership in the same way.
While you always want the people you work with to be on the same page as you, some of the other priorities will shift depending on the length of the commitment and depth of engagement. If you just need someone to come in and install a piece of furniture in your office, the process of selecting that person is different than if you’re asking them to carry out a long term service (eg provide and support an EHR). Talk concretely about whether or not you’re looking for someone for a long-term or short-term commitment.
If you’re reviewing (or looking for) a long-term vendor then you must understand your business needs in the immediate as well as the long term. This will allow you to ask questions that ensure that the contenders have the time, patience and a proven history of service delivery for the long haul.
Another way to make sure both parties are aligned throughout the partnership is to choose a vendor that’s upfront and honest. Be careful of potential partners that over promise. No one can give you everything under the sun. Make sure you feel like you’re being told exactly what they can — and can’t — provide and that they’re adequately and truthfully representing their skills. Companies that are honest about their capabilities and potential shortcomings are ultimately a better fit than those that promise you the moon but cannot deliver. One of Focused Software’s current clients was so impressed by our account manager’s honest response to the fact that we had chosen as a corporation to focus on the core EHR and we not offer a full service Time and Attendance module that he still signed up with us and outsourced the other feature. (Of course, it helped that we provide the most intuitive EHR in the IDD arena, 24/7 live customer service, recognized state report formats as well as direct care staff access!)
The flip side of this is that IDD service providers who don’t ask questions following a demo are usually the one’s who haven’t fully thought their business needs through. When quality business leaders look at a deal and like what they see, they pull out a microscope and look for blind spots that may negatively impact their business. Sometimes they mull it over and follow up with questions later, but such due diligence is expected of anyone worthy of partnering with. The only type of deal that doesn’t raise questions or concerns is the kind that won’t happen.
Ask pointed questions about what potential vendors provide and their resources, and be clear about your budget and needs. Honesty should also be reflected onto what you tell them — make sure you’re not holding anything back either.
Always remember the reason you’re bringing in a third-party. Typically it’s about making things easier for you and your staff as well as the vendor expertise they will bring. As part of a good working relationship and the vetting process, it’s important to talk about what you want, but also just as important to listen to them and to the subtext of what they’re saying — and what they’re not saying — so that you can have a fruitful conversation.
At the end of the day, you’re seeking out their expertise because they’ve carved their own niche and bring experience and skills to the table. Make sure it’s someone you believe in, want to listen to and can trust. There are two players in a partnership and listening to one another goes both ways.
Choosing a new business partner is a tough process, however it’s also vital to routinely review your old partnerships as well. If you critically think about what your company values are before choosing a vendor then these partners can become some of the most efficient and cost-effective members of your team.
Focused Software is your preferred vendor for EHRs that reflect your IDD service workflow processes. Contact us today – we’ll be happy to provide a free, no-obligation demonstration of the Focused Software Electronic Health Record, discuss your unique provider operations and deliver solutions you need to achieve your company goals!