5 Questions to Ask When Calling a Reference During the RFP Process

When engaging in a RFP process for a new software vendor, calling references is arguably one of the most important steps of the process. Although it can be time consuming to coordinate calls and analyze all the feedback, the comments of peers who have recently gone through the same process can be invaluable. One of the toughest things about reference calls is narrowing down what to ask. Below are five questions which are recommended for any reference call:

1. Would you buy from the vendor again?

If the vendor gave you this customer as a reference, then the answer is likely “Yes!” But, this is a broad-based opening question to let the reference elaborate on whether there are any little things about the vendor which are bothering them.

2. Did the vendor do what they said they would do?

This is an opportunity to find out if any promises were broken during the sales cycle. Did the vendor promise a feature that never came to be, or was not quite what they had promised?

3. How close was the expected level of complexity to the actual level of complexity?

This question is meant to give a sense of how honest the vendor was in presenting the ease-of-use with respect to their product. Did they make things seem much easier than they are?  Did they steer the demo to a few things they were good at, while effectively glazing over some ease-of-use issues?

4. Have you ever been “boxed-in” with the software, not being able to solve a problem?

It is important that the software will have the flexibility to accomplish everything you want it to. If the reference has ever run into a situation where they could not accomplish a task with the software, it is critical to know that.

5. How easy has the software been to maintain?

Configuring and setting up the product is sometimes the main focus of a demo, but it is also vitally important to understand how the software is maintained and supported. A software that is easy to configure, but hard to maintain, will cause more headaches in the long run because maintenance issues go on forever.

For more details on the RFP process specifically for selecting an integration engine, please see the white paper on the Thirteen Steps to Selecting the Right HL7 Interface Engine complete with RFI questions and scorecards from OTB Solutions.