You have held off on making that investment long enough. You need to upgrade your phone system, redesign your website, or replace the carpet in your office. The first question you ask yourself: Which company do I go with? When selecting a company, it’s important to come up with some selection criteria and create a vendor selection process. This will ensure that you choose the right vendor for your church. Yes, it might be a little more time consuming than picking the first name that pops up in Google or hiring the head usher’s company. But, the effort can pay off big time. Choosing the wrong vendor can cost your church significantly in terms of time, money even your reputation.
7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Vendor for Your Church
1. Total Price
It is your job to be responsible stewards of church resources so your goal should always be to obtain the maximum value for the lowest possible cost. To accomplish that, you need to solicit bids from more than one vendor.
Communicate to vendor prospects the full scope of your needs so that they can provide you with an accurate bid. Make sure you explain your needs the same way to each vendor so you can compare apples to apples.
Vendors are skilled at upselling more product and services than may be needed, so don’t make the mistake of being talked into an unnecessary upgrade. Stick to your original goals and needs.
Make sure each bid includes a breakdown of every line-item cost. This will make comparing bids a little easier. And ask if there will be any added costs such as travel surcharges, administrative expenses or maintenance fees.
Be wary of vendors who submit estimates drastically lower than others. You may end up receiving a less than acceptable product or service, or you may end up paying more than the estimated cost in fees that were not part of the bid.
2. Quality of Product or Service
Price doesn’t matter if the product or service is poor quality.
In many ways, hiring a vendor is like hiring an employee. Most people would not employ a worker without checking references, so don’t make that mistake when selecting a vendor. Ask for at least three references from current or former customers. If a vendor hesitates, consider that a red flag.
Then make sure you call those references and ask questions such as: Was the vendor on time? Were they professional? How was service after the sale? If something went wrong, did they make it right? Would you use them again?
Where applicable, ask to see samples of the vendor’s previous work.
3. Customer Service
Companies with a reputation for exemplary customer service will more than likely take good care of you.
Ask about customer service guarantees. For example, if you are purchasing a phone system, ask what the response time is in the event of an emergency. You want to know that if there is problem that it will be fixed quickly.
Take advantage of the digital age. People who have poor experiences with companies often vent their frustrations on-line. A simple Internet search can uncover a lot of information.
One question I ask every vendor is whether or not they solicit customer feedback. And if so, ask how their customers grade them.
4. Ethics and Integrity of Company
The reputation of your church can be tied to the integrity of the vendors you use. You don’t want to be doing business with someone that has made headlines for shady dealings.
A valuable resource is the Better Business Bureau. Ask the vendor if they are accredited through the BBB. The organization’s website has a search function that allows you to search businesses by industry or company name. You can see how many complaints the BBB has on file, how complaints were resolved and if it has been the subject of any government action.
The BBB can also provide a lot of company information, both positive (e.g.–charitable involvements) and negative (e.g.–newspaper articles about lawsuits).
But what I like the best about the BBB is that businesses that are accredited through them have to demonstrate the proper management of an internal infrastructure that supports a positive customer experience. Not all business referral sites do that.
5. Professionalism of Employees
When a vendor works for your church their employees do as well. I used a vendor once that sent a technician who made inappropriate advances toward our administrative assistant. We addressed it immediately and quickly changed vendors.
This is perhaps the most difficult factor to check. One suggestion is to read the company’s employment ads. Job postings contain the important qualities a company looks for in a prospective employee and can provide clues as to how their workers are screened and expected to conduct themselves on the job.
For example, I recall seeing a television ad from a heating and cooling company looking for new technicians. The ad specifically stated it would only hire polite individuals. This told me they were interested in more than just technical skills. They were looking for employees with great people skills as well.
6. Recommendations from Others
Word-of-mouth is always a great way to find a reputable vendor. This is when you should leverage any networking groups you belong to. Speak to your local chamber of commerce, your LinkedIn connections, the members of your professional organizations and even try asking for recommendations on Facebook. People are pretty honest about their experiences with vendors.
7. Existing Relationships
You might want to also leverage the experience you already have. If you have a vendor that you are using, and like, you should still solicit bids from other vendors to ensure that you are still getting the best value for your money.
Vendors will often creep up their costs and fees once they gain the trust of a good customer. If you don’t compare costs, you will never know. Don’t let them do that to you!
Be cautious of using church members. Most of the time things will work out fine. But in those rare instances when it doesn’t, you will have to deal with the issues – and that is not fun.
Conducting thorough research and asking the right questions, will significantly improve the chances of selecting the right vendor for your church. And the right vendor will ensure you receive a great product, with exceptional service at the best possible price!