I recently had to conduct a customer reference call for a web services vendor we are considering. A quick web search brought up Adam Kalsey’s excellent list of customer reference questions.
I’ve taken these and added my own questions and some from other sources to come up with the following customer reference checklist:
- What is your name/title/dept, etc.
- How long have you been using [product]?
- Describe how you are using [product] (e.g. enterprise-wide, single dept, pilot?).
- Are you personally a user of [product]?
- What’s your company’s relationship with [product vendor]?
- Does your company receive anything from [product vendor] in return for being a reference?
- What other products did you consider when making the decision to use [product]?
- Why did you select [product] over its competitors?
- What are the best features of [product]?
- What are the limitations of [product]?
- Describe any manual processes and workarounds you follow in order to use [product]?
- Is there anything that surprised you (positively or negatively) about [product]?
- How long did implementation take?
- What went well during your implementation?
- What went poorly during your implementation?
- What did you learn during the implementation that you would have liked to know before you started?
- If you were doing the implementation again, what would you do differently?
- How many of [product vendor’s] consultants were required to implement the product?
- Did the consultants customize [product] for you? If yes, describe that customization.
- Did the consultants work on-site or remotely?
- Who provided project management for the implementation?
- What training was provided and how would you rate it?
- What type of consultants worked on the implementation (developers, analysts, project managers)?
- What did the consultant not do (i.e. what did you have to do yourself)?
- Were your expectations for the implementation met?
- Was the project finished on time and on budget? If not, why not?
- How many users use [product]?
- How well does [product] integrate with your production environment?
- How many people do you need to manage and support [product]?
- What new processes have you created to support [product] in your production environment?
- How often do you request technical support from [product]?
- Describe the process of asking for technical support and receiving a resolution.
- When you have a support question or issue, how long does it generally take them to respond to you?
- Who do you receive resolution from (developers, tech support, professional services consultants, or someone else)?
- How do you find out when a bug fix or update is available from [product vendor]?
- What was the ROI time frame for [product]? How does this compare to what you expected?
- What should we know about [product] and [product vendor] before we make a decision?
- Would you choose [product] again?
- Can you provide the name of any other customers I can speak to about [product] (i.e. who are not on the vendor’s customer reference list)?
Assuming you use most of these questions (or some variant of them) you’ll need 45-60 minutes to complete the call, so plan accordingly.
When it comes to making a major product evaluation it’s worth not skimping on this step – the information you can gain can be invaluable.