Fostering a Relationship with Your LMS Vendor
A positive relationship with your vendor can directly impact the success of your LMS implementation.
Vendor and supplier relationships are a delicate dance between your businesses interests and the sometimes competing interests of your vendor. To be successful, these relationships need to provide benefits to both parties. Without mutual benefit, the partnership will be on shaky ground since the incentives to stick around are lacking.
This article will identify and discuss seven things you can do to help foster a positive relationship with your LMS vendor.
1. Look for red flags early in the relationship
Not all vendor relationships are made to last. Sometimes the fit is just not meant to be - but that's okay. It is important from the get go that you look for and identify any red flags. Establishing good rapport, early on, and having foresight into potential future problems will save you time and money. Potential red flags could include:
- Waiting abnormally long periods between communication
- Receiving inconsistent information
- The vendor doesn't take responsibility for anything
- No one talks about money
And sometimes... you just have a hunch. According to Darrah Brustein, "It's easy to overlook something so small as what your instincts tell you. But if you look back at many of the past deals that didn't pan out, I'd venture to guess that if you really thought about it, your gut was telling you it was heading in this direction. It's not everyone's style, but listening to your instincts is a powerful tool in navigating decisions".
2. Give to get, and remember the importance of compromise
Once you have committed to a business relationship with a vendor, it's important to recognize that "both sides in a true partnership are equal and that everyone involved brings something unique to the table". Understanding that you won't always get everything you want will help establish realistic expectations and prioritize the things that are most important to you. Furthermore, when you give a little, you often situate yourself to get what you want later on. This give and take relationship is important for the longevity of your relationship with your LMS vendor.
3. Pay your bills on time
Just like you, your LMS vendor is also running a business. They have their own costs and expenses that they need to pay. When you consistently pay on time and respect agreed-upon conditions, you demonstrate appreciation for their work and you further build their trust. This comes in handy if you need to call on your vendor for a special request. Not paying your bills on time ultimately hurts your reputation, and can damage the relationship between yourself and your vendor you have probably worked hard to build.
4. Personalize the relationship and share information
In the LMS and eLearning world we talk a lot about personalization. It's an important factor when delivering solutions because everyone wants to feel like they matter, that someone is taking the extra time to consider how best to meet their needs. This is no different in a business relationship. Take the time to get to know your vendor and your vendor will do the same for you.
It's also a best practice to keep your vendor aware of what's going on in your company. You may want to tell them about key personnel changes, or about new ventures that you are embarking on. Be considerate, communicate, and take the time to get to know your vendor and build trust.
5. Be honest and think with humility and humanity
In any partnership a bit of humility and humanity can go a long way. At the end of the day, business dealings are not personal. Although this isn't always the case, its important to consider that everyone involved is usually trying to maintain the best interests of all players. When mistakes happen or problems arise, remaining positive can preserve partnerships for long-term success.
In talking about vendor relations, Maria Haggerty suggests that "whether you're working with a company for the first time or the hundredth, your partnership will need balance. With foresight, compromise and a humble approach, you can build stronger and more tactical relationships". This is an important piece of advice that anyone can use - there's nothing wrong with having respect and being nice to people.
6. When mistakes happen (because they do), don't point fingers
The last thing you want to do when a mistake happens or a problem arises is play the blame game. This is an ineffective strategy and it won't get you anywhere. Rather, take the time to talk to, and listen to, your vendor and collaboratively come up with a solution. Justin James points out that "sometimes, vendors truly are awful and deserving of your anger, however most of the time, the mistakes are the kinds of everyday goofs that we'd do ourselves, things our own employees might do". It's important that you recognize that issues are bound to arise. Therefore, meet your vendor half-way and work with them to find a solution and continue to build your relationship.
7. Maintain open lines of communication
While you may have regular contact with your LMS vendor, this is not necessarily the same thing as having good communication. Make sure to arrange meetings dedicated to measuring the progress of your partnership and, every once and a while, take the time to meet face-to-face. It has become second nature to meet over the phone or use online meeting platforms, but there is something to be said for physically being in the same room with one another.
Also, ask your LMS vendor for their feedback along the way on how they think things might be changed or improved. This often allows you to catch potential problems before they arise. Remember, don't assume that the vendor fully understands your business or can read your mind. A well-maintained line of communication will avoid misunderstandings and proactively address issues before they become huge problems.
Something else to consider...
Vendors are experts at what they do and you should take advantage of that. Let your vendor be your teacher. Let them educate you. Don't push them away: it's their expertise you want and need. Identifying the best solution requires thorough engagement and access to information. Keeping your vendors at bay or out of the loop only strangles the flow of information and the ability to develop the best solution.
This article identified seven ways you can build a positive relationship with your LMS vendor.
Fostering a strong partnership should be one of your goals when selecting an LMS vendor. This partnership will strengthen your business and allow you to focus on your key goals. The selection, cultivation and building of your vendor relationship should be a continuous process that strives to balance your business needs with the needs of your partner. When these needs align, not only will your partnership be successful, but it's also more likely that your LMS implementation will be successful too.
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Shauna graduated from the University of Toronto in 2002 with a Master of Arts in English before moving home to Calgary to work in the fast-paced, detail-oriented oil and gas industry. Now certified as a technical writer, Shauna is comfortable writing in a variety of styles, and for a variety of audiences.