Are you satisfied with the customer service provided by your LMS vendor? Here are three basic steps that will help you improve your relationship with your learning management system vendor.
1. Understand Expectations
Customer satisfaction is defined as a measure of how a product or services supplied by a vendor compares to the customer’s expectations. A good example of how expectations are defined? Hearing the familiar “Oh, yeahhhh…” from an iconic 1980’s movie, seeing the character “in role” – only to realize it wasn’t a sequel, it was a commercial. Understanding expectations, and how we arrive at them, is a big element of customer satisfaction. There are four basic sources for expectations: explicit promises, implicit promises, word-of-mouth communications and past experiences.
Promises the LMS Vendor make to you are called explicit promises; these can come from sales documents, advertisements, articles, et cetera. This is the only area of customer expectations that a vendor actually controls. Explicit promises by your vendor have a direct impact on what you expect during the relationship.
Implicit promises are formed based on forces other than what is said. Things like price perceptions (the more you pay, the better the service) and environmental perceptions (they have 20 staff members for support) often form an expectation. Implicit promises based on perception can be a stumbling block; rely on facts and explicit promises.
Statements that are perceived as unbiased or unsolicited, especially those appearing in the LMS vendor’s support message board, can play a role. You expect the same level of service and support that you see provided to other customers. As with implicit promises, every customer is different. Although TrainingForce is flat-rate pricing that includes support, many other LMS vendors have different support tiers and plans.
Your experience with other LMS vendors affects what you expect from current and future vendors. Past experience with all software or application vendors can form your expectations, too. If your IT department has a help desk, your experiences there can form what you expect from external vendors.
2. Understand the Difference Between Support and Help
What is Support?
LMS Vendors provide you with a complex software application that performs specific tasks. In most applications, the tasks that your learning management system will perform are well documented. Information on the functions of your LMS can be found in:
- Help files or documentation
- Knowledge base articles
Your LMS vendor considers it support when a function, feature, or service of the application does not work as it was designed or implemented. Examples of true support issues are:
- Your hosted web site is down
- An error page displays after pressing a function button
- You make a change to one data element, and all the records are affected
What is Help?
Many of the requests made to LMS vendors actually fall into a separate category – help. Help is best defined as when a client needs assistance using a function, feature or service of the application. Many help cases start with letting the vendor know what you’re trying to accomplish. Examples of possible help issues are:
- The wrong registration document is being emailed to students
- You need to change staff member permissions or passwords
- You want to change the relationship between data elements
Sometimes, a problem may not be easily identified as support or help, or may be a combination of both.
3. Manage Mutual Expectations
Learning management system installations are complex in part because of the number of users that they reach. Almost every user is accessing the system through a different computer, potentially from a different network, using different browsers, plug-ins, and so on. Even the largest LMS vendors cannot test against every possible configuration an end-user of your system may have. Your LMS vendor should have created a stable framework that functions well across your user base. Ultimately, is the vendor responsible for the fact that someone failed to download the latest media player plug-in needed to view content created by your training team? No. Does the vendor have a responsibility to help you provide help to that user? Maybe – depending on the expectations that have been defined.
The best advice for ensuring your expectations are met – be clear with your vendor. Likewise, the vendor should be clear with you, and live up to any guarantees or explicit promises made.
One function that can be easily implemented is the “training help desk”. Establish an e-mail account and telephone number (it can even be voicemail-only) specific to problems within your training center. Sometimes this will be a staff member, others it may be a member of your IT department. Establish a single point-of-contact for the vendor, but also set a single point-of-contact so the vendor knows who to contact. Setting one person as your training center’s help desk minimizes calls to your vendor’s support team. Help your vendor out by prioritizing issues if you have more than one. Make use of any support portals to report bugs or request features. LMS vendors need your feedback to improve their product. TrainingForce’s support portal was designed to encourage communication with and get feedback from our clients.
Your LMS Vendor, Support, and Help
One of the most common problems that a LMS vendor encounters with a client often happens early during the relationship. LMS vendors typically encourage potential clients to have a detailed requirements and technical implementation document. Having a detailed document at the outset helps manage expectations during the initial implementation, and ensures the application will handle all your critical tasks. Invariably, though, you will identify a feature that you simply can’t find. When a customer realizes that a feature is not available, or that is available but wasn’t purchased – it is equally frustrating for the LMS vendor. The more detailed your initial requirements documents, the lower the likelihood of missing a needed feature.
Your LMS vendor wants you to be a satisfied, happy customer (at least we here at Oak Tree Systems do, anyway). By communicating clearly and having defined expectations, you can get all the help and support you need and your LMS vendor can be a partner in your training center’s success.