15 Tips for Evaluating Digital Directory Products

Author TouchSource

Learn What to Buy and How to Pick a Partner

A busy property manager is asked to research digital directories and get a couple of bids among dozens of other tasks they are juggling daily. Yet, buying a digital directory is like buying a car: it’s something most people buy once every 5-7 years and takes time to understand what features are important to have. More importantly, what usage options and features make some solutions more valuable than others.

Before speaking to a vendor, most business professionals want to learn what solutions are available, what decision-making criteria to explore and what the ongoing ownership experience should be like. But unless you’ve bought and used a directory for your property before, it may be difficult to understand the differences between different vendors and their products.

Facing that situation, some take the path of getting demos, asking for customer or peer references, and researching the quality of the product and vendor to ensure a good experience. Others are enticed by the promise of low upfront costs and don’t have time to qualify a vendor thoroughly. They may ask for 3 bids and go with lowest cost. The latter technique may appease ownership at first, until hidden costs and hardware failures hit budgets unexpectedly.

So let us help you. We’ve created 2 sets of tools to help you explore the right kind of solution and the best vendor partnerships.

1. Buyers Guide Resources

We created a Buyer’s Guide Series for to help busy facility and property managers make the best choices for their buildings, users and stakeholders. Each of these guides double-clicks into the use cases, selection criteria and even installation recommendations for key products and industries.

Digital Directory & Signage Buyer’s Guide for Commercial Real Estate
Digital Signage Buyer’s Guide for Medical Signage
Digital Signage Buyer’s Guide for Government Agencies
Digital Signage Buyer’s Guide for Video Walls PDF and Video
Top 10 Benefits of Information Kiosks
Top 3 Factors to Consider When Buying a Digital Building Directory

2. Selecting the Right Digital Signage Partner

Much to the chagrin of many a property manager and building owner, the lowest bid product can come with unexpected costs and surprise risks. Financially unstable vendors can suddenly go out of business, as Respario and Roam.io customers have experienced. Other vendors don’t have the scale of established providers like TouchSource and they can’t manage through the complexities of the global supply chain. Others are sold on the idea that all digital directories are the same….until they have a service issue in the second year of ownership. That’s when many discover that they incurred costly surprise charges for a phone call with the support team.

What Tends to Go Wrong When Making Digital Signage Purchases

“Gotchas” to watch out for. Many people don’t read the fine print about the products they buy. Many so-called “low-cost” vendors only sell do-it-yourself media players with poorly constructed user interfaces. They’re hard to use, take training or IT support to maintain, and may be built on outdated software platforms. While most show lovely screen designs, their “backend” interface was built when AOL was still an internet carrier. Expect to wrangle with outdated software tools only to be pointed towards complex documentation written by (and for) IT professionals if there’s an issue. Are you new in your role at a building with a system like this? Expect to spend hours figuring out the tools without any training help from your DIY vendor. 

Read the Fine Print. Some companies pretend to be full-service product providers but say in tiny fine print that they’re just resellers of hardware screens that *can* work with their software. You must assemble both together when the products arrive to your building. And if something isn’t working, you are required to call the hardware manufacturer for issues. The hardware manufacturer often points people back to the original vendor, claiming software issues. It can take hours and days spent on the back and forth to identify what the issue is, let alone getting the issue resolved. 

How Fast Do You Need It? Topping off all of these “gotcha!” items, some providers will take your deposit money with your order but offer 3-5 month delivery windows because they lack strong supply chain practices and partners. While you can probably get your money back, you’ve missed your time windows for lobby upgrades and must start all over again with a reputable vendor. 

It’s a frustrating experience for many. We know this because so many turn to TouchSource after a bad experience, and upon the recommendation of colleagues.  

15 Tips for Evaluating Quality Products & Vendors

We’re a company with more than 30 years in business, thousands of happy customers, and we track our customer satisfaction score weekly. Our Net Promoter Score is 86 — nearly double that of software and hardware providers. It’s because we ship turnkey solutions designed for simple use and easy operations at a low total cost of ownership over the lifetime of your product. Our goal as a company is to deliver simple solutions for smart spaces that engage people. We work to earn customer trust every day. That includes helping to educate buyers on what to look for.  

Litmus test for vendors. Here’s a short checklist of things to look for when selecting a good product vendor. Most of these items are visible with quick Google searching and the rest should be in your first 1-2 conversations with the vendor or peers.

1. Their primary business is in digital signage solutions
2. Has been in business for more than a handful of years
3. Peers recommend the solution to you
4. Does business with recognizable customer and technology companies
5. Has customer case studies and references to offer
6. Has a standalone website that you can visit to explore products
7. They prominently publish a Support phone number and ways to reach them on their website
8. They’re active in social media and their last post isn’t 3 or 4 years ago
9. They have a good presence and employees visible on LinkedIn
10. They stock inventory for new and existing customers and have a team dedicated to supply chain management
11. Their offerings are broad. They fit the many use cases for buildings: software that fits your industry, directories, video walls, elevator signage, room signage and information kiosks
12. The interface for maintaining content is easy to use, cloud software designed for busy property managers who want to access directory listings from anywhere, anytime
13. They innovate, offering new solutions frequently
14. They offer a comprehensive product warranty on their turnkey solutions, covering both the software and hardware with a single call
15. There aren’t surprise costs for customer support that suddenly appear in year two

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