Did Your Respario or Roam.io Digital Directory Go Dark?
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Why does this happen to good property managers? It goes something like this. A busy property manager is asked to research digital directories and get a couple of bids among 100 other tasks they are juggling. Buying a digital directory is similar to buying a car: It’s not an everyday purchase — it’s something most people buy once every 5-7 years. To make the best choice, you’ll want to know what features are important for tenants and visitors, how to maintain your unit, and how easy it is to use. But unless you’ve bought and used a directory for your property before, it may be difficult to understand the differences between different 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.
Surprise! (Not the good kind). 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 you 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.
“Gotchas” to watch out for. Many people don’t read the fine print about the product 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 They’re hard to use, take training or IT support to maintain, and may be built on outdated software platforms.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 Expect to wrangle with outdated software tools only to be pointed towards complex documentation written by (and for) IT professionals if there’s an issue.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.
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.
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 2
Buyers Guide Resources. For more on features to ask for, check out our Buyers Guide Series for information on selecting the best choice.