A content management system (CMS) is a long-term investment. That’s why it’s so important to choose a CMS provider who plans to be there for the long haul, every step of the way.
If purchasing a CMS is in your future plans, these four ideas will help you evaluate providers based on their CMS support and customer service.
1. Shop Around
Should you expect “support” from a vendor if you aren’t yet a client? Of course! The way you are treated during the initial stages of evaluating a CMS is a solid indication of how you can expect to be treated as a customer.
Likewise, a CMS provider should focus on your institution’s success throughout the customer journey. This will be evident in your relationship with your account representative and how attentive he or she is at every step. During your CMS discovery and evaluation process, consider how long it takes for your calls to be returned, questions to be answered, and requested information to arrive. If your needs aren’t met in a timely manner during the sales stage, chances are that support and service will decrease once you’ve signed the contract.
Another sign of a company’s support strength is the resources they provide.
- Do they drive industry conversations and trends with active leadership at industry conferences?
- Is their website fresh and up to date, with educational materials on topics that affect and inform the industry?
- Do they facilitate a vibrant community of users?
- Is the CMS provider and their resources focused solely on higher ed?
- How does the customer journey work during the onboarding and nurturing stages? Ask to see onboarding and training materials you’ll receive during your implementation, support offerings to understand the full breadth of the support team, and online resources for self-help and to get a feel for the account management engagement you will receive post implementation.
If the company stays current on issues that matter to higher ed, it’s reasonable to assume that they will stay current on issues that matter to your institution.
2. Engage in a Game of “I Spy”
Don’t take the CMS vendor’s word for it: Do your due diligence and ask a company’s current customers about their experiences. Your peers can be an invaluable source of information about what you can expect from a CMS provider. Most CMS administrators are happy to share their experiences, both good and bad.
Googling is another easy way to glean information.
- Has the company won any industry awards for support or service?
- How is the company being talked about on media forums, in higher education publications, and by other schools?
- In turn, how does the vendor respond?
You can’t believe everything you read on the web, but understanding a vendor’s place in the higher ed CMS market can provide thoughtful evaluative points to consider in making your ultimate CMS choice.
3. Expect Stress-Free Implementation
Is there actually such a thing? Probably not, but if you have chosen the right CMS partner, you’ll have an experienced professional holding your hand every step of the way. Knowing you aren’t going it alone can reduce your stress and make the process less painful.
The best CMS providers will have a solid understanding of what your institution wants to accomplish. The customer success and services team will have badgered you with questions in anticipation of any problems that might arise—and then they will use their findings to execute as seamless an implementation as possible.
4. Understand That After Implementation, Your Relationship Truly Begins
In many ways, your relationship with your new CMS provider begins after implementation. When a vendor provides the highest level of customer service, you won’t be plagued by downtime—and you’ll have peace of mind that when something does come up, you’ll have a complete support team at your side to solve the issue.
There are other types of support that will also be extremely helpful as you and your team navigate a new system:
- The account management team should be your best ally throughout the customer journey. Find out how often you should expect engagement from account managers and what type of processes will they be doing.
- If you are staffed with a full IT department, chances are that your outside support needs are minimal. For those institutions that don’t have the time or manpower to manage their CMS, a CMS provider’s responsive professional services team can fill support gaps and alleviate your stress.
- A comprehensive learning management system (LMS) assists users of all levels in learning about a CMS, including self-paced classes, videos, and quizzes. Companies that invest heavily in customer support will also provide you with a sub-account to make it easy for you to create and distribute your own training materials.
- Forums for feedback give you a direct voice into what features you’d like to see in the CMS.
- User conferences specifically for higher ed CMS users keep you up to date on industry trends and product enhancements. They also allow you to network with like-minded professionals as well as your CMS provider’s support staff.
- Active user communities provide an environment for sharing content and asking your higher ed peers about issues and challenges they have encountered. These helpful communities can save you time and money by sharing how they have solved challenges that you may face.
- Built-in capabilities that alert you to problems like misspellings, broken links, and accessibility issues in the system before they arise can prove invaluable.
- Knowledge bases, blogs, white papers, webcasts, and other types of learning curriculum should be part of your CMS provider’s menu of support and services—and they should be free.