February 11, 2019
Choosing a service provider can be daunting. Whether it’s a plumber, a hairdresser, or a housekeeper, we approach any business relationship with optimistic skepticism. We want that fulfilling, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationship. But how can we know, when we first hire someone, if we will get that?
With many services, you can turn to Yelp or Angie’s List, and peruse a few dozen reviews. When choosing an e-Learning service provider, however, it’s not quite as easy. There is no one place where you can vet all of your options, and, if there were, there are no guarantees that what worked for one client will work for you.
While you’ll need to put in some legwork, in order to find an e-Learning service provider that is a good fit for you and your organization, it can be broken up into three simple steps.
1. Do Some Reconnaissance
Start by doing some scouting. Your first step could be reaching out to others in your community, to see which e-Learning service providers they use, or scouting could be as simple as a Google search. Either way, create a list of prospects, so you can start looking at them closer.
In this day and age, your first – and maybe only – step is going to the service provider’s website. If they don’t have one established, don’t bother looking further. If the provider does have a site, there are some specific things to do:
- Examine case studies – When a business solves a unique problem or is exceptionally proud of the solution they’ve found, they will publish a case study. This can give you insight into not only the capabilities of a company but also the lengths to which they’ll go to solve a problem.
- Read their Testimonials – Look for comments from clients, to determine what working with the company is like. Look for situations that mirror or are similar to your own, to see how the company handled it.
- Review their offerings – The offerings they put on their site are what they are selling. While they will, potentially, be able to do something new for you, make sure what they offer covers most of what you need. Additionally, make sure they offer varied module types. Not only does this show a flexibility to suit the needs of the client, but varied course modules will also keep learners engaged.
- Ensure they develop responsively – The mobile e-Learning market is exploding, so your service provider should give you the ability to take advantage of this shift. 67% of people access e-Learning content from their mobile devices. If your provider has no experience in that realm, you could end up regretting it later.
When reviewing the company’s own website, keep in mind that it is their site. They’re not likely to put out any disparaging comments for you to find. Once you have a few companies that interest you, take your search elsewhere. You can take each company to Google individually, to get a broader perspective of client interactions. Forums can also be helpful, as far as offering insight into how a company really acts, behind their web facade.
2. Establish Contact
Once you’ve selected a few options, it’s time to establish contact with each one. Your first step will be to submit an RFP (Request for Proposal). This is where you provide the prospective provider with a detailed description of what you need and invite them to submit a proposal to you for review. One of the unseen benefits of an RFP is that it can also show you if any of your requirements or expectations are unrealistic or impossible.
For an RFP to be effective, and to achieve your desired results, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Know your requirements – Understand what information you want to pass on to your learners and what ways you want them to receive that information. Will mobile be a requirement? Knowing your requirements also includes your budget. How much are you willing to spend for your solution? This will give the service provider an idea of what degree of custom work they can offer you, versus prebuilt content.
- Tell them about yourself – The more they know about you and your organization, the better they’ll be able to understand what you require. Your goal is to form a sort of partnership with your provider. Make them care about what you do.
- Explain who your audience is – A good e-Learning service provider should be able to tailor content to your audience. Simple demographics information, like age range, gender, experience level, and level of technical knowledge, will allow them to design a solution with your learners in mind.
- Define project specifications – Do your users have technical requirements (OS restrictions) that should be considered? Do you have a preferred authoring tool? What is the desired duration of the course? This is information the provider should know early on, so they can create something to fit the scope of the project.
If you can address these points in your RFP, you should get proposals that are complete and which won’t need to be adjusted much, as new requirements come to light.
Now that you have your prospects and they’ve sent you their respective proposals, it’s time to really start negotiating. Any questions that you couldn’t find answers to on your own, during the recon phase, should be posed to the company now.
This is where you can determine if they’ve ever worked on content specific to your industry. Have they ever worked for an organization like yours, whether a small business or a corporation? You don’t want a company cutting their teeth on your content.
You can also use the proposals as negotiating tools. Compare the itemized quote from one company to another, to drive proposed price points down. You can also highlight attractive selling points, based on offerings of other companies. If one offers a responsive, mobile-friendly solution, perhaps others will as well.
When it comes to an e-Learning service provider, it’s a nice thought to keep things internal, as you know you’ll be in control. But being in control of something you don’t understand leads down a dark path. Outsourcing may have some negative connotations these days, but it can also drive business if done thoughtfully. Contracting with providers who specialize in what you’re trying to accomplish may just give you a leg up on your goals, as well as a higher ROI, in the end.