13 Questions to ask before buying software
April 26, 2016
Got Questions? Ask ’em before buying software
Software for running your business is vitally important. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who don’t think about buying software until about 2 weeks before opening. Sometimes they just go with the first software vendor they find or a friend’s recommendation. After shelling out hard-earned money, they find out the software isn’t what they really needed.
Here are 13 questions you should ask before making a software investment. Ideally, you should compare these answers to several different companies to see which one fits your needs best. Happy hunting!
1.) Do they have the specific features you need?
For a basic Point of Sale (POS) system, most software companies offer similar features. Beyond that, software companies can be very different…some better…some worse. Some software companies offer a ton of features which on the surface seem important, but as you dig a little deeper, only add more work. Other software systems don’t offer special features you feel you need to properly run your business. If the features are implemented in a way that’s too confusing, you’ll get extremely frustrated. Not one particular software is going to fit your business to a “T” but there are enough choices that you should get very close. Make a list of the features you have to have and ask the software vendor if their product can be adapted to fit your unique needs.
2.) Is there a contract of any kind?
Before buying software make sure to ask about software AND support contracts. Some companies won’t have a software contract, but they will make you sign a support contract for 6 months to a year. This means if you aren’t happy with your software or if you need to close down your store (hopefully not, but it’s happened!), you will be required to continue paying your monthly support fees.
3.) What are the fees for tech and hardware support?
Each software vendor has very different support policies. Make sure you have their policies outlined clearly. One company may charge a monthly or yearly fee, while another may offer you 30 days free and then begin your support charges. Some may not even offer support. Ask about hardware support too. Many companies will support their software, but won’t support hardware. You have to go to a third party (often charging an avg. of $75 – $100 per hour). Other companies have special prices for specific devices. Getting help with receipt printers, label printers, barcode scanners, computers, etc. is essential for a smooth operation. Make sure you understand what to expect from your software provider beforehand.
4.) Does it cost to get upgrades?
Several of the software vendors currently available will charge you to upgrade to the newest version. This is one big difference between software that is downloaded/installed on your computer vs. software that is available via the web. Web based software updates everyone immediately to the most recent version when it is available. Installed software may not upgrade with new features or bug fixes for anywhere from 6 months to a year.
5.) How does your data get backed up?
If your computer gets a virus, lightning strikes, or it just crashes for some unexplained reason, make sure you have backups of your data that do NOT reside on your computer. Whether you purchase web based or installed software, make sure you understand how your data is backed up, how often it is backed up and what it will cost you.
6.) Does the software offer integrated credit card processing and if so, what are their rates?
If the software integrates credit card processing this makes the point of sale easier and less time consuming. If you don’t use an integrated credit card processor, you will need a separate process to run credit cards. Either way, make sure you compare rates of different credit card processors to make sure you are getting the best rates possible.
7.) Do they offer night and weekend support hours?
Unfortunately, not every problem you experience will happen from 9 am to 5 pm. Find out if the vendor offers night and weekend technical support and if there are any extra fees to access support at that time. You also want to make sure they offer both email and phone support because email support alone may not get you the quick turn around time you need. Another question to ask… what is the average response time for a customer support request?
8.) Does this software work best for one or multiple locations?
You may be surprised at how well your business takes off and other locations become necessary. Plan for the future before buying software. Some vendors will say their software supports multiple locations but you need to take a look at what they actually provide. Can the store owner view inventory in one location from another? Can you transfer inventory from one location to another? How are customers and consignors managed between locations? Dig in and see what multi-location really means to each software vendor.
9.) Are you charged per terminal or per location?
If you plan on having more than one terminal in your store, you’ll want to know what the costs will be. Some software vendors charge per terminal, others charge by the number of store locations. Usually, if the software company charges per terminal, there is a reduced fee for extra terminals, but it still adds up.
10.) How much does their hardware cost?
Hardware can be one of your biggest expenses when opening your shop, so you want to get the best hardware available for the best price. Don’t be tricked into thinking you have to order the hardware from the vendor you have chosen for your software, but do find out what types of hardware are supported. For some comparison shopping, check out hardware prices at SimpleConsign and label prices at BarcodeWarehouse.
11.) Why have customers left them and chosen other software providers?
Most people ask for referrals, but did you ever think to ask why customers have chosen to leave a provider? Remember, every company is going to have customers that leave so don’t let their answer scare you, but a software vendor’s answer to this question will tell you how involved they are with their customers and how they view themselves as a provider. Speak with other businesses who are using their software, join social media sites that have consignment/resale groups and ask questions through LinkedIn groups. Just because a business has been around for a long time doesn’t mean they are the best at what they do.
12.) Are there any start-up costs or maintenance fees?
Some vendors may have a few fees that you have to pay to get started or to maintain their service. When buying software, be sure you ask what they are.
13.) What type of training is provided for you and your employees?
If this is your first software system or you are considering a change, there is always a learning curve. Make sure you know what type of training is provided for you. Will the training be provided for everyone in your business? Is there a fee to participate? Is the training live so you can ask questions?
Looking for answers before buying software? Download this helpful resource today,
I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.
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