At HES, we’re big believers in checklists for important decisions. Here’s one for you to adapt as you evaluate future or current partners:
- Focus. The product or service you’re purchasing must be a core competency of the vendor, not some add-on to what they really do for a living. If it’s not their strength, it won’t be yours either.
- Value. This criterion is the product of quality and cost. It’s not about being the least expensive — which often means the least effective. But the opposite isn’t necessarily true either; greatest cost doesn’t equal greatest impact. Value is assessed by talking to real customers and comparing their results to the vendor’s sales pitch. If they don’t align, keep looking.
- Seamlessness. You and your participants shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to work with a vendor. That doesn’t mean everything they provide needs to look exactly like your wellness program, but it should include enough malleability that it feels strategic in execution.
- History/experience. A vendor that has been around for a while isn’t a guarantee of the above attributes, but if you can check the other boxes and point to a track record of success, you have reasonable assurance they’ll be around next year and the next.
- Reputation. Talk to many, many colleagues in the industry, not just references. Vendor references are just like personal references — they’re chosen because they’re sure to say good things. But the more you get outside the names provided the clearer the picture becomes. This is work, but it’s important work; don’t cut corners.
- Innovation. It’s an overused word on most corporate websites. But if the vendors you’re considering all have the same bag of tricks (albeit with different labels), consider widening your search. “We’re innovative” is a sign they’re not.
- Depth. Is the vendor’s approach supported by research? Is the research really relevant to health behavior change or the latest social psychology theory with a proven record of actually producing lasting results?
- Market leadership. This doesn’t mean the most sales, but it does mean their name comes up each time the discussion turns to those kinds of services. The top 3 vendors in a space over an extended period often connote long-term value.
A well thought out checklist can get you most of the way down the field. But to be completely comfortable you’re making the best decision for you and your wellness program, talk to as many current and former vendor customers as possible. In time, you’ll begin to hear the same messages — good and bad — and can cross the goal line with confidence.