Ask the Right Questions, Get the Right Solution
If you’re investing in a new piece of technology, a critical part of the decision-making process is seeing how it works. Whether in-person or virtually, a demo offers valuable insight into what a tool offers and how it can fit in your organization.
The problem is, limited time and lack of preparation can hinder the demo process. Questions can be forgotten or glossed over, which can lead to organizations ending up with a wrong or insufficient solution. When it comes to an emergency notification system, this can be particularly harmful if you implement a tool that doesn’t offer the functions your organization needs to keep people safe.
That’s why we’ve compiled 12 questions every organization needs to ask their vendor during an emergency notification demonstration to make sure the system offers every option to be the best fit for your safety needs.
Does the system reach on-premises and mobile devices?
Managing multiple systems for the same end goal is a pain, and relying on only one channel to communicate an emergency message rarely does a sufficient job alerting all of your people. When it comes to emergency notification, you want to be able to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and that means reaching every available device. A solution that can send alerts to on-premises and mobile devices, and can manage those alerts from the same interface, means you can send more alerts, more quickly, with more consistent messaging than using multiple systems.
Does it broadcast to desk phones, or does it call them?
This distinction may not seem important, but during a crisis, it can make all the difference. Some systems may claim that they can reach your desk phones, but how they reach those devices is important. Calling phones, especially in large organizations, can be seen as an attack, resulting in a denial of service, which means those calls won’t get through. Broadcasting to a desk phone treats the device as a speaker, meaning simultaneous intrusive audio catches people’s attention and is less likely to fail than calling the phone.
Can you show me how the system does a live-audio broadcast?
Live audio can sometimes be the best way to get people’s attention, especially during an emergency. Pre-recorded messages may be fine to let people know an event is taking place, but being able to communicate messages live helps manage ongoing situations. It’s also important to understand where that audio can be delivered. Desk phones and speakers are a great start, but additional delivery systems like desktop notifications help expand the reach of the message.
How does it handle weather alerts?
Regardless of industry or location, every organization is susceptible to severe weather. This is a basic use case any emergency notification system should be able to address, but how it addresses it can have a major impact on how quickly notifications go out. If a system only lets you pre-build messages for weather events, without a means to automatically trigger, you could waste precious minutes discovering severe weather is approaching before sending out an alert. Systems that offer configurations to actively monitor CAP feeds to trigger alerts when severe weather approaches means people are notified more quickly and can start responding faster.
Can the system be configured for panic button triggers?
Panic buttons are in high demand because they offer a discreet, quick way to ask for assistance. Systems that offer multiple methods for panic button configurations, whether it’s virtual ones established on a desk phone, or integration with physical devices, can make notification as easy as pressing a button. Know what options are available to take advantage of easy alert triggering.
How does it compare to other systems?
If you’re looking at other systems, don’t be afraid to ask the vendor how it compares to the competition. They should be able to answer directly, point you to documentation, or show you then and there the difference between their offering and a competitor’s.
Does it work with other systems and devices?
If the answer is no, chances are, this isn’t the right solution for you. Robust notification systems offer a wide range of integrations with devices and systems organizations already have in place like digital signage, IP speakers, desktop computers, fire alarms and more. This has the added benefit of adding additional value to existing technology investments like paging systems. There may not be time to go through every compatible device and system, but be sure to have a few key components top of mind to ask the vendor about during the demo.
What kind of support do you offer?
While you’re likely looking for a simple solution, the bottom line is that no matter how easy a system appears, it may require some help to set up. Understand how support requests are handled, when help is available and what level of support is offered. It may also be beneficial to ask if they have any customer comments that can back up the effectiveness of their support team.
What kind of collaboration options are available?
Sending out an alert is just part of the challenge when an emergency occurs. Managing the situation can be just as important to keep people out of harm’s way. A system that offers collaboration tools like conference calling and confirmation response helps bring key people together to manage potentially dangerous situations.
Are there other customers that have used it this way?
No one wants to be a guinea pig when it comes to testing out new safety features, so it’s important to ask a vendor for examples of other customers using the system in the way you want to use it. It’s easy for a vendor to say “yes” when a potential customer proposes a use case, but having evidence to back it up will help assure you that you are making the right decision.
How quickly can I implement it?
Finding the right solution takes time and money, so you likely don’t want to waste either once you’ve made a decision. This answer will likely vary depending on the size of the implementation, so it’s not something many vendors will advertise. However, by the time the demo takes place, the vendor should have a good idea of the size of your organization and your needs to be able to provide at least a rough estimate for implementation.
How much does it cost?
Depending on where you are at in the decision-making process, you may already have an answer to this question. However, it never hurts to double-check that you and vendor are on the same page. Make sure there aren’t any additional costs you or the vendor may have missed.
Asking these questions during the demo will give you a better idea of how the system will work in your organization, and keeping a record of the answers while conducting demos with different vendors will provide a better comparison between the options your organization is considering.