Vendor Relationship Red Flags: What to look for

Selecting a dental software vendor can feel like an overwhelming decision. In addition to wading through lists of features, data types, hardware requirements and service contracts, you’re also starting a relationship. Like any relationship, it can be good or bad. But from the beginning, there are clues that can inform you about how your vendor typically handles clients.

Every dental practice is unique, and vendors that acknowledge this are able to listen to customer requirements, demonstrate the features most relevant to your practice, and make suggestions that fit with both your needs and your budget. A vendor who asks questions is likely to be a better partner than one that continually sends answers or sales materials that you haven’t asked for. If the vendor representative clearly has a script and doesn’t seem able to veer outside the script, that’s usually a bad sign. That suggests that the vendor will not react to unusual situations or problems with flexibility or imagination.

An even bigger red flag is when a vendor representative answers all your questions using heavy technical jargon. This may impress, and it may confuse—or both!—but it suggests that the vendor is not willing to meet you at your level. Since most dental practices hope to select a software only every few years, a vendor who is able to communicate clearly and at a day-to-day functionality level is very important. The software won’t stay static, and as a dentist you want it to improve and remain updated with industry standards, for security to improve, and for new features to be added. A vendor who can’t explain existing features without jargon is unlikely to take the time to make sure you understand crucial updates in the future.

A huge red flag is the promise of future features. If the vendor continually discusses features that haven’t yet been developed, know that you will be risking buying a product where the promised features do not materialize. Software should meet your needs from day one, and hopefully exceed them over time. “Vaporware” became a slang term for software features that fail to become available, and there’s good reason for that.

Be on the lookout for these soft aspects of vendor interactions, as they can indicate the characteristics of your long-term relationship with a vendor. A vendor who asks questions, speaks clearly and without excessive jargon, and delivers a product that works immediately is more likely to be responsive, communicative and to meet your needs.


Michael Uretz is a thirty-year healthcare IT veteran and nationally-recognized Electronic Health Records (EHR) and healthcare software expert.