Phil Hearn: Blogger, Writer & Founder of MRDC Software Ltd.

10 things you should expect from a good survey software supplier

Market research software is in some ways no different from other software, but you are likely to need and understand detailed features for survey data collection, analysis and reporting. These detailed requirements mean that you will want to care about productivity, best practices and, often, learning the full scope of any software product. This approach, in turn, can reduce costs and potentially increase sales as you can offer clients more.

About this guide

This guide is not about choosing the right software, a topic I have covered in previous blog posts. This article aims to outline what you should expect from a software supplier. I’ve divided the 10 considerations into the three crucial stages of using a software product – before you purchase, immediately after purchase and the longer term. Let’s get started.


A solid appraisal of product suitability

It is impossible when purchasing a product to be 100% certain that it will meet all your needs. Similarly, for a software supplier, it is impossible to promise a buyer that it will meet all their needs. However, this does not mean an appraisal of the intended use of the software is not appropriate. One approach that seems to work well is to give a software vendor three examples – something simple, something complex and something typical of your work. This method allows the software vendor to have some understanding of the spectrum of your work. As a buyer, you would expect simple tasks to be simple, typical work to be generally manageable with a few bumps and complex tasks to be possible. If not, alarm bells might be sounding, meaning you should be seeking an alternative supplier. A good software supplier should be willing to make this possible, in my view.

Free trial

Every software supplier should offer either a free trial or proof of concept. If the software is complex to use, a proof of concept will be a more practical path. As a buyer, you must be ready for a trial. Testing software takes time; the trial may be meaningless if you try to conduct it during a busy period. Most software suppliers are willing to allow this offering practical support. However, if you are using the trial on the most complex project ever, you should be willing to buy some consultancy to make the trial valid.

Open discussion about limitations

Many software suppliers like to make claims about its full set of features, automation capabilities, and ease of use. Generally, suppliers making these claims are just selling. All software has limitations. Personally, I prefer software suppliers who make the limits clear. You can usually then be sure that the software will do everything up to that limitation. An open discussion on this topic with a software supplier is essential.

Immediate After-Sales

Training materials – video, guides, tutorials, induction

Getting used to any software product takes time. Finding a particular feature or how to use a specific feature can be frustrating. Software suppliers should offer induction sessions to help you get started, although I think you can get far more from an induction session if you had a couple of hours to watch a video guide around the product. This will mean that you can come to the induction with the basic navigation and steps clearly in your head. There is only so much you can absorb in an online induction of one or two hours. A suitable combination of videos, training guides, training exercises and tutorials should also be available so that you can be productive as quickly as possible.

Initial project support

Of course, when you use a software product for actual production work, you will find some new barriers. The first project will usually present the most problems, the second fewer problems and, often, by the third project, you will be competent. Your software supplier should be ready for this and responsive to your needs. They should be prepared to make guarantees because client expectations will not be sympathetic to your newness to a software product. It’s worth finding out what guarantees there are.

Long Term

Support materials

You use some software products for repetitive needs. However, every market research survey is different, so you will likely need various features. There should be sufficient materials to help you. This support may take the form of videos, searchable knowledge bases or, generally the least favourable, an easy-to-follow user manual. If the software is still progressing, are the materials updated, or are they out of date?


I have called this topic masterclasses. I am referring to whether the software supplier demonstrates the more advanced ways of doing things to you. Masterclasses may appear as webinars, videos, online training sessions or clearly explained blog articles. Almost all software products have secrets, which enable you to make significant gains in specific circumstances. These masterclasses should not be sales presentations or presentations that explain possibilities or theory but practical learning formats.

Appraisal of your work

I recall when I was learning to program, spending two days writing over 1000 lines of code. Someone later showed me how to write the same code in 20-30 lines. I learnt, but I learnt the hard way. Good software suppliers should be available to appraise your work to ensure you make the best use of their software. Only the suppliers will know. The service should usually be free unless the appraisal and critiquing is particularly onerous, in which case a low fee is appropriate.

Availability of advice

You will likely have an unusual project or one that has a new challenge from time to time. You may not want access to the support desk, assuming there is one, but someone experienced enough to look at the demands of your project and propose a strategy. Such a service may only need a short call or online session, but it can save you hours of wasted effort. Every software supplier should have an expert or experts in strategy available.

Good communication

Finally, your software supplier must communicate with you well. Some of the things you can expect are:

  • Knowledge of software updates
  • Information about events
  • Easy renewals
  • A good website

How many of these 10 things must a software vendor meet?

In my opinion, it should be all ten. No question. The worst software vendors are those which claim their software will automate this, simplify that and have everything you want. Then, you find you are left to drown when there is a problem. At MRDC Software, we would like to know if we fail in any of these targets. If you use another software, check this list out.