Don’t Hire a Wellness Vendor Until You’ve Answered These Questions

Ever had a less-than-ideal wellness vendor experience? If you don’t get what you bargained for, they probably misrepresented themselves (read I Don’t Believe Anything a Wellness Vendor Says…) or you didn’t do your homework — or both. Before you even start shopping, take some time to answer these 5 questions, then scrutinize each vendor carefully before making your decision.

Is the service this wellness vendor offers something our population wants?

Surprisingly, this is a question that seldom gets asked. At least not in a way that produces meaningful feedback. If you ask people if they’d like this or that and it’s neutral to positive-sounding benefit, of course they’re going to say yes. Gift cards for participation? You bet. Cash incentives for completing XYZ? I’ll take that. Onsite fitness center? Where do I sign up? But if you ask an open-ended question like What tools or services can we provide that would help you enhance well-being?, it’s unlikely any of those 3 float to the top.

Is spending money on this vendor getting us closer to the organization’s well-being goals?

Duh. We wouldn’t be looking at them if we didn’t think so. Maybe. But we’ve worked with enough groups to know that somewhere along the way a checklist mentality took root in the organization and if they’re ticking the boxes they’re “doing” wellness. A clear example is annual screenings. Many employers do screenings as a matter of course without regard to US Preventive Services Task Force or other guidelines. It’s an unnecessary expense at the least and potentially a net negative.

How will I know in a year, 2 years, or longer if the investment in this wellness vendor is successful?

Beginning with the end (or at least milestones) in mind can help you make smarter vendor investment decisions today. Be very cautious about ROI/VOI projections and risk reduction promises, particularly in the absence of third-party validation. But what will participation look like? Engagement? Satisfaction? Determine what’s really important in advance and set your evaluation criteria first to measure success later.

Is the delivery team as strong as the sales team?

It happens every week in wellness: contracts worth hundreds of thousands awarded based on RFI responses and a single pitch in the conference room. At HES we’ve won — and lost — our share of business this way and it always makes us scratch our heads. Did they even talk to references? Or ask to interview the folks who will actually provide the service? Did they talk to former and current clients? Did they request proof of vendor success claims? The sales team is not who’s coming to work with you, and you can’t trust everything they say.

Are we ready to help this vendor be successful at ABC company?

Some buyers expect vendors to come in with magic pixie dust and sprinkle it on the population to get the results they want with little time or effort on their part. A service provider’s success — whether they come onsite or do their work remotely — is always dependent on the purchaser’s preparation. (HINT: If the vendor claims to have magic pixie dust you may want to keep looking.) An experienced vendor will have detailed implementation plans that outline the vital role of the buyer organization, which becomes a jumping off point for how to work together for greatest impact. If you’re not prepared to roll up your sleeves and go to work with the provider, you’re not ready.

Here are some more of our favorite vendor vetting questions to help you choose the best fit for your population and program:
  1. Are we clear about what we want the wellness vendor to do?
  2. What evidence can the vendor provide to support their success claims? Satisfaction figures? Customer service measures?
  3. Can we visit the vendor’s office during the selection process (site visit)?
  4. How much hand-holding will the vendor need? Do we have the resources to manage them?
  5. Does the vendor’s material, including website, project an appreciation of communications and branding? Substance or fluff?
  6. Do they offer top-quality free content on their website to help clients make the most of their products/services and address common well-being management issues?
  7. Do their website’s blog posts, white papers, SlideShares, etc. reflect a good grasp of current industry issues and related scientific research as well as high insight about challenges/problems facing clients like us?
  8. What are the vendor’s values, and how are they demonstrated?
  9. What kind of well-being program does the vendor have for their own employees?
  10. Are we seeking a vendor to act in a consulting role? If so, how can a vendor demonstrate they’re able to do so and that their advice/recommendations are of value?
  11. What are we looking for in an account manager? (Always have the anticipated account manager attend the finalist presentation.)
  12. Do we want the wellness vendor to partner on conference presentations, articles, webcasts? Is the vendor situated to support this?
  13. Who is the vendor’s on-staff well-being expert(s)? What are their qualifications?
  14. If a vendor boasts an advisory board of well-known professionals, what are examples of how board members influence the company?
  15. Is there evidence that the chosen vendor will work well with our other vendors (and with us)?
  16. What Service Level Guarantees are most important to us? Will they customize their SLGs to accommodate our priorities?
  17. What level of detail do we want the vendor to provide in terms of reporting? Examples? Customization?
  18. What are their customer service goals? How do they measure them?
  19. Who are some past clients that have fired the vendor and why?
  20. How financially solvent is the vendor?


Dean WitherspoonDean Witherspoon
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.

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