how to select a vendorSo you’ve decided that you no longer want to endure the hassle and aggravation of printing photo ID cards on that clunky old printer that is regularly giving you problems, and doesn’t even print cards that look great?  You’ve finally decided its time to join the outsourcing trend, and make use of a professional service provider that can print your corporate ID cards for you.  What key factors should you consider in choosing the best vendor?

Here are eight key considerations you should keep in mind as you evaluate companies that offer outsourced ID card printing services.  You may want to put together a simple spreadsheet with these 8 criteria in columns as you compare online vendors.

1. What businesses are they in?

If the company you are looking at to provide this crucial service also sells all kinds of identity products (printers, supplies, accessories, etc.) then they are probably a competent hardware vendor, but not necessarily a service company.  Do they earn most of their money selling “things”? If so, they have probably not invested in the technology or the teams to provide day-in/day-out customer service for small-value items like ID card production.  In the same way that running a garden store that sells lawn mowers is very different from running a grass cutting service, the same applies for ID cards!

2. Check their ratings

By now, everyone knows that customer ratings are super-important.  But not all ratings are equal.  Does the company use an independent third-party service to verify that the ratings are not fake?  Or is the website just displaying customer “quotes” and “ratings” that cannot be verified?  You should read a few of the comments, to see whether the ratings are really related to the ID card printing service — or are they just getting a 5-star rating because they actually shipped the printer that had been ordered?

3. Review their “About Us” Page

The “about us” page is a very important indication that the company is reliable, and not a “mom & pop” basement operation that could go out of business next week.  Do you see a physical address? Do you see the names and faces of the people you’ll be dealing with?  Do they tell a credible story about the company history, background, and experience?  All these are important indicators of whether you’ll be able to rely on the company in the years ahead.

4. Are they easy to contact?

Is there an easy way to get in touch with them? Do you they have an 800-number to actually speak with someone? Do they have a chat service that someone actually responds to?  You need to feel confident that if an issue arises, there will be someone there that you can talk to and that will help you deal with an issue like color matching on an ID card template, or a card which got lost in the mail.

5. How long have they been in business?

Has this company been in the identification business for long enough to have dealt with many different kinds of ID card requirements?  Companies that have been in business for 10 or 15 years have withstood the test of time, and proven repeatedly that they can handle all sorts of different client needs.  Companies that are very young may eventually learn the ropes, or they may just go out of business because they don’t generate enough revenues to remain viable.  If there is no mention of when the company got started, then that alone is a warning sign.

6. Is their website up-to-date?

A very telling indication of a company’s commitment is gained through a quick check of their blog posts.  When was their latest blog post?  If it was months or years ago, that’s a big red flag.  Are the blog posts relevant to ID card printing?  If they are just copy/paste articles on generic subjects, then that is another warning sign.  Of course, if there are no blog posts at all, that’s a clear indication that the company is not trying to keep their customers up-to-date on the latest best-practices in the ID card business.

Another thing to check is the copyright year on the bottom of each page of the website.  If it is years out of date, then buyer-beware!

7. How much will the badge for a single new employee cost?

Pricing is always a key consideration in choosing a vendor for any product or service.  So the first question to ask is: “are they transparent on their prices?”  Do they clearly explain what fees and charges you will incur when you order your photo ID cards?

And don’t be distracted by the theoretical pricing if you were to order 500 or 5,000 badges.  The key pricing question should be: “how much will I pay when I order one new card for one new employee?”  Because that is the transaction which you will be repeating over and over.  A major re-badging project may only happen once every five years.  But you will be hiring staff week-in and week-out, so the all-in price for that service is the critical cost you should focus on.

And, as always, be sure to check about any hidden fees and charges that could get tacked on – monthly fees, design fees, batch fees, shipping charges, etc.

8. What turnaround time do they commit to?

Your vendor should be able to provide a quick turnaround time for your photo ID cards, especially when you order cards in small quantities. Make sure to ask about their lead times and production process. Do they provide online end-to-end tracking data?  And ask whether they guarantee their delivery times, or whether it is just “best efforts”.  What are the consequences if they do not meet your requirements in terms of turn-around time?


You will notice that the above considerations do not even address issues like card quality, security features, technology choices, customization options, or the other obvious factors which you must consider when choosing your vendor.  While important, these items are generally not where you can most readily differentiate which company is best suited to meet your needs.  Many companies are able to produce a quality product.  But the regular purchase of photo ID cards for your employees is more of a service than a product, and the real question you need to address is whether the services offered by the vendor are structured to meet your needs and requirements.

Hopefully the above checklist will help you determine which factors are the most important for your company as you compare various suppliers to meet your company’s ongoing badging requirements.