The Problem of Customers

Can't work with them, can't… well, you know the rest.

I know that is going to rub all of you the wrong way, but it had to be said. While my compatriot Patrick: The Customer Service Fanatic sees the benefits of huge benefits of valuing customers and working to meet their expectations, there is a flipside to this. Customers must realize that businesses – especially professional services businesses – are customers too. Unlike your local grocery store, gas station, or bar, a professional services business can decide to not accept you as a customer. Without trying to sound like a pompous ass, here are some tips to being a good customer:

  • Contract Negotiation – While CaseySoftware works to provide accurate and timely quotes and estimates, they are not infallible. As a rule, there is an “uncertainty factor” applied to all quotes. Attempting to negotiate this away is a risk to both sides. For hourly quotes, there's no point as any reduction of estimates does not reduce the amount of work. For fixed-priced bids, this is simply dangerous for the business.
  • Timely Responses – When a project is top priority to you, a respectable business will work to make it top priority to them. This may mean that you pay a “rush” fee, but more importantly, it means that they will align their resources to meet your goal. Respect this by responding to questions promptly. If you do not, we suspect that the project is of a lower priority than initially described. This goes doubly so for the signing and returning of contracts because we don't start until it's signed.
  • Make Information Available – In all CaseySoftware proposals, there is a section labelled “Open/Unresolved Issues.” This clearly enumerates issues brought up by the customer or us that have yet to be determined. Some of these are purely preference issues such as theme selection, but others are fundamental to successful deployment such as obtaining a credit card merchant account or providing complete content.
  • Revenue Flows – Every business book I have ever read has said something along the lines of “If your suppliers say they have Net 30 payment, pay after 60 days!” This may be great for keeping liquidity, but the funds should already be allocated and you are simply damaging relationships. When a supplier only has 100 of an item and you – My Net 60 Payer – and your competitor – Ms. Net 30 Payer – both order that same 100, who will get that 100 items?

By no means am I trying to insult customers. In fact, I am one. I'm trying to point out the reality of the situation.

Just remember though, as you are evaluating us, we are evaluating you.