Good Service Provision (or dare I say excellent service provision) is as much based on delivering good service as it is on choosing the right client. Today I’m going to address some of the less discussed, but equally practical tips that a service provider should consider when delivering work.
I’m not going to address the more ‘obvious’ things like be a good communicator – these tips come from my own experience as a client and as a service provider.
Tip 1: Can You Deliver What Is Being Asked For?
This is a pretty big one and a “Catch 22” – sometimes you need to take on something so you can learn to do it …. but if you don’t know how to do it, how can you deliver it?
As someone who subbies out work, I find it frustrating when someone says they can do the work and then find they don’t have the skills to do the job and thought “they would give it a go”…. I would prefer someone be honest about their motivation in taking on the work, so I can make some informed decisions about allocating work.
Whilst it’s important that you’re honest with your client, it’s more important that you are honest with yourself about why you are taking on the work. Is this is a service you think you want to offer as you go forward, or are you saying ‘yes’ because it will generate income whilst you build your business up?
Hot Tip – if you don’t see this service as part of your overall business plan – then say “No”…. you will waste your time trying to deliver this type of service when you can make much more by delivering work you can do.
What type of things are we talking about here?
- Doing a website customisation (not just updating content)
- Manipulating an excel spreadsheet
- Editing a video file to make it ‘web ready’
- Editing an audio file for delivery via the web
- Setting up Email
- CRM / ERM support
These are just examples – the point is, decide where you want to focus and focus on that, get good at it…. if you want to add new offerings then choose one and work at it. Don’t try to be all things to all people – there are few people who can do this!
My suggestion is to take something you want to add to your business, be honest with yourself about your current capabilities and seek mentoring so you can learn to add this service to you portfolio – and be honest with your client.
Tip 2: Do you have the tools to deliver the service?
Having the skills is sometimes not enough. Sometimes you will require specific tools (software or hardware) to do the work. If you don’t have the tools, is the investment in them worth the contract?
Tools that allow you to automate your business, perform tasks quicker etc are often well worth the investment however, sometimes the business budget just won’t stretch that far. When you take on a job that requires a certain toolset that you don’t have, the decision becomes whether the value of the work (and potential future work) justifies the purchase of the tools.
Tip 3: Is this a client I can work with?
Is this a client I can work with? It’s a question that we should always ask ourselves when assessing a new client – particularly when we run a services businesses. After all, as a service provider, we’re going to be dealing with this person at a personal level, hopefully for a long time.
Taking on business is possibly a bigger issue for a startup or new business – typically, you need to bring the money through the door so that you can continue operating. However, sometimes taking on the ‘wrong’ client can actually cost money; emotional stress; and potentially reputation damage. It’s a “Catch 22” – and as business owners, we need to be strong and ensure that the clients we take on are the right ones for our business.
Here are some things to consider.
Is this client a ‘whinger’?
So “whinger” is an Australian term (alright, most likely a british term) that means someone who complains or protests in an annoying manner…
From my own personal, painful, experience this is one to watch out for… Typically this person will seem quite reasonable when you speak to them however, they will (generally) always take the opportunity to tell you how bad their last provider was and how much money they’ve spent trying to find the right the provider.
Seriously – if your prospective client is obviously complaining about previous providers or people who have provided quotes, what chance do you really have?
I can speak from personal experience here! A client purchased a ‘special offer’ that I couldn’t reject… all good, I had that fairly well caveated and had minimised my risk on the deliverable work. However, the client asked me if I could provide ‘more’. In the interview I did with the client, in person, they spent a significant part of our discussion telling me how they had spent $1,000’s with other agencies; achieved nothing and wanted to avoid that this time round.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they shared their previous frustrations however, they went on and on about the issue ….
During our discussion, they made the right noises about the KPIs, metrics and evaluations we would use to measure the work however, the outcome of the relationship was not great. They have not paid their final invoice and are not returning phone calls.
In hind sight, the indicators from early on showed that this was not a client, I would want to deal with and, for what ever reason, I ignored them.
Will the client sign your terms and conditions?
If you don’t have terms and conditions, you should. These lay out the contractual relationship between yourself and your client – and what is expected of each party. There are two things to consider here.
Refusing to sign the agreement
if your client won’t sign any terms and conditions then I would suggest this client has a high probability of being a “problem client”. This is a business arrangement and both parties should treat it as one.
Requesting changes to the contract
Does the client request particular changes to the contract? This is a slightly tougher one to assess. In my experience, most Terms and Conditions are generic in nature and lay out payment terms, non disclosure and confidentiality provisions, the laws that apply to the delivery of the services, among other things.
Unless you’re involved in a big contract, your terms and conditions shouldn’t need modification. However, sometimes a client will request changes and you need to consider the motivation behind the request before proceeding.
Here’s an example: One section of my terms and conditions outlines what can occur if the client fails to pay their invoices (these clauses are required under Australian Law to protect my business). The only time these clauses would be enacted is if a client doesn’t pay their invoices. When a client asks me to remove or modify these clauses, I’m not particularly inclined to as they only become material at the time the relationship probably requires those exact provisions.
Good Service Provision
Starts with you as the business owner. Don’t be desperate to be all things to all people; value your skills and your time; and value your clients time and requirements.
What tips do you have to add? If you’re a client, what do you value (apart from good communication!) and if you’re a service provider, what can you add?