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Tweak this!

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I wouldn’t have minded paying $750 to have my server tweaked if I’d been given a few more details about what that meant. What I’ve learnt from bad suppliers.

 

I got a quote the other day from a computer guy, who emailed: “I will charge you $350 to upgrade your Drupal installation to the latest version.” This was probably the worst quotation I have ever received. (Drupal is an open source content management system that I use in one of my businesses.)

 

So I thought I might write about bad suppliers, whom I learnt to love even before I learned to love bad customers.

 

My first bad supplier experience (that I really thought about) was about a decade ago. I was the financial controller at a multinational engineering group at the time, and I received a bill from an IT company on which was simply stated: “Server tweaking – $750.”

 

At this point in time I realised that customers enjoy having verbose invoices, and I was instantly grumpy because server tweaking just didn’t sound like value for money.

 

In later life I actually created a series of paragraphs for use on invoices. When my techo said, “I tweaked the server” on the service sheet, I would paste into the invoice a large standard paragraph about applying patches, checking logs, changing settings, checking virus controls, etc. Everyone was happy.

 

Then there was the consulting group, who taught me that the time that it will take to complete the work is completely disconnected from when the work will actually be scheduled.

 

And a special thankyou to my heating guy, who taught me that you need to specify exactly what is excluded from a quote if you want to avoid a customer absolutely hating you and wishing acid rain pouring down at your place.

 

In fact, I have learnt so many lessons, that I created an open letter to anyone who wants me to buy from them, that includes the following points.

 

  • Only quotations in writing will be considered.
  • Let me know whether the cost includes GST.
  • Let me know which costs are once off, and which are recurring.
  • Let me know what isn’t included in your quote that might be expected to be.
  • Are there other third-party costs to be incurred?
  • Is invoicing linked to milestones, and if so what are they?
  • When will the work be scheduled?
  • When will the work be completed?
  • What do I need to supply, and by when?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What are your payment terms?
  • What milestones will I be billed against?
  • What is your warranty?
  • Whom exactly am I buying from?
  • How will you communicate with me over the course of the job?
  • Who will be working on my job?
  • Where will the work occur?
  • Don’t charge me for learning on the job, unless I am getting a discount for it.
  • And finally, if you don’t invoice me within 30 days of doing the work, expect me to pay in the same timeframe.

 

So of course the computer guy didn’t get the work. In fact, he didn’t even get a response. But if he ever follows me up, we will have plenty to talk about.

 

For more postings from Brendan, click here.

 

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