Client wanting extras? Then mirror, signal, manoeuvre…

Client wanting extras? Then mirror, signal, manoeuvre…

It happens to tradespeople all the time. You’re on site, doing what you’ve been asked to do… and suddenly your client says ‘Could you just…?’ Yes, we’re talking about chargeable extras – and how you deal with them.

Let’s say you’re a naturally helpful person. (Of course you are, because you care about your clients and your reputation.) So you say ‘Yes, no problem!’ and put it on your ‘to do’ list.

So far, so good.

You’ve done the extras. It’s taken you additional time (and may have landed you with additional costs). Naturally you put it on your invoice.

Which the client then disputes. ‘This isn’t the price we agreed!’

That’s exactly what happened to one of my clients – so I suggested a small process improvement.

‘Next time,’ I said, ‘by all means say “yes”. But then say “Do you need a quote for that, or shall I just add it to the final bill?”‘

The other day I was chatting about this to Michael Collett of Collett Creative. As a website designer this is a problem he often faces himself – so he told me how he deals with it. I was so impressed that I asked if I could share his approach here. And being someone who cares about his clients and his reputation, he happily said ‘Yes’…

So – do you remember what you learned from your driving instructor…?

Mirror

So – your client has asked you to make a change. Or to do something that is outside their original brief. Before you say ‘Yes’, take a quick look in the virtual mirror and check. Make sure it’s safe to proceed – and don’t rush. Take all the time you need to be sure you understand what they are asking for, and precisely how much extra work, and extra cost, that will require.

Signal

So – you’ve done your checks, and you’ve decided you are happy to go ahead with the additional work. Time to talk to the client. Tell them you’re OK with it – and, at the same time, tell them about any additional costs these extras will involve. Signal, very clearly, what those costs will be, and that you need their approval before you go ahead. Don’t even think about starting the extra work until you’ve had their clear agreement. Because you need to be 100% sure they’ve formally accepted your terms.

Manoeuvre

Once you’ve had formal confirmation, you can safely manoeuvre. Add the cost of the extras to the project total. Complete the task in full. And don’t forget to add it to the invoice…!

And if your business could benefit from a small refresher course (or possibly a new version of its very own Highway Code) then I’d be happy to have a chat over coffee. To discuss what I can do and how I can help. Just call 01359 240717 or email kate@businessplumber.co.uk

Noises from the plumbing…

Noises from the plumbing…

Say you have a team that doesn’t gel, or a person who won’t cooperate with everyone else. What do you do? I find it helpful to regard any shouting matches, or a high volume of complaints, as noises from the plumbing. This immediately stops me regarding it as a people issue, and starts me thinking, instead, of the system (the plumbing) that is causing it.

People are part of the system, of course, but there are other factors too. Let me tell you some stories to illustrate.

Sweet talk

Back in the Jurassic, I worked for an organisation that made children’s sweets. The success of the Manufacturing department was measured in “tons per direct employee”. They hit their production targets by making large numbers of large jars of sweets. Manufacturing didn’t want to make small packets of sweets, which took too much time, and messed up their performance figures.

However, at this same company, the Sales team could only make their sales targets by selling things people wanted to buy. And shops wanted sweets in sealed packets. They did not want large jars from which they would have to pour out 100g at a time into little paper bags!

So of course, Manufacturing and Sales were always fighting. And each blamed the other when they missed their targets. An issue with the people involved? No, a management issue. They should never have had conflicting targets.

Human error? Or faulty plumbing…?

Some time ago I worked with a Housing Association. Both tenants and Housing staff used to complain that the Repair service (a different organisation) did not phone ahead when they turned up to do a repair.

Then I discovered the Repair staff complaining that the Housing staff never advised the tenant’s telephone number when booking a repair! Except they did, always.

Apparently, the computer programme only transmitted the first part of the notes field (details of the problem) from Housing to Repair, and not the second part, which included the phone number and information about when the tenant would be in!  An issue with the people involved? No, an issue with the original design of the computer system, which could only be fixed by IT.

Somebody else’s problem?

More recently I worked with a small family firm which was having frequent unpleasant internal squabbles. It was clear that the way they worked had just “evolved”, so the business was not working effectively. Everyone agreed that getting more organised would be good.

It soon became clear that some tasks had never been allocated to anyone. Everyone thought it was someone else’s job! (And said so. At the top of their lungs.) Once we sorted out what needed doing, by whom, and in what order, the shouting matches went away. An issue with the people involved? No, a process problem (they didn’t have any).

In each case it would have been easy to jump to the conclusion that people were being difficult, or were not really team players. But in each case that would have been wrong – there was another cause, and once that was sorted, the noise went away.

Of course, sometimes it is a problem with the people involved. But if you start by eliminating the plumbing issues, it’s easier to avoid the accusation that you are “picking on” someone.

Struggling to see the plumbing issues? Give me a call 01359 240717 – I’ll be happy to talk it through with you!  Or email kate@businessplumber.co.uk