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Client Conflict

By johnbennett ·
We are a small firm that provides contracted IT services to small businesses. We have a client that we have been providing contracted IT services to over the last two plus years. We also provide additional IT services to them should the needs arise and have been available to them 24/7. Since our involvement, we have instituted several crucial technology solutions to them (Citrix, VPN, SQL Databases, WAN solutions, redundant hardware, software, etc.) and all have proven to be extremely reliable and stable. Prior to our involvement, their network operations were performing at a 50% uptime rate of operation. We have also been able to show them how to significantly cut costs in their communications needs, web and email hosting, etc.

Overall, the employees, Director, CFO, and Office Manager have been very pleased with the results and have made it known on several occasions. The Office Manager is especially pleased that she is now able to perform the role she was hired for and to not have to deal with computer-related technical issues. The CFO comments quite frequently that this has been the first time she has ever been in a networked environment that is up "all the time".

The problem we are encountering is with the President of the company. She is not technically literate and has often made comments to other staff members that she could operate a business with two telephones and Quick Books quite efficiently. She has gone on to cut our day-to-day involvement with the company quite significantly and we are at the point now where we are wondering if our services are wanted at the client site at all. She has stated to the Office Manager that she must be contacted directly for any work performed by us over 15 minutes. She frequently asks the Office Manager why she isn't setting up VPN or Remote Users and updating the servers and databases, etc. We feel like our hands our tied and cannot perform work for them to the fullest of our abilities. We even need to call in advance to make sure the coast is clear before we visit the office now.

Still, they have been a good client for the last two years and always pay on time. I have told the Office Manager in the past that we need clarification from them on what the current expectations are but the Office Manager always seems to shy away from responding. I have told the Office Manager that if our contract is not going to be honored then maybe we could switch to a flat hourly rate (an increase of almost 70% over our existing one) but she knows that they have it quite good right now.

I am torn between continuing to feel like we are walking on eggshells each time we perform work for them or simply moving forward and replacing them with another client (sometimes not the easiest thing to do). Still, at this rate, it is almost insulting and humiliating to continue to work with them under the current climate. We see great value in the services we provide and have been able to show that to them but it doesn't seem to matter.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

John

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What is the contract term?

by Cactus Pete In reply to Client Conflict

Instead of simply rubber-stamping the contract the next time it needs to be renewed, talk to them about their needs and desires. Perhaps they'd like to try a month-to-month contract for a while that fits the president's view of how things should be run.

During this time, you should certainly present the same argument you just made - and with all of your supporting documentation.

If they cut you loose/r it will be an opportunity for you to add a/n additional client/s and everyone is happy.

It's just business, and it's their business to screw up if they so choose. Your job is to offer them what they need with an explanation they can understand. If everything works out, the market then pays you both...

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Contract Term

by johnbennett In reply to What is the contract term ...

Thank you for the advice.

The contract terms are basically a guaranteed rate for a period of one year with a 30-day out (on either side). Again, I have enjoyed a great relationship with this client up until this point and feel that they would balk at going to an hourly rate that is more than what they are used to paying.

The funny thing is that I just met with them two months ago with regards to their current requirements (the President was present though).

Thanks again.

John Bennett

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It is rarely about the money

by Oldefar In reply to Client Conflict

but when it is about the money it is only about the money. Or so I am told.

If it is not about the money, then the President must be feeling she is loosing in prestige, knowledge, or security. Sounds like you are providing timely service, so that is not likely the issue.

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About the Money

by johnbennett In reply to It is rarely about the mo ...

Thank you for your reply.

I don't believe that it is solely about the money either, the President was located at another branch office that we did not maintain for the previous year and a half. During that time, their office went through three kids out of high school who just about trashed their IT operations and one ended up remoting in late one night and leaving a nice little virus on their system after he had been dismissed. The President has said that we were at fault because we did not give these people the information that they needed (even though they were two totally separate networks).

Everything had been fine since then until she actually moved into the location that we currently maintain. We have been able to provide all (and more than) documentation, information and details that she and any designated personnel have requested but that still hasn't done the trick.

Could it be a vendetta kind of thing? I suppose but I believe that we have proven over the last two years who has come first with regards to the services we provide.

Thanks again.

John Bennett

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Vendettas

by Oldefar In reply to About the Money

These seems to be linked to prestige, and I think you have a good feel of the issue here.

Your excellent track record and high esteem with most of the office management is hurting her perception of her prestige. That you solved an issue she created at another site reinforces that rather than endearing your firm to her.

To resolve this and continue having a good client relationship requires feeding her prestige. Without appearing to suck up, you need to involve her in discussions and decisions where her knowledge is perceived as valuable. A certain amount of this will be IT related (ouch!) but you might be able to keep most of it on areas where she does have expertise. Some suggestions - solicit her opinion in her area of expertise for other clients, or as a guest SME speaker to either your company staff or an association you belong to (BBB, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). Write an article related to her industry and ask for her input or review.

At the client location, never miss a chance to deflect her responsibility for the mess up at the other site, never agree with a negative opinion of her from her staff, and never miss an opportunity to sincerely speak well of her expertise. Just don't try BS, since this will be spotted by both her staff and her instantly.

Success is not guarenteed, and you may end up having to lose this client. It depends on how open she will be to a new perception of her prestige. Perception is reality, and if her's will not change you will never again enjoy the good relationship you once had.

I recommend you consider how likely you are to change her perceptions of herself, and if the answer is not very likely I suggest you try to get a good reference letter from the client today and work at a smooth withdrawl with reputation intact.

Best of luck. Use my peer contact for some additional resources via email.

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You are right

by voldar In reply to Vendettas

on Oldefar, and your words show a lot of wisdom, but let me tell a story:
- for many years a dog did his job, protecting every person and goods in the yard and house. One day, a cat shows up, and since then, name any troubles a dog might have, he had! The dog did his job even better but the master had eyes only for the cat. In a few month the dog died, with no food and water, with no care at all. Although the cat was there, she was not able to protect anything and the master of the house starts to have doubts about the way he treated the dog and he felt sorry. But the dog was gone.

What is the point of this story you may ask. Stupid people never know's what they possess until they loose that thing. My point is, yes, John should do his best trying to keep the business work, but I don't think humiliation is something acceptable. Nobody say that this is the best option, but sometimes, not any business is a good business. And be sure, about the "lady" we all are speaking in a way or other, really don't mind at all about what anyone else say. She's got an idea about the firm where John works (they are the ones that "ruined her ***") and she'll always keep that in mind. Stupid people never give up on ideas, and you know why? Because they don't have many of them! When the contract we'll fall and everything after that, when they will pay a lot more for the same job (by hour), they will see that they were wrong, but who can re-establish the things as they were before? And John's firm will be again the one that "kicks the lady in the ***" twice, or maybe not, because stupid people also are very "cocky" and they don't like to come and simply say "I was wrong, let's start again from the begining".
That's my point in this issue. I agree to do all human possible to keep the busines working, but if you have nobody to talk to, and you are also feeling humiliated, then, check another place where people listen and talk to you - at last you are the specialist and you provide them consultation/services in the field you were prepared.

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Good point

by Oldefar In reply to You are right

Not all business is good business, not all clients are good clients, and some situations are best walked away from.

I have talked about the five currencies in a number of posts - time, money, knowledge, security, and prestige. When dealing with others it is important to understand these are the values you bring and an aggregate positive balance is what both parties want.

On an individual level, it is important to realize that of the five only time, money, and knowledge are real. Security is fleeting and more often perception than fact. Prestige is all perception.

Prestige is an aspect of one's perception of self, as is humiliation. No one can give me either beyond the extent I rely on the opinions of others to determine my self image. Most don't realize this but both humiliation and prestige are self inflicted conditions.

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Ahh, the whole story

by Cactus Pete In reply to About the Money

Yes, I expected Oldefar to ring in as true as he normally does in this matter. He certainly has a knack for managing issues.

With more of the story at hand, I really have to second his insight here. Please take him up on the offer of additional resources, as I can vouch for his historical marks in matters like this one.

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Thanks

by Oldefar In reply to Ahh, the whole story

Your vote of confidence is very much appreciated!

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Aww

by Cactus Pete In reply to Thanks

I onlt wish I could have put it as eloquently as you do all of the time.

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