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Did you try to fix this yourself?

By ServerJockey ·
New to the consulting game but was wondering how you deal with clients that screw things up and then don't want to pay for the cost to fix it?

Everytime they mess with the PC's or network, they screw something up which causes hours of work for you, you go down, save their butt and bill them. They get the bill and say, well shouldn't that be covered since you installed the network? How do you politely tell them that their "tinkering" is the cause of the large bill they just received? How to outline what's covered by the original install and what's not covered? Is there a template or form available?

I've heard that some companies ensure a certain "up-time" for the network and heard the term Service Level Agreements. What are those and where could I find examples or templates of some?

Any ideas? Thanks!

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SLA's

by LordInfidel In reply to Did you try to fix this y ...

Basically an SLA says that you the provider gurantee the uptime of a particular service.

However, don't get confused with the word gurantee. The gurantee is only on things they do.

So let's say your ISP gave you an SLA. Well it is their repsonsibility to maintain that SLA. That is, they can't bring you down.

But.... If you bonheadadly change the interface on your router causing a down/down state and you can't fix it, well it's not their fault.

Same thing with your customer, (I wouldn't give them an sla anyway's, that's just slitting your own wrist for something you can't control)

If they break something, then they should pay you to fix it. If you break something though, then you need to bite the bullet.

I always document everything I do when I invoice a client. Actual time (from x time to x time), what I did, (write a paragraph if you have to).

As far as covering an original install, unless it's something major then it falls under the sh*t happens category.
If they bought brand new machines and they don't work, then you have to cover it/return it to the manufacturer.

If you refurbed their machines, that's different. If it has been a year and their netwk card blows, well then their responsible.Once they start using and altering the OS, that is when most of the OS warranty goes out the door.

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Lock it down

by timwalsh In reply to Did you try to fix this y ...

Your clients way of thinking would also have them buy a brand new vehicle, modify numerous engine parts, and then complain when the dealer won't fix it under warrenty. I can hear the mechanics laughing all the way to the bank. That's why almost all warranties have caveats exluding modified parts and/or user abuse.

The bottom line is that noone can (sanely) offer any type of warranty/guarentee on something over which they have no control.

Start including in your client agreements something along the lines of the following:

If your clients wish you to be respnsible for network maintenance, want some sort of warranty/guarentee, then the client will not be allowed any administrative access to network settings (i.e. you lock it down and don't give them access).

If they wan't admin access, then you will charge for all hours worked, because you have no guarentee they know what they are doing.

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It was locked until they loaded Sims!!

by ServerJockey In reply to Lock it down

It was locked down and I did not give them the admin password until the owner called me and wanted it in order to load Sims on a Win2k laptop!! After trying to talk her out of it for 10 minutes and trying to explain that it might screw up the laptop she had just paid me to reload (they caught the klez on all their PC's because they were on DSL with no firewall and no anti-virus), I finally gave in and gave it to her. I will return though for some odd reason and change it again though! I have told her before that in order to guarantee any type of stability I had to "protect them from themselves". When this happened before, they called 3 other companies to try to fix it and they all walked out, not being able to figure out what the problem was!! I'd been trying to talk her into a client server setup for awhile with an actual tape backup and it took the Klez virus wiping out all thier machines and destroying all their data in order to convince her! Six months later of course time has passed and they have forgotten what happened!! Any idea on where I can find a sample service agreement?

Thanks!

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Personal policy

by James Goerke In reply to Did you try to fix this y ...

Before I go out and provide service on anything I make sure that the client knows my billing policy and I make sure they agree to that before I even hear what their problem is. Ive been burned before so that's my personal policy. Before I leave, Imake sure that the client knows that whatever it is that I was working on is working and I have them try it out. I usually give a few quick "Do's and Do Not's" and then let them know that they can call me but that it will be billed again as a seperate job. I find that letting people know up front of your policies is much more effective then anything else.

James Goerke
TheGeex Technologies
http://www.thegeex.com
Get your FREE TheGeex IT CD V1.1 Today!

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Underpromise and Overdeliver

by admin In reply to Did you try to fix this y ...

I wish I could remember the wording on this one in The Four Agreements... it's similar. I don't mess with SLA's but I have drawn up contracts. Basically, they should get an estimate up front even if it's "I don't know without looking and my hourly rate is <$> and I have a one hour minimum. My two friends in town on their full-time consulting gigs start billing you from the moment they leave THEIR shop till the moment they come back so I'm a deal since I start from when I get there. Also, if they are a long term client where I'm going back, we work out a retainer and if you are working with the above folks on a regular basis I would suggest you do this ASAP. It will save you both headaches. Basically, if it's a good customer I cut them some slack, but otherwise they know up front what my hourly is and we preauthorize an amount if needed. My mechanic is the same way. If your customer wants a slipshod freebie mechanic you don't want them anyway and they will learn in time. More specifically, on a network install nothing is covered after I stop working and you get the final bill. On a big install I want at least half upfront and that doesn't include equipment. It's clearly their job to maintain the operation unless they are retaining and paying me for it.

If it's their tinkering, you just politely honestly tell them the exact source of the problem instead of "general tinkering" I would say: " When Bonzai Buddy was installed..."

I don't know of a template or a form although I bet they are available. Still, each job is specific, so write out a bid in advance and exclude everything not in the bid. If you are doing guaranteed uptime or SLA I would highly suggest you have them on a reasonable retainer.

Lastly, I would again suggest that underpromising and overdelivering is still a great customer service technique.

~Hope something here is helpful!

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And work technique

by LordInfidel In reply to Underpromise and Overdeli ...

I follow the scotty rule.

However long it really willl take you, double it, add 4 hours and make it seem like it is an impossible task.

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