Be Nice!

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on May 16, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Working Virtually

At IAC Professionals, we have a 90 day training period, where our Virtual Assistants are put through a boot camp, for lack of a better term. During those 90 days, they don’t work with clients, rather they work on small tasks that are assigned to them, and part of a larger project, while supervised by a project manager. This time period gives us a chance to see (and possibly work on) their professionalism, response time and abilities. Our project managers are patient individuals, and spend time making sure that the client is happy with the end result. This 90 days allows us to assure that if they were to work directly with a client, they would give the professionalism, efficient response and work quality that our clients demand.

In order to be able to have this period, we need a steady flow of project related work, so when the volume is low or when we have an exceptionally large amount of candidates in the training period, we hop on over to Elance and see if there are any projects that would be ideal for us.

A few weeks ago we bid on one, and the person posting the project (let’s call him John) came back and said he wanted to set up a time to talk to us. John and one of my staff scheduled an appointment and when we called John he did not answer, so we left him a message. Then we went back and forth on the project message board scheduling another time, and again John did not show up. We let him know that when he was ready to proceed he could reach us anytime at our phone number/ email address.

We did not hear from John until 3 days ago, when he posted a message that said something similar to this (some data changed to not leave any identifying material):

I need X. All Content and Design will be provided.

I also need A, B, C and D. All Content and Design will be provided.

I need this project completed quickly…and WILL NOT tolerate bait an switch tactics…low ball bid then run the project up later.

So, here is the problem… the original project was for X. Our bid outlined X. So, now he is asking for A, B, C and D, which is fine – but it is obviously going to be a different price from X. However, what bothered us was the:

I need this project completed quickly…and WILL NOT tolerate bait an switch tactics…low ball bid then run the project up later.

I don’t care how many bad experiences you have had, you never go into a relationship accusing or assuming that a new provider is going to do something unethical or wrong. We specifically outlined that we would give X, we specifically said that it would take 3 days from receiving full content, design and server information. We attempted to meet with him twice. So, why he would write on the message board asking for X (with A, B, C and D) ‘quickly’ and then tell us not to do any bait and switch tactics… who did the bait and switch? Our bid was for X, he took our bid and threw A, B, C and D in there as well.

In the end, we denied the job offer and we politely told him that we were unable to help him at this time, with the change of scope his project contained.

The point of this blog post is to show that being rude does not get you anywhere. It is unacceptable in the business place. I prefer not to do business with individuals or organizations that are rude, and if I am rude to someone (and I am not innocent, I have been!) then I would expect them to not want to do business with me. Everyone makes mistakes and some people just have a bad day. Maybe John was having a bad day, maybe I should have given him another chance, but my guard would have already been up and we would have already been on the defensive side of the wall, which would not have helped cultivate the client – provider relationship.

What ever happened to the ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated’ concept? Is it old fashion? Has it gone out the window? I ask because this is just one example of the rudeness I am seeing in client/provider relationships as of lately. A colleague of mine, a pretty successful business coach (she gave me permission to do this blog as long as I did not mention any names) had another instance of rudeness ruining a possible relationship, here is her story:

A prospective client contacted me about retaining my coaching services, and everything was going great, the initial consultation went wonderful… I was really looking forward to helping him. He decided to retain me for two sessions a month, so I sent over my agreement to him. My agreement is a simple one page thing, it is not like many complicated contracts out there. It outlines what I give, what the client will give and where the limitations are. There is a section in my agreement that states my business hours and that any appointments must be made inside of these hours, otherwise there is an additional fee. The client, when he returned the agreement made a note on it that simply said ‘Provider will not provide sessions or work outside of business hours without prior approval from client’ and he initialed it. I thought to myself, how strange! Obviously if we pre-schedule our appointments, he would be well aware if any sessions are outside of my normal business hours. However, I too initialed that handwritten line and we began with our coaching relationship. About three weeks into the relationship, the client had an emergency, and called my office line at 9pm in the evening to speak about it (outside of my business hours). I normally would not have gotten the call, because it is outside of business hours, however my husband and I happened to be in the office fixing a leak in the window, so I took the call. When my invoice was issued at the end of the month, there was an issue. My client was irate that I charged him the additional fee for the late night call. I was kind of dumbfounded, because he called me at 9pm, he obviously knew that I was providing a session outside of my normal business hours. I was in quite a predicament, because I really wanted to help the client, but he obviously did not value my time. I ended up not charging him for that session at all and cancelling our agreement, as I need to work with people who value me as an individual.

Unbelievable! Everyone is human, everyone has the right to have a personal life outside of work and the right to provide the services they provide in a manner that is comfortable to them. I don’t understand why this gentleman above, would think, that he could contact his coach at 9pm in the evening and the agreement would not be adhered to? I bet you money, that his clients don’t contact him at 9pm at night without him billing them (if he even takes the call!).

I say agreements or no agreements, if everyone treated others the way they wanted to be treated that client/service provider relationships would be more productive and fruitful to both parties! What do you think?

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