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Problem client

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Nick GriffinProblem client
by on Apr 5, 2016 at 8:18:12 pm

Let me ask my wise and wonderful COW buddies for some advice.

We have (likely had) a client who on a web project over and over and over again instructed us, “Let me see it THIS way, now how about another way, not THAT blue — show me other blues, etc.” After an extended period of this, a couple of months in which nothing was ever finalized and no decisions reached, I submitted an invoice for the time used for these many, many, many, many go ‘rounds. The invoice included highly detailed timesheet records of every interaction and change made.

Now the client has emailed that others in her company (her father’s company, BTW) are SHOCKED by the costs of the project and that we could charge more than the full amount we had estimated yet nothing is completed. Of course the original estimate was based on finishing a website that was begun before she became involved and was nearly completed.

AND, by the way “We’ll be using someone in house for all of this going forward.”

Yes, I know we should have a process of formal “change orders” in place, but during my many years in business that’s not been necessary. In hindsight, not necessary until now.

I declined to discuss this with her via email, as she asked, because written words can easily be misinterpreted, taking on the emotion of the reader. On a phone call, or better still in person, there’s at least a chance to calm things down. She's a few hundred miles away so now we have scheduled a phone call for tomorrow.

How would you recommend that I handle this obviously spoiled rich kid whose daddy's company could buy and sell us a few million times over? I’d like to find a way to allow her to save face rather than bluntly telling her how this is her fault, but doubt that would bring about a good result. We have admin access to the dev site where all of this has been happening and can easily turn it off which I see as going VERY ugly in the process. Taking that action on our part would likely result in a fight that would be an even bigger waste of time.

So any ideas on my conundrum?

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Greg BallRe: Problem client
by on Apr 5, 2016 at 9:28:46 pm

Hi Nick,

As you pointed out the problem is really with your lack of agreement and change orders. Without seeing your initial agreement and the way your agreement refers to revisions and changes you may be stuck.

Has there ever been any mention to the client that these changes will cost more? For us, as soon as the client asks for something outside of the scope of work, we notify them that there will be additional fees and what those fees will be. Then they can decode if they want to make those changes or not.

In your case, it seems like that conversation and communication is missing, and the sudden emailing of an invoice was not well received. Can you blame them? Unfortunately you may not have any recourse here. You may have to eat the additional fees.

You may be able to calmly explain what the issue is and see if the client may budge and compromise with some of the outstanding fees. My thinking is that she will not. Sorry I can't offer a magical solution.

I d suggest that you do not turn off the dev site. That will get ugly fast!

Best of luck tomorrow!

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Problem client
by on Apr 7, 2016 at 2:21:47 am

Sorry to hear it. I'd frame the phone call as: "you and me, I feel like we're a team here, and I have a suggestion for how to wrap this up and still have it look great, without any more expenses." Then you lay out your proposal for the actual, final version you will complete, with no more changes. The explosion has already gone off: now you're just cleaning up. Be sure to send Daddy a copy of all the billing documentation; all you can say is: you did the work she kept requesting, and here's the hours it took. Be sure you add a proposal for a fully finished version that cuts thru the indecision and makes a final decision, and mark that version "comped". Might be the best solution left. And offering solutions is the key.

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Greg BallHow did it go Nick?
by on Apr 8, 2016 at 8:25:53 pm

Just wondering how you made out

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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Nick GriffinRe: How did it go Nick?
by on Apr 8, 2016 at 8:39:40 pm

The complicating factor is all of the communication with this client was done by my partner. He was the one working with her because he was doing the coding. It was a mistake for me not to be more involved as he's not the type to tell a client, "You know these changes are going to cost you?" That's my job and I neglected to do it. Combine that with the fact that when I wrote the post I was seething with his attitudes toward how we had gotten to this point. Once I calmed down the client and I had a very polite conversation.

Compromise on both sides is anticipated. However we have no interest going forward working for her as we doubt she'll always think we're working on spec rather than by timesheets. The fairly senior guy who originally hired us understood that and when I attempted to reach him to discuss the situation I was greeted with the old "He no longer works here."

C'est la vie. Time to keep moving forward and not get mired in complex and potentially ugly situations.

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Greg BallRe: How did it go Nick?
by on Apr 8, 2016 at 9:04:50 pm

So true. Move on to better clients.

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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