Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Pricing and clients and good will for my clients

As I add clients, get more business, negotiate contracts, invoice for various jobs and so on, I have to do a lot of head scratching.

One of the things I had planned for in my 'planning session' in December was to standardise my contracts and re-negotiate fees. We are totally undercharging and need to revise our fees.

In fact, one of my new clients told me I was under the market rate which made me 'competitive.' Actually, it made me a little 'mad' but I had to keep that part to myself. I thought we are pretty much it, that no one else out there even compares! In fact, I know that we do not really have any serious competition. Apparently one company we know of goes around doing maintenance on PCs with soap and water. Don't ask.

In another conversation with a good mate of mine who was once upon a time on the board for multi-million dollar companies but is now heeding the call of development, I realised I need to
really figure out my pricing and mark up and all that wonderful stuff to do with numbers. Numbers. It's like dealing with doctors.

So while I am trying to do a good cost pricing for my services, I also got some crappy feedback from some clients. Apparently, our service is good but we're slow. Usually, I do not quite believe the client because they're A) illiterate in IT B) are completely oblivious to the obstacles they themselves create when you're trying to do a job like you can't expect us to do maintenance or check without giving us access to the freaking PC or server C) you can't do a job in 2 seconds. I have also experienced extremely annoying clients who simply do not appreciate service. I knew this anyway, had seen Wesley deal with difficult clients. It was always at the back of my head. But when I heard this new feedback, I had to sit up and take stock beyond the operating procedures in place.

It turns out it's a combination of things - clients are still difficult and we also have some snail-speed issues. I'm finding ways to make both sides happy - i.e. client and my techies. I have to find a turn out time for Call Outs and Repairs and try to stick to that.

So while I sort out that out, I guess I am getting a better idea of how pricing works for services. I'm going to stick to my current rates for Call Outs and Repairs for the time being but try to price upwards for maintenance contracts.

As expected January is becoming incredibly busy and I am thriving in the madness of it. The other night, I was up until 2 am, crunching invoices and proposals. It was fantastic. I feel so alive when I have to be coordinating and juggling 10 jobs at a day. The team is really coming together. Our trainee did his first call out and actually made money for the company. It is a good feeling.

What am I learning these days? I guess service is very challenging. I am fiercely protective of the kind of work my guys do. I really understand how tricky it can be to provide a service to a client and ensure they are satisfied. Some of our clients are easy going and clearly understand that my guys actually have to use their brains and find solutions in trouble shooting call outs for example. Others are oh so snooty and think they know it. 'Dude, if you know how to sort out the problem, why'd you call us? Did your wife not make you a paratha this morning? Don't take it out on us.' I also have to deal with my techies' frustrations. Sometimes they really complain about a client and sometimes they do not even mention it. It can get pretty random. My goal is to also be on site once in a while, flirt with the customers, tell them a few jokes and so on. It should ease things out.

I am getting acutely aware of my job and responsibility as a manager. I have to m-a-n-a-g-e all this. And guess what? I am really enjoying this.

Things are looking up, dude. Our head is finally above the water and we can see the shore.


Have a great computing day! Hope your computers compute and your printers print.
The great people at NLTC.

(Not really - we hope your PCs crash, deadly viruses freeze your LAN, your printers break down, so we may come and repair, re-install, re-format, trouble shoot and save the day.)

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