May 21, 2009

Bad Advice

A prospective client has been given bad advice and I am not sure how much effort I want to expend to convince her of that before she makes an expensive, ill-advised decision.

If you read my profile you know that I install point-of-sale, inventory management and accounting software. All my clients come to me via word of mouth referrals. I do not advertise my services, because I have found that satisfied clients make the most effective advertisements.

So, a long time client asks me to call the owner of a manufacturing plant here in Saint Elizabeth to arrange a preview of the system I installed for him. He says based on their discussions, her present set-up isn't meeting her needs and he is sure I can help.

After the presentation, she enthusiasticly agrees to have the network wiring installed, purchase the uninterrupted power supplies and arrange the funds for my fee. She is to call me once everything is lined up.

A few days later she calls to ask if we can renegotiate the payment terms from 50% down and balance upon completion, to 50% down, 25% upon completion and balance within a month. I have to admit that I was impressed! My usual experience is a quick agreement to the terms, with unlimited excuses when the project is completed. So far, I have never actually had to make good on the threat to activate a dormant virus if I don't get paid.

Believing this renegotiation was a sign of positive progress in her decision making I thought matters were going well. The next thing I know, she calls to tell me "someone" told her they could hook she up dut cheep.

Out of curiosity, I research the software that was recommended, to find that it is, indeed, less expensive than my proposal. But the customer reviews are a litany of horror stories. Multiple crashes, failure to install, glitches in the setup process and a total lack of tech support. The two features that managed to get good customer reviews are features she can't use! The on-line banking feature and the payroll module are of no value to her as they are based on North American protocols and not adaptable to Jamaican requirements.

She is taking for granted that this "someone" will fill the gaps for her. She is making a short term decision, based on price, about a situation that should involve long range, strategic planning.

Before you jump to the conclusion that there are ego issues involved, I did not write or develop the software that I recommended to her. My recommendations are based on client needs.

If she were tech-oriented, I would e-mail the links to the user forums where one customer after another has razored the product itself and the lack of support from the company that sells it. In the end, I will probably do nothing more than suggest she get information about the software from more than one source.

I am a firm believer that what is for me, can't be for you. I hope I can be gracious, humble, professional and helpful when she calls to be rescued from this mistake she is about to embrace.

8 Shared Thoughts:

AuntieAnnie said...

I am glad that you have the blog to "vent", and I think that your instincts are dead on to do nothing except to suggest that she get information about the software from current users. Anything you might say or do at this point might be preceived as "ego". Before I retired, I learned to ask myself "does this belong to me" when I noticed a problem or concern. If the answer was "no" I would it let it go. Wonderful weight off my shoulders... Wish her good luck.

LADY ROOTS said...

Sistren AuntieAnnie,

I truly like the idea of making a conscious decision about whether or not I will own a problem!

While it would be nice to have the contract, I don't have the same desire to impress people or chase down work that I once had. If I get the project, I ensure my customer's satisfaction, but I no longer feel compelled to go after a contract like a lioness after raw meat.

Is that a sign of old age or a sign of maturity?

Bless Up,
Lady Roots

BetteJo said...

Sounds like you are a very good business woman. You can't stop people from making bad decisions. Advising someone to do their research is a totally fair and professional thing to do, and doing more might cross a line. It's not your best girlfriend, it's a potential client. Giving them more of a warning would just come across as sour grapes. And - they still know how to reach you when they realize they've made a mistake. :)

Clay Perry said...

i think its a sign of dealing with someone that wont listen, i face this in my work quite a bit... years ago i would get a bit of smug personal satisfaction from the "i told you so" moment... now when they call begging for help i fax the often used word document "form" letter i wrote years ago explaining the best ways for them to get out of the deal and go with what i suggested.... hell, i've even taken to giving reduced prices for helping people out of bad situations they've gotten themselves into... it's a whole new market... "sympathetic business" and believe me, word of mouth in that genre spreads like wildfire... LOL

LADY ROOTS said...

Sistren BetteJo,

I think you have touched on an important point. She's not my best girlfriend, only a potential client! It's just that here in Jamaica, most businesses that can afford to computerize are owned by men. I really wanted the chance to work with a progressive sistren.

I need to remember that not every woman is my heartical sistren. I am going to give her the space she needs to make her mistake and trust that the I-niverse will spin as it should. Thanks for your guidance!

Bless Up,
Lady Roots

LADY ROOTS said...

Idren Clay,

I can see where a discount for “sympathetic business” services just may catch on! Many times I am dealing with clients who have been samfied (fooled) by another tech consultant and they expect the same or worse from who ever has the misfortune to follow them thru the door. More than once I have had to do clean up and damage control before the contract work ever begins.

I can so relate to the “I told you so” moment. In my former corporate life I was almost addicted to those moments. I had a high need (OK, tell the truth and shame the devil…an obsession) to be right. Not so much these days. I am more willing to let someone else be right, as long as it doesn’t violate my rights. I have voluntarily laid down the burden of having to control everything!

Congrats on James’ graduation! I love the pic where Sistren Julie has her arm around him on stage.

Bless Up,
Lady Roots

Betty BeadBug said...

Lady Roots,
Whenever Jah presents me with situations like yours I try to remind myself that it usually means that I have something to learn and so does the other party involved. Once I give my mind over to what it is that we have to figure out I end up worrying less. I am completely confident in your ability to not only handle this woman with courtesy and professionalism, but with kindness.
If it doesn't come clearly to her now it will when she calls you to ask for you assistance in cleaning up the mess.
I love that picture of James and I too. He grows by leaps and bounds but that picture will forever help to bring me back to the moment he was still five and just my little man. He thanks you for the congratulations. When I relayed your well wishes he smiled and me and said "I know..."


LADY ROOTS said...

Sistren BBBJules,
Thanks for the vote of confidence and the great advice. In this phase of my life I am learning to “accept the things I cannot change”. In my past professional life, I would have fought tooth and nail for the contract. Now, I am content to know that I did make her aware that there were potholes in the road ahead. It is now up to her to steer correctly around them.
Please let James know how much I appreci-love his vigilance in guarding the I-niverse. If he can love and protect a snail, I know he'll take care of the rest of us.
Bless Up,
Lady Roots