2 min read

The real cost of services

Communications plays an vital role in service contracts. Without it, firms sometimes are left holding the bagrn



I opened what I thought was an ordinary maintenance renewal notice the other day and had the fright of my life.

Beneath the expected amount for next year’s contract was a line showing what 2005 service would cost if we only renewed for one year. It was TRIPLE the 2004 amount!

That’s right

— three times the cost, for, as far as I could see, the same level of service. For that amount, we should at least expect a parade of gorgeous guys to arrive onsite in case of problems (male readers may substitute the nubile wenches of their fantasies if they so choose), bearing a gourmet luncheon for the inconvenienced users.

I grabbed the phone and tracked down our salesman. He muttered something about how the company had changed its service model, but could provide no details. I sent him off to find out.

A day later, I got a vague voice-mail from him; apparently he’d forgotten what the issue was.

Meanwhile, I’d passed the quote on to our CTO, who took one look and said, “”We’ll renew this time, then we’re changing.””

But the whole thing didn’t make sense, so, bypassing our absent-minded agent, I contacted head office and left a message for the general manager. Surely he would know what his company was doing!

Indeed he did — within hours of our contact, I had a call from a very embarrassed Canadian sales manager. Five minutes on the phone, and we were all sorted out.

The issue?

Communication.

The service model had changed — for new customers. And the apparently hugely inflated amount was actually a bundle of several items. Existing customers will continue under their current plan, at the expected price, since the extra items in the bundle were things they had already paid for in their original purchase. The change was new enough that all vendor staff hadn’t yet been trained on it.

We weren’t the first to break out the nitroglycerin pills; they’d had enough frantic customer calls that all the GM had to do was say: “”We’ve got another one,”” and the sales manager knew exactly what he was talking about.

Not a good situation: It upset customers unnecessarily (and possibly lost a few, too), and wasted the time of two high-priced executives, as well as making the company look rather silly.

The sales manager assured me that training was in progress, and that he’d had a chat with our rep. He promised me a new, accurate quote. He sounded a bit frazzled.

All it would have take to prevent the whole mess was a little internal communication. If the folks preparing the maintenance quotes (or creating the systems doing the work) had been properly briefed, they wouldn’t have sent out the dud documents in the first place (though part of the issue, I was told, was incorrect information from resellers that made old customers appear new). If the sales reps had been correctly primed, they could have explained matters to their distressed customers immediately. Then the sales manager could have done some sales managing, instead of soothing irate customers and popping headache pills.