Bouncing back – Working with a new firm after a bad experience

We have all had bad experiences with service providers. It can be a costly experience, both financially and emotionally. Not only that, but the next time you look for a service provider for a similar project you might find yourself quite wary.

I am sure that a quick Google search could return a number of articles from those with similar experiences, and perhaps tips to keep from “getting burned” again. However, I want to approach this article from a different angle, that of a potential service provider.

We often deal with clients coming off negative experiences with companies who lacked competence, were dishonest, or communicated poorly. For the majority of these clients, our steady, thorough, and documented approach to setting up projects allays their fears. However, there is a minority who unintentionally sabotage the RFP process because their previous experience has left them deeply hesitant.

So here are a few tips to help you navigate the proposal process with a potential web design firm:

  • Ask but don’t assume : If you have a particular area of concern, be sure to bring it up in your conversation with the service provider. However, try to share it in a friendly manner that does not put them on the defensive by assuming they are just like that last company .
    An example of what not to say: “You know, graphic design companies always seem to be ripping people off. How do I know your cost is what you say it is?”
    Here is a better approach: “Communication and clarity are very important to me. I am coming off a negative experience with a previous designer, and I know from other experiences that can be avoided by establishing a thorough scope of work up front. How can I be of assistance in creating a detailed project description?”
  • Everything in writing : A common problem our clients share is that their previous service provider was constantly submitting “surprise invoices” for work they thought was in the original scope of work. Ask your service provider “How do you setup a project so that the scope and cost are clear to both parties? How do you deal with out of scope work?
  • Work milestones : ask the service provider if they can break up the project into 3-5 milestones that associate a payment with the completion of a task. As an example, we have setup small design projects with 33% up front, 33% after approval of site design, 33% on completion. This gives the service provider a tangible goal, and you the peace of mind provided by spreading out payments.

Leave us your comments. What are your recommendations for interviewing a potential service provider?