I wish I could grade my clients

As a consultant you always do have to be on your best behaviour towards clients. At least face to face. It tends to be a little, pardon the term, "kiss ass" so you don't get your ass fired for saying the wrong thing. I try and find a balance if I need to disagree with a client, and tend to opt for a polite, but firm attitude, compromising when possible, but making a strong case for my suggested changes.

But right now I have a client whom I would like to sit down with at the end of the project and tell them the truth. The person managing the project should not be the project lead. She is uninformed on the project topic, frequently absent or busy, and, in my opinion, rude. She is not intentionally rude, but when I am expecting to have a meeting with her on the phone, and she fails to call (which she said she would), I expect at least an apologetic email, if not an apologetic phone call. She also consistently will tell me she will have something done on a certain day and fail to produce. She has gone on a one week vacation three times since July, as have other people in the organization who we are also working with. My latest frustration is that it has taken 6 weeks to set up a necessary meeting with them, resulting in two contract extensions (because we HAVE to have the meeting to finish the project), and a possible budget overrun.

If I were to exhibit the same behaviour I would never get hired. When applying for a contract I always have to give references, but the client never has to. I think they should! Consultants are not doormats, we too prefer to work with reasonable people on projects that can be completed on time within the budget allocated.

There truly is a perception that consultants are money hungry people who will do anything for cash. This sentiment was actually expressed to be in a meeting with the organization in October. I bit my tongue and smiled pleasantly. To be fair, we make snide comments back every time a government person (yes it is a government organization I am complaining about) goes on vacation or takes a flex day. I think each group is slightly jealous of the other.

But regardless I cannot wait for the day, if it ever does come, when I am comfortable turning down work, and have the financial resources to do so, if I feel the job is not right for us, or if I believe the client will not follow through on their end. That would certainly be a nice change.

2 Comments:

  1. KreativeMix said...
    i'm sure that day will come soon:-)
    Mr. Cheap said...
    I actually thought about developing a website that would function as a reputation system (think E*Bay) for contractors and clients. After an interaction, they could rate each other (perhaps with some sort of anonymizing aggregation so that both sides can be honest).

    I had a client who things blew up with, and I found out the same thing happened with EVERY TECHNICAL PERSON WHO WORKED WITH THEM (they were a very non-technical publishing company, and wanted to deal with computer people the same way they deal with artists). If I had been able to look up the negative past experiences of other contractors I could have not taken the job, or addressed the potential problems (and hopefully avoided them) before I started.

    I think all contractors dream of the day we're turning away clients...

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