This March break my wife and I took our children to Japan to visit some old friends and get reacquainted with the country. The service standards there are remarkable and we have adopted many of their service principles at Quartet.
However, what I was really reminded of, is just how difficult the language is. I worked very hard at it for five years and ended up earning my MBA in Japanese. All the same, on this trip I found my language skills had deteriorated so much after 17 years that I was more or less functionally illiterate.
At Quartet, we decided to try and speak the language of many prospects and competitors; time & materials support. We do projects on a T&M basis, but all of our support contracts are monthly retainers. We thought T&M starter packages would be an easier transition for those unfamiliar/uncomfortable with retainers. Our plan was to evolve these relationships into retainers at some discounted rate. A good idea; or so we thought.
It was not a good idea. We were very successful getting companies to sign up for trial T&M contracts, but we were unsuccessful in almost every other aspect. Most of the fault was our own. We were up front in our inability to guarantee service response for T&M clients because retainer clients had priority. However, our T&M starter customers needed service fast and were unsatisfied with our inconsistency. In addition, they did not trust our advice (because they thought we were just trying to bill more hours) and our staff was frustrated by not being able to do a good job.
We ended up with annoyed trial clients, embarrassed staff and poor starts to what could have been fine relationships. So we’re not trialing T&M support contracts any more. We’re functional illiterates on T&M support and we’re going to stick to what we know.
We’ll take the time to start client relationships properly. We’ll do proper technical assessments, discuss your service level requirements and configure services packages to meet your needs and budgets. We’ll probably miss out on some opportunities, but in the long run everybody will be better off.
We hope we speak your language and hope we have a conversation soon.
Robert Bracey, President