If there’s one thing in consulting that I dislike it’s encountering an expectation by potential (and past) clients that I’m available to freely answer incoming phone and email calls that ask for technical advice on consulting matters they’ve determined are “quick” questions – aka freebies.
I’m not opposed to providing anyone with enough information to research an issue on their own — with absolutely no cost.
I’m opposed to any inquiry that expect me to resolve a technical problem at no cost. Especially when nearly all these inquiries are from users who’ve previously made a decision to forego any type of support plan.
I think I’ll drop my car insurance. The next time I’m in an accident I’ll just call and have them renew it and cover the claim if full, quickly and with the highest priority…. Sadly that’s the logic that seems to permeate some clients seeking ERP consulting support.
Determining when to charge and when to give information for free is a difficult task for consultants. On the one hand you can’t spend all your time providing free advice to companies with quick questions. And you also don’t want to leave the impression that clients should not call with a fee based request.
Sadly what usually ends up happening is I provide the answer – for free – on the basis of “it’s just quicker to answer than to argue about why there’s going to be a charge”.
With that in mind I have these seven opening lines that non-clients almost always use. When I hear them I cringe because it tips me off that a request for a freebie is right around the corner:
1. Client who dropped maintenance years ago calls and uses any of these words:
– Hey quick question
– I’m wondering
– Any way
– Can you
– I’m thinking of renewing but first
2. Overly prepared prospect has all the detailed questions to ask during the first phone call
3. “Why do I need to pay a fee for a quick question?”
4. Caller who finds you on the Internet drops their profession as:
– Law enforcement
5. Conversation begins “Hi this is xxxxx from yyyyy. We’re the IT consulting firm for zzz (your client) and I was wondering” or the software user calls and say’s “My IT guy has a question”
6. Question – “Do you do hourly billing? as they launch immediately into a machine gun like recitation of the problem that just occured.
7. Orphans call use any of these words:
– We’re moving off of….
– We dropped maintenance / don’t have support because we’ve never needed it
– We never call
Am I missing any?