Friday, April 20, 2012

Sanity Check

I am curious if I am crazy, or if I missed something. I just had an unpleasant exchange with a customer, who refuses to pay for services rendered.

Last fall we had a meeting with this customer and they showed interest in using Office 365. So I drafted an offer, clearly stating that we will provide consulting services to set up and configure O365 for them.  I clearly made a distinction between our fees and that of Microsoft. MS offers a trial for 30 days with per month costs after that, we charge X for the setup. I even gave them a good price thinking we might get some more business down the road.

After some time, the guy who was assigned as my contact person emails me back that the customer is interested in pursuing the trial of O365, and when can we proceed. So I assign the work to my employee, and he spends the next week working with the contact person to understand what they need, and in setting up O365 for them. They reach a point where all is ready, and my guy gives them time to try things out.

A week or two pass, and my guy can't get a hold of customer contact person. We know the service is good for 30 days so we want to follow up, etc. No response. I then step into the picture and try to get a hold of the guy. No response. I then send an email to the company catchall hoping someone else will see it and reply. No response. By this time, the trial has expired. Eventually I get sick of being ignored, and send an invoice to the customer.

Time passes, and I get an email from one of the owners. "The guy you worked with is no longer at the company. You have no agreement, and it is unprofessional that you just send an invoice". Hmm, ok. So I send this guy the email correspondence as well as my offer that I drafted as to indicate that I did have an agreement with his ex-employee. It's unfortunate that something happened in their organization, but I can't be held responsible for that. We did the work, as agreed.

This results in a phone conversation where I am told that I am unprofessional, that "the world doesn't work like this" and that I can forget about being paid.

I understand the guy is upset that he has no value and an invoice on his desk. But the critical thing in my eyes is that I am not the one who is at fault here. We delivered as agreed. They didn't do anything with it, too bad. I mean, I still pay my gym membership even if I don't go.

I am curious if I am missing something here, or if my logic is sound. I want to warn other small businesses against working with this customer, but I first want to sanity check this.


1 comment:

Jan said...

I'd say if you really got a signed agreement with the company to do some work (for a fee of course), you should send an invoice and get paid.

If it's not clear the work is done for a fee, one could think it's a 'gift' as you will probably get some more business out of it.

Also, if an agreement isn't signed, it's hard to prove you were allowed to do something.

If I read your post correctly, I'd say you should get paid for the work your employee has done. If the company structure of a customer changes, you can't be held responsible in my opinion.