5. Customer Acceptance / Signoff Procedures
When we talked with Robert Covington about customer acceptance and signoff procedures, he warned that not having them can be "disastrous" because customers have a tendency to get "amnesia" about what everyone agreed to. In that case, a business can do everything right and still lose a customer because of misunderstandings — and that's not even a worst-case scenario.
What Not to Do
"I WAS WORKING WITH A STARTUP SAAS COMPANY THAT CONTRACTED SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT TO A REPUTABLE OUTSIDE COMPANY. WHILE THE REQUIREMENTS WERE DOCUMENTED, THE DOCUMENTATION WAS NOT IN-DEPTH, AND I SENSED EARLY THAT THERE WAS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN WHAT THE STARTUP WANTED AND WHAT THE SOFTWARE COMPANY ENVISIONED. BOTH PARTIES ENDED UP FRUSTRATED AND THE PROJECT WAS GREATLY OVER BUDGET."
— Robert Covington, CEO, ToGoCIO.com
The worst-case scenario, as Mitzi Hill reminded us, would be that the amnesiac customer decides to take your business to court over your perceived shortcomings. In that instance, she suggests thinking about what story your documentation tells — or doesn't tell. After all, it's pretty hard to convince a judge you communicated everything to your client if you can't offer any written evidence.
The good news here is that 71 percent of insureon customers say that they use customer acceptance or signoff procedures. That's not bad, especially considering that a year ago only 63 percent of customers were using these procedures — that's a 12 percent increase! But considering the potential for things to go wrong (see the horror story, right), we'd like to see that number even higher.
The simplest way to implement signoff procedures in your business? Create a "Customer Signoff" email template. Send it at the beginning of every project and any time you make a change to the initial terms. The template can include…
- A brief intro stating that you're looking for approval on X project.
- A list or outline of terms to be approved (e.g., budget, deadlines, agreed-upon designs, metrics, etc.).
- A request for approval or changes via email by a certain date.
- A note saying either that you won't move forward until you have approval OR that you'll assume all items are approved if you haven't heard by a certain time.
If necessary, send a follow-up email or two.
To-do item: Create customer acceptance / signoff email templates. Send them at the start of every project and when you make significant changes.
Risks managed: Customer dissatisfaction, customer lawsuits
Always get signoff. Don't just deliver your services and walk away. Have a policy to get client approval every time.
Next: 6. Employee Education