I wrote some notes last week on the unspoken assumptions that govern (or fail to govern) the relationship between a client and a consultant. Put together, these might constitute a Services Charter that formally documents the way in which Client and Consultant work together.
Better to write these things down than deal with misunderstandings later. Misunderstandings impact on revenue and reputation.
Here’s a further set of clauses that such a charter might include::
Professional service time includes all time during which professional staff are adding value to the client through project or assignment work, on the assumption that such time is spent efficiently on relevant issues falling within the scope of the project or assignment during reasonable working hours or agreed overtime.
Such time is not always spent at the client’s place of work, but when time is spent elsewhere this is by agreement.
All working time is recorded by professional staff using the Professional Services Organization’s (PSO’s) professional services software and is subject to review and approval for invoicing by the PSO’s project managers and/or services managers as well as by the client. The PSO’s presumption is that project and assignment time will be invoiced whether on-site or off-site.
Sometimes the client will be unable to verify that time reported by professional staff has been spent in the way each individual has reported (especially if the work is done off site, but also at times when the work is done on site), but the working relationship between the PSO and the client requires a degree of trust on this matter. If the client wishes to dispute such time then he or she may do so (see Disputes).
The PSO’s time recording software records time to the nearest (greater) quarter of an hour in respect of time spent by the PSO’s staff. Thus if 10 minutes are spent, a quarter of an hour will be reported.
For on-site assignments a minimum of two hours is charged for an assignment. This mitigates the inefficiencies (lost consulting time) incurred by the PSO when consultants move between locations, and encourages clients to consider ‘packaging’ issues into assignments of greater duration, whether ad-hoc or project assignments. Doing this is mutually beneficial.
Working time will usually be standard time for the location. This is determined by the location of the client. In general, unless required otherwise, the client’s working conventions (arrival and departure times) will be observed by the PSO. When projects are executed at the client’s location and full days are worked by the PSO’s staff, a full day will be reported and charged when the client’s hours are observed. In these circumstances, if a client specifically asks the PSO’s staff to arrive late or leave early, a full day will nevertheless be reported and charged, unless other terms have been agreed in advance.
The client is responsible for providing for the PSO’s staff with a safe and clean working environment, with sufficient space made available for the conduct of his or her work. This will usually mean a specific working space or desk where the consultant can work without distraction.
Refreshments and Meals
The client is responsible for providing for the consultant access to refreshments, such as tea, coffee, and water. There is no obligation on the client to provide these free of charge.
The client is responsible for providing for the PSO’s staff access to meals at mealtime, either in the client’s staff restaurant or through recommendation of a local restaurant.
Both parties understand that pauses of a few minutes (sometimes including smoking breaks) are part of working life, and this applies equally to professional work. We believe it is reasonable that pauses of up to five minutes occur every hour, though this by no means confers a right to such breaks in circumstances that make such breaks inconvenient.
The duration of meal breaks will conform to local standards and will not usually be reported as or considered as consulting time unless they are effectively ’working lunches’ with the client’s staff, where serious issues pertaining to the project or the assignment are discussed. If meals are taken with the client and as a consequence the duration of the meal exceeds local standards, the PSO reserves the right to treat the excess time as services time spent with the client.
We generally discourage our professional staff from making personal phone calls, reading or preparing emails that are not relevant to the client’s assignment, or from browsing the internet for irrelevant purposes. However, it is understood that occasional private calls, even calls to other clients, when important, are part of everyday life. When these exceed more than five minutes the client may dispute charges for this time. We generally discourage clients from making unarranged calls to staff when they are not working on the client’s project or assignment.
The client is responsible for ensuring that the PSO’s staff ‘s working environment is quiet and comfortable, and that professional staff are not interrupted or otherwise prevented from making progress with the project or assignment.
Standards of Behaviour
The PSO requires that clients behave respectfully towards its staff, just as the PSO enjoins its staff to behave in a respectful manner towards the client’s staff. Ideally this is a friendly relationship based on mutual respect and common goals.
In this relationship anger, as well as other displays of emotion, is inappropriate. Where there may be cause for anger, we would ask the client to abide by the procedures laid out in Disputes just as we ask our staff to do so.
In situations where the client engages in angry, insultingly disrespectful or verbally aggressive behaviour we ask our staff to request a pause, or to withdraw from the situation. The PSO reserves the right to withdraw professional staff permanently from the project or assignment when this situation occurs frequently or is extreme.
Furthermore, the PSO reserves the right to withdraw from meetings or gatherings or from the working environment if disputes between the client’s staff are unduly emotional.
Standards of Appearance
Unless agreed otherwise consultants will wear business attire. If the client permits, consultants will wear business casual or more informal clothes.
Last instalment on Friday.
Unspoken Assumptions – A Third and Last Set of Notes on the Client/Consultant Relationship – Adam Bager