Standard terms and conditions can still confuse clients
Statement of Work documents are one of the most common contracts a Professional Services Manager will touch in the course of their day. These documents are typically based on a master template that incorporates many common terms, conditions, and assumptions. These standard terms can confuse potential clients, even well after an engagement has been booked.
I was on a call last month with a client in an attempt to schedule their engagement. I normally wouldn’t agree to a scheduling call, as they’re a spectacular waste of time and resources. However, this client also wanted to check that they’d be ready for the start of the engagement, which was a thoughtful gesture, so I agreed to the call.
What followed was a client-led point-by-point read-through of the standard terms & conditions that are part of all of our Statement of Work documents. This is after the sale and all the signatures; typically I’d see that as a pre-sales redlining activity. In other words, the client’s spending their time helping me to review a SOW document, and there’s nothing quite like an outsider’s perspective to help find problems.
Forty-five minutes into the meeting, the client asks me when they can schedule the start of their online training class.
I quietly read the rest of the SOW, and the deliverables don’t include an online training class. The quote makes no mention of an online training class. I check the purchase order, too, just to see if I’d missed something somewhere. The engagement doesn’t include online training, a point that I now have to explain to the client. How’d this happen?
The SOW template included standard language that specifies the expiration dates around online training. And the client had interpreted that one bullet point to mean that their engagement somehow included online training, despite no other evidence of it being part of the engagement. It’s a reasonable assumption, and completely preventable. When the SOW was prepared, the author hadn’t yanked out all the optional terms that only apply under limited circumstances.
To prevent this scenario: mark a recurring day on your calendar. Make it biannual, just to be safe. And then just spend a couple hours reviewing the standard terms and conditions that are part of your SOW template. Check that any linked templates for packaged service offerings only include relevant terms & conditions for the deliverables for that engagement. If you’ve added terms to your master template, make sure those appear in the relevant linked templates for packaged offerings, too.
Otherwise, prepare to be thankful that there are thoughtful customers out there that’ll review your SOW template for you. As payment for their time, they’ll ask for all the optional features to be included. After all, they signed off on it.