Some of the most common complaints expressed by our assurance seniors are that the client “didn’t complete the schedule request properly, or provide adequate support timely, or apply the appropriate accounting principles properly, or, or, or, yada, yada, yada”. And correspondingly the audit team didn’t meet, or, had trouble meeting their due date. (We assign due dates for projects based on budgets, and allow the team members to determine when, where and how they will perform the engagement, rather than attempting to micromanage their time and daily lives.) After hearing this refrain / excuse for the umpteenth time during one of our recent after action reports for a very good client, I reminded the offending senior of the purpose of our use of Client Service Agreements and why we have change orders.
After practicing for over 30 years I can unequivocally say we’ve never had a ‘perfect client’. One who always applied the accounting principles correctly, on time and provided the requisite support. Without exception. (The other assurance partner claims he had one, once, but he drinks heavily.) The only perfect client is the one you are doing a proposal for. He’ll promise to do everything perfectly.
In the proposal process, the Company’s obligation is to get the ‘highest level of service for the lowest possible price’. So of course they are motivated to commit to a course they are entirely incapable of keeping and the assurance team has to endure the shortcomings. In a time sheet environment this may get passed on to the client, but not likely. And of course if it does the client squeaks that it is not consistent with the original proposal, and you have what my friend and mentor Ron Baker euphemistically refers to as ‘bill and duck’ (and hope they pay). For pricing firms, as we are, it results in scope creep.
My point is that ultimately no client is perfect. Propose based on what they commit to but invoice them for what they actually do or don’t do. Don’t whine because they aren’t perfect. Just implement a system that accommodates that imperfection without penalizing your Firm or creating animosity with your client(s). You might want to try Client Service Agreements. (Oh, and to all you seniors – ‘imperfection’ is why you get paid the big bucks! If all our clients were perfect we wouldn’t need your gray matter. We’d just use checklists. )