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How to order something to get it right the first time

Have you ever experienced that you ordered something and got something else? I know you have and this applies in particular if you order services of any kind. Craftsmen usually have a genuinely bad reputation when it comes to not delivering results on time or doing it in a different way than you agreed. But you know, it's sometimes your own fault that this happens. Often we are so bad at telling them what we really want and when we want it. When you're on the verge of a mental breakdown, you know it's too late to act. Time just flies and you are so angry that the only thing you've spent time on, is to think about the problem.

But what do you do then? Everything starts with you making sure that you know exactly what you want. Anyone who sells services know how fuzzy descriptions from customers can be: No wonder because a lot of people really don't know what they want. Therefore it's smart to concentrate on what result you want and tell people exactly what you want and how you want it to be done.

There is a big difference between:
- “We want to remodel the bathroom, so it will feel nice and bright”.
- “We want to remodel the bathroom. We want to have heated floors, lowered ceilings with spotlights and white tiles on the walls. The floor must be black”.
Or even better:
- “We want to remodel the bathroom. We want radiant heating (please suggest a system), lowered ceilings according to the attached drawing (your suggestions are welcome), walled tiles (we buy them ourselves) and black floor (according to the attached specification). The job must be completed by xx/xx-2013.

The more specific you are, the better chance you will have getting the job done on time and completed the way you want it. OK, these are pure specifications and you can translate them to the web project, personnel consulting or whatever you need to work out, but here is the really tough part – the suppliers won't be ready in time. You won't get what you want and it also might affect your customer that everything is being delayed. I've been wasting so much time on such experiences, that this list became necessary to write:

Five questions you should always ask people before you order something (and before you sign anything):

1. When will it be ready?
2. What can happen during the process? What can become a problem and result in a delay?
3. How fast will I know if something has interfered with the schedule?
4. What added costs can be expected?
5. What do you want from me for the process to run smoothly?

Once you know this, send a document to the company you have struck a deal with and confirm the information they gave you on the above points. It's all about keeping them on a short leash so that time factors won’t affect you. Time factors may affect anyone of their other clients, but not you. It's important that they know that you're sticking to your guns here and that the schedule is nothing you will discuss once you have agreed on the details and the time plan.

The confirmation could look something like this:

Hi John,

Today we have agreed that you should do (what they do). The agreed price is xxx.

There are some things that are important to us during this process:
1. The job starts on XX/XX-2013 and will be completed on XX/XX-2013 as agreed.
2.  If something happens that disrupts the schedule, we must immediately be informed so that we can decide if we want to stop cooperating or accept any delay or cost increases.

Your contact for the project will be XX who can be reached on telephone XX XX XX XX.

Please confirm in writing that you have received and agreed on this information.
  Thank you kindly.

Best regards,
Stefan Ekberg

Is this too tough? Absolutely not. To get the slow providers to understand that you value your time, you need to emphasize that. A confirmation letter like this can save you from a lot of problems and, who knows, perhaps even a heart attack.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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