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When You need professional Help – 10 Steps to Get the Best Service

Posted: November 13, 2017 - to TipsBy: Patrick
Content when you need professional help   10 steps to get the best service

Whether it’s a car/home repair, a legal matter, a web design, or the need for a doctor or dentist, you want to find a professional who is an expert, who treats you well, and who delivers what is promised. So, where do you begin to look for those services when you have not used them before or you are new to a city and know no one?

Here are 10 steps that you should follow. They take time, of courses, but if you want to get the best for your money, then you need to spend that time. The world is full of people who have acted impulsively, contracted for services, and have then been disappointed, or worse, scammed. Don’t be one of them.

  1. Identify Your Specific Needs

If you are looking for home repair, what exactly do you want done? If you are looking for a lawyer, what specific services do you need? Individuals and businesses are becoming more and more specialized in the types of services they offer within a broad category. You may need an attorney, for example, who specializes in family law or will and estates. You may want a transmission specialist with the car repair industry. Or you may want a web designer whose focus is on e-commerce for your new store. This specification will hep you narrow your generic search.

  1. Begin with a Generic Search

Whether you need a professional who is local or online, you can always begin with a generic online search. Every business that offers services to the public will now have a website. Within that generic search, you will need to specify locale if the services you require will mean face-to-face contact. If not, leave the location out.

More importantly, you will want to put keywords in that search that relate to the specific services you want. If you need a local transmission specialist, say so. If you need an online ghostwriter for your blog, say so. You will waste a lot of time and go down dead-end paths if you don’t get specific.

The results of your search will pull up a first page. Remember, the top results will be from advertising – those people or businesses who have paid to be at the top. This can be an indication that the individual or business is established and is spending money for marketing. It can also mean that a business is new and has decided to put money into marketing efforts to build a business.

Use this first page of results to make you initial list of possibilities.

  1. Access Websites

This is a time-consuming activity, but you need to go to those websites and read through all of the content. First, you need to be certain that the individual or company really has a specialty in what you need. If the website itself is pretty generic in the services it offers, you will need to dig deeper. Very large law firms, for example, have mutiple departments that specialize in different types of practices. Smaller businesses, however, will not, so you want to be certain that they work almost exclusively in the type of service you need.

A word of caution: You will find testimonials on these websites. Take them with a “grain of salt.” Most will publish the feedback that is positive and leave out the rest.

  1. Do Check Social Media Platforms

It is the rare service business that does not have a social media presence. Most will have buttons to access their social media pages. There you will probably find more honest conversations between customers and the business. What you are looking for is not the popularity of the page, but, rather, for customer feedback and complaints. When there are issues and complaints, how is the individual or firm responding to those? Businesses that are truly professional will have responses to customers and will be willing to publicly resolve issues that customers may have.

  1. Check Consumer Review Sites and the BBB

There are huge numbers of review sties out there. The big ones, such as SiteJabber, will have reviews by categories. Check out anyone you are considering. And if there is a BBB membership, you will get some very specific and honest comments from customers. Angie’s List is another solid source for customer feedback.

Also check out review sites that are smaller but focus on the services you need. These can be far more specific than the larger ones, and you may get more detailed consumer feedback.

  1. Recommendations and Referrals

This is obviously one of the best sources for professional services, if you know others who have used individuals or firms for similar needs. They are likely to be far more honest about their experiences. These may be family members, friends, or co-workers. The point is this: take recommendations from people whose opinions you trust and who demand high quality services. Someone who has settled for a mediocre landscaping project, for example, may recommend a mediocre company. If your expectations are for higher quality, then the recommendation is no good.

If you can, check out the quality of work or service that your recommender has received. If, for example, your friend has used a content writer for his/her website, check out that content. If a family member has used a specific auto body shop, take a good long look at the results. Everyone’s definition of quality differs, and some are willing to settle for less than top quality. If you are not, proceed with caution.

  1. Narrow the Search

Once you have been through the steps above, you should have narrowed your list from that first generic search. It is best if you can narrow it to 3-4, because the next steps will be more time consuming (as if they have not already been!). Just remember, it is your money, and you want great results.

  1. Contact the Individual or Firm Directly

It’s now time to get down to business. Before you contact anyone, make a list of what exactly you want, your timeframe for completion of the services, and any questions you want to ask. Having these things clearly identified before you begin a conversation will save you time and a lot of irrelevant conversation. Take charge of the conversation and be assertive. Tell them exactly what you want and ask directly if they can deliver. Describe your expectations for the quality of services you demand.

And ask for references. The individual or company that is truly professional will be happy to provide you with a list of references you can contact directly. Take no one’s word for it.

  1. Contact References

It’s not enough just to know that the company has references. Many make the mistake of stopping at this point. They figure that if a service has references to contact, that is good enough. No, it’s not. You need to contact at least two of these references and ask tough questions. Would they use this service again? What was the best part of their experience, and what was the worst? If the service involves such things as website design or software, what kind of support did they receive after the sale? You know what you need in terms of quality, support, and follow-up – make sure that the customers you talk to have been completely satisfied.

  1. You are Ready to Make a Decision

Once you have determined the very best fit between the individual or company services and your needs, it is time for detailed discussion. Obviously, you know exactly what you want, and you have told them so. Now it is time to discuss pricing, time frame for delivery, and such things as guarantees.

It’s time to make another list. What are your demands before you lay out any money? You need to identify all of the specifics – exactly what you want done, when you want it done, how much you are willing to pay, and when you want these services to be delivered.

Be certain that the professional you negotiate with understands exactly what you want and is willing to put it all in writing. Whether that is a formal contract or an email communication, you need to have a written record of the services you are to receive and all of the details of delivery. Here are some things you need to have in that written agreement:

  • All details of what is to be delivered
  • When that delivery is to occur. If it is a large project, there should be interim benchmarks of delivery with actual dates in place.
  • What will be the recourse if you are not fully satisfied? This gets down to guarantees that the professional service must be willing to give. If you are contracting with a website designer, for example, what happens if you are not completely satisfied? Will revising occur for free until you reach that satisfaction point?
  • Will there be penalties in place if delivery is not made on time? For larger projects that include a good amount of money, this should be in place. Usually, penalties involve a cut in the amount to be paid.
  • Payment arrangements for small projects. These will vary. For small services, such as writing an essay or a blog pot, most individuals and firms will require payment up front. This is fine to do, so long as there are guarantees in place that provide for you to request revisions if you are not completely satisfied.
  • Payment arrangements for large projects. The general rule will be half-down and the other half due upon completion. Still other large projects will involve progressive payments as parts of the services are delivered. Consider, for example, the services of a ghostwriter for a book. The client should work out a payment schedule based upon completion of chapters or sections of that book and upon client satisfaction of what has been delivered.
  1. Follow-Up Support May be Necessary

Here is a common issue. A customer contract with a firm for a piece of software – let’s say a mobile app for their e-commerce business. That firm goes to work, develops the app, and launches it. The customer has made payment in full upon that launch. Now, there are issues with app – bugs that were not originally identified but now come to light as users access that app. If there are no provisions in a contract for follow-up support, the client is out of luck and looking for someone else to fix the problems. This involves additional cost, not to mention the potential loss of customers due to an app that is not working right.

These issues are not just for complex services that you may need. Suppose you have hired a landscaper who has completed the work to your satisfaction.  A month later, several of the shrubs he has planted are dying, despite your following instructions for watering and other care. What is your recourse? If these has been no guarantee for follow-up, you have no recourse, and you will be replacing those shrubss at your own expense.

The same holds true for many other services – car repairs that seem fine initially but are obviously wrong a few weeks down the road, when you experience the same issues again.

Let’s Re-cap

You will be locating and using professional services all of your adult life. From very small needs, such as a blog post or essay writing or lawn mowing to major and expensive services that can include major home repairs, a full website design and maintenance, to an important piece of software, or a divorce settlement, you need to do your due diligence. It is your money. And, if you get in the habit of this due diligence early on and with the small services you contract for, you will have the experience when the major services must be purchased.

Remember, there is a process. All of these steps may not be necessary, but it is still important to review them and decide if that step is necessary and how deeply each step must be followed.

  • Do your research. Start generically and come to narrow your options as a result of that research.
  • Check as many reviews as you can, certainly not just those on the website of a service you are considering. Check everywhere you can. If you find several common complaints, be very cautious.
  • Be firm about the level of quality you want and need and do not waver from that. You will be disappointed if you do.
  • Do check social media pages of individuals and firms you are considering. You want to ascertain the type of customer service they provide, especially when issues arise.
  • Before you begin negotiations with any service, identify your non-negotiables and stick to them as you negotiate
  • Do solid price comparisons. Cheaper is not always the better deal. Cheaper services often do not have the guarantees that pricier services may. If quality is important to you, spend a bit extra to get that quality
  • Make sure that services are guaranteed in some way. The less complex and less expensive a project may be, the more flexibility you will have in terms of guarantees. But if you are putting out a hefty sum, make sure that guarantees for delivery deadlines and follow-up are firmly in place. There is nothing worse than having to cough up more money to correct a project gone wrong in some way.

Your time is valuable too. If you are contracting for services that are pretty cheap, balance the time you spend researching and negotiating against the amount you are spending. The larger the project, the more research and negotiating you will have to do.

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