If you run a service business, chances are you will lose money on scope creep. What is scope creep, you ask? It’s when a project starts with a defined set of parameters, and by the end of the project it’s turned into something completely different. It will often take you many more hours and manpower to complete.
And no matter how good you think you are at pre-defining a project or service, scope creep is a very real problem that most service companies struggle with at one time or another. So today I want to share with you a few tips on how to detect stealth in your business and put an end to it early on.
Keep your sales force under control.
The first place scope creep occurs is early in the process. Your sales team promised a trip to the moon during their sales pitch, and when it comes to drafting the service contract, you end up billing them for a trip around the block. As the project progresses, the promises made during the initial conversation begin to creep back and you end up doing more work than originally intended. To avoid this, try recording some of your sales calls and review them regularly. If you find that your team is making promises that you cannot keep, additional training may be required. It could also be that your sales team doesn’t have a good idea of what you’re actually selling. For example, let’s say you run a cleaning business and your cleaners have a checklist of the things they do with each cleaning. They don’t normally clean ovens as this is not part of their job responsibilities. But if a customer asks if oven cleaning is included, the seller can assume it is and say it shouldn’t be a problem. This can cause the scope to creep down the line as the customer now expects an oven cleaning at no extra cost.
Pay close attention to zero o’clock.
Another place where we often see scope creep crop up is at the very end of the project. When you’re putting the finishing touches on a project, your client may have different expectations of the results and additional work may be required to meet their expectations. One of the best ways to combat this is to explain the project steps at the very beginning of the project and get support from both your team and your client. Review the tasks and steps often to make sure you’re on the same page for each step. Having a project manager to keep everyone working and within budget can be invaluable to your service business and save you a lot of creep loss in the long run.
Scope creep is a very real problem for the service industry, but one that is avoidable. With good project management, planning and training, you can help reduce lost hours and dollars.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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