Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On the short-sightedness of customers

Had a phone call from a new database customer (my own database, for those keeping track) wanting to know how to import her collection of addresses. We couldn't figure out any easy solution (i.e. one that she could apply from her end without more involvement from me than telephonic hand-holding), so I had her send me the data in various formats.

Took a look at her data, figured out how to import it. Figured out a price, too: 2623 records à 0.25 Euros = 655.75 Euros plus tax. Called her to tell her the good news.

"Oh dear, so expensive, I'll have to ask whether we can pay that or whether I will just type them in by hand."

I am shocked and amazed, or rather: I would be had I not heard this nearly every time I've been asked to import data. I am truly amazed to infer how few companies perform any kind of cost/benefit analysis on what their employees do. Most seem to view salaries as a lost expense best ignored: the staff comes, we pay them, end of story: what the employees do is of no importance as long as they are present and awake. Bzzzzzt! Wrong. The salary dollar for a coffee break is of less value to the company than the dollar that went on a phone call that made a sale. The true cost of making a trained, experienced employee spend a day filing reports is not the day's wage, but the lost benefit that the person might have achieved if usefully employed and the filing were done by a temp.

Dear customer, permit me to help you make an informed decision. Retyping addresses that already exist in one electronic form into a second electronic form, is not useful employment. You should be spending your time on things that generate revenue, or at least on things that increase customer happiness.

But if that doesn't convince you (and it probably won't) the numbers might.

Find out your hourly rate, what it costs the company per hour for you to work there. (As a ballpark figure, that's your annual salary plus a third for overheads, divided by 230 days in a year, divided by 6 working hours in a day.) Now divide your hourly rate by the 0.25 Euros I charge per address.

That is the number of addresses you would need to type per hour to be cheaper than my import service. I don't need to know what that number actually is, to be quite certain that you cannot do it.

/me chuckles and waits for her to call back.

[Updated: she didn't call back, so I infer that she is retyping two-and-a-half thousand addresses by hand. /me shakes his head in disbelief.]

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Blogger Pacian said...

Want to say, "Tell me about it!" but don't want to get Dooced.

July 2, 2008 at 11:42:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

But, those employees are sitting there getting a paycheck anyway.

Spoken by someone who has spent many weeks taking stuff from a spreadsheet and manually copying it into input fields. (well, let the programmer do it, he knows computers)
(no, not my code, not my database, no conversion info available)

July 3, 2008 at 5:07:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

"Spoken by someone who has spent many weeks taking stuff from a spreadsheet and manually copying it into input fields." My point exactly! They could have hired three temps for the price of you, and got the job done three times faster, and had you doing worthwhile work at the same time.

"Sitting there getting a paycheck anyway" posits that the employer is a charity or a kind of warehouse for people. If the company really has employees just sitting about, for whom there exists no work that they could do to improve either profitability, turnover or customer happiness, then that company is about to go bankrupt.

July 4, 2008 at 12:52:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

... other than the in-house accountants and lawyers, and the management, of course.

July 4, 2008 at 4:22:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Probably 9 times as fast, I'm good at thinking and coding, not typing. Probably hit the backspace key as often as all the others combined.

July 6, 2008 at 10:27:00 p.m. GMT+2  

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