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Imagine receiving a credit card bill that just had a total amount due. No details regarding the purchases – just a total due. Would you pay it?

Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn’t.

One of our Sponsors sent an email to me asking about some Project Management fees on our last three invoices. The email startled me because we don’t place PMs with this Sponsor – only CRAs.

I opened the invoices in question and realized they were from another agency. As I viewed these invoices, what I found to be most interesting was that this “other” agency doesn’t provide PMs to this Sponsor either.

The PM fees were related to the CRAs that they had placed with them. And note, the hourly rate they were charging for those CRAs exceeded any rate we have ever charged this Sponsor for CRAs.

I immediately identified two significant issues with these invoices:

First, there was no supporting documentation to the hours. The invoice just simply stated the Total Labor costs, Total Travel Time costs, Total Pass-Through Expense costs and a “Project Management Fee” costs.

  • For hours, there should always be an approved timesheet included in the invoice. How else will the Client be able to confirm the hours are accurate?
  • Additionally, from a competency standpoint, all time should be broken down into categories such as Site Management Time, On-Site Time, Prep and Follow-up Time, Report Writing Time and Travel time.
  • For Pass-through expenses, there should always be an itemized listing of what the expenses are for and receipts should always be included. Providing this detail not only ensures there are no mistakes, but also enables the client to confirm the charges adhere to their travel guidelines.

The second issue I saw was the “PM Fees”. I was curious about these fees so called my client to discuss. She told me this was the cost of the agency’s Account Manager to handle escalations when the CRA wasn’t meeting expectations! She also said that these fees are the reason why they are in the process of ditching that agency.

Wow!

When one of my clients calls me to complain about a CRA, I do four things:

  1. Apologize profusely that there is an issue.
  2. Immediately contact the CRA to discuss the root cause of what is going on.
  3. Work with the CRA and Client to put an action plan in place to resolve.
  4. Track that action plan to closure, ensuring every item is resolved to the Client’s satisfaction.

I never charge for my time. I shouldn’t – we are charging for the CRA’s time and if I have to get involved, that means the CRA isn’t doing his (or her) part and it is my job to resolve.

Shame on any agency that a) isn’t transparent in their billing, fully disclosing the associated time sheets and expenses and b) charges for handling complaints and escalations.

I want to hear from you – what hidden fees have you experienced from agencies providing consultants for your projects?

Investing in a Lifetime of Success,

Angela Roberts
www.craresources.com

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