Phvntom Inc. offers a broad range of professional marketing services that are made up of many underlying activities being performed on a daily basis to provide our overall service. Clients usually notice our team performing these “activities” without being prompted, which can introduce uncertainty about what is – and what isn’t – included. This ambiguity inevitably leads to an issue called scope creep. As a modern agency focused on providing convenient, efficient services, one of our main priorities is to ensure that we set the right expectations by making our services clear and well-defined before customers purchase them.
What is scope creep?
Scope creep is the process of a customer expecting a service provider to do something they aren’t specifically paying for, and the provider fulfilling that request because their initial agreement was unclear about whether it’s included or not. When scope creep isn’t addressed, the customer begins to feel more comfortable asking for things that aren’t defined. In some cases, it creeps to the point where the customer asks for something completely unrelated to the service they originally paid for, yet they still reasonably expect it to be fulfilled.
Customer buys service X…
then, Customer requests activity XY => Provider fulfills activity XY
then, Customer requests activity YZ => Provider reluctantly fulfills activity YZ
then, Customer requests activity Z
and so on…
Let’s be clear on two things: 1 – scope creep is bad for everyone involved, and 2 – it’s not the customer’s fault. The responsibility of preventing scope creep lies with the provider and their service agreement. Scope creep is bad because the service provider eventually gives away too much at their own expense. When that happens, they have to deny extraneous requests from the customer – which puts a strain on the relationship. This can also lead to the customer receiving unexpected invoices they didn’t budget for.
So, what can be done to prevent scope creep from creeping up? Our solution to this issue is to provide well-defined service plans that specify all (or most) of the underlying activities related to each marketing service. We call these basic activities, “tasks”.
An introduction to tasks
In the context of our marketing service plans, a “task” is any single activity we may perform out of necessity to provide a service. For example, tasks associated with Web Design include homepages, informational pages, and contact forms. Our team will usually perform these tasks without needing the client to request them because even the most basic websites are composed of them.
However, it doesn’t mean that we will need to perform every task related to each service for every client. This is especially true when a client has no use for a particular task. As an example, service plans for Digital Advertising include the task, “Tracking Code Setup”. This is a task that we won’t need to perform if the customer doesn’t have a website, or if their tracking codes are already configured. With that said, a client may still ask us to review their existing setup or re-configure it altogether because it’s “in-scope”.
The difference between a regular task and an “in-scope” task
If a task is any single activity we may perform to provide a service, then an “in-scope” task is any task in the scope of what a client is paying for. The key difference here is that a client may request any in-scope task that’s included with their service plan and it will be fulfilled without question. It’s a guarantee of the tasks a client can request within each marketing service plan.
With this in mind… when your service plan doesn’t specify a certain task, but the same task is in-scope with a different plan, it is deemed “out-of-scope” because it’s provided by a plan you aren’t paying for. Any request made for an out-of-scope task is unequivocally denied. For example, if your only service plan is Startup – Web Design, and you request stock images to improve the website’s appearance, your request will be rejected because stock images are available with any Graphic Design service plan.
Similarly, any task that’s only included with higher-level plans than what you’re currently paying for are also deemed out-of-scope (e.g. Startup vs Enterprise). We encourage you to choose a plan that has every in-scope task you anticipate needing.
How we handle requests for custom or undefined tasks
A custom or undefined task is any request that is neither categorized as in-scope or out-of-scope based on the definitions we highlighted previously.
The general rule of thumb is that we are not legally obligated to fulfill any request that isn’t explicitly defined as an in-scope task for a given service plan. However, as a company that works closely to support other businesses, we know that it’s impossible to define every task that a company might need in advance. It’s with this understanding that we always attempt to fulfill custom requests for our clients who have an active service plan, but solely at our discretion.
We also reserve the right to register previously requested custom task(s) to any service plan we deem appropriate if it’s something we’re able to fulfill. This helps us continuously improve our service by adding new tasks to plans where they fit best and improve our transparency by informing future clients of what’s within our capabilities.