Ethics for the GIS Consultant is Good Business
I just finished a small GIS job for a client. A really small job. They wanted to know where the Crown lands were in a part of New Brunswick. Not sure what they were going to use that information for, they did not tell me, but they wanted a map showing them. Before starting I got a little more information from the client about what it was they wanted to do and suggested a KMZ file of the layer might suit their purposes better. They agreed. So I found the data and rendered it nicely and flipped it into a format for Google Earth. No problem, less than an hours worth of work.
So as the GIS consultant I was able to get them what they needed quickly and for much less than they expected. Happy client. I could have just gone ahead and made them the map they asked for. Then charged them for the hours that would have entailed and also done the back and forth on edits and changes squeezing out a lot more money. That’s a terrible practice but I have seen it done in other GIS shops. Its a terrible thing to do to a client and I don’t think its good business either.
Clients are hard to find and hard to keep. That being said. It is ten times harder to find a new client than it is to keep one you have. So when you do land a client they should be treated with fairness and respect. Often times the client has no GIS capability or understanding so it’s tempting to pull the wool over their eyes and overcharge for services. This is short sighted and not to mention unethical.
Building trust with clients is important and you do that by doing your best. Often times you have a client and you are the sole source of GIS expertise they are accessing. That’s great for your business. You want to keep it that way. If you start screwing around you will soon find them looking around for other quotes. As well, when the time comes and they send you, “Its just a little map” for you to work on and your quote is beyond what they expected, you will have their trust when you explain to them why the quote is so much more than they expected.
This is a common dilemma I have run into in my geomatics career. Clients don’t understand why such a small map (analysis, tool, whatever…) costs so much. Often times what a clients thinks is simple is not, and client expectations can be far divorced from the reality of the project. It is our job to communicate effectively and inform them. In my example above what the client thought would be much larger was actually straightforward. Without building trust with your clients you are not going to have the type of relationship where you can explain to them what needs to be done and have them believe you. This is so important when they thought that simple little map or tool is actually a much bigger project.
So play fair and reap the rewards. Happy clients. More GIS work.