Our Open Policy
Terms and conditions need to be in place for any business – but when we formed Smile Customer Experience, we did so with a policy quite different to other agencies to provide a point of difference, to dispel the main concerns many prospects seemed to have about design agencies – and to provide a more open way of working with the client.
Here we’ve highlighted how we think we’re a little different and this forms our ‘Open Policy’;
- We’re open – an obvious place to start – but we’re always trying to improve our transparency and make projects as easy as possible for the client. Every client conversation forms the basis for our next improvement, so always feel free to ask us questions and make suggestions about anything.
- Helping you out - design time is our lifeblood, but that doesn’t mean there’s a bill at the end of everything. If you’re stuck or it’s a very quick task we’ll always try and help you free of charge.
- Best foot forward – we aim to go the extra mile and provide added value when providing our services. This takes shape in many different forms – from advice; to ideas we’ve seen elsewhere; to tools and processes we’ve thought about and put in place to make your life as a client easier.
- Sticking to quotes - the company ethos is to keep to the quotes we have supplied. While factors outside of our control (paper price rises, inflation) sometimes mean a change to quotations both Smile Customer Experience and our suppliers have the same ethos to minimise client frustration.
- Ongoing relationship – this is what we really value – and we have a range of ways we can structure our services and billing if we are to work together ongoing. Some clients like to work on a project by project basis, some like to have retainer contracts with us. We’ll work with you to find the best solution for your projects and your budget.
- Stock imagery - we don’t charge for stock imagery from our Thinkstock subscription account that are used for your project.
- No copyright fees for source artwork - most agencies charge an additional copyright fee for the source files (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.). In some cases this can run into the thousands of pounds if the relationship sours. Really, you shouldn’t need these unless you’re unhappy with our service or you have special circumstances. Our view is that if you’re unhappy with us, that’s our fault and we can supply these to you. If you have special requirements then just let us know, we’ll ensure the files are correct for the purpose and even send them to the supplier for you. Please let us know; we can then supply the files to the right specification and whilst there may be a charge for time if the request is complicated (i.e. we have to rework the artwork), we’ll aim to keep it easy and cost effective for you.
Combined, these simple ways of working and overall ethos creates our ‘Open Policy’. We call it this as we don’t skirt around the issue and believe design and marketing agency services shouldn’t be a ‘dark art’.
Following are our terms and conditions. These have been specifically written in plain English rather than in contract terms, but generally speaking they accurately represent the contracts we sign with clients when engaged.
As ever, if there are any concerns or questions please email your Account Director or the Managing Partner, Marc Hughes (email@example.com).
Smile Customer Experience agency terms and conditions (plain English)
- All costs provided exclude VAT where applicable and are valid for thirty days from the date of the quotation. Wherever possible we stick to budgets, but this is to cover us for things such as inflationary rises and increases in paper costs.
- The costs provided when quoting are guide prices based upon what we anticipate the creative, time and production requirements to be based on previous experience and on typical processes, plus client co- operation in provision of content, meeting deadlines and approval. Within reason, additional charges may be payable if there are significant variations to this, although the client would be made aware of this well in advance. Charges are unlikely to deviate from those quoted unless requirements change significantly.
- No creative or development work will commence until the agency has received approval of the quotation. On first projects for new clients, a minimum deposit of 50% of the agreed costs (unless otherwise agreed in writing) is required. On some other larger projects we may ask for a similar deposit. This ensures that the agency is fully equipped to provide the very highest levels of service and expertise, from project inception through to completion. In some rare cases this may also apply if a project is delivered in ‘stages’, whereby a deposit will be required before proceeding to each new stage. Whatever the project, we can generally structure billing to meet your requirements.
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, we will issue an invoice for the balance of payment on project completion (e.g. on delivery of printed items, publishing of website, sending of e-shot etc.). Failure to make final payment at this point may result in delays in project delivery.
- Wherever possible, we aim to bill to agreed stages. If the project greatly exceeds the estimated timeline agreed, and we have worked on the project, we reserve the right to bill for the amount of work we have completed at the end of the month. As our lifeblood is the time we work on projects, this helps us be a profitable agency, and keeps everything tidy and up to date. We have systems in place to ensure that billing is not complex for you, and at all times aim to strike the right balance between a happy client, ease of working with each other, and running a profitable agency.
- Any printing, fulfilment, mailing or third-party services that are provided by the agency will generally be billed upon delivery of the items on 30 day terms. Some third party suppliers may require upfront payments, which we are happy to pay on your behalf. In this instance we write you an invoice on 7 day terms to give you some time to pay.
- Unless otherwise stated above or previously agreed in writing, all invoices are due within 30 days of any invoice date.
- Work generally commences very quickly/immediately after the quotation has been agreed. Any anticipated completion date provided by the agency is subject to options chosen and client co-operation in provision of information, resource (logos, images etc.) and approval. Smile Customer Experience always ensures its very best to ensure that agreed timelines are adhered to, but please be aware that circumstances, amends requested, or additional requirements may potentially result in a change in timescales. Timelines provided are estimated but the agency will not be held liable if the project over-runs due to delays caused by the client passing information or approval, or any third party issues or force majeure (act of God).
- Costs provided allow for presentation of a minimum of two creative options per brief for the client to choose from. In the unlikely event that the client is not satisfied with the first round of presented work, the agency will develop further rounds of additional creative development and presentation.
- Costs provided allow for a sensible amount of time to handle three sets of client amends after which time additional charges may become payable, although the client would be made aware of this well in advance.
- At the end of each stage of the process (including - but not limited to - before sending an item to print or publishing a website etc.) the client will need to ‘sign-off’ their approval either in person or by email.
- Costs provided allow for occasional meetings at key stages for a reasonable length of time between the agency and client. Rarely, some events and meetings (e.g. on-location photo shoots) may incur additional charges for time spent, and travel although the client would be made aware of this well in advance and we’d manage the event so that it was cost effective.
- Unless otherwise specified, costs quoted exclude the following where relevant: VAT; print; commissioned illustration, photography / imagery; image retouching; image scanning; copywriting; postage, in-house colour print-outs and exceptional travel circumstances; web hosting (it will often be a prerequisite to host on one of our competitively priced servers, particularly if a website incorporates an e-commerce or content management system); couriers; other third-party costs incurred (such as merchant bank and payment gateway charges) etc.
- We recommend that clients use our preferred suppliers for print and this enables us to provide competitive quotations and to ensure high quality and service is maintained until delivery of the final product. We always seek a number of quotations from our trusted print suppliers and provide a complete management service: from print-sourcing to print-liaison to proof checking. Although clients are not contract-bound to use Smile Customer Experience to provide this service, it is highly recommended for quality control and peace of mind. If a client prefers to use their own print supplier, the agency will simply provide artwork directly to the client to manage and forward, and will be unable to monitor, advise or take any responsibility for the process or final output.
- In addition to print suppliers, Smile Customer Experience works closely with sign manufacturers and installers, interior designers and other relevant partners to provide an extensive high-quality service offering beyond immediate in-house capabilities.
- Clients should be aware that due to a variety of factors there will often be variance in colours shown between in-house proofs, colours on screen, printer’s proofs, and final printed items. These factors are determined by the source of the print or visual (each output source e.g. the agency printer, the client’s printer, the image setter, the monitor etc. will differ from the other), the types of inks or make-up of colours (even Pantone colours can vary significantly and often surprisingly depending on what stock or substrate they are printed on), the type of print process (short-run digital, longer-run litho printing), the substrate (paper, card, plastic etc.) used, individual preferences (ambient light, personal computer settings etc.) and several other reasons. As a result of this any agency is unable to guarantee 100% consistency and accuracy of colour on all items. In the case of printed items, the only true guide as to what is likely to be produced, is to request a ‘wet-proof’ on the actual intended substrate with the actual inks to be used. However as long as the client accepts there may be inconsistencies across work produced, this step may not be necessary. The agency does not accept any responsibility for colour variations as a result of these indeterminate factors although we fully consult with you to ensure your expectations are managed correctly.
- Until payment is received in full, all designs, artwork and rights to design and artwork (whether in digital or printed format) remain the intellectual property of Smile Customer Experience. Full copyright and ownership of all ‘commissioned’ work will reside with Smile Customer Experience until full payment has been received, at which point Smile Customer Experience will surrender to the client, all claims of ownership and full copyright for final work produced. Officially speaking, alternative designs, concepts, options, files, images or documents developed throughout the process remain our intellectual property, but if there are any issues with this, we are happy to discuss as a part of our Open Policy.
- Smile Customer Experience will never knowingly infringe any copyright or trademark and will deliver, to the best of knowledge, creative solutions that are original and unique to the agency.
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, it is the responsibility of the client to ensure that no copyright or trademark has been infringed and to make their own application for copyright or trademark with the ‘UK Intellectual Property Office’ if required.
- If requested, Smile Customer Experience will provide the client with end-artwork in its final form (e.g. print-ready PDF; DVD master; outlined EPS file etc.). However the agency does not by default provide clients with original artwork or HTML code (for example an InDesign file, layered Photoshop file or HTML source file) or any working or development files, rejected concepts and designs, images or documents generated throughout the project. Ownership and copyright of all unused or rejected files, documents and designs will reside with Smile Customer Experience for non-exclusive future use. In line with our Open Policy, we are however happy to provide these files if you want/need them.
- Smile Customer Experience will not at any time or in any manner, either directly or indirectly, use for our personal benefit or divulge, disclose or communicate in any manner any information that is proprietary to the client. We will act reasonably to protect such information and treat it as strictly confidential. We adhere closely to Data Protection laws and we have our own strict internal policy to enable us to do this.
- The client agrees to indemnify Smile Customer Experience and keep the agency indemnified and hold the agency harmless from and against any claims, actions, proceedings, losses, liabilities, damages, costs, or expenses suffered or incurred in relation to work or services provided. The agency is not liable for any loss that may occur before, during or after the development of projects undertaken. The agency will not be held responsible for any delays, errors or losses arising from any third party other than that arising from negligence.
- The client agrees to alert the agency in writing to any defects or problems in relation to work and services provided, within 60 days of the final invoice date.
- For all web related projects, unless specifically stated, the client will retain 100% ownership of the web page design only (ownership is not applicable to proprietary software and programs or source code, such as databases, e-commerce and/or content management systems, web application source code or flash files/animations). When specifying web related projects we ensure we explain the proprietary rights of third party and Open Source software to you so you can make the right decisions.
- These terms and conditions of business supersede any previous versions and apply to all present and future projects unless otherwise agreed in writing. Before engaging with the client we would suggest an official contract, which these terms and conditions reflect but it is not compulsory. By agreeing to these terms, your statutory rights are not affected.