There are lots of ways that you can pay for technology support. One of the most common that I come across in small business is the “Break/Fix” model. Something goes wrong, a printer dies, you can’t get to twitter, whatever, so you call your IT providers and they come and (hopefully) fix it. They invoice you and then you pay them. Simple, right? Of course not!
I have to make a confession here. I used that system to bill my clients for years. I feel like I gave excellent support to those customers and that they got a ton of return on the investments that they made with me. The problem, though, is that under this business model, I never even THOUGHT about many of the basic proactive things that can and should be done on any network.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you called my younger (thinner) self and asked me to come and fix your printer. I would show up promptly, ask about your spouse, kids, etc while fixing the printer. I would ask around the office to see if anyone else had any issues, have you test the printer yourself to make sure it was fixed, and then bid you all a fond farewell. There may have even been doughnuts delivered (I didn’t get this waistline by eating carrots.).
You may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? I would kill for the timely service with a smile you describe here. (Seriously, I am really good at my job.) I have always worked to provide the best service possible to my customers, not only because I care about helping them be successful but also because it makes the best business sense. It took me several years to realize the inherent dilemma with this model. The problem is this: there is a financial PUNISHMENT for the provider for doing the best job possible.
I submit that without a pricing model that aligns the customer’s and the provider’s FINANCIAL interests, true partnership can’t happen. A model that makes it just as important to me, the provider, as it is to you, the business that there be as few interruptions to business as possible. I submit that a fixed rate model forces the provider to be more efficient (and organized!) and allows the business to have predictable costs.
Clearly, some IT support companies are not going to be willing to do business this way. We can’t make enough to stay in business this way, they will cry. I’m here to tell you that if you are managing the relationship with your customers properly and are truly looking out for their best interest, they will be willing – dare I say, even happy - to pay what you need to keep you around.