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Monthly remote/phone support language RMR email
This thread has 25 replies. Displaying posts 1 through 15.
Post 1 made on Wednesday January 3, 2018 at 10:03
Mario
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Guys, as the year closed, I ran mental math and figured that over last year I spend close to 50 hours on the phone, helping clients, discussing options, etc. None was billed. Even at 1/2 billable time, that's over $2,000.

With that preface; does anyone have anything they're willing to share publicly or PM about language used to communicate the need/benefits of simple remote and phone support for residential clients on a subscription type basis?

I currently don't offer service or support plans, nor have I ever billed for phone support.
Back in the day, it used to be 1-2 minute conversations that usually resulted in service call and/or upgrade/replacement of old gear.

Now I find myself supporting clients remotely (VPN, C4, OVRC) where conversations are taking 10-40 minutes and more often than not the issue is corrected while on the phone.
I don't want to just start sending a invoices (yes, it's my right; yes, lawyers do it all the time).
I would like to communicate with clients first; offering monthly plans, which might include discounted time, etc. but which must have limits on # of hours per month/quarter/year and spell out that onsite visits are still billable (whether discounted or not).
I don't want to reinvent the wheel.
No, I'm not going to contact an attorney.
No, I'm not worry about someone 'misinterpreting' the agreement and suing me for all I've got.
Post 2 made on Wednesday January 3, 2018 at 10:27
3PedalMINI
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I was successful with service contracts. I donít have that many out there but they were successful. I quit offering them because what happened is (and rightfully so) the people that paid for the service contracts expected prompt and immediate service. Even though my contract said support within 24hours and on-site visit within 48 hours of first call.

This is fine IF you have someone other then your self that can do service. Sadly as a one man band (as most of us are) our time just isnít that flexible. Couple that with the time between thanksgiving and Christmas and your pissing someone off. Since your under contract those that have the contract get priority.

As many people just throw things on their CC card like Netflix and other little charges people have started to take note at how much that adds up. Anyone with basic finance sense can realize that even if they have to pay for a truck roll itís cheaper then the service contracts. Most clients are finance savey and it doesnít take a genius to realize the odds are in our favor (most of the time)

Iím not denying that this industry needs to change and needs a lawyer type billing system. The problem is lawyers are standardized, this industry is far from standardized. I also found that most of my word of mouth comes from how great my service is. Itís not the system itís self itís how itís maintained is how clients perceive quality. Most are used to calling tech support for their printer and shit and acknowledge service. Of course you get the asses but overall people are good.

You have to look at the size of systems your selling. If most of them are over 100k then a service contract is probably in order. A 10-20k System where 10% is the first service contract, doesnít make sense. Provide a one year warranty on your installation, after that all service is hourly. Yes talking people over the phone is time taken away but itís just the cost of doing business but if the job is out of warranty and you spend 10 minutes on the phone I rather eat that and have a happy client then sending them a bill for my time and pissing them off.
The Bitterness of Poor Quality is Remembered Long after the Sweetness of Price is Forgotten! - Benjamin Franklin
Post 3 made on Wednesday January 3, 2018 at 10:55
para19
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I call those hours "PR HR" - "Public Relations hours".

It is the cost of doing business.

Those 50 hours may have made you $100,000 is sales because the word of mouth it generated from one client to the other. It can be hard to put a value on it.

I avoid any service contracts, like mentioned above, if people are paying for a service contract no matter what is written in it they will demand service immediately and if you can't get there within "their" timeline, you have an angry client.

When bidding a job, I can get a feel for a client's/system's neediness and will add a couple of hours onto the job cost for phone calls and the occasional onsite visit.

Basically a service contract without the obligation.
There is always money in the banana stand...
Post 4 made on Wednesday January 3, 2018 at 15:00
Hasbeen
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PM sent
Post 5 made on Wednesday January 3, 2018 at 21:53
Trunk-Slammer -Supreme
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On January 3, 2018 at 10:55, para19 said...
When bidding a job, I can get a feel for a client's/system's neediness and will add a couple of hours onto the job cost for phone calls and the occasional onsite visit.

Basically a service contract without the obligation.

That was my basic method.

First time there's a problem and you fix it free of charge, you ARE the greatest guy in the world, will get fantastic referrals, and the client will not mind a bit when any additional service call fees are needed, and done at your convenience.
Post 6 made on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 08:41
Mac Burks (39)
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Track your time and bill for it. Maybe have a 6 month grace period where you send all clients an invoice that's zeroed out with a note about future support rates. Screenshot the incoming phone call and when the call ends...or let all calls go to voicemail and call back after creating a support ticket. Thousands of dollars are given away every year in an effort to get that service call off your plate.
OP | Post 7 made on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 09:01
Mario
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Problem I'm having is that my clients exist in a vacuum.
Most (I'd say all, but maybe some are lying) say how great my service is and how happy they're to have found me.

ONE referral so far that I can remember.
Post 8 made on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 09:19
Mac Burks (39)
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Billing people for your time is normal. Our industry has been operating abnormally for too long. Your clients will either continue to call you and pay their bill or they will stop calling you 1-3 times a year for 10-50 minutes making it a non issue.

Many clients will all of a sudden be able to unplug a cable box and plug it back up on their own. Others will learn that they can reboot a modem or router without placing a phone call....others...are more than happy to pay for your help.
Post 9 made on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 10:24
sirroundsound
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"ONE referral so far that I can remember."

Are you asking for referrals or just assuming they will give them.

People are funny that way.
I have a few high profile clients that I would not expect anything from. They want / expect good service and pay for it. When they want anything new, they call, I install and they pay. Very straightforward relationship, heck I rarely see these people mostly deal with house staff or their assistants.

All other clients get the occasional reminder that referrals from people like them are my best form of advertising.
If you use anything on line where you can have customer reviews, send them a link to fill out a review, or even go on line while you are with them and help them fill it out. Saves them getting emails later. An on line review is better than nothing at all.
Post 10 made on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 11:26
Audiophiliac
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On January 4, 2018 at 09:19, Mac Burks (39) said...
Billing people for your time is normal. Our industry has been operating abnormally for too long. Your clients will either continue to call you and pay their bill or they will stop calling you 1-3 times a year for 10-50 minutes making it a non issue.

Many clients will all of a sudden be able to unplug a cable box and plug it back up on their own. Others will learn that they can reboot a modem or router without placing a phone call....others...are more than happy to pay for your help.

I agree that our industry is "abnormal". I do not think that will ever change. It is what makes us special.

I agree that most clients will either be happy to pay for your time, or they will find other methods to accomplish what they need to accomplish. If you get one that gets angry that you are not providing free service to them, maybe it is best that they are no longer your client.

We have a very wealthy client, and I am not sure why or how he got so wealthy because to put it bluntly, he is dumb as a rock when it comes to anything with buttons or a screen. He calls us up at least 3 times a week because he cannot print an attachment, or a popup ad took over his browser and he cannot get out of it, or the ink ran out, or the printer is jammed....lots of printer problems because he cannot figure out how to use email efficiently, so his colleagues have to email him things to sign, he prints them, signs them, and faxes them back.

We send him a bill once a month for most of the time spent on the phone and teamviewer. He does not question anything. Sure, there are a few calls that do not get documented on the calendar for billing. But those are mostly when I am in the field, and I have to log in with teamviewer from my phone, ctrl+alt+del and close chrome before he calls the 1877 number because if he does not all his files will be deleted. :)

Other clients do not value our time, and figure out how to do things on their own. As Mac said, everyone knows how to unplug a modem or a directv box and plug it back in. It sometimes just takes one time of them doing it to realize they are not going to break anything. Similar to the first time you had to cut a big hole in someone's new ceiling. You know the serial killer shows where the first time cuts have hesitation marks? They get better and more confident over time. Bad analogy?

My short answer is start sending invoices for all of your time. Either you will get money in return (YAY!), or you will get no more calls (YAY!).
"When I eat, it is the food that is scared." - Ron Swanson
Post 11 made on Friday January 5, 2018 at 06:36
Ranger Home
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You've gotten one referral in all the years of doing business? How are you getting business every week? Searching for it? Bummer. Thats a job in and of itself. Something is not right. Near 100% of your biz should be referral.
OP | Post 12 made on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 10:23
Mario
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On January 4, 2018 at 10:24, sirroundsound said...
"ONE referral so far that I can remember."

Are you asking for referrals or just assuming they will give them.

People are funny that way.
I have a few high profile clients that I would not expect anything from. They want / expect good service and pay for it. When they want anything new, they call, I install and they pay. Very straightforward relationship, heck I rarely see these people mostly deal with house staff or their assistants.

All other clients get the occasional reminder that referrals from people like them are my best form of advertising.
If you use anything on line where you can have customer reviews, send them a link to fill out a review, or even go on line while you are with them and help them fill it out. Saves them getting emails later. An on line review is better than nothing at all.

Nope. Never asked. I will have to change that.

Also, no forms for referrals or feedback/review. That's going to have to change as well.
What do you guys use? I don't use Angie's List because none of my clients have ever heard of her. Should I use that anyway just to get published review that I can then use on my website or should I use simple email request?
I'm having my website redone. Should I have a form on there to ask for feedback? Should I offer incentive for getting it done (and if so, what)?
Post 13 made on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 12:04
para19
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On January 6, 2018 at 10:23, Mario said...
Nope. Never asked. I will have to change that.

Also, no forms for referrals or feedback/review. That's going to have to change as well.
What do you guys use? I don't use Angie's List because none of my clients have ever heard of her. Should I use that anyway just to get published review that I can then use on my website or should I use simple email request?
I'm having my website redone. Should I have a form on there to ask for feedback? Should I offer incentive for getting it done (and if so, what)?

Personally I won't burden my clients with referral or feed/back review forms.

Below is the standard pitch at the end of the job and works for us...

At the conclusion of the project and I am shaking hands with the client...

"Thanks for the opportunity. If you were happy with the work and the service please feel free to pass our name along to anyone you that you may feel can use are services and expertise, our company info is on the rack in the basement."

Make sure you have your company information somewhere easy to find and visible when they are showing off there system to someone.

Get back to referred clients right away, if you don't you run the risk of that person who referred them to you look silly after they pump your tires and his buddy couldn't get a hold of you for 2 weeks. To me that is how you kill referrals.
There is always money in the banana stand...
Post 14 made on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 13:20
Hasbeen
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Mario and I had a discussion about this on the phone the other day, I'm planning on adding some of this to the courses I'm working on for you guys...

As we all know, there's an 80/20 rule for referrals...20% of your clients will give you 80% of your referrals.   It's something inherently built into their DNA. They typically know a shit ton of people, and they like to play matchmaker.

Then there are other people....it simply doesn't cross their mind to give you referrals.  They might be private people, they may not know a lot of people to refer, they might even want to keep you all to themselves.

So, the first group is going to give you 80% of your referrals. The second group might give you 20% in a good year.

The only thing these 2 groups have in common (if you have a good relationship with them) is that they don't want you to go out of business, because otherwise they'll need to find a new "cable guy".  :)

So how do you get referrals, new business and build relationships with these people?  You tell them you need referrals, you ask for referrals. You incentivize them to give you referrals, and you make it easy for them to refer you...And you make the referrer look good for referring you.

If you don't ask, you're not going to get them.  You might get referrals every now and again, but not something you can hang your hat on as an actual revenue stream.  You ask before the installation, after the installation, and send periodic emails asking for them...

I agree with Para19 in one regard.. I agree that having a customer fill out a form for a referral puts them on the spot and they can't think straight....You can try this by asking someone who their favorite singer is...It completely shuts their brain down.

I disagree with Para19 regarding reviews...If you don't get reviews, you're slowly killing your business.  That might be ok, if you're planning on being out of business in the next 5-10 years...But when you think of Millenials, they value online reviews more than they value referrals from their own friends and family.   So, if you're planning on being in business in the next decade...You're going to want to start getting reviews...


Which leads us to the next issue/problem.  Where to have them review you? The answer is  Google.  Have them give you a Google review.  Google values reviews, they will help you rank whether they're from HomeAdvisor, Angie's List, etc.  But if/when you cancel those services, what happens to your review?  What's more, Google loves Google reviews...So get them.  Google isn't going out of business, they're not getting bought out, and as it turns out they really kinda' own the internet.

But online reviews aren't going to do you any good unless someone can actually find you online...And if they do find you, what is your online presence saying to them?

1. If you have images of 5-10 year old TV's and products on your site what is that saying about your business?  It's saying you don't give a shit.

2. If you have a Facebook page that's not getting updated, what is a potential customer supposed to think about you?  What would you think about you?

3.  Ask yourself a question,  if you saw your online presence would you want to do business with you?  Would you call you for work?

Even if your customers are giving you referrals, that potential customer is still going to attempt to check you out online.  What are they going to see?  Are they going to be excited to do business with you, or are they going to be hesitant?  And is that hesitation going to cause them to call someone else?

Now, I know what a lot of you guys are saying...

"I don't need to do these things, I'm such a badass that I have more work than I can handle, because I'm a badass."

Yeah, I get it...the bottom line is this...This industry is in a major state of flux right now with new competitors with deep wallets entering, technology changing at an astounding pace....if you guys don't get out of your comfort zones and start using the technology that you profess to be an expert at, I fear a lot of you will fall through the cracks in the years to come.   Things are changing...

[Link: yahoo.com]

Last edited by Hasbeen on January 6, 2018 13:39.
Post 15 made on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 15:35
InVision Systems
Long Time Member
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