How Do You Charge For Remote Access Service Calls?

Hourly? Per service? No toll until you roll?

Any customer pushback?


same as regular service call (hourly), no truck charge involved though for obvious reasons... in the past we would include a smalle fee for using the remote software (teamviewer) however we don't do that anymore... no customer pushback... I think everyone understands that time is time no matter where it is spent... you are also saving them money by not being on site...

Do you do a significant amount of work that way?

Sometimes you can do a couple customers at once; you know while you're waiting for this customers camera to reboot or the firmware to update, you work on another customer. Going back and forth. Efficient, but quite a slippery slope when it comes to billing hourly...

Undisclosed A,

We do a fair amount of work remotely (however that is measured) and yes we can do multiple calls at once... we don't charge for everytime we sit down and remote in... charges will happen if we are doing large amounts of changes or troubleshooting a system... some changes we will do and not charge the customer(s), such as adding users, changing schedules, door behaviors for access control systems... for surveillance systems it is about the same things, adding users, maybe focusing a camera... those are typically quick in and outs... any of the things we do remotely our customers have the ability to do on their own from training, however many of them are more comfortable in calling us to do it... we don't mind one bit since we like to keep in constant contact with our customers...

So it sounds like you bill them hourly, but that might not correspond directly to a minute by minute accounting of human resources. In your case it sounds like you probably spend more time than you might charge the customer. In that way it can be different than when you have a 'body' on-site.

One of the reasons I was curious is that a friend was using some online, remote pc diagnostics company because his computer was getting slower. They had an option to charge by the hour, and my friend said he could see the were 'doing stuff'. Of course most of us would not even consider using such a service, even if the service was totally legit.

Long story short, I was thinking the support guy was perhaps working on 3 or 4 systems at one time, billing each $75/hr. (Maybe just running an automation script even). It would be hard to dispute, since he seems to be there working and is responsive thru chat. And with troubleshooting, it can be hard to estimate how long it should take to 'figure something out'.

So yeah, it's wrong to charge 4 people at one time, but what if it was just 1 customer being charged hourly, and another fixed fee one that you worked on just when you were waiting. Maybe ok?

Thanks for the info!

In my experience, you still bill for hourly labor but you don't bill out a trip charge or mileage.

Same minimum charge, or waived?

flat fee at our shop, Access, Video and Alarm. Sometimes we get a request to "provide all of the Video, from all the cameras, for the past 3 or 4 days". We charge that by the hour to discourage it.

...we get a request to "provide all of the Video, from all the cameras,

That's a good example! Back in the days when you would have to (or at least want to) do that on-site, you show up, start exporting, wait some, export some more, wait some more, maybe start burning a DVD, wait some more...

And the hours charged were simply the hours on premises (+travel). But with remote access you might be able to do two different customers large exports in close to the same time you could do one, because you could use your down time efficiently.

So do you charge each customer half, or not?

We typically haven't charged for anything under 5-10 minutes.

However, recently we have been billing a minimum $35 for all remote service calls even if they take only 2 minutes or we are working on multiple things and what we have found is not a single customer has pushed back at all. So far every customer appreciates the service being completed quickly without the need to meet someone at site, etc. I bet we could raise the minimum charge and our customers we still be happy as long as we are responsive and help them as soon as they call.

Our hourly rate for remote service is $85.00 which is also billed accordingly without any pushback. If we have a guy working on multiple sites for the same customer simultaneously it is billed at $85 but if we are working on two different customers simultaneously both are billed. We use integrated time keeping in our remote software to automatically bill. We don't waste time so if we start a large download for an upgrade, etc we will end the session and start a new one later in the day. Any remote session over an hour is not automatically billed - it is reviewed to cross reference with tech notes, etc.

What we have found is customers are willing to pay for good service and pay even more for great service. We lay out service rates and terms with customers up front so there are no surprises.

Be clear, honest and accountable and you shouldn't have any problem getting paid for all of your time. If a customer complains every time they get a bill make sure to review your billing policies with them and if they keep complaining then fire the customer. A customer that does not appreciate your time is not worth your time unless of course you are making a lot of money with them!

All of our installation contracts have a remote access charge in them. At the bottom of every proposal or bid we put our rates for business hours and emergency remote service. Never had a problem getting paid for it. We tell them it's less expensive for us to do it remotely than to send someone out.

Remote support calls generally are charged per 15 mins or part there of, regardless of how many are done at the same time. The alternative is for the client to wait for a onsite callout charged at a much higher rate at a later time.

We offer 24/7 free telephonic and remote support for the life of our install.

So if you have 6 customers in a day that have issues and it takes 1 to 2 hours for each customer you do not bill this 12 hours at all? What if a customer has network that goes down or is modified and you can complete the service remotely but it takes 4 hours to complete remotely? You do this for free? What if your customer has a large site or multiple sites and wants to upgrade say 30 servers and it takes half an hour each? You just allocate a tech for 2 days and do it for free? Or do you do it as you have time over a longer period of time? Or do you recommend rolling out a tech to get compensated?

Just wondering as we have literally thousands of hours of remote service that if we didn't get paid to complete we would go out of business. Just because you have tools to do work remotely doesn't mean you don't get paid for your time - especially if you are saving your customer money from travel time and rolling a truck.

Or do you have service contracts that customers pay for that include basic remote services?

I'm referring to troubleshooting and service work. Upgrades would be a project we would provide a proposal for. Our customers can call us 24/7 with any service issue and we will help them over the phone or if we can remote, at no charge. If we have to roll a truck and get a technician in front of the system then it's billable. We currently don't do service contracts. We primarily install Avigilon and do not have a high level of issues with our installs.

I have to go along with Andrew here, we too don't charge for taking a call at 3am, because let's face it, if it's critical enough for THEM to bother calling about at that hour, it's probably critical enough for us to at least answer the phone. The reality is, most won't even notice a problem until sometime the next morning anyway. If it's something that can be fixed over the phone or with a quick remote session, though, then they end up happy that they haven't been left hanging until 9 the next morning.

So far I don't think we've run into any instances where something that requires a LOT of service, MUST be done at that time of night either - customers tend to be more than happy to leave it for morning so THEY can get back to sleep as well.

Add to that, if they do insist on an after-hours or weekend call-out, being informed that there's a four-hour, time-and-a-half minimum charge for that almost always results in the call not really being THAT important after all.

I also agree, the "6 customers in a day that have issues and it takes 1 to 2 hours for each customer" is a bit of a red herring - I don't think I've seen this happen once in my 11+ years in the field, let alone on a regular basis that would really make such a question necessary.

As Andrew says, going that little extra distance is a good way to not only gain repeat customers, but to get solid word-of-mouth promotion.

Matt,

The question is not whether we charge for taking calls - that doesn't happen. The question is at what point do you charge for providing service - whether remotely or onsite.

It's kind of like a guy that is already onsite helping a customer with a question or showing them how to do something while he is there - of course we do not charge for this just like we do not charge for taking any calls. However, if we needed to send a tech to the site to help the customer on their system we would charge. So, if we take a call and answer a question at 3am it does not get billed. However, if we take a call and them perform remote service for half an hour or an hour we do bill (unless there is a service plan in place that covers this).

Also you stated 24/7 free remote support for the life of your install.

Are you telling me that someone can call you and get support at 3am on Sunday morning any length of time after you install a system (say 5 years) and take 3-4 hours of your time remotely in the wee hours of the morning because they are having some random issue that may or may not have anything to do with your install and you will not charge them?

Call me crazy but this seems unsustainable without some form of compensation.

Yes. It's a big reason why our customers are fans of ours and provide incredible references to prospective customers. I think you are getting slightly carried away with thinking it would be 3-4 hours remote service. Say a customer calls at 3am...we support them telephonically or with remote login to troubleshoot the issue. If we can resolve the issue then we do, if not we determine the level of emergency and can roll a truck within an hour of the call received.

Ok - this makes more sense.

Do you have paid service plans with your customers?

Nevermind - I see below you stated you do not have paid service plans for your customers.

As posted previously we used to not charge for any remote service that took less than 15 minutes. And most times not at all even when it was longer. However, we have found that our customers actually expect to get a bill when we provide them a valuable service whether onsite or remotely. They are (seemingly) happy to pay and still provide great references. BTW, we also primarily install Avigilon and do not have very many issues at all - and if there are you can also pass on most of your remote service work right to the Avigilon tech support team so there would be no need to charge...

Andrew, thanks for sharing. That's a clever approach.

I am sure some people would say you are 'leaving money on the table' by not pursuing some form of RMR contract.

Overall, I think it's a smart competitive move to help differentiate yourself from companies that want to milk support charges.

Thank you John. It's not the popular or maybe even smart move financially but we like that Avigilon doesn't have recurring license fees nor SMA's and we are confident in our work. We also may be different then other integrators because we are a full service electrical contractor that has a lot more then just security to offer to our customers. We are specific in the markets we service and believe in long term partnerships. Trust me!!! I often consider offering service contracts but I'm currently not a fan of how they are structured. I've strategized on possible variations but haven't come up with one that is a "win win". I'm open to suggestions.

Andrew,

A couple other variations:

  • With the current approach, have the service person trained / taught to seek the upsell. For instance, during the call, if a certain problem or need is discovered, have the service person recommend something else related you sell (whether it's a new software version, new camera, new releases, implementing a new feature, etc.)
  • Or the radical opposite approach. Don't charge for the install / hardware, instead going for a monthly service fee / contract that wraps install, product and support all into an RMR play. I am not necessarily in love with this approach, as you are essentially acting as a bank to the customer but it could mean more profits in the long run and a better valuation if you ever intend to sell.

Andrew,

I can tell you from experience larger customers, government, universities, etc expect to have a contract in place. They need it for budgeting and also to prevent having to go out to bid every time they need to spend more than $2500, $5000, etc.

I used have have the exact same mentality as you regarding service contracts but now we offer them on everything that goes out the door. And if our customers choose not to select one they know our rates for all types of service (onsite, remote, after hours / weekends, holidays).

NOTE: We do include a free 12 month service plan with most every installation which includes remote service.

I am talking about long term service.

A good business & salesperson should be able to create long term strong relationships with their customers and also be compensated for their time.

CUSTOMERS THAT APPRECIATE YOUR TIME AND SERVICE ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT.

I would venture to say through your hard fought efforts to win your customers and provide them great service you have created a customer base that appreciates your time and your service.

The biggest reason we charge for remote service is because its what we do. We have a customer service department dedicated to updating pass-codes (we change thousands of pass-codes every month). Without charging for this service those customer service reps wouldn’t have a paycheck (remote service is their only responsibility). Some of our customers have hundreds of accounts, most of them are on POTS lines, its very costly to dial onto the panel and update pass-codes or arm/disarm their security systems.

If there’s a problem with a system, we typically do not charge for remote diagnostics. If they have a specific change they want us to make, we do.
I’ve only sold 35 IP Video systems since I got into the market 15 months ago. I don’t charge for any remote service unless they ask me to search for video for evidence. I may change my opinion on that when we have more accounts, at this point I am willing to work for free.

I have read through most of these replies and have seen a variety of responses. Our business is primaraly IP Telephony. If a customer has a support agreement with us, we will not charge for a remote service call if it is simple and under a half hour. If a customer has not made a commitment to us, we will charge a half hour minumum. They are already saving because with new technology we dont have to roll a vehcile in most cases. The fact is all of our technicans cost along with taxes, overhead and Insurance both business and health. You still have to pay the salary and yourself even if you are doing the work remotley. The savings for the customer, we no longer have to charge a premise visit fee and a one hour minimum.

Good info, thanks!

Does anyone do any scheduled maintenence remotely? Maybe like a 6 month health-check:

  • Inspect all views for picture quality degradation or scene changes
  • Insure recordings exist at the correct res/frame rate up to the retention period.
  • Evaluate disk usage run rate, adjust bit rates
  • Optimize motion detection settings
  • Remote Refocusing
  • Seasonal adjustments to WDR / DayNight Params
  • OS level check, delete logs etc.
  • Software Version/firmware updates