1, good question / topic!
You mention not charging for remote support. Is that for every customer any time? For example, does it matter if they are outside the warranty term or do not have a maintenance contract? Still no charge?
We have charged (a nominal fee) for remote support for some time. The more demand there is for remote support the more resources we have to dedicate towards that effort. Along with that comes education, payroll, insurance and the tools to accomplish the job, including cyber security on our end and the customers end. While the fee is still far less than a truck roll, it is a cost that has to be recovered. Time + talent = money folks.
1. I think your current IT provider is way overcharging for remote support when it requires way less overhead than going there, but that's just me. (At the same time, I wouldn't trust anyone who only charges $30 an hour, either.)
2. It depends. We include phone support in our managed service plans. When the customer is flat hourly, we charge hourly. How much depends on your burdened labor cost. If you're getting so many phone calls it almost takes a person's full time, then you should consider having a person full time dedicated to it and charge appropriately to cover cost (and make a little money) instead of paying another company full retail rate (plus some) for the IT support.
For us, it depends on the account. If they are a client who has an intrusion system, and we are monitoring their system. Then we do not charge for remote support under 30 min, after that we bill in 15 min increments. If they are a video or access customer with no RMR, we bill in 15 min increments starting when we connect to their PC. Most of our requests are for assistance using online portals for intrusion/access/automation, we want our customers to use these portals because they pay for them, so we don't mind giving a little free support. If we're on there for more then 30 min, it's typically because we're working on a large data project for them and it's more a service than support. For video, we get some requests to help search for evidence, this again is more of a service than support so we bill for it.
We have staff members who are almost exclusively on customer systems remotely. We have to pay them somehow!
Yes I think you should. We sell a monthly monitoring service typically around $25 per server to monitor the large school projects that we do, so it makes it easier to charge and bill for the services. I have three inside IT guys that take calls all day long and they are not cheap. Plus it saves us in the long run to monitor the servers and cameras. When we see a hard drive start to go out we are able to rectify the problem immediately before a major puncture. We have also found that many of the districts have someone that looks every morning to make sure everything is running correctly which takes quite a while to do and we are able to cut that out with our monitoring service to save their time. Most school projects we do have a three year parts and labor warranty so this can save trips to the school as well.
Seneca | IPVMU Certified | 04/13/16 01:43pm
This is also a question that we have as a system and storage system design and manufacturer. (Seneca)
When a customer calls in to our support center to ask why a such and such system is running poorly for VMS 'X'.... we typically remote in to the system to inspect the hardware first.... then discover many times that the system was actually set up incorrectly for the VMS in use.
Since we are knowledgeable of most of the main VMS... we help them work through changing their setup so the system can perform as desired.
Sometimes we even discover that they purchased a system that will not do the job that they actually put on the system. For example....they may have originally spec'd in 40 cams and once installed.... they have 50 cams. So now we are trying to help them figure out how to handle the extra load they added...which is a design task. We have even mocked up installations in our DSS lab to determine the best solution.
For now...we do not charge for this assistance.... but we are surely discussing how this affects our expenses and design schedules to decide if a change is needed.
Pro Focus LLC | 04/13/16 11:59pm
Question #1, is the customer inside warranty or not?
- If under warranty, and the question deals with something that falls under warranty, obviously no charge. You wouldn't charge them for a service call either, right?
- If not under warranty, you have to judge how long the support case is likely to take. Maybe give them a first fifteen minutes free to assess the issue. After that, you could charge a reduced rate version of your normal hourly rate (or a flat fee?).
Question #2, do you have a website that allows the client to self-help their way through the issue? Maybe start a Q&A page on your website. Also, videos go a long way helping end users refresh their skills when it comes to retrieving video.
- We sell two different levels of recording devices: Standalone DVR/NVRs and DW Spectrum VMS servers. We tell clients up front during the sales process that standalone devices are much harder to playback and retrieve video than the Spectrum system. We tell them that we will train them on both and offer to give them one free help session on their first incident. After that, help pulling video is a paid service call.
Question #3, does the manufacturer offer support as well? Some major manufacturers do, but sadly a large majority don't or can't. Depending on your answer here, your manufacturer might be able to assist them on their dime.
- Digital Watchdog has some pretty awful tech support for the Spectrum product. We lean on the actual developer for help, NX Optix. We generally sell Dahua and Hikvision cameras, which as many here know, do not offer any real US based support. Dahua has a Q&A section on their website, but I've never used it. The few issues we've had, we relied on our US based distributors for help.
IPVMU Certified | 04/14/16 10:09pm
We apply the same logic as we would to a truck roll. If its warranty, no charge and we saved some warranty expense. If its on our service agreement, no charge and they saved downtime. If its neither, bill it at a slightly lower rate, they save money and we get more done. And Jon is right, we would never charge someone for a 5 minute phone call, thats just nickel and diming. If we have to roll a truck after spending 20 minutes on the phone, were also not going to charge them for the time on the phone. Our service labor rates make up for that time.
I see a lot of our industry having to go to the managed services model. It pains me every time I have to pay an IT guy to fix something a computer software or hardware manufacturer has not made properly. Unfortunately, we are now in the same boat and we can't make enough money up front in most cases to provide support for free over the life of the system.