If you’re not offering support plans then your clients are stealing your time

bank robberThe best way to assure that you never make any money on support is to promise  you’ll create a prepaid annual support plan for your clients — some day.

That mythical  “some day” never seems to arrive for most of us.

Because we’re busy putting out other client forest fires. Then for a while the “pay as you go” support works pretty well.  Since you’re busy – no need to worry about changing the way you bill.

Suddenly as the economy ebbs and flows your billable support calls trail off. Clients stop calling. Without incoming phone calls you have no reliable source of income. Yet you still have the expense of paying staff to sit by the phone and wait for calls.

Think of how crazy the pay-as-you-go support model is.

For absolutely no money (unless a client calls) you staff a call center with people who will respond to a client call on a moment’s notice. If you’re not offering a support plan – clients pay you nothing for setting up this support center.

See a problem yet?

None of these clients pay a dime until they use your services. Wouldn’t you like to buy car insurance that way? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to pay anything for health insurance until the month you knew that you needed to make a claim?

Of course all those ideas about not paying for insurance until it’s used are silly. The whole concept of insurance is for it to spread the risk of a loss based on a reasonable monthly or annual premium.

Are your clients paying that premium? Or do you allow them to steal you blind by only charging them when they call?

How To Avoid Being Robbed

  1. You MUST have a plan. If you do not have a written plan and a policy of how your support is offered then the client or prospect is going to negotiate you into offering services on an hourly basis. The problem with hourly basis is that you will miss the opportunity to bill for many hours due to staff distraction, clients will argue that quick questions should not be billed and the value of a support call cannot be adequately measured in fractions of hours.
  2. Stop billing normal consulting time in any fractions of an hour. Bill in whole hours only. There’s no rule that says you must bill in fractions of an hour. For the most part small unit billings ignore the overhead involved with billing, collecting and documenting the time that was actually worked.
  3. Take away any notation on your invoices about hours. Get clients used to seeing an amount on your invoice that is not openly tied to a number of hours. An added benefit of removing hours from bills is that clients are far less likely to argue about the time billed for a call when all they can see is the value. If the client argues that they’re not getting value from your support, and your consultants are adequately trained then invite the customer to make your competitors life miserable and unprofitable use a competitor.

Support Plan Examples

The easiest way to solve the problem of clients talking you out of requiring a support plan – is do NOT take any new clients who do not agree to go onto a plan.

Want to know a secret?

Once you tell your new clients that they MUST be on a prepaid plan – over 95% of the qualified prospects WILL TAKE THE PLAN!

Do not go into any new client meetings without copies of your written plans. Before the meeting practice saying “we only offer support based on our prepaid plan”.

And stick to your plans!

I mean it. Seriously. The prospects will ask to pay hourly.

You only have to know two words:

NO.

Sorry.

The good clients WILL pay — but  not before they first test to see if you’ll cave in and offer a cheaper solution.

Can you blame them? It doesn’t hurt to try. Don’t cave in and offer to provide support on an hourly as-needed basis.

I know this because for the last 8+ years I have not taken on a single new customer who did not agree to join my prepaid phone support plan. This means that the tire-kickers who send emails “checking rates” are quickly disposed of without my first spending time diagnosing their problem and invariably prescribing a free solution. What’s left is quality paying support clients who stay with me for three to five years (or more).

Stuck on what to offer? Here are copies of both my support plans. Feel free to modify them for your own usage and realize that I offer them as-is without any guarantees.

Sage MAS 90 Support Plans

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