5 Reasons I’m no longer doing free “are you available for support” callbacks

Over the weekend I received an unsolicited email asking if I was available for MAS200 support.

Seeing as that’s our primary business – I said yes, absolutely – provided that it’s paid support.

However there’s one thing I will not continue to provide – and that’s the free initial assessment for those users who are not already our clients or who did not acquire their software from us.

Yes, I’ll still continue to provide information on our services. It’s just that I’ll no longer engage in a technical phone conference call with the client until they’ve decided to engage us (for a fee).

The reasons? I have 5 of them – all based on years of experience with these types of leads.

The 5 Reasons I Request A Paid Initial Review Before Providing Consulting Services

In this case my reply back to the message sender – presumably an IT provider who appeared to have installed an upgrade for Sage ERP MAS 200 for one of their customers and gotten stuck somewhere along the way:

Sure we do however only direct to the end user and we require a paid initial assessment of $2,500 so that we may document and fully understand the open issues prior to quoting proposed solutions.

Since most users are not looking to pay anything – it may be cheaper to contact Sage directly.

For many years I’d reply to messages like this with helpful tips and tricks. What I’ve learned is that this free advice rarely, if ever, results in a paying customer. Heck, most people never even write back to say “thanks”.

Instead, now what I’m doing (as evidenced above) is offering a paid assessment prior to giving any type of quote about what the cost to fix a problem might be. After all, I need to understand the problem first – and increasingly I’m finding end users (and their IT staff) are mis-diagnosing the true cause and extent of their issues.

Here’s my five reasons you should insist on a paid assessment for all new clients

Historically I’ve found that companies with no prior relationship who balk at a paid initial analysis — about 95% of all web inquiries — disappear at the first mention of a fee. So why even start the process if you’re not going to be paid?

  1. The price that the person making the request is looking for is somewhere between free and $ 50. I’ll let you guess which price they’re really thinking. In most cases they’ll phrase their problem as in ” I can explain it better over the phone “. Be prepared to say hello to a free 30 minute problem solving session.
  2. Some customers have unsolvable problems or problems that are expensive which they don’t want to pay for. The user who bought Sage ERP MAS 200 20 years ago and is still on version 3.3 and doesn’t understand why all the customizations they had made won’t transfer automatically — is one such example.
  3. Inquiries from third party IT consultants usually also require that you bill through them at rates that they deem “fair”. Their definition of fair is the same low fee that they in turn are charging their client. And in some (but not all) cases the IT Consultant has woefully underbid the job and in effect what they’re looking for is a hail mary (aka free) fix to get them quickly out of a jam. I never bill through IT Departments because I find it’s administratively more hassle to get paid (if you ever get paid at all).
  4. There’s often nobody left at the client who knows anything about how or why a system was setup a particular way.  Sometimes what the company (or their IT staff) are looking for is an “unpaid complaint department” so they can offload their several years worth of frustrations (usually self-caused by their neglect at updating their systems).
  5. Lastly, I find increasingly the “request for help” is more like “request for me to ask a free quick question — or 12” and then “well send us a proposal”. Why on earth any company would ever agree to a proposal after you’ve already answered a dozen questions for free is beyond me. True to my gut hunch — I’ve never heard back from any of these requests to send a proposal.

So if my replies to the above 5 types of customers never generate a billable engagement – am I really worse off by insisting on a paid engagement so that I can learn about the issues with the system before prescribing a cure (assuming there is one)?

One Reply to “5 Reasons I’m no longer doing free “are you available for support” callbacks”

  1. Wayne,

    We statistics on our pool of over 1500 in-bound “problem solving sessions” in our Cazoomi consultant network now I think we have reached a +-3% on the accuracy side of why free advice will not = a paying client in the end.

    Good read as always:)

    ~Clint
    @cazoomi

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