The managed service model of IT Support – providing proactive maintenance at a flat-fee – has been around long enough now, that I’d think it would be standard practice for anyone who provides computer support to commercial clients.
Yet each and every day I meet computer consultants who still seem to be stuck on the old break/fix model – running down to their customer’s office whenever a problem arises and then charging an hourly rate for however long it took to fix the issue.
This reactive model of support is deadly for any IT Support company for many reasons. In fact, here are 17 of them:
- Once you’re called in for help, the client’s productivity is already suffering.
- Your client generally only needs you when something bad is happening, creating an association in their mind that “My Computer Consultant = Bad, Expensive Things Are Happening”
- Your income is completely inconsistent and unreliable. It’s Feast-or-Famine. Some months are busy and money is coming in. Some are “dead” and you’re hunting for work.
- When you’re busy, your clients are likely experiencing lots of problems. Lots of problems make for unhappy clients.
- If you generate a large invoice for a client because there were a lot of problems to address, do you think that client will be very happy about writing that check?
- If every time your client sees you walk in the door they associate it with an expense, do you think they’ll want to see you very often?
- During the “dead” months, you’ll propose projects or proactive maintenance work to keep yourself busy and to improve your client’s systems – but the hourly rates create a reluctance to spend money and the client often pushes back, viewing improvement projects as an expense that can be put off.
- Proposing improvement projects or proactive maintenance at an hourly rate can create a negative perception by the client that you’re “fishing for work” at their expense.
- Quiet months create a false perception for the client that regular, proactive maintenance isn’t necessary. “After all”, says the client… “everything seems to be working just fine the way it is, isn’t it?”
- But when the problems do start occurring again and it gets busy, the client will be anxious to return to the days when everything was working and your services weren’t needed.
- Inconsistent network performance creates a total lack of confidence in the reliability of the computer systems. Lack of confidence makes for very unhappy clients.
- Break/Fix clients and end-users tend to develop a tolerance for problems they might perceive as “minor”. They’ll put off calling you in until absolutely necessary. However, even minor problems diminish productivity, create frustration, cause negative perception of the computer systems, cause negative perception of your ability to provide a working network environment and ultimately, minor issues tend to escalate into major issues over time – causing further expense, loss of productivity, more frustration and a greater lack of confidence in your ability to maintain the systems.
- If clients want to see you as little as possible, you’ll need more clients to keep yourself busy.
- But if several of your clients have problems at the same time, you can have trouble taking care of them all quickly enough. This can create some very unhappy clients.
- If no one is monitoring the equipment inventories on a regular basis, systems will become outdated, resulting in poor performance and incompatibilities with newer software and devices. Clients will be forced into upgrades, rather than budgeting for upgrades on a planned schedule. Unplanned hits to the IT budget result in a greater reluctance to calling the consultant.
- Without proactive monitoring of critical systems, such as backup, antivirus and server logs, disastrous errors can occur resulting in potentially catastrophic damages to the client’s business and of course, the relationship with you as the consultant. For example:
- The backup fails to run for several weeks, but without monitoring, no one knows until the hard drives completely fail. The client discovers that weeks of invoices, work records, product orders and communications with important customers are completely lost and will be difficult, if not impossible to recreate.
- The server’s antivirus expired two months ago, but no one noticed. A virus hits and runs through the network like wildfire, resulting in a full day or more where no employees are able to boot their workstations until a complete cleaning and in several cases, full rebuilds of the workstations are completed.
- No one is monitoring the firewall and a spam-bot makes its way onto the Exchange Server turning it into a spam relay. As a result, the client’s domain is blacklisted, the ISP cuts service and Internet and email are completely shut down while you scramble for hours or even days trying to repair the damage.
Even though under your break/fix arrangement you might have had little if any way to prevent the disaster, you can be sure that the client will be looking for reasons why you didn’t. They certainly won’t be interested in hearing you say, “I told you so.” Ultimately, however things turn out, it will be difficult for you to emerge as someone to be trusted and relied upon.
- The reactive, Break/Fix model of computer support is Win/Lose for both you and your client. If they’re having problems and are unhappy, you’re making money. If their systems appear to be working well and they aren’t calling you, you’re going broke.
Running a business can be challenging enough. Running an IT service business on a model where just about every aspect of the support you provide pits your needs directly against the needs and wants of your client, to me seems to be business suicide.
There is an easier way. It’s called the Managed Service Model. If you’re not on it, you’re only hurting your business… and your client’s.