Before we dive into how you can structure your support agreement, let’s remind ourselves of the classic IT functions in any business. First, we have high-level, STRATEGIC IT services. This would include return on investment business support planning, managing IT personnel, IT budgeting and resource planning, asset management, and so on. Next, we have TACTICAL IT services which include the day-to-day business of keeping a network running which includes:
- Spam filtering
- Spyware detection and removal
- Virus definition updates
- Security monitoring and updates
- Backups and disaster recovery
- Event log monitoring
- Patch management & upgrades
- Network optimization
- UPS management
- Policy development
- Help desk support
It is in these tactical IT services where support agreements come into play. You are simply offering to perform the day-to-day network maintenance they need, but don’t have the time, manpower, or in-house expertise to do themselves. How you structure your program, the services you include, and how you charge will depend on two things:
- The type of customer you are servicing.
- Your skills and abilities.
Home users will require less maintenance and will not pay as much as a business client. Small businesses will pay more, but will require more extensive and specialized services. If you service a niche such as medical offices, high security organizations such as banks, non profits, or companies that utilize Macs and PCs, you’ll have to account for the specialized needs of these clients in your agreements. Therefore, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: what basic network maintenance needs to be performed on my clients’ networks every day, week, month, and year? Once you have determined what basic maintenance your clients need, your next step is to categorize these services into 3 levels with each level offering more to the client. Give each tier of service a different name such as “Silver”, “Gold”, and “Platinum” and put the most coveted services and guarantees in the top or Platinum level. I would also tier the speed of your response, access to you, and HOW a customer can reach you by the service they are signed up for.
For example, Silver clients could be restricted to request help only by e-mail, web, or automated attendant, and be given a same-day response guarantee to their requests for help. Platinum clients could be given a hotline that dials directly to your cell phone or other live operator that is answered 24-7 and a 2 hour guaranteed response time to their calls. Silver clients could be limited to one or two, 15 minute remote help desk sessions with you every month before they are billed additional fees. Platinum clients could be afforded the “all you can eat” help desk support covered under their monthly fee to you.
Silver clients could be offered only remote monitoring with the understanding they will pay additional money for all support, maintenance, and break fix services while Platinum clients receive regularly scheduled maintenance, network audits, and on-going monitoring as part of their service and only pay for hardware, software, and special projects. What you promise in each of these levels will be determined on the clients you are servicing AND your ability to deliver WITHOUT over extending yourself or giving away the store. If you currently don’t have a remote administration tool such as Kaseya or HandsFreeNetworks, you will need to account for the drive time to service your customers on site. If all of your clients are 3 hours away, you have to account for that in the response time guarantees you make. You also have to take into consideration whether or not you want to outsource end user help desk support. Regardless of what you include in each level, offering 3 packages with varying degrees of access to you, services, and response time will not only help you to justify the value of your services and charge more, but it will also keep the lowpaying, low-profit customers in check and prevent them from taking up time and services they are not paying