sundance-communications.com
Posted By: Ed Lentz Do any of you have this issue? - 10/30/08 07:16 PM
I have several very good customers. Each of them have several sites. Their IT dept has the programming software and they dabble in their own programming. Fortunately (or not) they haven't hosed their systems. Other customers will call and need programming and I will charge them for it. Lately the good customer is needing quite a bit of hand holding in programming. I have not charged this customer. Have any of you gotten into this situation? What do you do? Suck it up and chalk it up to good relations? Or do you start to draw a line? I don't want to alienate the good customer but still, I need to get paid for some of the knowledge I have of our systems.

Thanks for any comments

Ed
Posted By: metelcom Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/30/08 07:27 PM
First let them know if they go into the programming it voids all your warranties. I would also let them know that if they do hose it your only option is to default it and start from scratch to reprogram at their cost. After that if they still insist in doing it themselves I would setup a support rate and charge for your time and knowledge.
Posted By: jeffmoss26 Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/30/08 08:53 PM
I would charge for telephone support and remote programming...your time is obviously worth money...
Posted By: Clinton Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/30/08 09:59 PM
At the very least send an invoice that shows the value of the work they've done, with a 100% discount. Hopefully that will help them to register that they are getting something of value for nothing. After that, either charge full price or lower the discount to something you can live with.
Posted By: hbiss Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/30/08 10:10 PM
You should never gotten into this situation to begin with. Because you gave them free support it's going to be hard to break the habit. Good customers understand that your time is money. I would write them a letter stating that going forward they will be charged regular rates for your services, you will no longer be able to provide support for free. If they are as good as you think they will understand. If not, at least you will find out that they were only being good because you were giving them something for nothing.

-Hal
Posted By: Silversam Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 03:34 AM
Remember Godfather I? Let me quote Don Barzini:

"OF course Don Corleone will be allowed to submit a bill for his services. After all, we are not Communists."

You are in business to make a living. You are not a charity.

Charge for your services. I agree with Hal, it's going to be tougher now to get started, but a letter stating that due to economic conditions you're going to have to start charging for these services is not a bad place to start. Offer them a discount off your regular prices of you're feeling generous.

But remember you've got to eat and feed your family.

After all, we're not Communists.

Sam
Posted By: emark Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 05:09 AM
I agree totally, charge them for remote work. Our clients know that we are NOT a philanthropic organization, our goal is to make a profit. That goal is reached by charging for services, whether on site or remotely.

You might want to establish a rate structure for remotes that is slightly different than onsite work, like a minimum charge of 15 minutes as opposed to a one hour minimum, etc.
Oy Vey!!! I make a profit selling a system and I give a lot of tech support as cheerful as I can.

My happy customers are my best referrals for new business. I can't buy advertising as cheap as a bit of my time and no one abuses it.

EDIT by justbill: Let's keep politics out of it. Thanks


I help them over the phone and I tell them I am always happy to help them. IF you have so much business you can afford to tell people to pay you for little bits of talking, well wonderful for you.

Buy low, sell high and give lots of service.
Posted By: Lightning horse Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 08:34 AM
Ed, I got into that jam with a customer that was buying a new system about every quarter, privately held motel chain. That was OK until they started buying systems from someone else and then wanted help fixing the mess so that the programming was the same as the ones we had put in. That gave me the opening to start charging for every bit of 'phone help'. And when we started charging 2-3 days of 'phone help' on everynew system, they started having us do the installs, even though they were still buying from the same guy, who had been farming out the install to whoever. Then we would not honor any warranty, or give any assistance beyond programming, on the 'other' guy systems.
Anyhow, i'm with the majority, send a letter that outlines why you need to start charging. If the systems are capable of remote, you might offer to do a backup each time you help them with their program changes, before they make the changes, and after they make the changes. John C.
Posted By: Avalon Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 10:30 AM
If I had a penny for everytime a new customer said

"give us a break on this new system, I know loads of companies I will refer you too"

Never happens, all you end up doing is giving your blood, sweat & tears away for free.....

Same with service, hit every customer with a full invoice, if they try to get out of paying they are actually doing you a favour as you can now drop them from your base................
Posted By: Ed Lentz Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 07:02 PM
Sounds like the majority here is in agreement. When we initially install a system we give 90 days free programming. Pretty much after that we feel they should have most of the kinks out. As was advised if a customer wants to do his own thing I always stress that the warranty does not cover self inflicted problems. I also have even severely restricted their rights in the programming. I like the idea of a letter to the existing customers, and maybe offering a set time limit per month and if they exceed that charging full rate for programming consultation. we can keep track of it with trouble tickets and an "inventory" of base programming. One thing I did not expect from the group was the scripture references! Took me by surprise. I also get the calls from the national companies, we tell them our trip charges and hourly rates. They pay or we don't play. If the end client pays double, well, that is on them.
Posted By: hbiss Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 10/31/08 08:57 PM
maybe offering a set time limit per month and if they exceed that charging full rate for programming consultation.

I think you are going to have to decide whether or not you condone customer programming. Obviously it's gotten them in trouble and that's not going to stop as long as you provide any support in that direction. It's only going to encourage it.

My policy is that we do not provide any support for installer level programming. We will show them how to program buttons on phones and maybe walk them through something simple that needs to be changed rather than going to the site, but that's about it. I won't even provide a manual unless they twist my arm, and that's only happened once that I can remember. What they don't know can't hurt them.

I also can't see why there is an on going need for programming changes. Like you, we will handle changes for ninety days until the dust settles. After that rarely does anything need to be changed. What are your guys doing? Methinks they are just playing because you gave them information and support.

-Hal
Posted By: Ed Lentz Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/01/08 05:00 AM
Hal,

I gotta disagree with you on giving them manuals and such. They own what they bought from you IMO they have every right to have all the information that is available for it. If you purchased something highly technical in nature and the service guy said, "I'm not gonna let you change how I set it up because you aren't smart enough to understand it" I bet that would get your back up. We always tell them if they "Hose it" they buy my time to fix it. If they are renting or leasing then that is different, they get me to do all of it, no matter what. In most of these cases the customers are creating voicmail boxes, Custom Routing, creating hunt groups, etc.. Some of it is pretty mundane and some not. The problem with my company is that we need to come up with a solution that is somewhere in the middle of all this. Given the current economy in Michigan we all are trying to get by.
Posted By: hbiss Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/01/08 06:30 AM
I hear what you are saying Ed, but I consider this the same as car manufacturers not including the shop manual when you purchase a new car. Like I mentioned I was only challenged on this once, the majority of my customers are more than happy to leave things like that to me. Now, I don't know the specifics of your installation so it may not compare to what my experience has been, but I can tell you that whenever you have IT people involved there is always going to be head butting and conflict. I think that's where the problem really is.

-Hal
Posted By: doghart Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/01/08 07:41 AM
I personally have it written into our purchase contracts that remote svc and MAC work is billed at our standard hourly rate, but in 15 minute increments. This includes phone support.

Of course I use discression. If someone is just calling to re cfd their phone or reset one mailbox password I usually let it slide, but if I am physically on the phone for more than 10 minutes, you can expect a bill.

D
Posted By: kahluawire Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/04/08 06:44 PM
Nobody's brought it up yet, but would a service contract with a monthly maximum time limit work for a situation like this? If you could get your customer to agree, it would give you a constant revenue source, and keep those four-eyes out of your system.

Jason
Posted By: Coral Tech Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/04/08 07:30 PM
Quite honestly I don't care if the customer programs or not. I have a backup and if they or any other company gets into it it voids the warranty with no refund. The cool thing is I can get in to check and see when and what programming changes were made.
Posted By: Avalon Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/05/08 09:13 AM
I have never had the problem of a customer doing Admin Level Programing and screwing things up.

My typical customer needs handholding just to set the time & date............
Posted By: hbiss Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/05/08 10:03 AM
Quite honestly I don't care if the customer programs or not. I have a backup...

Well, I for one don't need the panic call while I'm in the middle of another job 50 miles away because some twit tried to change something and something no longer works. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I just don't understand it. We go through training, certification and have years of experience. I can't fathom why some people think all they have to do is look through a poorly written manual and they will know what to do. Ain't going to happen folks.

-Hal
Posted By: emark Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/05/08 12:23 PM
Hal,

That's what I call the "tell me everything you know in the next 20 seconds" syndrome.

I find that it is a disease rampant among young IT types.
Posted By: hbiss Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/05/08 01:20 PM
That's because they can tell you everything they know in 20 seconds.

-Hal
Posted By: Coral Tech Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/05/08 01:27 PM
Well Hal, if they screw it up they can wait because they just became a non-maintenance customer issue and will pay emergency rates.
Posted By: CMDL_GUY Re: Do any of you have this issue? - 11/08/08 04:26 AM
Well, I for one don't need the panic call while I'm in the middle of another job 50 miles away because some twit tried to change something and something no longer works.

This is why we don't allow customers tech level programming access. If they insist on manuals I SELL them new at FULL mark-up. I also make a back-up of the system, this way I have a record of what I programmed. We also inform them of a $200 "restore" fee.
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