This week I met with several business owners and office managers across Orange County, San Diego and the Inland Empire. In each meeting the owner was aware that something was wrong related to technology in their office, but there was something bothering them more that they couldn't quite put their finger on. They felt something was wrong with their service, they could tell me what the issues were, but they didn't know how to fix it. I was there to listen, ask questions and provide a qualified outside assessment of the situation. I do this as a courtesy when I'm introduced to a customer for the first time.
No one was experiencing an outright emergency or disaster or data loss, but everyone was deeply dissatisfied with how technology was not working. In one case, a company with about a dozen employees was dealing with an Ethernet port at a desk not working. They had self-diagnosed that the port must have been bad, and were looking for a resource to re-wire. I learned that this company had a current contract with a local IT company for unlimited help desk, and let this issue had persisted for several weeks, had eaten up dozens of hours of productive employee time, and the desk where the port was was being avoided. How could a company have a support plan promising unlimited service and still have a problem like this go on for weeks on end?
The answer is simple and one any business owner can understand:
Your service plan is upside-down.
All the customers I met with had traditional service plans. Nearly all service providers' business models focus on traditional service plans, because it's more profitable for the service provider. With a traditional service plan, the customer is charged a monthly fee for "remote monitoring", etc. The service provider's big selling point is "fixed IT expense" which is generally a really effective selling strategy because is preys on the business owner who's fed up and tired of all the IT costs that pile up when you hire a consultant without a plan on an hourly basis. The business owner's entire focus is controlling their costs, and they don't realize they're about to go from bad to worse.
It goes from bad to worse because the promise of remote monitoring is only the promise that when a problem is detected it will be addressed remotely first, and then if an on-site is necessary, a tech will be sent out. This is where the second promise of a traditional service plan is sold on the owner: If (when) you need service on-site, there's a promise of a faster turnaround time, and maybe even a discount on the hourly rate. This plan is again easy for service providers to sell because it's still based on the business owner's fear of the situation they were in where they weren't just being charged and arm and a leg, but how consistently do consultants show up in the first place? How timely are they? They're generally tied up at another customer site while you're stuck waiting. This isn't the worst part.
The worse part is that what you traded for "fixed IT expense" is a really big hit in productivity across your whole company. You're living with more pain because it's going there's the possibility that reporting it is going to cost you more money. You can report it to get it resolved at the help desk level, but how effective is phone support most of the time? It didn't work with the Ethernet port situation for this one customer. It took me less than 10 minutes with a network tester to validate that it wasn't the cable, wasn't the port, and that the server needed to be rebooted. A week later, the service provider still hasn't taken care of it.
If you still don't believe me or understand what I mean by trading "fixed IT expense" for a hit in productivity, let me give you an example: What if you told Southern California Edison that you were simply not going to pay more than $500 per month for electricity because that's what you want to spend, period. Even though historically you've spent $1000. If they say yes to you, it sounds like a good thing. Until your lights turn off mid-month and you're sitting in the dark.
The traditional service plan preys on the business owner's biggest fears: Out of control expense and being left hanging. But these plans don't solve the problem, they only make it worse: You get a hit in productivity, little problems that need to be seen to be corrected linger for a long time, and there's no active engagement to advise the business owner on how technology can make their employees more productive and make their business more profitable.
The non-traditional service plan: TechRoom Local-Sourced Service™
Here's where it makes logical sense. If you're a business owner, you know the importance of staying engaged in your business. You stay close to your business to keep aware of what's going on. You can sense problems in their infancy, deal with them quickly, and keep you business moving forward. Tech service isn't any different.
My answer to the problem all of these customers are facing is simple, turn the service plan right side-up. Instead of charging for help desk that sits and may not even be used in some months, the same fee should go toward a skilled, competent, passionate professional coming to your office frequently on scheduled service calls to review, detect, correct and prevent issues:
- Validate and test the backup and restore
- Check in with the users
- Provide training
- Proactively share ideas and solutions
- Create documentation to enable rapid and effective phone support when needed
- Prevent other service calls
I call this Local-Sourced Service™. If Jack Welch saw my model, I bet he would approve. Because my model is based on management by walking around. Problems get detected and addressed in their infancy. Productivity continues to go up. Your employees spend less time (or no time) with problems, and all their time with customers. And when we proactively tell you about tools and tricks to get more efficient, you can see even more customers, sell more products, and make more sales and money with the same resources. That equals more profits. Which is a great thing.
There was a time when I had onsite technicians that felt that if there was a problem at the site, it was their job to correct it. That couldn't be further from the truth. The ultimate test of my on-site field technicians is the ability, enabled by awesome documentation and training, of the in-house technical team, to correct an issue called in by the customer quickly and efficiently. Then the escalation and visibility to me of the issue enables me to audit the problem-prevention plan.
Do you see why the traditional IT service plans, typically sold my MSPs (managed service providers) are barely better than snake oil? If you feel you're in the same situation, and you're looking for options to make things better for your business, contact me for a complimentary, no-charge assessment and consultation.