One of the most important tools in any IT service businesses toolbox is their flat rate IT plan. Your clients depend upon you to solve those pesky IT service problems and they love it when you can offer them a solution that allows them to allocate a set sum for the service and forget about it. That is until they need you. But the trick with these offers is that you need to make sure it includes enough to make your client feel that this is a good idea without giving away the store.
After all, the idea behind offering your clients a flat rate IT service plan is to create a steady income stream for your business while keeping your clients happy so they renew each year. In the best of all possible worlds everyone wins. But that is true only if you take the time to craft a flat rate IT plan that serves both of you well.
Defining the User of the Service
Of course the core of each IT service plan is how many users it will cover. Not long ago this was a pretty straight-forward definition. Most users had one computer and it had Windows on it. Now you will probably see each user has three devices: a computer, a tablet and a phone, and these could easily be on shared networks or they may even remote desktop from home some of the time. They could have a variety of applications on each device and the networks can mean creating a dominoes effect if making changes to just one of them. If this sounds complex you got that one right. This means that you need to clearly define just how many devices each "user" has in your agreement.
The Changing Population of Printers
It used to be that an office had one central printer that everyone used. But since that walk of ten feet to the printer was soon seen as unproductive work time, everyone went to personal printers. Some offices still have a central photocopier/printer for each department, but no matter what they have you can be assured that the printers will need to be part of the service package and will probably become one of your biggest headaches. Be sure to note how many printers are included and if remote users have a printer, count on that adding to your service time.
Including the Basics
There are a few things that you will probably always want to include specifically in any kind of flat rate IT service plan. You should be sure to itemize these in the agreement so there is no question regarding what is and isn't included from the beginning.
Here is what you will often see included in a service plan:
- Unlimited Helpdesk access during standard business hours (define charges for after hours and define what you consider standard business hours)
- Proactive monitoring, issue resolution and management of the servers and desktops (you might include a mobile and/or tablet per person, see above for why)
- Management of all the 3rd party vendors
- Patch management (Microsoft, Java, firmware, 3rd party)
- Backup monitoring and recovery testing
- Business reviews at a regular basis, we suggest quarterly at a minimum
- Monthly reporting in writing
- Service Level Agreement
Defining Services versus Projects
Your flat rate IT service plan should not be covering anything that looks or smells like a project. Of course, this means that you will need to define what a project is in order to make them an exemption for the plan. Day to day caretaking is service, but if they are adding machines, installing new software or if what they request will take more than four hours, this is a project. Projects are always charged separately from the service plan. Also, remember that a service plan is a plan that provides service, so always clearly state that the cost of software, parts, freight and licensing is above and beyond what is covered in your service plan. What you are providing is expertise and labor.
Righting Wrongs – Acts of God and the Repairman
Sometimes something happens to your clients system that is just plain out of your control. It can be a flood that wipes out their hardware. It can be the copier repairman that made a mistake and fried their printer. Whatever the reason, if it is a third party and out of your control, then this is not covered by your agreement and it should say so in it. You can have provisions for your service to act as a project manager to ensure that everything is restored correctly, but then it is a project and billed separately.
You are Not a Mover
If the owner decides to get the latest and greatest computer system, you will of course be helping to install and setup that computer. Your expertise may even guide them on what to choose. With the pace of new technology this could easily happen more than once a year. However, you are not obliged to participate in the common office practice of computer Russian roulette when computers get swapped out down the line, based on seniority. Many service agreements will include one move per person per year, and this is a good idea. It may also prompt your client to plan these kinds of moves so that only one takes place each year. Of course, moving into a new building takes planning and is always considered a project and not part of the service agreement.
The Importance of Training
There is some debate about whether to include training as part of the service agreement. Most clients will want to be able to take care of the basics themselves, so training them initially is a great way to look good and give your clients full value. You could include a basic initial training for anything installed, and create a leave-behind document that helps them to do some of the troubleshooting themselves. In the long run, training the client means running out to service problems less often, so everyone wins.
Defining a Smart Flat Rate IT Service Plan
Offering your clients a flat rate IT plan can be a big boon to your business, if it is designed right. Offer too much on the plan and you will find you are not making a profit. No one wants that. But if you offer too little it won't be of value to your clients and so they won't be interested. The bottom line is that you know your clients and what they need. Some need lots of hand-holding but little actual innovation, others love tech, want to learn for themselves. Keeping their needs in mind while drafting the plan, using these basic guidelines as a starting point, can mean creating a flat rate IT service plan everyone is happy to implement.
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