Hourly Support - Why We Don't Do It

Why i.t.NOW Doesn’t Provide Hourly Support

Why doesn’t i.t.NOW provide hourly support?  It’s a perfectly fair question to ask. Wouldn’t hourly be the way to go?  You only pay for what you use, nothing else…right?

It seems like a great idea but there are some major pitfalls to hourly support we’ve learned through the years.  When i.t.NOW started back in 1998, we provided hourly support. Here are a few reasons why we stopped doing it:

  • Last Resort I.T. – On an hourly support model, we found we were usually the last ones to be called in. This was because the owner or a tech-savvy employee would try fixing the problem first to try and save a buck or two. Sometimes it worked, other times it did not and usually made things worse. When this happened, the client would admit defeat and give us a call. Naturally, this put us in a bad position to diagnose and fix the problem.
  • Billing Nightmares – as a result of the aforementioned problem, engineers usually found themselves in an uphill battle. Not only did they have to fix the original problem, but they typically were also trying to fix other mistakes. This meant more time, which meant a larger bill, which resulted in a lot of invoice disputes.  The overhead this caused prevented us from providing quick consistent I.T. service to our clients.
  • Whack-a-Mole – Another problem is that problems tend to keep coming back – just like that whack-a-mole game. This usually happened because the logs or configurations were destroyed during the initial troubleshooting process. Without the logs, an I.T. professional can’t accurately identify what originally caused the issue to happen. If the root cause wasn’t identified and fixed – the issue almost always returned.
  • No Skin-in-the Game – Our owner, Phil Robinson, said that when we did hourly support, it felt like we were only making money when clients had problems. It didn’t feel right to him to profit off of others misfortune.  When you have hourly support, the I.T. person is incentivized to keep you just sick enough so that you have to keep coming back.  He doesn’t want to cure you completely. Naturally this creates conflicting priorities.  The I.T. person has no skin-in-the-game on an hourly support agreement.
  • No Proactive Monitoring – Below is a common example we see all the time where hourly support and proactive monitoring conflict.it goes something like this:
    • A company asks for a backup solution
    • The I.T. person puts one in
    • The backup solution works great for a while
    • After time, something happens to knock the backups offline
    • No one notices
    • The IT person is never called to check the backups
    • Later down the road, disaster strikes and systems need to be restored from backup
    • The IT person is called in and discovers backups haven’t been working
    • Data is lost and the client is upset and blames I.T. for putting in a backup solution that never worked
    • The I.T. person is upset because the client never requested they come in to make sure it was working properly
    • The business sufferers
      • Employees are angry
      • Clients are frustrated
      • Business owners are worried about what happens next

Because we never want to find ourselves in these situations, i.t.NOW changed the way we provide support to a fixed fee model. This allows us to be proactive by utilizing network monitoring tools that capture logs and configuration information.  They also alert our team when something is breaking, or goes out of spec.  This means our team can get a head of issues early on and fix them before they have a negative impact on business.  It also means we have more data about the problem, and can take better proactive measures to prevent it from coming back.

Our monthly fixed fee service model aligns our priorities with our clients.   i.t.NOW is motivated to keep issues from happening because we lose money when issues come up — not you! Our clients don’t hesitate to call and report an issue because it doesn’t cost them any more or less to do so.  This means I.T. issues are less likely to hang out and “work arounds” get fixed promptly.  This model is also way easier on accounts payable folks because it reduces the amount of time for billing. No more matching up invoices with trouble tickets. It’s just one easy monthly fee.

This approach resulted in better visibility into the network so that we could proactively fix issues before they became large widespread problems.  It also meant our clients were seeing less downtime, and were able to get more done.

Guest Post Written by Morgan Frame – Morgan is a successful managed service sales professional that consults with businesses on how they can leverage technologies to streamline business processes and focus on core competencies.  He loves solving problems, and getting to know his clients business needs.  When he’s not at work you can find him with his beautiful wife and two daughters, or on a hiking adventure somewhere in the beautiful state of Utah.