Service plans. Maintenance Contracts. Service Agreements. Support Plans.
Whatever you call them, we all know that we need to be offering them and monetizing our support efforts. Unfortunately, too many dealers are still not offering these plans. There are many reasons for this:
- Inertia/Procrastination: The dealer just hasn’t gotten around to it. Get off your butt and start making money!
- Fear: The dealer isn’t sure how to support the clients on the plan. They may be too small to offer 24/7 support.
- Knowledge: The dealer just may not know what to offer in terms of an agreement.
In this week’s blog, I want to go over two different strategies for offering plans. One is what I have been doing for several years and has been very well received by clients, profitable for our business model, and supportable with a small team of 3-4 total employees. The other is a more one-size-fits-all plan that our partner Mark Feinberg of Home Theater Advisors has been offering for a few months and is having a lot of success with. Between these two plans, we address the key stumbling blocks above of fear and knowledge. I am going to tell you how to make the plan supportable to alleviate the fear aspect and the information in this article should provide you with enough knowledge to feel comfortable getting started, regardless of the path you chose.
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I have been offering our customers customized Maintenance Plans for several years now. Each plan is priced specifically to the customer based on the project complexity and the ease of working with the customer. These plans range in cost from $1000 per year to $5000 per year. Larger, more complex projects with more demanding clients are on the higher end of the scale. Notice that I called these Maintenance Plans. When we called them service plans, clients expected completely inclusive service on all existing product as well as things we didn’t even sell. It really didn’t matter what was in the written agreement and how many times we detailed in person, over the phone, and in writing what was specifically included and excluded. The term Service Plan implied complete service, kind of like an extended warranty on a refrigerator. We now offer Maintenance Plans. The plans are unique to each job and price point, but generally speaking include:
- Quarterly or semi-annual site visits to clean the equipment, perform firmware updates, and fully test the system
- Monthly remote firmware updates
- Off-hours support. This is not necessarily 24/7 support, as we are a small shop, but we will respond to clients subscribed to a plan over the weekend and in the evening. I have a couple of techs who are more than willing to keep their cell phones on for the extra pay.
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Mark struggled for a long time to come up with an offering that provided clients with enough value to pay for the monthly plan, while also providing enough revenue to Home Theater Advisors to make it worthwhile. Their jobs tend to be a bit smaller than ours, as they serve primarily the middle-market with projects ranging from $5000-$60,000 in value, generally. It is hard to sell a $3000 annual plan on a $25,000 project, especially when he did not have the staff to guarantee off-hours support. Unfortunately, like most dealers not offering service plans, he found that he ended up providing a lot of remote and off-hours support at no charge. Not only is this a wasted opportunity, but it made his work-life balance no so balanced.
Fortunately, Mark hooked up with Parasol this past summer. Parasol was created by three integration firm owners and they offer 24/7/365 white label support for integrators to offer to clients. The dealer only pays for the clients who subscribe to the plan and therefore can never be underwater on their service offering. Mark has been pleasantly surprised with how well Parasol has been able to support his client base. He was originally concerned they would just be rebooting Wattbox outlets and passing everything else on to him, but they have gone above and beyond — helping clients log into the correct iTunes account on their Apple TV, reattaching IR emitters, changing thermostat settings, and more. And his clients have been very happy to have someone to call and not feel guilty about “disturbing” Mark on the weekends and evenings. Parasol plans are very affordable. and Mark has put together three tiers of pricing:
- Basic Plan: Clients receive the OvrC Home app and training on how to use it, as well as free changes to the macros set up in the app.
- Standard Plan: Clients get the OvrC Home app as well as 24/7/365 access to tech support via email and chat. Also included is a 25 percent discount for on-site service calls for issues that can not be solved remotely.
- Premium Plan. Everything in the Standard Plan plus telephone support and proactive monitoring of the system by Parasol and a 50 percent discount for on-site service calls. Also included is a free 4Sight subscription for Control4 customers and priority on-site support.
Not only are clients happier and Home Theater Advisors is monetizing their remote support, but Mark has his work-life balance back.
One of the things we both make sure to do now is to turn our work phones off over the weekends and in the evening. Clients on a Support Plan (Home Theater Advisors) or a Maintenance Plan (The Source Home Theater) have access to after-hours support. Those who have opted not to subscribe are provided support during normal business hours. Our families really love having us fully present when we are together and not distracted by client emails, texts, and phone calls.
Whichever strategy you choose to pursue — either one of the above or something else — be sure to do something. You deserve to have your life back and to generate RMR for your services — and your clients deserve the support they need, when they need it.