Tiny Requests are crippling my biz - Need A Maint Plan!

So I’ve been in business for 12 years and take pride in my tremendous customer service which has helped me grow a fairly large client base.

Occassionally, a client would ask for a tiny change on their site. No big deal, it would take me longer to track the time and create an invoice than actually completing the task so for the longest time I just did them all on the arm as a courtesy.

Now with such a large customer base, I get multiple requests a day of non-billable hours. Completly my fault I know for not creating a maintenance plan for when sites are launched from day one.

My question is, is anyone out there willing to share some creative benefits or features that they put in their maintenance plans to help entice people to sign up for something like this?

Any and all thoughts are appreciated as I explore this next step for my business.

you wont be able to get away from requests like this. this comes with the business. however i wont do it for free. time is money.

first thing would be, when you prepare your contract put a paragraph mentioning that you would be charging for maintenance.

usually i set aside part of the week, on a relatively less busy time, finish many of these requests on one go. that saves bit of time.

I see several other options there - you could offer them some flat-rate service contract which includes such small modification/maintenance tasks (but not any new dev). or you could outsource this sort of stuff.

There’s the problem. We have exactly the same client requests and they make us rich. What we do is:

Bill by the minute. Yes you heard right. If the client calls, wants a question answered, forgot a password etc, we charge them for this time. We keep all the clients information we can get our hand on and organise it. The clients love it, because all our competition either wants

  • a maintenance plan (client hears: “charge but don’t work for it”)
  • minimum billing time (client hears: “we call them and they charge an hour”)

We have virtually no overhead billing this:

  • We use a timesheet system that starts the time at the time when the last timer stopped (Job and Time Management Software - WorkflowMax). Every time we task switch, we log the time sheet entry. Logging the entry also becomes part of completing the task, as is writing emails and logging new data in our Wiki. Basically we do a thorough job of every task, however small it is.

  • Our time sheet system links into Xero online accounting.

  • We only provide email invoices and online accept direct credit payments, which Xero reconciles automatically.

I spent about 30 minutes billing 10 clients this way each month. I’m sure scaling this to 100 clients would reduce the time even more.

As before, there is no need to sign up to anything. I’m sure a range of your clients will not appreciate being charged for minute things, here are some other ways to make them happy:

  • send them somewhere else
  • only service them in half or whole days (we do this onsite). The benefit to the customer is that we reduce communication overheads by being with them for a day and fixing everything in one go. Also its quite predictable and clear for them to see why everything takes so long.

HTH, Jochen

thanks for the input guys.

Im tossing around the idea of putting together some kind of “Preffered Client” package for $50/month or so that would grant them some sort of monthly benefits (a google analytics report, 1 hour of misc work, 24 hour priority turnaround etc). Otherwise all requests require a 30 minute minimum no matter what.

With a larger client base, and enough people coming on board it might pay off.

Just thinking out loud here.

For maintenance, I tend to bill in half hour ‘blocks’ rather than by the minute. I tell the client I’ll invoice them when their outstanding bill reaches a certain value.

I’ve never gone down the maintenance plan ‘use it or lose it’ route, as I rarely found clients wanting to do this. I prefer hosting, licensing and support packages to fund my regular monthly ‘free money’ :slight_smile:

Sounds like a great chance to increase revenue and still keep clients happy. A good, fair maintenance plan will be happily accepted by most clients.