January 31, 2019
Why Are You So Cheap?
We get asked how we are able to offer so many IT services for such a small monthly cost. Usually, this is after a prospect has interviewed other IT support firms, gotten quotes, and then brought us in. When it comes to IT support and services, we keep our costs low, use proven technologies, handle things in a procedural and automated fashion, focus only on things that bring value to our clients, and target clients that value us and IT.
Let’s delve into each aspect of that.
Keeping Costs Low
One of our primary cost savings is not maintaining an office space. In business IT support, the tech comes to the computer, not the other way around. In our research, we’ve found that other IT companies, while they may understand this, also are afraid of a possible stigma that comes from not having a physical office. We are more afraid of the increased, inelastic costs associated with that office space. We’d much rather pay people a better wage, allow more flexibility and, provide better support.
Let’s face it: in an increasingly connected world, physical presence matters less and less. That’s not to say that physical IT support will ever go away, but why not take the cost advantage that not having a rent payment offers. Most of the time, to solve problems, we are remotely assisting users, running scripts on servers, and other non-physical operations.
Sometimes in-person collaboration is necessary. If we’re running a training class across multiple clients, we’d probably rent out a conference center for the day. If we need to get some developers in the same room to hash out the design for new software, we’ll spend the day at a co-working facility nearby. Sometimes there’s the need to physically configure new servers or workstations, so we usually setup a small space at the client site for this. This also gets us the face time with the users and gives them a chance to ask off-the-cuff questions.
We’ve put a lot of thought into how best to utilize the resource of “space”, and at the end of the day, it is an elastic need. IT support is dynamic, so our use of space must be as well.
Use Proven Technologies
If you’re hounded by telemarketers and spam at home, multiply that by at least 10 times, and that’s how many vendors hound us. There is no “do not call” list for IT support companies, and the sales people are relentless. That’s because too many IT vendors exist only to create new products and sell new solutions; solutions that don’t actually solve anything!
This is why we only use proven technologies with our customers. We examine research articles put out by infrastructure giants — Amazon, Google, Netflix, and the like — and see what has worked for them. Obviously, none of our clients will need systems quite as complex as these companies, but what has worked at scale for them, helps us know where to start.
For example, our backup systems use a similar replication technology to what lies beneath some of the largest content delivery networks. We started from scratch, applied readily available knowledge, tested our results, and created a unique offering based on underlying proven tech. While it’s not glamorous to talk about backup systems, nor does any business owner really care about them (until they fail), they do care about the bottom line, and using proven IT systems saves everyone money.
Procedures and Automation
IT support is both engineering and an exercise in humanity. For the engineering part, we pick up the efficiencies offered by standard operating procedures and automation. It is really a two-step process for us. First, when we encounter a task we’ve done a few times, we write a procedure. This immediately picks up labor efficiency and reduces mistakes. Second, when we’ve run that procedure a few times, we automate it the best we can.
This may seem simple, but so many IT support firms just fly by the seat of their pants and leave out the hard engineering part of things. Bringing order to a chaotic system takes work, and if there doesn’t appear to be an immediate return on that work, companies pass. We’ve seen the value that standardized IT support offers to the bottom line, and we share the cost savings with good clients who understand it as well.
This kind of dovetails into the telemarketing mini-rant above. Too many IT support companies repeat the commodity cycle of pushing products. We’ve never pushed a product, and that’s because a product doesn’t solve a problem. More to the point, a product doesn’t provide value. A product may be a tool that eventually provides value, but it largely depends on how it is used.
Let’s take something ubiquitous, like productivity software such as Microsoft Office, as an example. Over the years the definition of productivity software has changed. Certainly, today, it includes email functionality. That hasn’t always been the case though. A number of years ago, we had clients that were looking at upgrading their in-house hosted Microsoft Exchange servers. At the time the pricing was such that our clients would have been looking at a huge investment. So we searched for an alternative solution.
Enter G Suite (or Google Apps as it was known then). As the business-class offering of Gmail, G Suite was an inexpensive alternative to an in-house Exchange server. Our clients jumped onto it in droves. “But wait, it sounds like you pushed a product!” you might be saying. No, we needed a solution to a problem, and found a product that fit the bill, and that’s the real key.
Now, fast-forward to present day. G Suite has evolved as a productivity suite, but so has Microsoft offering: Office 365. Microsoft has taken their business into the cloud and brought their famous Office products with it. Being keenly aware of how technology integrated into business operations, we watch for trends, and staying aware of what options are out there helps us react quickly.
If we were to encounter, today, a client who is faced with an expensive Exchange upgrade, we would likely recommend Office 365 instead of G Suite for one simple reason: Office 365 provides more solutions, and fits a little better into our local market’s business demographic.
As any good Managed Service Provider should, it is with a constant eye on value that we are able to recommend solutions, not products.
This may be a surprise to some, but we don’t accept all new prospects. In our discussions, much in the same way as we demonstrate our value, our prospects must also show they value IT as part of their business. Often this is demonstrated by having the business owner directly involved in IT discussions. It is also indicated by a strong, policy driven, top-down IT management strategy. Perhaps, most importantly, IT should be viewed as a way to generate revenue for the company, not a pit into which money is thrown.
But why is this importantly to us? Simple: it costs more to deal with clients who don’t value IT, and why drive our costs up servicing clients who don’t care?
Upfront IT Support Pricing
This allows us to be upfront with our pricing. We encounter competitors who think we’re nuts for sharing our pricing in public. Look, part of every sales process is qualifying the prospect. That process is also time-consuming (i.e., costly) so if there was a way to pre-qualify prospects before the phone even rang, wouldn’t you? That’s why we publish our pricing.
We know that our services are valuable and priced appropriately. We also know that most people don’t want to waste their time, especially listing to some salesperson drone on, so we use our price list as a pre-qualification tool. If a visitor hits our website, scrolls down, clicks on pricing and gets scared off thinking “wow, they’re way to expensive”, perfect. In this day and age, most reasonable people know approximately what good IT support costs, and if our (relative to our market) low prices scare them off, it just wasn’t a good fit anyway.
If we weren’t up front with our pricing, we’d spend hours trying to sell services to bad prospects, trying to convince them of value and frankly, that’s too much of an uphill battle. We prefer reasonable clients who value IT and a relationship with a professional provider.