New support contracts

Chris Gibson  —  January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

As I briefly discussed in our “New Year’s Resolutions” blog post, one of our key aims for this year is to formalise and improve the level of support we offer our customers.

We currently offer just one support package, which costs £400 p/m.

Although this works very well for some clients (and will continue to do so), it’s has proved to be simply too expensive for others. Our full support contract is designed to offer frequent, prioritised, out-of-hours support, and most clients don’t need anything so comprehensive.

Instead, they just want ongoing, occasional maintenance for their website, and the reassurance of knowing that someone is on hand to help out if necessary.

We’re therefore introducing a second-tier support contract, which I’m calling “managed hosting”.

This will cost £100 per month, and will offer:

  • Hosting on our latest dedicated server
  • A monthly website report, generated by Sitebeam
  • Access to our support email address, for emergency, out of hours use
  • Small updates and changes carried out free of charge, within limits

This last point is perhaps the most important. Up until now, all clients have been billed at £80 p/h for website updates, with an unofficial minimum charge of two hours.

However, it’s often been difficult to judge whether a very minor amend is simply too small to justify raising an invoice for £160+. In such cases, we’ve attempted to squeeze in the work for free, as a favour; but free work often slips down the priority list, or gets in the way of paid work. This doesn’t benefit us, or any of our clients.

For 2014, all work will be billable. However, for clients with a managed hosting contract, anything taking roughly 30 minutes or less will be carried out for free. We can’t guarantee a fast turnaround, but we will aim to complete all such work within five working days. (T&Cs will also obviously apply; for example, we wouldn’t expect to make more than two or three such changes a month, as a rule).

Where a change will take longer than 30 minutes, we will carry this work out at £60 p/h, with no minimum charge. This obviously represents a reduction on our previous hourly rate; the intention being that the new lower rate will be offset by the cost of the monthly support contract.

However. In the absence of a support contract, an hourly rate will no longer be available. It will be necessary for clients without support contracts to book a full day of our time, at the standard rate of £400.

I genuinely feel that this will offer a better service to our clients. This new support structure isn’t designed to increase our income; as I say, I hope that the monthly fee will be offset by the lower hourly rate.

Instead, it should mean that there will be no ambiguity about our responsibilities once a site has launched, and no confusion about whether or not a particular change request is chargeable.

(Incidentally, it will be perfectly possible to set up a managed hosting contract for a site hosted elsewhere; as long as we have sufficient access to that server, we can still offer the same support contract.)

I’ll soon be updating our rates page, and producing a more detailed explanation of exactly what a managed hosting contract will offer. This will cover the exact specification of the server, discuss the “Sitebeam” report in more detail, and generally clarify the conditions for any free work. I’ll also provide details of how a managed hosting contract differs from a full support contract, with clear examples showing how individual requests would be handled/costed under each one.

If any clients reading this have any questions, please get in touch. Otherwise, watch this space!

Chris Gibson

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