Cyberspace: Efficiency is the Fastest Way to New Revenue
Historically, the way to add revenue in our industry has been to increase the amount of “boxes” you sell into your projects, increase the amount of projects you are capable of handling, or try to find alternative sources of revenue (service agreements, etc.)
It should be obvious that selling more boxes isn’t necessarily going to be more profitable, what with lower profit margins and competitive bidding/consumer price shopping, etc. And unless you are willing to expand your operation, adding more jobs might not be feasible.
Therefore, it becomes much more important that integrators look at making the most of each transaction—by minimizing any associated cost in performing or selling a product or service, as well as focusing on improving your bottom line when it comes to areas you might not be exploiting currently.
Let’s look at one of those: providing remote management services for your client. And let’s consider whether you are charging for your efforts accordingly. Bear in mind that while you might set up a yearly service plan, what we’re really talking about here is not giving away any service you perform for a client for free.
Proactively supporting remote systems after they have been installed has often been a second thought in the CI world. You’ve moved onto the next project and are hoping the phone doesn’t ring with a client saying, “My so-and-so isn’t working!” (Cue the inefficient truck roll.) But when considering remote network management solutions, many integrators do not consider the added benefits of being able to perform remote work—and more importantly, being able to charge accordingly for services rendered.
Probably the most common example I can think of is the remote power cycle. Consider for a moment the cost to your company for performing such service for a client: One of your people has to take the call and probably get in touch with another team member. Someone has to remotely log in and analyze the situation, and then perform the power reboot if that looks like a possible solution. That all takes time, which means you should quantify what that service fee will add up to, and not be afraid to charge accordingly. After all, you are incurring an expense that needs to be accounted for. how you come to a fee (based on possible predictable metrics) is not really this issue here. The issue is that it’s important to understand that you must bill your client for all services rendered, both on-site and remote.
Additionally, there are many more instances of service work that can be done remotely. But first, you “sell” the basic concept of remote system management and the benefits it provides for the client: The added benefit of being able to avoid a more costly and inconvenient service truck roll; the efficiency of analyzing and diagnosing service issues remotely by system specialists, as opposed to sending basic techs on-site to try and analyze any given service scenario, etc.
From firmware upgrades, to port forwarding changes, to wireless channel changes on wireless access points, to control system re-programming, to device lock-ups that might require simple rebooting up to and including true system outages that require immediate on-site attention, there are obviously a great deal of remote system management opportunities you can deploy that will save you and your client additional cost and inconvenience.
We’ve talked in the past about methods for remote connectivity. We’ve covered VPN and port forwarding and other methodologies that provide remote access to client networks. A lot of companies are now offering remote system management/remote network monitoring services that can greatly assist in understanding how to set up and charge a client for a remote system management service plan. Whichever route you take to integrating a comprehensive remote system management solution in your company, make sure you also pay close attention to security and privacy issues, as they relate to team members having access to client systems.
There are a great many benefits for you and your clients in terms of how you continue to manage the integrated systems you install over the years. But bear in mind that with a comprehensive remote system management plan, you will become much more efficient as a company (ergo, more profitable). You will also offer your client a service plan that is less of an inconvenience and less expensive in the long run, and ultimately, you’ll turn your remote service offerings into a profit center that can make a huge difference to the health and welfare of your company over the long run. CR