Being Proactive with Client Support
Let’s talk support contracts. I’m going to give you an example of how I almost messed up my first one.
A Short Story
As my first annual support contract got close to expiring, I noticed the client had not use any of the support hours.
I started to panic.
What if they didn’t want to renew? What if they wanted to use all the allocated hours at once? How would I make time for that? If they did expire, should they carry on to the next year?
Fearing that 80 support hours would be sprung on me at the last minute I took action. I contacted them first.
The email started with some small talk
I hope everything is going well. Did you guys get into the NBA Finals at all?
Followed by business
It looks like the support agreement for will be expiring in a couple of months. How have things been going with the application? Any minor/major issues?
Followed by a call to action based on my desire to schedule the support hours around my schedule
Would you mind if I flew out there just to see how things were going? Here is my schedule for the next month.
Several days later, I had a trip planned to travel onsite and do some support.
In the end, they were happy to renew AND gave me more money for an additional project. They never mentioned the 80 support hours.
This near blunder taught me some very valuable lessons you can learn too:
- Understand your client’s motivations. In this specific example, the software I support has an audit several times a year. Part of that audit requires it to have someone supporting the software. Neither the audit agency nor my client cares about the number of hours used. Just as long as nothing breaks.
- Dictate the support terms. I email them once a month to see how things are going. This minimizes the risk of them contacting me unexpectedly.
- Document everything. If this client ever does contact me for support, I don’t want to waste a ton of hours (or even days) ramping up. The faster I can figure out their problem and solution the better. Even more so if I have other clients at the time. Now I have their entire process documented in a wiki so I don’t have to spend more than a couple minutes context switching.
To this day I still work with this client. In fact, we discussed renewing just the other day.
This next year I want to improve the process by scheduling emails. Maybe send out an email once a month to the users asking if they’re having any issues.
Do you have any thoughts on how I can improve this process?
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