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Need advice about in-home PC repair and support


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#1 jvdlcr125

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 02:13 PM

As a short back-story, I have a few years of professional experience in both customer service, PC + Mac repair and tech support (end users, no business). I'm currently in the process of starting an in-home tech support business and I was hoping to gather some insight about the following:

  • How do you manage appointments?
  • What software and hardware do you use on-site?
  • How do you manage time while performing stand-by tasks on-site (ie. waiting for a program to install, transferring data)?
  • Which services are billed at flat rates vs hourly?
  • What is your trip charge?
  • Do clients pay at time of service or are they billed prior to the services completion?
  • What is some advice on maintaining a working relationship with your clients after the service and creating repeat customers?
  • What are your hourly rates?
  • Would setting up a service contract with monthly billing be a good option for increasing revenue?
  • Should an anti-virus or cloud backup be bundled with a service contract? (to add to customer value)
  • Are there any additional tips or tricks that may be useful to know?

Thank you in advance for the help. I have a few years of experience but I could really use some advice from other professionals working in the field.



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#2 TsVk!

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 04:31 PM

Hi there...

  • How do you manage appointments?

jam as much in as possible

  • What software and hardware do you use on-site?

Laptop with Win and Linux. Multitudes of rescue/live disks and USB's always on hand., several sets of known good components in the car.

  • How do you manage time while performing stand-by tasks on-site (ie. waiting for a program to install, transferring data)?

think logically, always a good time to make phone calls, respond to mails etc.

  • Which services are billed at flat rates vs hourly?

all problems at hourly rate, 1/2 hour increments.

  • What is your trip charge?

$50-$100 depending on distance

  • Do clients pay at time of service or are they billed prior to the services completion?

completion, no pay and I keep the machine... no credit ever. I've acquired a few computers like this. People consider tech support "shysters" and they won't pay apart from on the day. Create an agreement/disclaimer and get them to sign it before you start any job. Good for covering your ass too.

  • What is some advice on maintaining a working relationship with your clients after the service and creating repeat customers?

do a good job, keep your fee under $120 if possible, point out the amazing ways you have actually saved them money.

  • What are your hourly rates?

$40 private $60 commercial, of which the machine does most of the work... one can work on 3-4 machines simultaneously.

  • Would setting up a service contract with monthly billing be a good option for increasing revenue?

no, you will be answering the phone to idiots all day and night, that you are required to oblige by contract.

  • Are there any additional tips or tricks that may be useful to know?

Don't stay at call outs to fix more than simple issues (1/2 hour or less), always take the machine away if possible, then return it. You don't want to be sat in someones house or office for hours while software installs or diagnostics run, if you can avoid it... Even better, get them to bring the machine to you. Just mention the callout fee.

Buy a KVMP switch. Very very handy.

 

 

Hope this helps a little.

 

I only part-time and weekends do this, as I have a full time job that is in house sys/tech support also. Be prepared to deal with a lot of idiots, and have people whinging about your fees , constantly. Be prepared for people downloading and installing viruses even before you have made it home from their call-out, then calling you back and blaming you. Bring your sense of humour, otherwise you will end up with assault charges...

 


Edited by TsVk!, 05 February 2014 - 05:07 PM.


#3 JohnnyJammer

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 01:37 AM

Good advice, im gathering you must be in Townsville hey? TsVk!, $60 an hour is cheap for commercial. Should be more like $120 but that depends on you experiance i spose.

Its almost like the OP is making documentation for TAFE.



#4 TsVk!

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 02:07 AM

I'm up in Bingil Bay...

 

It's not really major 'commercial' up here where I am, but just more small businesses. They can't afford that sort of cash... and I work full time at the only place that can afford real money.

 

it does seem like OP's making a short paper on the subject... maybe just sniffing around, checking viability?



#5 hispaladin

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 12:50 PM

I would agree with TsVk!, I did this running my own small business for a few years (quit for reasons I won't go into other than this piece of advice, never mix family and partnerships in the same sentence) My one thought would be that when you are on site, bill for the time you spend there, and let them know that is how you have to do it.  I didn't charge people for all the time i spent watching their computer install software or run scans if it was in shop, I had a set rate for most things that involved a lot of time babysitting because I didn't want to charge someone for 4 hours where I only touched their computer for about 10 min total.  Pay on delivery is absolute and have them sign a basic contract stating that they have a set amount of time from the time of billing to pay or they forfeit their machine. I have fought those battles before and it is not fun.  One more thing (this is probably not needed to say but I had to convince my brother that this was the best move) if someone writes you a bad check, nail them to the wall for it as hard as you can.  I was in a small town and I know that there were a lot of people that wrote bad checks and once word gets out that you let one person off without pressing it into court you will get flooded with bad checks.  I offered two rates, a personal and commercial rate, the reason for this was personal rates were worked on in the order they came in and commercial payed more to get to the front of the line.  Commercial usually means they are loosing money when the machine is down so they will pay more to get it back up faster.  As far as service call rates, I was ridiculously cheap, I would go 5 miles and only charged a set rate of one hour no matter how long I was there (meaning if I was only there for 5 min I still charged 1 hour, not 1 hour for being there 3 :crazy: ) and a buck a mile after that.  I had people ask me how far I would go and I told them as far as they wanted to pay me.  I got $50 on a service call alone one time because the woman wanted someone to come install a DVD-rom drive so she could play her new game and I was the first person in the phone book who picked up.  Not saying this is how you SHOULD do it just how I did.  I loved the work just hated the business crap.

 

 

Edit: one other thing for producing return customers, work with people.  If they talk to you and communicate they are having issues, work with them.  Not saying  give them the machine before they pay in full but if they cant pay the bill in full right now and talk to you about it work with them.  They will come back if you work with them.  If they cant  pay the bill on time and you will not work with them they will not come back.  I say if they cant pay in full in the time set let them pay part and give them some more time.  In most cases you will be better off getting your money little bit at a time than having a computer on hand.  At least in a small town, maybe not in a bigger city.


Edited by hispaladin, 06 February 2014 - 12:55 PM.


#6 Kilroy

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:33 PM

 

Create an agreement/disclaimer and get them to sign it before you start any job.

 

This is the most important thing.  Any time you do anything on someone's machine they will blame anything that goes wrong in the future on what you did, no matter how far fetched.  Get a list of the work to be done prior to starting and have the customer verify that the issues have been resolved.

 

I'd also recommend against any type of bundling for the same reasons.  If you bundle an AV product and they get infected to them it is your fault and they will want it fixed for free since your terrible AV got them infected.

 

For hardware I'd recommend a USB to IDE/SATA adapter.

 

Personally I no longer do this as I don't need the money and have much better things to do with my spare time.



#7 daveydoom

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 03:00 PM

Buy a KVMP switch. Very very handy.

 

 

 

In addition to this I'd say get yourself some extender cables for hard drives (data and power).  

 

I have a dedicated test PC set up so that I can slave other drives to it whenever I want.   I got an extended IDE cable and power cable many years ago and it made life very easy for me since I never had to remove the drives from my client's PC's.   I would just sit the tower beside mine on the bench and run my cables to it.   I also have a similar setup for SATA drives.

 

While not a necessity, it does make things easier and quicker :)  .


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#8 jvdlcr125

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 12:28 AM

I am pretty serious about getting this business started within the next few months. Getting experience from industry professionals is the best way to start a business.



#9 mjd420nova

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 01:23 PM

One big problem I run across all the time and is rarely addressed.  Users who open the case for whatever reason, damage something, close the case, play innocent and call for service.  It doesn't matter whether it's a corporate account or the single user at home, it happens and will complicate the troubleshooting process and be very expensive in the end.  For elderly clients I have reduced rates and even have clients that will barter instead of cash.  Beware the user who calls six different places and pays the first to show up.  Trip charges can be up to $150.  Mileage rates and travel time, then meals if extended service or travel is required and cost of parts to you and the mark up you take.  Initial investments include test equipment, test software and a stock of generic parts for trouble shooting.  Unless you nurture clients that all have the same gear, stocking parts may be impossible to predict usages/failures until some history is established.



#10 hispaladin

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 05:20 PM

I second what mjd420nova said about stocking parts, the only thing I kept in stock was a few network cards and power supplies.  Even ram is to varied to try to stock.  I just let people know that I had to order parts in and it would take a few days for them to get here.



#11 KJackson50

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 12:11 AM

Hey guys, a few questions,

 

I'm also interested in doing something like this on nights and weekends. As of now I only deal with residential users. However I use a flat rate model for issues. The only thing I charge for time is networking issues (these can be time consuming). Are there any downfalls to this? I think it's just simpler for everyone involved to advertise a flat rate and get the job done as quick and efficiently as possible.

 

I also wanted to know if there was a "price model" of sorts floating around out there. I want to make sure I'm not charging an arm and a leg, but I don't want to short change myself either.

 

Are there any examples disclaimers out there I could use for my business? As of now I've only had a few clients and I've just had them sign an impromptu write up of what I've done, and that it works. Should I have them sign something before I take the machine? Something like "if you don't pay, we keep your machine". I'm afraid I'll get a client who once I do the work, they won't pay and I would definitely want something in writing to back me up in that situation



#12 Ocsi'c

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 11:27 PM

I've been doing this sort of thing full time for 15+ years.Malware in all its forms will be a big part of business. Removing malware can take hours, no client will want to pay a hourly rate to remove malware. Flat rate it, at say 1.5 times your hourly rate.Flate rate OS installs at the same rate. Difficult malware removals become OS installs with no price surprise to the client. This assumes that the client brings the computer to you. Everything done at the client location is strictly time based.

 

KVM switch to allow you to work on multiple computers at once is essential if you want to make a profit.

 

Make sure the client understands that you are not responsible for their data. That said, make a snapshot of every HDD you work on as step one.. When the client needs a file they can no longer find, you become the amazing guy who can find it for them.

 

Set a minimum labour charge and stick to it, say 1/2 hour, no matter how quick and simple the repair or upgrade. e.g. Client wants RAM upgraded, charge 1/2 hour labour.

 

As far as a price model, an old mentor told me "never charge less than the local mechanic for your time"

 

TsVk! answered most of the original question quite nicely, although I do not agree with different rates for residential and commercial clients. Home users will not appreciate the price break and businesses will resent the higher price. Charge the same hourly rate to both. Keep your prices low when you start to build a customer base and then gradually and regularly raise your rates.

 

Oh, one final thought, don't give your buddies any breaks.Make them pay the same as anyone else. Friends and family can take a lot of time that could be spent on more profitable clients.



#13 KJackson50

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 05:22 PM

Sorry if this has already been discussed, but this goes to the veterans out there. What do you guys do for contracts? Things like Service Agreements, Receipts, etc...

 

Did you consult an attorney, or just write one up yourself? I'm interested in knowing because I want to protect myself and my business in case of some client looking to make a quick buck!



#14 mjd420nova

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 07:50 PM

Contracts are essential is a client wants some special treatment, then those details need to be spelled out.  Things like 24/7 coverage, outage insurance, hot swap programs and service to remote locations all need to have spcial considerations.  These need to be written down and agreed to before any service is rendered.  DON"T work for free.



#15 Aerys

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 03:00 PM

I have been working for a computer repair shop for close to a month, and I have a year of experience with a school system and their IT department;

 

  • How do you manage appointments?
    • www.mhelpdesk.com
  • What software and hardware do you use on-site?
    • www.mhelpdesk.com
    • pretty much any tool from the downloads section here on BC
    • I personally sell a remote management tool for people that want round the clock support without leaving their home
  • How do you manage time while performing stand-by tasks on-site (ie. waiting for a program to install, transferring data)?
    • Just let the client know the task can be time consuming, I've had people offer me food or to watch TV with them.
  • Which services are billed at flat rates vs hourly?
    • Flat rate services include OS reinstalls, full server setup/configuration, diagnosing issues(estimates for solutions); hourly is pretty much ant other kind of work(malware removal, general checkups, troubleshooting via phone)
  • What is your trip charge?
    • In-store services are $70/hour and on-site services are $85/hour, if it is out of my area(local county) then I charge for travel expenses.
  • Do clients pay at time of service or are they billed prior to the services completion?
    • All services require a $35 deposit, that way I know I will be getting something out of it if they decide to stiff me.
  • What is some advice on maintaining a working relationship with your clients after the service and creating repeat customers?
    • The helpdesk has a built in feature to schedule follow-up calls and appointments, I usually call after a month on big clients and 3 months on other customers. Word of mouth can get you more business in a small area than anything else. Try to work with people on a personal basis, discounts and such.
  • What are your hourly rates?
    • $70/hour in-store and $85/hour on-site. discounts for anyone that subscribes to the remote management service.
  • Would setting up a service contract with monthly billing be a good option for increasing revenue?
    • All the customers are required to sign their estimate when they agree on a service, and to sign the invoice when they pay it off and retrieve the computer, I just tell them the basics of the contract when they come in/call.
  • Should an anti-virus or cloud backup be bundled with a service contract? (to add to customer value)
    • With any malware removal I install an antivirus of their choice, or help them purchase a paid one if they choose. The remote management package includes a custom antivirus as well.
  • Are there any additional tips or tricks that may be useful to know?
    • Wear a tie when you go on-site, always have a smile and set up a phone line for quick questions and free advice.

He said the same thing he had been saying for hours... "burn them all".

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