Flat Fee vs. Per Hour – Which Should I Pay for My Office Tech Support?

flat fee vs hourly tech support

I just fielded an inquiry regarding this one: Should I enlist a tech support company as a flat fee or scheduled IT maintenance?

A dental practice that has four locations toyed with this idea. Ernie, the owner, asked if a flat fee arrangement would be better for him. Now, I’ve read tons of books on the business side, recommending to go for the flat fee. Why wouldn’t you want to have easy money coming in and amounts that you can count on. You’ll know that, say, you’ll receive a few thousand dollars every month. Sounds like a good plan, right? For sure, on the business end, it’s a steal! But, read on to see why I talked my new client out of paying me more than he needed to.

For the tech support provider, a flat fee monthly setup, is king.

Plus, all the tech providers are bumping up their normal rates in defense of making sure they’re time isn’t more than expected. Tech service companies have to guard against a computer user who needs to be hand-held every day or throughout the month. That is time and accounts for extra money. Also, what about the start of the arrangement? Surely, extra time by the tech provider will needed to set up computers, anti-virus, emails, backups, and other things for preventative maintenance.

Such initial setups force providers to commit businesses into a 1-year contract. Why? The providers figure they may put more time into the first month or so and then after that, it will be smooth sailing with minimal support. They’ll need to average out the costs, but at the same time go higher to account for the initial heavy lifting.

Onsite vs. remote support

A big factor in considering flat fees vs. hourly fees is determining if you prefer onsite or remote. With a flat fee setup, after the initial possible onsite setups, it will quickly defer to a remote support strategy. Why? It’s cheaper and more time effective for the tech provider. If you’re a company who would like in-office support periodically, this flat fee support is not for you. If you don’t mind a majority of support to be remote, well, if you don’t mind paying through the nose, then flat fee may still be for you.

Does my company provided flat fee support?

Yes, we have and currently provide flat fee support. But, I make sure to mention that we prefer hourly. The customer pays for what they get, there are no roped in annual contracts, and the more effective approach of in-office support is primarily provided. Plus, we are very upfront that we charge higher to account for extra unforeseen support time. Some clients go for this due to strict budgetary flat fee requirements. But, as you can perceive here, the more effective approach, in my opinion, is onsite tech service.

Take-away: Onsite tech service that you pay for on an hourly basis is the preferred method.

You pay for what you get, you’re not roped into annual contracts, and you get proactive support. It’s better to have a tech come on a certain schedule in person on an IT computer maintenance schedule that the whole staff knows. An hourly rate reflecting that is the ideal route. A rolling list of issues can be fielded effectively. In contrast, flat fee setups carry the unknown if the provider is really doing something remotely behind the scenes.

Back to Ernie, the owner. Of course, he was thrilled that he was able to pay less than a flat fee approach. He happily agreed to go with a weekly periodic maintenance approach. Ernie liked knowing that a tech presence would be in our office on a known day and time. His office manager will send along a tech issue list prior to our arrival that we will take care of. We’ll also provide proactive maintenance on the network while there. If there’s an urgent tech issue, we’ll remote in or go onsite depending on the situation. This support costs less. It’s more proactive. The client is happy by knowing he’s paying for the actual service rendered, not more.



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