Monthly Archives: March 2011

Converting your facebook friend page into a fan page

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. They made me do it. If you have to convert your “friend” profile to a “fan” Page, click here.

Be aware that when you convert your profile to a Page, your profile pictures will be transferred, and all of your friends will be automatically added as people who like your Page. No other content will be carried over to your new Page, so be sure to save any important content before beginning your migration.

The account associated with the profile you previously maintained will be converted to a business account, which will be the sole admin of your new Page.


5 Ways to Surf Faster

Stop blaming your Internet Provider and follow these tips. 🙂

1: Use a fast browser

Not all browsers are created equal!! In the 90’s Internet Explorer monopolized 94% of all Internet Browsers.  Not the case today. Some browsers are simply faster than others, don’t be afraid to switch. The top speed you will find, in the current crop of browsers, belongs to Google Chrome. If you’ve grown accustomed to your little blue “E” or Firefox, you’ll notice a dramatic increase when you use Google Chrome. Of all the ways you can speed up your internet experience, this is by far the best.

2: Disable Flash

Flash pretty much saturates the web. It’s almost impossible to get away from this technology. Problem is, Flash can be slow, so it directly affects the speed of your browsing experience. You can have Flash turned off by default and then re-enable it to view what you need to view. The biggest problem with this is that some browsers require an add-on to block Flash. For Chrome, you need the extension Flashblock. There’s also a Flashblock extension for Firefox. Internet Explorer has a built-in tool you can access by clicking Tools | Manage Add-ons. In the Manage Add-ons dialog box, double-click Shockwave Flash Object. Then, click the Remove All Sites button. This will disable Flash for all sites.

3: Clear Your Cache

Pronounced “cash”, you need to clear your cookies and cache or set your browser to do it for you. Depending on the browser you use, visit the help section for that browser to see how to clear yours.

4: Get rid of toolbars

Toolbars gone wild! Are you guilty? Browsers so filled with toolbars they take up the majority of real estate in the browser window? Most users don’t realize toolbars slow down their browser. Some toolbars take up way too much precious computer memory, while others eat away at bandwidth by sending and receiving data in the background that you’re not even aware of. The math here is quite simple: The more toolbars you have, the slower your browser will run. UNINSTALL!

5: Use tabs, not windows

Too many tabs can cause problems, but they’re still your best bet for browsing efficiency. How do tabs speed up your experience? A couple of ways. The first is all about organization. With multiple tabs in a single window, it becomes quite a bit faster to locate the page you want to see. You don’t have to maximize a window, discover that it’s not the right one, minimize it, maximize a new window… until you find the correct one. A single window open with multiple tabs is far easier to search.


When To Bill Clients for Phone Time

If you aren’t billing clients for phone calls you really should start. Just be sure you know which types of calls warrant an invoice to your client.

Consultants are not only IT practitioners but typically business owners who must manage an exponentially larger client base than people would think. We must be very good at multi-tasking and time management. I alone manage 236 clients.  I have a staff of 5 who handle a lot of the back end programming and graphics work, but I alone speak and interact with our clients. Accordingly, we must learn to think like other service providers, such as accountants and attorneys. That means billing for telephone calls, something I’ve found most IT, PR & Marketing people hesitate to do. Most of us believe the practice will rub clients the wrong way.

Last month, for the first time in my 13 years of being in the IT business, I kept track of my actual time on the phone with clients. Whether it was answering a “quick” question they had, or actually trouble shooting a problem, or assisting in what a lot of clients warrant as an “emergency”. I logged 82 hours of just phone time.  If I would’ve billed for those actual hours spent with clients at $75 an hour, which is going rate for my line of work, I would’ve been ahead $6,150 for the month. Considering a 40 hour work week, and 4 weeks in a month, that makes a 160 hour work month. 82 of those hours I spent on the phone for UNBILLED time.  I literally lost an average of  four hours a day to telephone calls — that’s half my day. That time and expense simply must be accounted for.

When to bill clients

What does this mean? This means I need to make major changes to my way of conducting business. I was floored to see how much actual time I spent dealing with clients and making minor fixes for them and never billing them, because I “only spent 5-15 minutes with them” , and I feel bad about invoicing someone for mere minutes of my time. But those minutes all add up. I don’t intend to begin collecting credit card numbers each time I take a call, but it does mean I need to stand up for myself a bit more and let clients know that my time is money, and we have other clients that rely on us to complete their jobs as well in a timely manner as well.

I vow!

I vow from this day forward to charge clients for any calls about these types of requests:

  • Set up the customer’s email accounts on a new BlackBerry or iPhone or new computer or new software because they won’t take the time themselves to read the directions or call their carrier, or at least try and troubleshoot on their own, or just “google it”.
  • Eliminate a virus or spyware infection remotely
  • Give instructions on repairing a printer that’s not printing
  • Teach them “once again” how to use the CMS portion of their website, since we’ve already shown them how, but because they don’t update their site often, they “forget”.
  • Give marketing advice on how to drive more traffic to their site or store
  • Set up their facebook or twitter accounts for them
  • Explain why clients should get a twitter, FB, or Blog in the first place
  • Set up new email accounts, since our clients have full access to do this themselves

We’ll see how well I do at my new vows. I have a soft spot for my clients and I’m bad at being a softy when it comes to them. I tend to spoil rather than teach. Seeing my numbers from last month, I now realize why I always seem to be behind and have no clue where the hours of my day went. It’s possible I could’ve had that vacation I’ve always dreamed of or the granite in my kitchen, or upgraded my own computer system, if I would just bill according to the actual work I perform.

I’m not trying to be petty, there are several reasons why we need to bill clients for these calls:

  • The time me and my staff spend addressing these issues pulls them away from other billable tasks we need to complete for other clients. That means the time spent providing technical support over the telephone is actively costing us real money.
  • When walking clients through troubleshooting steps and instructions for repairing errors, or giving your best advice on how to grow their business, I’m sharing expertise, knowledge, and know-how that possess very real market value. I need not fear “being the bad guy” just because I’m charging for time and expertise; in fact, I’m providing solutions.
  • Attorneys and accountants charge for telephone calls, often billing in quarter-hour minimum increments. You wouldn’t expect to call an attorney or accountant, spend a half hour discussing the implications of a contract or tax issue and not receive a bill. Clients who consume a half-hour of an IT person, or marketing persons time to solve a computer issue or figure out how to get a commercial shot or improve traffic to their business shouldn’t expect to be serviced for free.

Sure, potential new clients are going to call inquiring about the services we provide. Other callers will have questions about a quick network problem they are experiencing. (as long as we’re the ones who set up the network) Still other calls will be maintenance contract clients reporting a problem or requesting an onsite service appointment. There’s no need to bill for those calls. Those are costs of doing business.

While it’s unnecessary to charge your regular on-site rate for telephone calls, IT and Marketing professionals should determine the hourly charge for telephone advice and support. More important, we should begin billing callers for services received, even if it means invoicing customers just for quarter-hour calls. Because, as my cell phone records prove, I often lose chunks of entire days just answering the phone.

If you aren’t billing clients for phone calls, Erik Eckel says you must start — just be sure to know which types of calls warrant a charge.
Consultants are not only IT practitioners but typically business owners, too, who must manage an exponentially larger client base. Accordingly, IT consultants must learn to think like other service providers, such as accountants and attorneys. That means billing for telephone calls, something I’ve found most consultants hesitant to do, mistakenly believing the practice will rub clients the wrong way.
Last quarter my cell phone logged 60 calls on a single Friday. If I spent just four minutes, conservatively (some remote support and assistance calls require 20-30 minutes or more to complete), on each of those calls, I would have lost four hours in a single day to telephone calls — that’s half a day. The time and expense (the cell phone provider charges my consultancy handsomely for those minutes of service) simply must be covered.
When to bill clients
This doesn’t mean your consultancy must make major changes to its business operations and begin collecting credit card authorizations each time it accepts calls; no, it just means using common sense.
Bill for these types of calls
You would, however, charge clients for any calls about these types of requests:
* Set up the customer’s email account on a new BlackBerry or iPhone
* Eliminate a virus or spyware infection
* Repair a Windows system that will not boot.
* Reset passwords
* Provide step-by-step directions on how to restart a failed QuickBooks Database Server service
* Give instructions on repairing a stalled printer
There are several reasons why your office needs to bill clients for these calls:
* The time you and your technicians spend addressing these issues pulls you and your staff away from other billable tasks you would complete for other clients. That means the time you spend providing technical support over the telephone is actively costing your consultancy real money.
* When walking clients through troubleshooting steps and instructions for repairing errors, you are sharing expertise, knowledge, and know-how that possess very real market value. You need not fear “being the bad guy” just because you’re charging for time and expertise; in fact, you’re providing solutions.
* Attorneys and accountants charge for telephone calls, often billing in quarter-hour minimum increments. You wouldn’t expect to call an attorney or accountant, spend a half hour discussing the implications of a tricky contract or tax issue and not receive a bill. Clients who consume a half-hour of a technician’s time to solve a vexing computer issue shouldn’t expect to be serviced for free.
Don’t bill for these calls
Sure, potential new clients are going to call inquiring about the services your firm provides. Other callers will have questions about a quick Windows or network problem they are experiencing. Still other calls will be maintenance contract clients reporting a problem or requesting an onsite service appointment. There’s no need to bill for those calls. Those are costs (both in time and cell phone minutes) of doing business.
How much to bill clients
While it’s unnecessary to charge your regular on-site rate for telephone calls, IT consultancies should determine the hourly charge for remote telephone support. More important, consultancies should begin billing callers for services received, even if it means invoicing customers just for quarter-hour remote support calls. Because, as my cell phone records prove, consultants often lose chunks of entire days just answering the phone.

When clients demand same day/weekend/or after hours service

When a client demands same-day service, it can wreak havoc on your IT  schedule. I’m going to share what has successfully been helping us deal with these client “emergencies”.

When more clients request same day service than your IT dept. can accommodate, you need to manage the problem so it doesn’t lead to frustrated employees, lost customers, and bad business. Here’s how to prevent a meltdown when all of your clients want same-day service. And inevitably this seems to happen all at one time. Your phone won’t ring with any issues for weeks, then poof in the same day, they’re all having a meltdown.

Set expectations up front
Problems often begin during the first client meeting. Salespeople can sometimes promise the world to get a new client. However, it’s not in your best interest to suggest that your company can respond to calls within four hours if the office isn’t equipped to act that rapidly or isn’t open on the weekend and the phones shut down at 5pm.

You should explain how after hours and weekend “emergency” calls really work. There’s nothing wrong with promising a quick response due to a true emergency — just make sure clients clearly understand what qualifies as an emergency. I’ve had clients blow up our phones after hours because they can’t figure out how to set up a new outlook account on their new computer or put music on their MP3 players.  I’m sorry, but that’s not a crisis, and not something we even support. The client needs to do a tiny bit of watching our video tutorial or reading our faq section before having a meltdown. Or actually “google” what they need help with.

Define response times in contracts
Client contracts should clearly state how quickly your office will respond to an actual problem. Response times should be defined in a way that leaves no room for misunderstandings. It’s too vague to state “Consultant agrees to respond to trouble tickets in one day.” Instead, the contract should read “Consultant agrees to provide onsite support within 24 business hours when email- or Internet-affecting outages occur” (you can change the language to match the service your office will provide). The response times promised in the contract must be something that you can back up.

Don’t get angry
There’s a natural temptation to get angry  and be short when clients demonstrate shortsightedness or prove difficult. For instance, customers who have been warned repeatedly to replace their obsolete outdated systems and then demand you recover all their data and replace the unit the same day the computer dies. Or, the clients who take 90 days to pay, dispute invoices, and demand you have a technician onsite within an hour of their call. This one is one of my favorites. You don’t pay us for months for actual work we did to the site, but expect instant responses when you want to know how to attach a picture of you and suzy to your email blog.

Getting angry doesn’t help the situation. You signed up for this when you became an IT person. Take a deep breath, listen to some feng shui music and move on.

Charge more
There’s a reason many other industries have adopted “rush” or “same day” fees: they work. I suggest doubling your regular rate for same-day service, after hours calls or weekend jobs. This weeds out quickly what is an “emergency”

You should satisfy clients who require same-day service in a way that discourages them from making unreasonable demands and charge for your efforts and overtime fees. When you respond to unanticipated calls on short notice, it almost always means another client is being pushed back, which is unfair to them, and someone must work late to accommodate the day’s other regularly scheduled tasks.

Conclusion
In the 13 years I have been doing web design and marketing work, I have found that the more often you make an exception for a client, the more often they expect it. The more you try and give, the more they seem to take. Instead of appreciating the fact that you’ve just given them free advice, or burnt dinner to take their call at 7pm and stayed on the line with them until they understood how to check their email, or been late to another client meeting because they wouldn’t let you off the phone, or called you like a psycho 12 times in a row and you finally had to excuse yourself at the wedding because something MUST be wrong for a client to call that many times over and over, the more you realize, sometimes you just can’t be nice like you want to. Billing people for your actual time resolves this problem quickly. This balancing act is difficult for even the most seasoned veterans to master. I struggle with it daily because I am from the old school where you bend over backwards for your clients and they are “always right”. There are clients I know I could help and that I genuinely like speaking with, but we have recently had to put our foot down, because we felt we had way too many clients taking advantage of our generosity. It’s also ok to cut the ties on those clients that hinder you more than help you. If a client is constantly demanding and pushy, yet (this is a real life instance) pays you an average of $25 a month. You are more than likely hurting your actual paying clients for this one overbearing, time consuming client who doesn’t appreciate you or your time. And heaven forbid if you actually invoiced them for the real hours you spent giving them advice, phone time, returning emails to them and so on. We have recently started firing clients, for this behavior and it’s a liberating feeling. Not to mention the extra time we have to work on clients who actually pay their bills on time and honestly do appreciate us. 🙂