It is already the month of May—I know, I can’t believe it either—and the feeling of spring is in the air. Spring typically means warmer weather, longer days to get the estimates done and, of course, your annual tech support fees are due.

On the average, these fees run about $1,500, but vary depending on what software you have. For some, this amount is based on each user license you own. The fees are not cheap, but the value of the service it can provide your company is priceless.

Imagine this nightmare scenario: two of your estimators have been working on an estimate for 40 hours each at $50 an hour, costing your company $4,000. On bid day, for some unknown reason (we’ll call it Murphy’s Law), you can’t start the program.

You call tech support. A bit of discussion and a few keystrokes later, your system is back on. Because of tech support’s help, you are able to finish your $1 million bid, which you win, and gross $100,000 on the contract. Suddenly, your $1,500 tech support fee seems like pocket change.

Join the club

Instead of looking at the cost of your software as a one-time purchase, think of it as a membership fee to an exclusive club. Your initial purchase got you in, and your annual tech support fees renew your membership. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?

Of course, you can decide to not pay the fees and still operate your software for many years, as long as it continues to work.

But what will you do when you have a problem with it? What if the database gets corrupted or your computer’s hard-drive crashes and you need to reinstall the software? What if you need to perform a special extension and just can’t figure it out on your own? What if a job file becomes corrupted and you need it repaired? What if Bill Gates releases Windows Super XYZ? It is the “what if’s” that justify the need for tech support. Having tech support behind you can give you a great sense of security.

I’ve gone for months without calling tech support for help. Then again, I’ve also called them three or four times in one week. Sometimes they aren’t able to help me with my special needs (and the tech support gang will tell you—I have special needs).

Sometimes they remind me of how little I know about a program by guiding me to the single command solution I failed to look for in the help files. For all the times they were able to help, they saved me dollars and clients—priceless service—making annual fees seem very reasonable.

If you still need another way to mentally soften the impact of your annual tech support fees, simply divide it into a monthly cost. Even at $2,500 this exercise helps: $2,500 divided by 12 is only $208 and some change. A pretty small expense when compared to the benefits you and your estimating department gain. You probably spend more money playing golf each month. Not that the golf isn’t worth it, but having a good golf game won’t fix your computer or keep your software running.

You get more than just help with problems

Tech support fees are not just for help when you have problems. Membership to the club provides unfettered access to the experts, the ones who really know how to operate the software. Need to know how to merge two take-offs safely, export a file to another program or teach a new user the basics? Call tech support.

Most companies offer educational assistance over the phone and some even train online. This added value feature is a great way to get a new estimator who is unfamiliar with the software up to speed quickly.

The membership also gives you access to the latest updates (to learn about the latest updates, turn to page 124). This is one of the greatest benefits to paying your annual support fees. New features, improved speed, better control, more options. All for the low, low price of an annual membership fee. EC

SHOOK is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 or sfs@TakeOff16.com.