HOME IS WHERE the heart is—and increasingly, where the money is for Computer Concepts. Admittedly, the residential and home-based business market doesn’t get much respect from my peers. But while they may be under the impressions there’s not enough revenue to be made, residential has been a steadily growing and profitable segment of my business in the Greater Chicago area suburbs for the past seven years. To scale this segment now, though, requires greater automation, repeatability, and a managed services model, in which customers view Computer Concepts as a technology concierge versus a PC doctor who makes house calls.
My background is in corporate training, so when I launched my business in 1999 we primarily provided computer and software instruction to large corporations. It wasn’t until I joined the local chamber of commerce and exhibited at a home show that I launched into the residential, home-based business, and small business markets, initially offering computer training, consulting, and break-fix services.
The demographics of our service area include many high-net-worth individuals with 6,000-plus square foot homes. Many of my clients are current or retired C-suite-level professionals who now have a home-based business or are working as consultants, and they want to have that same level of IT support they enjoyed when they worked for big corporations.
As this segment of my business continued to grow, I knew something had to change to consistently provide exceptional service and support. We were getting calls, emails, and texts every day—all day long—for common problems that could have been prevented or resolved with automated remote management.
I hired an MSP consultant to help me get to that next level, which meant automating and developing a recurring monthly revenue business model. Then I researched IT business management solutions, eventually choosing Autotask because it gives me plenty of room to grow.
Now we are transitioning those residential customers to a managed service model.
Starting with a few select, long-time clients, we are having conversations about how we’ll be able to service them better and faster, monitor and respond to problems proactively, and anticipate issues like hard drive failure or at capacity.
Our service package includes a few different choices for backup, including cloud, plus imaging, virus and malware protection, file sync and share, and monitoring and patching.
To handle the barrage of text messages we receive from customers with “quick questions,” we’ve created an auto response directing them to send an email so we can create a ticket to work on their issue. This enables us to bill more accurately for our time. We’re letting customers know that if they go on a managed plan their questions will be moved to the front of the queue, and they’ll have the option of having us do a remote session as well.
Remote monitoring and a monthly subscription model are not always easy sells to residential customers who like us to come on-site. However, I've been a trusted name and IT provider in my community for a long time, so when I make a recommendation to my clients, they usually move forward with it. Customers who do not want to be on a managed service plan pay a higher rate.
Carving a Niche
For anyone looking to tap into the residential market, I would recommend the following revenue-boosting tips:
Learn the Mac. Your customers may be using Windows products at work, but we’ve found that they typically have Macs and other Apple devices at home. Helping our clients optimize and sync these devices has been an additional source of income. Also, offer Mac virus protection, because malware has increased in occurrence in the past few years.
Become an expert in mesh Wi-Fi. Customers with significant square footage homes want better Wi-Fi, so we’ve been installing mesh Wi-Fi systems to extend their networks.
Offer dark web scans. As my clients’ technology concierge, we want to educate them about the importance of good passwords. People are not aware that their information is for sale in an open market. A dark web scan is a great way to get their attention, which leads to more training and consulting time.
Bear in mind that home-based customers can be demanding, but it’s a big market. So if my competitors don’t want to target it, that’s a win-win for me.
Photography by Tori Soper