Subject: Re: Is anyone selling support with a retainer?
From: Bob Weiner <weiner@infodock.com>
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 1997 18:18:55 -0800

>>>>> "CHK" == C Harald Koch <chk@utcc.utoronto.ca> writes:

   CHK> In message <199702180057.QAA05450@infodock.com>, Bob Weiner writes:

   >> The question seems unclear.  If someone has paid for support and he
   >> calls you, the support is either covered by the contract or it isn't.
   >> If it is, there is no issue of fee. 

   CHK> Sounds like you've never encountered retainers in the legal
   CHK> profession.

Actually, I have encountered them a number of times with lawyers and they
always seemed to reflect a disinterest by the lawyer in having you as a
client.  If they believe you will pay and will generate a fair amount of
business, they won't ask for a retainer.

   CHK> A 'retainer' is usually a fee paid to an individual to "be available"
   CHK> just in case any services are required. When something does come up,
   CHK> there is still a fee structure in place to cover the actual
   CHK> services. The retainer is only a fee that allows the client to ask
   CHK> the individual to drop everything else.

All except the last part sounds right.  I've never seen a lawyer who would
drop all of his other work simply because he had a retainer from you.  My
statement from above still applies; the contract between you and the entity
to which you pay the retainer spells out which services are included and
which aren't, if any.  If you want to throw in a service discount, you
can spell that out as well.

If you can get software support customers to pay retainers, more
power to you.  I think the key criteria would be if you were
a sole supplier of the support and if they were reasonably set
on having you work for them.   If you added a kicker that somehow reduced
their costs as a result of the retainer, that would change the equation.

Right now, my firm, InfoDock Associates does support with either fixed
yearly fees or per issue fees.  Custom development work is billed on
an hourly basis.  Maybe your question relates to whether a client with
a support contract (if we can call that the retainer), should get reduced
fees when he asks you to do either some new form of support or some
customer development.

Bob