Are you TRYING to become a non-profit organization?!?
Or did you leave your assertiveness "hat" back in 2005?!?
Look... even in the best of times, many of your customers will avoid scheduling a PAID service call if they can mooch a FREE phone support call. That's why EVERYTHING that the Computer Consulting Kit(tm) Home Study Course teaches strongly advises against giving away free phone support, or even discounted phone support relative to on-site service, remote management, or other off-site projects.
I don't care how much business they've given you in the past. Or how much they "intend" (pretend? promise? what's the difference!) to give you in the future. (If you need a refresher, head on over to YouTube and listen to Janet Jackson's 1986 still G-rated hit "What Have You Done for Me Lately")
Free phone support doesn't work.
If customers insist on overstepping boundaries like this, and they're too small to be on an annual support agreement, sell them a prepaid time block.
If the thought of prepaying $500's worth of phone support sends them running for the hills, so be it.
Your time is your inventory. Stop allowing it to be "shoplifted".
Your time needs to be spent primarily on
- Billable work
- Marketing/sales so you can recruit more billable work
- Management and administration
Providing free phone support doesn't fit into any of those 3 priorities.
How are YOU dealing with this issue? Or were you smart enough to deal with this issue YEARS ago like we've been telling you all along?