Whether your product is an open-source script, a Web application or a downloadable product, you will need to provide some form of technical support. This article explores the subject based on my experience of supporting our company’s product, Perch, a small content management system (CMS) that we sell as a download for people to install in their own hosting space. Our support has been a key factor in the success of this product, not just because users love responsive support, but because we have used what we have learned from users to improve the product.
Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Support
As Eran Galperin says in “You’re Pricing It Wrong: Software Pricing Demystified” on Smashing Magazine:
“A commercial product that comes with support will often win over customers who want that assurance that someone will be on the other end of the line should they need it.”
Support can be a key selling point, a reason for a person to choose your product over the competition. In our case with Perch, the competition is often free software, so including unlimited support with a license is a big part of why someone might choose us over a competitor. Even for products aimed at technologically literate users, knowing that someone is on hand to answer questions or fix bugs can influence the decision to buy or sign up.
Don’t Underestimate The Time This Will Take
Users will always need support. You could have a bulletproof product and the most excellent tutorials and documentation, and someone will find a way to break it or just not read the information staring them in the face. Later in this article, I’ll explain some ways to minimize support requests and the time spent in dealing with them. But you should expect to offer support and build it into the price of your product.
Your support systems should also help you track the amount of time being taken up by support, so that you can plan for future requirements. If you are a small company whose product developers are supporting the product at present, knowing the amount of time each license or user requires for support on average will enable you to project when you might need to hire additional support staff.