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Joel Article Request : product support


Prompted by the Count Almasy "Shrinkwrap support ratios" thread :

do you have anything  to say about managing user support of software apps ?

Obviously lots of us want to build a software product and sell it.  I intend to.  But issues like providing email support does seem quite intimidating.

I expect when my app is finished, polished and put on the web for credit card purchase/download I will still be working a 9-5 job, so what are your experiences with support ?

Is it a little bit of 'fake it till you make it' ? offering support without knowing for sure what demand, and hence you ability to meet it will be ?


Thursday, December 4, 2003

You'll do support weekends and evenings for as many hours as is needed. If you don't do support and you charge for your product, you will soon develop a bad reputation and customers will go out of their way to avoid your product. So you have to provide it.

If support gets to be taking up to much of your time, then at that point you should be making enough dough to either hire a customer support person, or to quit your job and go it alone. Unless you foolishly priced your product too low to pay for the costs of providing support. If you did that, you will be doomed. If not, you have a chance to be OK.

If you priced it OK and you are getting too many requests that are for basic functionality or bugs, then your program is not good enough. Make it easier to use, improve live help, add a customer support forum, fix the bugs. Once the program is stable and has a good UI, most of your requests will be for new features and obscure problems. Again, be sure to have your program very stable before releasing it, or customer service issues will go from 30% of customers to 200%, which can kill your business model with support costs.

But do be prepared to handle requests from 30%.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, December 4, 2003

By the way, many people pooh-pooh usability issues and testing/QA. But usability issues and QA are the key difference to going bankrupt because you can't afford the level of customer support you need to provide and making a living at what you do.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, December 4, 2003

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