Charging for Support

It is ironic that the cheaper the product, the harder it is to charge for support, yet customers take it as law that they will pay thousands of dollars for a maintenance program on a million-dollar software suite. If you are going to employ staff to support your program, the cost of their support either has to be built into the software or charged separately.

Consider carefully how you will charge your customers. If customers don't get the program installed they will return the program, bad-mouth the product, and shovel shame on the company. It's a lose-lose situation. If software support is required before the program is working properly, provide it for free. If customers ask for the company's expertise to provide additional benefits after the program is working, the company is in a position to charge.

Take Note

In the 1980s PCs were new and technical; support was vital for questions that are now grist for The Weakest Link. Without the manufacturer's support, every dealer had a lot of disgruntled customers on the telephone.

When the support became farcical, sales dropped, dealers complained, and emergency action was taken to beef up the support department. Two years later they had a large team of first-rate people. Support calls were answered almost immediately. The quality of effective responses was over 90 percent. However, this was achieved at a price. Costs by this time were stratospheric. In marched the bean counters and took a scythe to the bulk of the operation. Much of the support staff either wound up in some other part of the firm or were let go (often straight into the hands of competitors). The remainder were overworked (and often followed their former coworkers to competitors). Then sales fell. Dealers complained. Support oscillated between brilliant and rubbish.

Support wasn't managed consistently. In more than one case, what could have been a brilliant international corporation became an abandoned brand. Hardly anyone remembers Apricot today.

There are only a certain number of ways you can levy a charge.

You

can

build support into the software price.

You

can

offer free support for the first so many days after registration.

You

can

offer help on a premium rate telephone number.

You

can

make a flat charge per issue.

You

can

offer an annual maintenance contract.

Ultimately, the tariff or tariffs you choose may be dictated by what perceived competitors charge. You may of course turn this to your advantage by providing something better. It's your call.

If you or your staff have to make a site visit, it is not unreasonable to charge for travel expenses and time. Agree with the client on a rate in advance and get confirmation in writing (fax is fine) in case they query it afterwards.

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