A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.
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Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
I wonder if someone has experienced the same problem and how would you handle it. Recently this started to happen a lot to us. Customers buy software then open support tickets asking for features we have never advertised. Some would claim that they just understood things that way (we have fully functional demos and tour pages) other will just say it's important for them.
We cannot handle all customization requests especially that some of them would expect us to do it for free. And usually such customers say something along the lines "do it or give me money back". Sometimes this happens after we already spent a lot of hours for their odd support requests.
How would you handle such customers?
Friday, May 23, 2014
Give their money back and move on. Life is too short to deal with these kinds of people.
Although to be honest, I've found that in probably 90% of the time when I tell them I will happily refund their money and disable their license, they suddenly decide they'd rather keep everything as-is.
You DO have some sort of online license activation, right?
Having looked at your website I can understand why it is difficult for you. You can't simply disable their licence.
I'm guessing you have evidence that after refunding money they are still using your product ?
I would suggest:
Stop doing free customization but make sure available documentation is excellent
Offer customization as a paid service, host it on your machine and don't transfer files until they have paid
Offer a hosted service
Send polite email to some customers who have been refunded, "Oh I see you're still using our software, please buy a licence; and you'll get the next version". Worth a try.
Thanks mates - you are both right, we are selling mostly GPL software and there are no activation keys. Even if we build activation keys, everything should be open source, so you get it how secure they will be.
I am not that concerned about people who steal the software rather than those who buy without looking what they buy and then start asking for features we never advertised. (This kind of server-side software is never simple - has too many features to be described easily).
I guess we just have to be strict that software is sold "as is" and customization is not free even if such answers cost us more refunds.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Quicky suggestion -try changing "All scripts are REFUNDABLE!" to "All scripts are GUARANTEED!"
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Really, the word "REFUNDABLE" is the most prominent element on your page, as if it was the main benefit/feature of your offer. Remove it altogether or at least move below the fold.
Dmitry Leskov @Home
Sunday, May 25, 2014
I have quite some experience in the same business. I know how these "customization requests" suck up development time, how some customers call them "issues" and "bugs" and want to get 24/7 free phone support for a $40 plugin. You don't want that type of customers. The time you will invest in supporting them is not worth it.
Your support policy is your most important weapon against such people. Polishing it regularly will help you a lot. Looking at your support policy, here's what bothers me:
* "Support on weekends and holidays will be provided only for urgent inqiries and is not guaranteed."(There's a typo btw, it has to be "inquiries") Why are you doing this? Who determines what is urgent? If they are late on their project, that's their problem, not yours. If they just want it right now, well... they'll have to wait a while. This line is a caveat in your support policy, which is giving a particular type of people an opportunity to abuse you and to make you prioritize their requests over the requests of other customers. I don't think this is fair. If somebody is really facing an urgent issue, they will still email you, even if your support policy says that you only answer emails on a Monday.
* If I were you, I'd remove any mention of "feature requests". This particular line of copy is another caveat: "Reasonable feature requests that can improve the products get added to our roadmap". Who decides what is reasonable? To a customer everything they request is reasonable and even important. If you tell them that you're not going to add that feature because it's "unreasonable", you're going to offend them. If I were you, I wouldn't give out the way you prioritize features. Yes, you decide what is reasonable and what isn't, but you don't say that to customers.
> Customers buy software then open support tickets asking for features we have never advertised. Some would claim that they just understood things that way (we have fully functional demos and tour pages) other will just say it's important for them.
And that is why we don't do any custom work, whatsoever. I'm quite sure this is happening because of the "customization" section in your support policy. You're giving them the opportunity to request whatever they want. You're basically saying: "Just buy this and tell us how you want it modified and we'll arrange a deal" And that's what they do. And if you don't want to do what they want, they will request their money back. Such a mix between "custom work" (which is contract work, in essence) and "licensed product" is dangerous. If you really want to go down the "custom work" road, just remove that section from your website. Customers will then contact you to ask if it's possible to tweak this and that, etc. When you have the time and you want to do it, you can say Yes.
By the way, although on our website we've clearly stated that we don't do ANY customizations, I still receive such requests all the time.
*One final and very important note*
I didn't see an FAQ or a Knowledge Base anywhere on your website. Your support load will be times less if you had these. Especially for such type of software. For example, I regularly pick the most common customization questions that we receive and add the answers to the KB. Also, our customers are first presented with the KB and only after that, they can contact us. I also add to the KB tutorials on how to do simple code customizations. I explain them step by step. It's working beautifully for us. According to the GA data, about 90% of our customers find their answers there and never contact us.
These are really really broad topics. Just the tip of the iceberg. You can read more of my musings on the topic by clicking on my name.
I hope that I helped you in some way.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Thanks everyone. Gergana, big thank you, you raised very important issues. I'll definitely review the support policy (we added it recently - didn't have one at all, so you can imagine things were worse).
The FAQ is important thing. We do have FAQ / How-To on our product pages (our homepage isn't most relevant as most customers land directly on one of the Wordpress plugin pages), and you are right it helps a lot (still needs work though).
You have an interesting site.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Happy to see the forums up again.
You're welcome. I know what you're going through. Glad if I can help. :)
> We do have FAQ / How-To on our product pages (our homepage isn't most relevant as most customers land directly on one of the Wordpress plugin pages), and you are right it helps a lot (still needs work though).
Sorry, I didn't realize that. Well, it's constant work. New questions will arise with the new releases. Old questions will become irrelevant. It's not a very fun activity, but it's worth it.
By the way, another thing you could try is placing a note on the plugin page: "By purchasing this plugin you agree to our support policy". This is to make your policy transparent and inform people of what they can expect from you. Btw, the lower their expectations, the better your chance to make them say "wow!"
> You have an interesting site.
Monday, June 02, 2014
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