Selling Support to Pay For OSS Development is BS

Selling Support to Pay For OSS Development is BS

When have you ever gone into an electronics store and wanted to get the newest gadget du-jour and when they asked you to purchase an extended support contract you replied, “I’ll purchase the extended support but I want the gadget for free.”

You don’t because its asinine outside the OSS software asylum. When did we get to this point? When did we get to the point of bait and switch by using support as a crutch to get our OSS passions funded?

One could blame it on a stigma that anything built on WordPress, being free for you to use open source software, should be free as well. This is nutty. Gas companies, bottled water companies build billion dollar businesses on FREE NATURAL RESOURCES! Yet, no one questions this business model.

Yes, anything built for interfacing with WordPress should and must be licensed GPLv2 but that doesn’t mean you can’t charge any amount you wish to access and/or download.

Support and product can be sold as one unit or sold separately, much like the electronics store “extended support”. You pay for the product AND support. Some products you buy include a money back / replace it guarantee. This is the ultimate form of low cost support.

Essentially, this is a quick way to forget typical support process whereby the product provider doesn’t want to deal with the cost of provider to consumer contact and cuts to the chase of refunding or replacing the product.

How much do you pay a support person? Calculate this with the amount of customers who’ve been refunded and evaluate if you are better off killing your support system and offering a refund. Digital products can benefit from this immensely because over time your product profit only increases.

Spend more money on documentation and marketing and it will more than offset loosing a few customers because there is no provider to consumer direct support contact. Blog about how to use your product, frequently. Not only is this good SEO business practice. You are training your users in a drip. People retain more knowledge when they get information on steady timed schedules.

If you do get people who really really want support, well, charge them your hourly development rate. They may quickly reevaluate the need. After all, most support is from “lazy” customers who do not want to read your well thought out and thorough documentation.

Money spent on support is not actually growing your business. It’s only maintaining it, but at a high cost. How much of your support can be alleviated with better documentation?

Are features too confusing for your users causing you to have support issues to begin with? Great products are self educating. They should feel natural to a user. Would a car manufacturer put a square steering wheel in a car to make their product “cutting edge” or unique to try and win customers? No. They use the standard set so users have no issues using the product from day one. Simplifying is a great support reducer.

Whether its no support, adding support as an extra cost or selling support per request. We need to drop this notion in OSS that the product is free in exchange for buying support. It’s a lie to yourself and your customers. You use the support cost to pay for development, marketing as well as support.

The high cost of support will eat up any profit to pay for the actual development thus dooming the product. Development AND support are worth a price. First, decide if you actually need support and if your time isn’t better spent on documentation and blogging about the product.

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