Tough Decisions and Compromises

Since I launched my King Design premium support options and listed a phone number on the support page I’ve, of course, gotten a number of phone calls from folks who have pre-sales questions about Tasks Pro™ or Tasks™ but have not purchased a support token. It’s a somewhat tough situation. On the one hand, I certainly want to answer these questions and sell more software, but as I’ve explained in the past, there are good reasons why I’m unable to offer free phone support.

Since this has been going on for a couple of months now, I’ve had the opportunity to try handling this both ways:

  1. answering the questions even though the potential customer hasn’t purchased a support token, vs.
  2. explaining nicely that I only offer phone support as a premium option.

In the first scenario, I’ve found that answering pre-sales questions on the phone almost always leads to that customer calling whenever they have a question. Once I show that I will take a phone call without requiring a support token, it becomes an expectation that I continue to do so.

Additionally, trying to re-establish the “premium option only” barrier brings up a situation where a potential customer has more access than a customer does. We’ve all experience this – you get an answer on the sales line on the first ring and have to sit on hold for 15 minutes on the support line. I think this sucks, and don’t want to run my business this way.

So recently I’ve been drawing a hard line and not answering pre-sales questions on the phone1. I even added a little blurb to the phone section of the support page:

Please note: if you call without a support token, your call will not be returned. Please see the King Design phone policy for more information.

I realize that this is going to probably cost me a couple of sales over the course of the year, but when you’re a small business there are certain compromises you have to make. I think resulting support calls and frustration when I try to re-establish the phone boundaries that seems to inevitably follow me taking the pre-sales call do more damage than the potential sale is worth.

It’s not that I don’t like talking to customers and potential customers, quite the opposite in fact. Talking to customers is something I do on a regular basis and it’s an invaluable way to get the information you need to improve your products.

The problem is time management. When you’re a micro ISV, you are responsible for balancing sales, support, marketing and development. It can be tough to keep all those balls in the air at once.

I’ve worked in enterprise software, I know how it works from both sides. Large companies have teams dedicated to sales and support. They are accessible to their customers and prospects at any time. And their product pricing pays for the salaries of all these people.

The micro ISV just can’t offer the same type of access – to do so would mean growing to the point they are no longer a micro ISV. :)

Decisions have consequences and ramifications. I’m the one who decided to become a micro ISV and I get the good and bad that come with that. Part of having your own business is making hard choices, and I’m OK with that.

  1. Though I have gone out of my way to reply to folks via e-mail if they leave enough information for me to do so. [back]