When Does Product Support End?

Product Support.  It is an essential consideration for any product creator.  Knowing “how” to provide adequate product support for customers is only half of the equation.  “How long” to provide product support is a more difficult question that is not often asked or answered!

In the world of Internet Marketing, particularly with product launches, “support” is a simple mechanism to set up but not always easy to implement.  Whether using a one-person (you) operation or 5-member support “team”, the time will eventually come when providing support for a particular product becomes a burden with diminishing or even negative returns.

Perhaps we should start by distinguishing between service support and product support, using online products and services related to Internet Marketing as our model….

Service support would be the maintenance and troubleshooting associated with performing an agreed-upon activity over a certain period of time to a certain level of quality expectation.  For example, if I buy one-month’s worth of SEO services for a website, I could expect to see a certain level of increased traffic, additional backlinks, or increased page ranking during that one month period.  If I don’t see the above, then I would contact provider for support on my service.

Product support would be the maintenance and troubleshooting associated with a software or information product.

If I have purchased a new WordPress plug-in, I would contact support if I experience unexplained errors or operational issues.  I would also contact support for any updates produced for the plug-in.

If I have purchased training information on List Building, I would contact support if I have trouble accessing any videos or PDF’s associated with that training.  I would also contact support for assistance in interpreting any information that I am not understanding well.  (Depending on the information product, I may even seek support on alternate methods of putting the information into action.)

In the Service Support example, a specific time frame for support is established.  Since the service lasts for one month, we can expect the support for that service to last for one month as well–unless an alternate agreement is made.  The service may include specific support terms that extend support beyond the one month period.  I may have also purchased an additional support contract to extend the life of the support for a specific time.

Without getting too deep into the weeds, let’s just say the bottom line is that there is a definite and agreed-upon end to the service support. 🙂

In the Product Support example, there is rarely any mention of how long the support period will last!

I have found this condition to be quite common for products related to Internet Marketing .  Whether the product is on ClickBank, the “Warrior Forum” or other “Special Offer” forums, there is no mention in the sales copy of any end to product support.  However, there must be an end, right?

We all assume that product support will be available during the ubiquitous 30-day or 60-day money back guarantee period.  However, what happens after that period?  (Some would ask, what happened “during” that period!)

I have seen some people posting to forum threads that have “died out” in activity (often after only a couple of weeks or so), where they are literally begging for assistance with their product.  You’ve seen them:  complaints of multiple unanswered emails sent to support, or ticket systems with 48-hour turnaround times that result in an automated or glossed-over response that doesn’t answer their questions or address their concerns.

Who’s fault is it?  Who is to blame???

Well, I would say that it is a shared responsibility and shared blame:  if there was never any direct statement of how long support would last, then there should be no expectation that support will last indefinitely.

Very often, product creators create numerous products.  Each of those products will require a measure of support–at least in the beginning.  Whether the support is a solo effort or the efforts of a team of people, the latest product will usually get priority support and attention.  Older products may only get a best-effort, once-per-week attention from someone who has not been effectively trained in the use of the product–much less being prepared to troubleshoot any issues.

Though I would expect support to last through the guarantee period from the time I purchased the product, I should not expect that support to last forever.  Neither should you! 🙂

Still, the most pertinent question remains:  how long should product support be provided?

The answer to that question for any product creator is everyone’s favorite answer:  “it depends“.

As a product creator, you have to answer the following questions to determine just how much support you can provide and for how long:

  • Are you handling all the support yourself or do you have others to help you?  (There is not “I” in “Team”)
  • Do you intend to release multiple products, or are you attempting to be “the best” with one?  (Some say, “the more the merrier”)
  • What type of turnaround time do you plan to provide?  12 hours? 24 hours? 48 hours?  (Everyone wants help “now”)

There is No “I” in “Team”

Providing support yourself is fine when you have a single product and you can afford the time that it takes to provide that support.  However, as you create additional products, having a team or other people knowledgeable in the use of the product and basic troubleshooting of product issues can be a true benefit.  Some ideas to ease the burden include….

  • Outsourcing some support tasks
  • Creating a Facebook group to encourage participation and knowledge share
  • Creating a Skype group to encourage participation and knowledge share
  • Creating a Forum to encourage participation and knowledge share
The first of the above options will cost money.  However, it will save you time, which is also money.  Do the math to see if it makes sense for you.
The second, third, and fourth options could potentially be free-ish.  However, they will require someone to moderate the interaction from time to time.

 

The More the Merrier

If you intend to release multiple products, then you have to ask yourself if you have the time to devote to each product for support concerns.  Even if you have help, the time and training necessary to get someone up to speed on a new product will inevitably take away time from previous products.

Are you keeping your products (software or information) current with respect to their industry environment?  WordPress plugins may need to be updated to accommodate WordPress/theme changes.  Information products can become outdated quickly if not refreshed with relevant information.

Help Me NOW!!!

Response time to support issues is an expectation that you will want to frame right from the beginning!  It’s something that you should probably work into the fine print or “FAQ”s of your sales copy. 🙂

A 24-hour response window may seem fair to you, given the time that you feel you have available.  However, someone’s business could be falling apart during that time.  If there was no clear expectation set in the beginning, you could feel like you’re “over-delivering” with a 12-hour response, while your customer could feel like they’ve been abandoned and ripped off by someone who hasn’t responded in the last 2 hours (no matter what time of the day) to their multiple, urgent pleas for help or demands for assistance.  No one wins in that scenario.

So, perhaps the time has come for product creators and customers to accept something that is almost taboo in sales copy:  a clear statement of when support will end.

It is not a very sexy idea.  It will probably look even worse in print. 🙂  However, it is probably more accurate than the “We aren’t going anywhere!” statement that usually suffices for support longevity concerns.

The flip side is that everyone continues to take a risk when the product guarantee time runs out:  the product creators risk charge-backs from disgruntled customers who aren’t getting support, and the customers risk support effectively ending the day the money-back guarantee ends.  Is this condition better than agreeing on a specific end to support?

You decide! 🙂

 



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