When first created, software was a product that either came with your computer or you purchased and downloaded. The Internet changed this. The "cloud" is now the host for all your programs and files. Your computer, tablet and phone just need to be able to access these "web-based" applications. In other words your software became a service, not a product. But, we've been slow to grasp the significance of this change.
You can tell a lot about a software company by the way it views service. Many companies still work from a product perspective just relocated to the Internet. For these companies, service (or support) is viewed as another product vertical with potential to produce additional income. But software companies truly built for the Internet understand that service or support is really their primary activity. It is interwoven into everything they do. For instance, here's how we view support:
Support is how we sale. Almost 50% of our referrals come from our friends and clients who know us and love our software. The reason they love us is because we love them and prioritize helping them succeed.
Support is how we staff. Our #1 value as a company is Matthew 7:12, "Do to others what you would have them do to you." We choose support staff who have been on church staff so that it is natural for them to live out this verse as they interact with people.
Support is how we learn. The essence of being a disciple is being a learner. And our greatest teachers are our clients willing to give us their feedback on our features, their needs, and other products and services they like or are learning about. Our best venue to get this feedback is indirectly as people seek help with the software and other questions they have.
Support is how we improve. From these interactions come our development priorities. Sometimes these are to match other best-in-class features. Other times to innovate toward new solutions to regular problems we've only wished software could help with.
Support is what we do. In short, support is what we do. In today's environment, software like every social relationship has to constantly grow and adapt to new circumstances. We will never be complete or finished. Thus, software itself is not really the goal. Service is our real goal. And we want to provide that through great software.
These are the reasons why I can't imagine charging for support. In a previous post I mentioned that whatever you base your pricing on, clients will seek to use as little as possible. Support is just too valuable for us to incentivize people to use as little as possible. Also, if support were an income stream, it would make sense to be content with software that required people to use that support as much as possible to maintain and even grow that income. This is the opposite of our goal to make great software people love to use.