7

I publish my own software which is middle-ware and is used by other software engineers. I recently ran into an issue with a customer who is repeatedly sending emails and demanding support via skype and phone for the software he bought.

At first I spend a lot of time helping via email and later I even helped via Skype even though I make clear I do not provide support via Skype / Phone. Sadly, he keeps coming up with new problems. These are often borderline related (e.g. customer wants to run it on linux but he doesn't know how to use bash and fails to configure his firewall properly for the network features to work). He also reports bugs that can't be reproduced just to get me into helping him again. I tried ignoring him but he has multiple people working for him who then contact me for him.

What is a professional way of dealing with customers like these? By now I lost many days of work for a software that costs less than $100.

  • Say no. Don't cave. Only help when you get enough out of it to make it worth it. You could charge for support, sell them a support contract, train someone to help them, and then get back to what you're good at: writing code. – candied_orange Apr 9 '18 at 3:37
  • How would you deal with bug reports / repeated requests from the same person / company after saying no? Ignoring them? – Luz Apr 9 '18 at 3:43
  • 1
    Worrying about it being the same person will just get you sock puppets. Prioritize the bug and refer all dupes to it. – candied_orange Apr 9 '18 at 4:00
  • 2
    Make it clear that for legitimate problems related to the software will be treated swiftly and promptly, and that the problem must be reproduced on your side. Your new policy is to simply verify that there could be a legitimate problem or if it is platform dependent / not reproducible and in that case to simply close tickets as "non-reproducible". To be fair, offer the possibility for additional service for an additional fee, so you're getting paid to dedicate time to resolving his issues with your software beyond "non-reproducible" problems. – Neil Apr 9 '18 at 7:23
  • 1
    Do you use a bug-tracking tool that the user can submit bugs to? One state a bug request can take is "won't fix" or "not reproducible". There are fault-tolerant software patterns called "Let sleeping dogs lie" and "Reproducible error", and both apply to your case. The first says introducing a fix might actually create other bugs and the second obviously says to fix something you have to be able to reproduce the error to verify the fix. – Fuhrmanator Apr 9 '18 at 14:12
21

The best way to go forward with someone like that is to:

1. Offer to refund the license cost and cancel their license.

Tell them that they exhausted the support and that you are unwilling to go further for them, but you are willing to refund their license (and cancel it accordingly).

2. Offer paid consulting services for a reasonable $/h

If they really need your expertise, just make them pay for it and bill by the hour. They will learn to value your time, and this helps you and them both. Don't be shy to use a professional hourly rate, which can easily be 80-150$/h (in the US and most of Europe).

  • In my experience, if they have to pay for tech support, the quantity of requests will drop drastically (not that that's a bad thing for such clients, mind you). – Neil Apr 9 '18 at 7:25
  • Good answer, but I think the #1 should be: make your software easy to use, even for novices. If that increases development or documentation cost, the price should go up. – Frank Hileman Apr 9 '18 at 18:17
  • Tell them that the product (if that's the case) is supplied as it is. Usually, there's a period of warranty for they to ask for support and bug fixing. Once exhausted, let them know that you are glad to customice/fix the product as much as they need (for 100$/h). If you are the only one who can provide such service, put the price you wish. Just make sure they know that the requested changes will take you a couple months full time. :-) – Laiv Apr 9 '18 at 18:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.