I saw a post on a marketing forum a few weeks ago and it was from a chap that had purchased a piece of software from a well known Internet marketer. After purchasing the product, the buyer had sent several emails to the seller with questions about how to install/use the software. These questions were answered and then followed up with several more emails all filled with further questions.
It turned out that the buyer was very new to computing and this lack of experience meant that he needed the seller to educate him in far more than how to use the software that he had purchased (ie. how to use Adobe Acrobat Reader, how to upload files by FTP etc). In the end, the seller refunded the payment that had been made for the software on the basis that he simply didn’t have the time to train the buyer on how to use his computer.
The forum post was basically a complaint from the buyer that this was an appalling way to treat customers and that it was outrageous that his money should have been refunded just because he didn’t know how to use his computer.
I have to say that I can see exactly where the seller was coming from. When someone buys your product (regardless of what it might be), then they are paying you for the product NOT for hours of consultation in how to use that product.
Of course, I am not saying that you shouldn’t offer some level of support with anything that you sell (online or offline) but there has to be a limit, otherwise you could end up spending your day training people to use their computers (or whatever).
I sell hundreds of eBooks every single month and the vast majority of buyers are fully capable of opening and reading .pdf files. If they are not, then most will take the time to read my instructions and within a matter of minutes will have educated themselves as to how to do it. Occasionally, I will get an email from someone who is having difficulties and I will do my best to resolve the issue. But what happens when one email becomes two, five or even fifteen? (yes, it can happen!) Suddenly, my $20 ebook sale is looking far less profitable because of the time that I have had to spend troubleshooting what is most likely a local issue on the users computer or simply that the user is doing something wrong. Both of these problems are very hard to resolve remotely and therefore, sometimes, it is necessary to take a step back and simply refund the payment. $20 buys an eBook, it doesn’t buy two hours of consultancy time.
Regardless of what you sell, you should give consideration to how you will deal with long-winded support issues that may end up costing you far more in time than you received in payment for your product. Many large companies charge for support – for example, electrical products often have a ‘helpline’ that is charged at, say, 50p/$1 a minute.
Your customers are, obviously, responsible for your income but a very small number of them can be a huge drain on your resources. In my opinion, these are the customers that you can do without because you will never make a profit from them, you will simply end up being a personal consultant whenever something goes wrong.
Remember, I am not saying don’t offer support – of course you should – I do and wouldn’t dream of leaving paying customers without assistance if they had a problem. In fact, I help numerous people even when they have not purchased anything from me and it is this level of customer service that helps me turn subscribers/visitors into customers BUT there is a limit and at the end of the day, we all want to make a profit and you can’t do that if you are wasting your day training people for free 🙂
Copyright 2004 Richard Grady
eBay sellers: http://www.theuktrader.co.uk & http://www.theustrader.com