Don’t Get Smacked By Hidden Costs

The Hidden Cost of Support

Killed By The Hidden Cost of Support

What goes into the price of your product?

Materials, certainly. Time and labor. If it’s destined for the shelf of a bricks and mortar store, you probably factor in breakage, returns, shelf wear, maybe theft. Overhead.

What else?

One factor, often overlooked by product developers, can turn into a nightmare, chipping away at profits while consuming every spare minute of your day: support.

If you are writing software or offering some sort of technical service, you already know that support can cost more than the product. You either add it into the cost or sell it as a separate product.

But many product developers overlook it entirely, wrongly believing that their product requires no support.

Are you writing an ebook? Are you ready for the anxious, angry emails from buyers who don’t know how to use Acrobat Reader? There are more of them than you’ve ever imagined.

Perhaps you made a data CD with a flash video. What are you going to say to the baffled buyers who somehow disabled their computer’s autorun function and now can’t get your CD to play? And what are you going to do with the Mac user who bought your CD despite the warning in big red letters that said: PC Only, Not Recommended for Macs?

Is your DVD compatible with 8 year old DVD players? Even when it’s inserted upside down?


All of these scenarios are real. And all of them can turn an otherwise productive day into a complete waste of time and an otherwise profitable project into a financial disaster. However, you can save yourself time, save your customers endless frustration, and head off complaints and returns by writing a FAQ.

As the email questions come in, keep a list. Make special note of the ones you’d never have imagined – then add them to the FAQ.

Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email to your customer asking how your product or sales letter can be improved. You’ve been nose deep in the product for months. You very probably can no longer see the forest for the trees. That’s OK. Just believe your customers when they tell you that telling up from down and right from left on a shiny silver disc is not as easy as you think it is. They paid money – you should pay attention.

Start your FAQ by anticipating some questions, including others that are actually frequently asked, and adding the occasional problem from left field. If a video would offer a better answer, try creating a short video or screencast and posting it on You Tube. Post your FAQ prominently and keep a copy that you can attach to email. If you often find yourself wanting to do a 1 minute demo rather than spending 5 minutes writing an email, look into TechSmith’s Jing.

A good FAQ can save you headaches and save your customers valuable time. If you can prevent a howl of frustration, you’ve already won half the battle of customer service. And you can keep after sale costs down and profit margins up.

Photo by Sean McGrath Released under Creative Commons License