On offering support for free

At FreshBooks, customer service and support are included for free. To us people are people – we don’t treat them differently if they pay us a monthly fee or not. Traditionally, software providers have charged extra for support and we think this is crap. Support is as valuable to us as it is to the people who reach out when they need help.

We never thought too much about our free service “policy” when we started. We just figured if someone needed help they should get it. Our customers, let’s call them the Fortune 50 million, are entrepreneurs. They are busy and they don’t want to spend their time meddling with their billing service. If a person calls, it’s probably our fault for not designing FreshBooks to be easy enough to use, so they deserve support.

For all the bean counters who see support as a cost center, think again. Telephone calls and email and the forums threads are research tools. Every person you connect with helps inform decisions about what’s working and what’s not, and gives you ideas about what to do next. In all seriousness, I would pay for this service.

So when people ask, “how can you afford to support free users?” I ask, “how can you afford not to?”

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  • http://freshbooks.com Rayanne Langdon

    Good stuff, Mike. I’m glad you posted this.

    I stumbled upon a new service last night that provides “Full Support” with only the most costly package (more than $100 a month!). I tweeted that it makes me sad. It really does.

  • http://www.startupnorth.ca Jonas Brandon

    While I think this issue is not *quite* as simple as you make it seem above… it was certainly a thought provoking post!

  • http://davenportdrivein.com Arron Lorenz

    I think it is that simple. If you provide a product then you should support the product. I can tell you this much if I’m having trouble with a service, and I don’t get a satisfying result quickly I drop them without issue. I forget about them just as quickly as they shrugged me off. So far this week I have had 2 great customer service experiences, and 1 bad one.

    I am no longer using the bad one. I have upgraded my subscription on one that provided great service.
    At RadioShack we used to have a motto on all of our training literature. “Customers First.” Ever try to call the 800 number for support?

    Thanks again Freshbooks for looking out for your customers.

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  • http://www.homestars.com Brian Sharwood

    We also offer free tech support to our customers working through their issues. And it really pays off. We gain all sorts of insight.

    And, being a Freshbooks customer, your support is simply outstanding.

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  • SLA’s

    Interesting. It’s this attitude that keeps FreshBooks small and in their niche – “just another web-based service” comes to mind.

    Charging for support allows you to scale – obviously you’re happy being a small timer with a few thousand customers, but remember most people expect to get what they pay for and “free” support could very well be driving away a lot of potential customers.

    Think about that one for a bit.

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