Subject: Re: People only buy support for bad software ?!?
From: (Frank Hecker)
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 19:03:13 -0400

"Michael A. Olson" wrote:
> People who buy support from us get the full attention of our
> technical staff whenever the sky falls.  We have relationships
> with our support customers; we know a lot about their apps,
> just from chatter back and forth, before they ever come to us
> with a problem.  We help them with performance tuning, answer
> design questions, and find out from them what their applications
> do.  That relationship has ongoing value to our customers, and
> it lets us fix their problems faster than we could if they bought
> support just in time.

Exactly.  This I think is the key point: To a large degree customers
that pay for support are basically paying for the attention of the
vendor.  As Michael Olson notes, organizations deploying relatively
complex software _always_ have problems of some sort, no matter how
high-quality the software is; this is almost guaranteed by the inherent
complexity of the software itself combined with the complexity of the
environment in which it runs (including interactions with other vendors'
products) combined with the imperfect knowledge of the people
installing, configuring, and operating it.

To add to what Olson wrote about the value of an ongoing relationship,
many companies charge extra for support contracts in which the customer
has a designated person to call for support, as opposed to having
support calls be handled by the first available person. (This designated
person may or may not do support for other customers as well.)  Here the
customer is paying not only for the attention of the vendor but for the
attention of a specific vendor employee, this attention having value to
the customer over and above the value of simply having bugs fixed.

Business practices that amount to paying for attention are a common
theme with proprietary software sold to large organizations; you can
interpret per-user licensing schemes for software (a very common
practice) as an example of this.  (I wrote at more length on this topic
and its implications for FSBs in a message I sent to the FSB list back
in September.  I don't know if the FSB list has a web-accessible
archive, but if anyone's interested I'll dig up the old message.)

Frank Hecker            Work:     Home: