Force Companies To Give Free Tech Support For Life

from the that-could-fix-things... dept

Last week we talked about one idea to improve computer security issues: threaten to put executives of software companies in jail if their products are not secure. That seemed a bit extreme. This week, however, the Washington Post’s Rob Pegoraro has another interesting idea to improve technology product quality: require companies to provide free tech support for life. This way, he argues, the companies will quickly learn about problems, and it will be in their own best interest to get working fixes out there as quickly as possible. It will also give them incentive to do things better the first time around. He argues this is beneficial to the companies as well, as with better products, people will be more willing to spend money on them. I would add one adjustment to this suggestion: make an exception for companies or individuals who give away software for free. This would make it so anyone shopping for software can get a real benefit for paying for a product, and also doesn’t unfairly burden those who prefer to just give away software.

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Comments on “Force Companies To Give Free Tech Support For Life”

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Tim Oren (user link) says:

Re: Re: Yeah, that's the ticket

Dumb idea. As someone who’s both had a call center as part of a BU I managed, and who is now in venture capital, I’ll agree with the previous commenters: It would drive away new capital and products post-haste. A potentially unlimited incident cost liability set against a finite, and often uncertain, current revenue is not viable.

It also creates perverse incentives that are directly contradictory to your goals. How about software that disclaims any support? (Guess that’s called open source…) How long before old product lines are ‘sold’ to shell companies that then quickly go bankrupt? That took me 30 seconds to think up – how much more creative will people whose livelihood is at stake be? Good luck plugging all the holes without further crippling the industry.

Bottom line: there is a lot of crappy software and worthless support out there, but the market is the best way to make sure it goes away. Complain long, loud, publically, and don’t buy it.

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

I agree with Wil, it's too expensive!

No matter how much testing a company does, they cannot predict how much support they will need. Support problems can be caused by upgrades of OTHER products released later. Also, if a product is much more successful than expected, it will inevitably require more “dumb question” and newby support. A company would have to be careful NOT to make a product that everyone would like to use, to be on the safe side.

Wil thinks companies will just get out of the business. More likely, companies will buy insurance from large insurance ocmpanies against having to spend a lot for support, and the costs (inflated to be on the safe side) will be passed on to ALL end users.

Let’s remember that when Word Perfect 5.1 was released – an exceptionally well-documented program – the long distance lines for all of the state of Utah proved inadequate to handle the support phone calls that resulted from a ton of new users.

I’d like to see companies required to provide 10 years of paid support by people who are actually knowledgeable about the product.

– The Precision Blogger

aNonMooseCowherd says:

a different pricing model

It probably makes a lot more sense, both for software vendors and for customers, to do the exact opposite — charge a little to buy the product, and recover the actual development costs through yearly maintenance fees. If users don’t like the product, then can switch to a competitor without having thrown away a big chunk of change on their initial investment.

PhuzzyLogic says:

Re: a different pricing model

I think the bottom line was missed.

Companies need to be held accountable for producing ‘Poop on a disk’, then decide they will patch the thing until your head feels like it will pop from the frustration.

No, you can not plug all the holes, however rushing something out the door has become a favored past time for a lot of software producers.

Some have spoken of the stupid questions, (of which I personally have a few stories myself), but EVERYONE! has had a stupid question to ask at some point in their lives.

Only those companies, who?s owners/managers fail to see the possibilities will fall to the wayside.

alternatives says:

Simple - don't buy crappy software.

If the product doesn’t work as advertised, or you don’t like the license, don’t buy/use the software.

I’ve been running UNIX for years, and made that decision after reading the Microsoft Windows license and deciding “NO, I won’t take on the cost of Microsoft’s lawyers” (per clause f.)

Rather than ‘pass laws to fix the problem’, grow a backbone and stop supporting bad software.

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