We recently resolved an issue for a client that shined a light on the difference between free support and paid support from a specialist. I thought it would be a good case study on the difference between the kind of support you get from the corporate giants and the personalized support you get from a small business.
My client, whose site we built and now host, had purchased a new Droid smartphone and was having trouble getting his email setup properly on the phone. He called the free 24/7 support line for his cell phone provider and had spent over 6 hours in 4 different calls talking to someone in India in the employ of a large cell phone service provider, without a resolution. The cellphone provider (erroneously) insisted the problem was with his host, so by the time he got to us he was pretty frustrated. This is common practice with outsourced support: tell the client anything if it’ll get him/her off the line so you can fill your day’s ticket quota.
We were able to remedy his problem in 15 minutes once he called us. But the call wasn’t free: because we want skilled staff handling all manner of support issues, we have to charge our clients for support calls, even for websites that we host. When someone calls us for support, a skilled local web developer addresses the issue, not a less-than minimum wage worker reading off a script. This is the difference between paid support and free support. Which would you prefer? To lose 6 hours or to pay $42.50, the cost of our half-hour minimum charge?
Still, there’s more to this. While we were able to help the person in this particular anecdote, your local web developer might not be able to answer every technological issue that comes in that’s outside of the web development realm. While we make every effort to help our clients with all aspects of their web presence, we’re primarily designers and developers here– not cell phone support people. In the case of the smart phone owner’s trouble ticket, all we know is
We can’t be expected to know the intricacies of setting up every smart phone out there– that kind of thing is akin to calling your cable provider because your new TV won’t turn on. We’ll try to help when asked, of course; but because we refuse to outsource our support and instead provide well-paid professionals for even the smallest support issues, these kinds of issues cannot be addressed free-of-charge… and some issues may still fall outside our area of expertise– we’re not God, we don’t know everything about everything. But we have a lot of experience, and we will try hard, and we’ll give you honest and direct information that’s worth the nominal fees we have to charge for support.
Further, some would say “but my hosting company provides free support for email configuration, and it’s local and professional.” I know that Cruzio does this, and it’s great. They’re a good company, for sure. But we provide totally different products. Cruzio is a great shared host for many peoples’ needs. They’re a hosting company. We’re not. We are developers. Builders. We host a handful of websites for our clients– sites we built and maintain for serious businesses because those websites run custom and sometimes resource-intensive applications– applications that our server is set up to run securely and quickly. For reasons too numerous to count, hosting these sites on our server saves development time… which saves our clients money. Lots of money. And when we’re going to be performing ongoing maintenance for a client, we want to have our regular version control system and development/staging environment setup– these things require a level of access permission and a software set that’s not available with most shared hosts. By agreeing to be hosted on our private servers, our clients are acknowledging that we will be providing ongoing services for them, services that require the skills of a trained, experienced professional. The only way we can afford to provide these services at the level our clients expect is to charge an honest rate for our time. Still, in these cases, even when paying hourly for support, the cost savings during the website’s development and ongoing maintenance are immense.