Customer support for 3rd party free app

That’s the problem we face from time to time. We sell radio streaming servers and people use various broadcasting software with our servers. Some of those software pieces are free, with no customer support. Customers contact us with questions like “can you try app <…> and see what could be wrong there?”. Sometimes they directly say that “I’m using free app and they don’t give me any support, can you help?”. As I don’t intend supporting someone else’s free software (we’re business, not charity), we politely refuse, and offer using our paid software instead.

Does anyone face the same customer support issue? How do you deal with it?

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So these apps are not direct competitors right?

Way I see it your options are
a) Continue to politely refuse to help - perhaps write well thought out canned response explaining why
b) or Can you charge for providing support on a per incident basis?
c) or Can you write a Troubleshooting Guide for the most common problems? This should be good content marketing fodder and you could put abstract and PDF behind email registration download to capture leads. This will lead to either people asking for help after not bothering to read/following or if problem wasn’t covered in your guide so you will need to do a/b as well though.

I’ve done c) with a) before and it worked out fairly well.

My main product is a companion product to online poker rooms. We do find ourselves helping people from time to time with configuring and using the online poker rooms. It is frustrating, but in our case, necessary. We’ve documented the necessary steps, so that a) people find the tips themselves by googling, and b) we can point people to the docs.

In your case, I’m definitely in favour of @rhino’s option a): “We’re unable to support products from other companies.” It would have to be a very irrational customer to not understand this. (And yes, I realise from bitter experience that such irrational customers exist).

I do like @rhino’s suggestion c) - but I’d be putting it down on my list of future potential tasks, and not making a high priority of it.

They are not competitors to the service itself, but they may be a competitor to our radio automation software product.

The prices to justify it will be at least $25/hour, and I don’t think customers will be ready to pay for it. Requests like this usually come from the cheaper plans, $5 or $9/mo.

Done already. We have a guide on how to set things up (it’s really easy, just copy-paste 3 fields) - but people tend to skip some steps, manually type-in information with typos, etc. I don’t see any solution for this currently. Maybe having a better guide will improve things.

It’s not that bad actually… Only about 2% of customers have such big difficulties. Maybe “firing a customer” (recently read article about it) could be a better solution for everyone. Funny thing, we have a customer who was obviously “fired” from a similar service (as he told, they simply stopped responding)… and now we have tech support nightmare :slight_smile:

I’m fully familiar with the area you’re in (I run an internet radio station as a hobby, I also know of your products, and my day job is in broadcasting) and I fully hear what you’re saying.

Main issue to me is that the market is divided. Internet radio is full of hobby/bedroom type stations and they do not want to pay any form of market rate. I always chuckle when I see posts complaining of 1 min downtime in a stream yet they pay absolutely nothing or almost nothing and the providers does not offer high 9’s or 100% uptime.

I have some freebie software aimed at radio, and while I don’t get much support requests, I have seen the rude idiots. I tend to ignore them after a while.

No easy answer but when I have seen people complain about poor service and their peers feel they complaining incorrectly, I’ve seen them come to the company’s defense etc.

Good luck.

What is the best wording to refuse supporting someone else’s app, and not to be rude?
Currently we respond something like “This is not a problem with our service, please contact you app’s vendor about this issue”.

At least they complain to the company they’re getting the service from.

We’ve had such complaints for our radio automation software: some people used it with free servers, and complained to us that their stream quality is low… Like “your software shows error messages” - of course it shows, it just states the fact that there are problems with the server.

Those complaints were one of the main reasons for us to start our own streaming service. Now we simply offer our services in reply to such complaints, and I say the conversion rate is pretty good :slight_smile:

“We are only able to provide technical support on our own product.” That should be the end of the discussion. If not, you can probably ignore their responses. Its not your job to support other people’s software or teach people how to use a computer. If you do (out of the goodness of your heart) then you may find that some people just keep asking for more and more and you end up as an unpaid IT help desk.

It is a bit more tricky if you are talking about some area where your product interfaces with another product. Then you have to be sure that it isn’t your product at fault.