Though no marketplace obliges its authors to provide free theme support, almost each author does a lot of support. And even if the theme is well documented, there will always be customers that won’t read the documentation and expect instant results and immediate assistance / support from the author.
On high sales volumes, support may become a nightmare for authors.
Let’s try to divide all the input needed from the author after a theme is published for sale into 4 groups:
- Pre-sale questions – there are a lot of questions regarding themes features, whether it can do this or that. Or if the potential customer will be able to do certain things with the theme. Whether is customizable or has multi-language support, etc. The author should be sincere here and tell the user exactly what the theme has and does. And what the theme has not and does not. This way there won’t be any post-sale accusations. And in this way the author converts potential buyers to customers. Keep in mind that the majority of the buyers are looking to establish websites on your theme and, though they should have paid for that $500+. They are buying your theme though, for a tenth of that price to avoid costs. But in case they aren’t able to fulfill their plans with the theme, you (the author) will be the one to blame from their perspective. So – no promises, even if that means less sales.
- “Tell me how to…” questions – there are a lot of users which don’t read the documentation at all and just install the theme. Of course it doesn’t look like in your beautiful live demo. And a frustration appears here. A good practice for the authors is to provide support only in case the theme was installed exactly as described in theme’s documentation. Plus state that the theme doesn’t include all those beautiful images as found on the live demo website. Only after that to provide support. It is very important here to make a clear difference between support and additional customization work which has to be for a certain price per hour. Otherwise, the customer thinks that this is the way it should be and he’ll ask for more “small tweaks”. You’ll make no money on that as an author and your effort won’t be valued. More than this, when you’ll stop doing that, the customer will get angry and will provide negative feedback, even if it isn’t your fault.
- “Why it doesn’t have…” questions – as I wrote previously, the majority of the customers are looking to establish websites or even businesses using your theme and by only paying the theme’s price (which is usually $50 on ThemeForest). They come back and are very angry that their expectations weren’t met and show you examples of established websites and businesses that have features which your theme hasn’t. They want those features of course implemented immediately and in most cases for free. These are clients which ask for refunds, even though they already they have your theme for which they paid, and even if the theme functions as you described it. They can post comments once in a few hours and expect immediate answer. They can provide bad rating for your theme. Authors can handle this type of clients by showing them one more time the terms and conditions of the marketplace, to let them know that they bought a product as described in their theme description and that’s quite all. They can ask for a list of requests and provide a budget for completing that list.
- Happy customers – yes, there are happy customers too, which are grateful for the efforts you did on designing and developing the theme.
- don’t make promises
- don’t work for free
- establish your own support center and state your working program
- accept custom jobs that imply developing features which you can release in next theme’s versions
- invest time in good and extensive documentation
- know your rights and the terms and conditions
Be careful on how you provide support and where support stops and paid custom work begins. Be smart and try to implement the custom work you do in the next releases of your theme if that is a nice to have feature. Establish your own support center and handle tickets in a timely manner so you keep you theme’s description clean from negative comments. You can have the best theme out there, but if there are 5-10 unhappy customers that you don’t handle correctly, that can cost you a lot.
In case you have more suggestions – please comment. Let others know how you handle your themes’ support. Share some tips and tricks with us.