A couple of days ago Envato announced that product support would become mandatory starting from December 1st 2014. As a plugin author on CodeCanyon, I have given this news a lot of thoughts… Is this really a good idea?

The Current Model Sucks

The way product support is handled now sucks. Not because of authors. Not because of Envato either. It sucks because there is an unspoken “rule” in many of the buyer’s minds which says:

All products come with lifetime unlimited support with a 24 hour response time (sometimes less), even if the product is sold for $10.

I am not going to complain about the behavior of some buyers here. This is not the topic. What I want to say is, as there is no official rule for this, the unspoken rule seems to have become the norm. I know that the current official position of Envato is “support is at the author’s discretion”, but it doesn’t change anything.

As of today, if you do care about your image and your products’ ratings, you have to provide support. This is very time consuming and it’s definitely not the funniest part of the job. However, buyers usually take it for granted. If you do not provide support or if you don’t reply fast enough, you risk being under the wrath of the buyer, or rewarded by a 1 star rating right away. When you spend hours helping users for free, a rude buyer can be very, very irritating.

Then again, it’s not entirely the buyer’s fault.

Premium Support is the Solution

I entirely believe that providing premium (paid) support is the solution. It ensures a higher level of quality and a higher user satisfaction rate:

    • As there is a fee, users will (hopefully) write better tickets, with more details, easier to understand and solve
    • As the time is paid, authors will be happier to provide support and will be more efficient

I’m not going to tell you what is the best model for premium support. This can be different for everyone, and here lies the core of the problem.

What Envato is planning for its paid support model seems pretty good to me. It is, as Collis Ta’eed said, where the industry is headed.

Authors must be able to, at least, compensate for the time they spend on support, and why not make some profits on it. This is work after all.

Also, by having access to free support, users often don’t take time to write good support tickets, leaving part of their problem to guesses and interpretations of the author. This would change if they had to pay.

However, the way Envato is planning to do it doesn’t seem fair to me.

Envato Paid Support is Wrong

I believe premium support being handled by Envato directly is wrong in many ways. There are three major reasons why support management and organization should be left entirely to products authors.

Pricing and Conditions

There are many ways to provide support. There are also many different support levels. I believe one should always provide the best support he can, but everyone should be able to establish its own rules. If support pricing and conditions are established by Envato, everyone will have to adapt instead of deciding how they want to support their buyers.

For example, Collis wrote in the blog post that they would set a 72 hours timeframe for the first reply. Beyond the relevance of this number, what if someone needs more than 72 hours to respond? You think it would be too long? I agree, but again, everyone should be free to choose its conditions. Want an example of support taking more than 72 hours to respond? Envato support! I never got a reply in less than 72 hours.

Regarding the pricing, why should Envato be entitled to decide my hourly rate? How can they know when I’m profitable? With this system, if you want to be profitable and the prices are low, you might have to reduce the quality of your support… I don’t think anyone wants that.

Relevance of the Issue

Now, I’m sure every author already had to deal with an issue that’s actually not caused by the incriminated product. In this kind of situation, I kindly explain it to the buyer, advising him/her to contact the buggy product author.

But what if this user already paid a premium fee for this very issue? If you were the one selling the support on your site, you can easily refund the user, but if it’s sold by Envato, it’s a whole new problem. I can already imagine the amount of unsatisfied clients because they paid Envato for your support, but the problem is caused by another plugin or theme.

In my experience, most buyers don’t understand why they have to ask a refund to Envato and not to you when it’s your product. It will be the same for support packages. When the user comes to you for support, he/she expects you to do a refund if needed.


Finally, the money. I completely understand why Envato is keeping 50 – 30% of my sales. They provide a huge user base and this is a critical part of the job.

But when it comes to support, why would Envato get 30% worth of the time I spend helping a user? I would understand if I was hired by Envato, but I’m not. The time spend on support should be fully paid to the author. This is why I feel like the support sold by Envato is just a mean to make more money in commissions…

A Real Good Solution

A real good solution to improve items support would be for Envato to set guidelines, both for authors and for buyers. Those guidelines would ensure authors provide quality support and buyers understand that support is a difficult task that requires payment.

Authors should always be the ones deciding how to manage their support. This is critical. Good support can build a brand, but if the model is not suitable for the business it’s just losses.

What do you think about this support model? As an author or as a buyer. Authors, how will this affect your business? I’d love to hear from fellow developers.

Race and garage footage and still images courtesy of Marussia and McLaren

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