Business development: listening users, caring customers

Waiting to agree on what is an open source company. challengers are trying to get some “space” saying incumbents are not so open source minded as they pretend to be.

Reading the Vtiger blog I found a thread about priorizing users vs customers needs.

All started by the following statement, written by Ritchie of the Vtiger team:

We are giving priority to the paid customers’ queries.

Carlos Ribeiro commented Ritchie saying he was disappointed by the Vtiger policy:

Even if I understand you, there are a couple points here… first, even being true, it should not be said in a public forum, because it in a way “diminishes” the importance of the open source version users. So, we all know it, you will prioritize your paid customers, but DONT LET ME KNOW. And that leads me to the second point.

One thing is for you to allocate your best resources to attend your paid customers. Another completely different thing is to leave your “open source” customers in the dark, with no response. I sincerely believe that no question should be unanswered, even if the answer is “I cant solve it for you right now”. Leaving a customer with no answer is an invitation for him to leave your company and do business elsewhere.

Some commercial open source firms offer all users an high quality of service, it’s a marketing choice, may be even a necessity, but it can’t be an obligation.

Open source companies are companies, and they have to be profitable. Vtiger people is right, they clearly say:

The product is free, the source code is free; do not expect the service to be free.

But OS firms indeed are involved in a commons-based peer-production with other firms, volunteers, users and customers and they have to pay attention if they want to be successfully symbiotic.

Listening users, sharing roadmap decisions, work with the community can make the open source choice more effective, going beyond marketing, but it’s costy and may be not easy.

Sun despite its slogan “Open Source is about participation” didn’t answered yet to an open letter by the Italian Native-Lang Project about an issue opened months ago.

Walking the talk might be tough..