I had a hard time formulating my question right.

The company I work for makes a software on which we provide support. When something doesn't work our customers call us and we help them make it work.

We go out of our way to help but have a hard time setting boundaries.

For instance, our software prints reports. For it to be able to print that report the printer needs to be configured right. Our company also provides support contracts for that which a customer can purchase or not.

Ever so often the interaction with our software and the printers doesn't work and it clearly is an issue with how the printer is configured. When the customer purchased the printer with us, we fix that issue.

What I run into, is when a customer buys our software but hires another company to take care of their hardware.

Our software "isn't printing right" but it's because of a miss-configured printer. For me it's a 2 minute fix, but they're paying someone else to take care of that. I relay them to their own IT-support but they keep calling us.

It would have taken me less time to fix the issue then having to keep answering the calls.

It turns out with a customer with a sour image of our company for something we're not responsible for and a lot of wasted time for a service they're paying someone else for.

The issue is: The customer keeps calling in. I keep answering and relaying them to their own IT-support. But the time I lose by answering those calls is far bigger then just solving the issue.

I want to keep the relation with the customer healthy, but I also don't want them to call us with every computer issue because "you know so much about computers".

How can we have a healthy support boundary?

(The thing about the printer was an example but we get a lot of IT-related questions where they're not paying us for that support.)

  • 7
    Have you asked your management if they see this as an issue?
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 17:35
  • 2
    @NepeneNep our management urges us to set straight boundaries, but when a customer gets angry and contacts the owner they just tell us: just do it.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 17:42
  • Is this a few customers, or a widespread issue? If it's a handful of repeat offenders, it might be worth having a meeting with each of them to discuss the issue in tactful terms. Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 17:55
  • 4
    Your management has told you what to do; that's all that matters here, you do what they say. Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 18:37
  • 5
    Are you tracking the time you spend on this customer?
    – gidds
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


Management haven't deemed these cases to be time stealers.

If your management is OK with it, then that's part of the business they have accepted, or told to accept.

In the grand scheme of things, you have no idea what else the printer vendors are doing for their client, beyond configuring it for your specific piece of software.

There's just no way to consider this a case of "theft" because all the client cares about is that your system isn't working, but everything else works.

Another valid question is, why is it that your system prints in such a weird way that it'll cause your system to not print but it can print other things?

  • 2
    Given there is a support contract in place with the client - as long as the client is paying more than it costs the company in your time .... this contract is profitable - hence unlikely to change - just call it "Job security" and move on.
    – DavidT
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 3:23

If your management isn't going to assist you in setting boundaries, there's really not much you can do in the short term. I can't tell from your question what your official role is at the company, but I'm going to guess from the context that it's not a customer support role.

What you CAN do, but in the longer term:

  • Document how much time dealing with these issues are taking you away from your official duties. Keep a spreadsheet. As a matter of fact, if you're not the only person whose time this eats up, use a shared spreadsheet (Google Sheets, Excel Online) to capture everyone's time in one place. Share the spreadsheet, in view-only mode, with your management.
  • Improve the software so that it helps with the troubleshooting. Again, I don't know if this is your role.

Nothing will change unless management understands how this is affecting the bottom line $$$.

  • 3
    Also: Give the customers a way to report bugs, and submit wishlist items, that doesn't require you to respond in realtime -- open a Jira site or something of that sort. That also makes it easier to require that they provide instructions on how to replicate whatever they're concerned about so you don't waste time trying to decypher their request, it lets them indicate whether this IS a severe problem or just a WIBNI, it helps you set appropriate priorities for working on the issues, and (if you expose all issues rather than just customer-submitted) it helps customers understand the priorities
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 22:14

I agree with @Nelson that it is the job of someone above you to figure out whether such extra service is valuable for business. From customers' perspective, they are going to call whoever is most likely to fix the problem. You seem to be the path of least resistance.

From your end, you can push for a system to keep track of all support requests.

You probably have heard of ticket systems. Whenever a customer calls, fill in a ticket and promise to get back to them. Even better if customers can fill the ticket in themselves.

Then, now and then, do a tickets triage and decide which tickets require immediate attention, which can wait, and which tickets are "extra" services.

Proceed with the highest priority tickets and work your way down to the extra services. Whenever you are done with a ticket, record how much time it took to resolve it.

From the tickets, you can generate interesting reports of

  • what kind of support tasks are you performing,
  • ideas for making your software/services more robust
  • What is the waiting time to fix a customer issue
  • Time spent on "extra" services etc.
  • The actual cost of providing customer support to each customer

Such reports should then influence the actual policies around customer support.

Sometimes, filling in a ticket will take more time than fixing it. However, you need some sort of system to provide traceability of the actual work you are doing.


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