November 14, 2010
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Baking Support

King Arthur’s Flour provides legendary tech support for home bakers. Not only do they publish an exceptional collection of recipes and provide discussion forums for people who try them, but they provide a toll-free support hotline to advise people whose baking didn’t turn out.

I wonder what the business case for this might be. Typically, support tries to salvage a sale that’s going bad or to encourage future sales in the face of a setback. But fielding a tech support call can easily cost $25 or $50, and that’s 25 or 50 pounds of flour.

Admittedly, getting people into the habit of baking their bread would be a good thing for King Arthur. But it’s not that exciting for the flour vendor; you could bake a loaf of bread twice a week for a year, and you’re still only a $100/year customer at retail. A lot of that $100 gets paid to the farmer who grew the wheat, the freight companies that move it to the mill and again from the mill through the distribution network, and of course to the retailer. Of course, if you do convert a customer into a 100 loaf-per-year breadmaking fan, you’ve probably got them signed up forever and have a decent shot at their children, their sisters and their cousins and their aunts.

Still, it’s a tricky proposition.

Meanwhile, the software industry has done such a good job of discouraging tech support calls that we have to shout to get people to send us an email if they’ve got a problem.