TroopTrack Customer Support

When I started TroopTrack in 2008, I was determined to build “the best scouting software on the planet”. Over the years, the word “best” for this little company has come to mean a number of different thing that we have strived for, including

  • Best feature set
  • Best user experience
  • Best customer service
  • Best infrastructure
  • Etc.

We’ve strived to be all of those things over the years, and that effort paid off. From 2008 to 2019, TroopTrack grew every year. We had resources to hire support staff, including me. For a while, TroopTrack was my full-time job.

And then the storm began. Boy Scouts of America took some hard hits - they lost critical affiliations, piled up enormous legal bills, and faced new competition from splinter groups unhappy with BSA’s trajectory. Their membership began to drop.

On top of this, TroopTrack began facing increasing competition from the various national organizations to whose members we provide software. BSA, AHG, and Trail Life USA all adopted national solutions to compete with TroopTrack.

As if that wasn’t enough, 2020 happened. Covid-19 took a heavy toll on scouting. Active membership in scouting declined significantly. Troops, packs, clubs, and crews closed down all over the US and haven’t re-opened.

For the first time in its history, TroopTrack subscriptions have trended down. As a result, revenues have gone down, and we’ve had to scale back. When our long-time support staff member, David Keener, found a position that aligned better with his career interests, we were faced with a tough decision - start the search for a replacement we might not be able to afford if this trend continues, or scale back customer support until the situation improves.

We believe the situation will improve. National organizations tend to see software solutions as one-time investments, whereas we see the need for constant improvement. We don’t make a lot of fanfare about it, but we release improvements to TroopTrack every month. It will take some time, but the cycle we’ve seen in the past will continue - national solutions will age poorly, scouters will become frustrated, and subscriptions will grow again.

We are well-positioned to weather the storm. TroopTrack is a small company, but it’s been reasonably well-managed over the years. It is debt-free and will continue to be so. Tyler and I do not rely on TroopTrack to support our families and as a result are able to take minimal salaries. But we do have to make a choice - we cannot currently afford to both provide full-time customer support as we have in the past and continue making improvements to the TroopTrack product.

​We have to choose between the two, and for now we’ve chosen to keep improving the product. We will provide as much customer support as we can, but given we both have full-time obligations that support is going to be in fits and spurts.

Thankfully, we have a robust community that can help with questions and best practices. Aaron Storey, a long-time TroopTrack user, has been especially helpful in the community forums. We love and appreciate him.

We have also been automating routine support tasks. Roster and achievement imports were automated last week, and transfers will be automated soon. As we identify other common questions and requests, we will endeavor to automate and document them.

In the meantime we are also exploring other ways to increase TroopTrack revenue. Options we’ve discussed include:

  • Raising our base price or switching to a per-user model
  • Charging extra for support by adding a “premium” subscription
  • Adding a modest amount of targeted advertising to our platform

We would like to give advertising a trial run, starting sometime between now and the end of January. If the revenue from advertising is sufficient and we start trending toward growth again, we will hire a support staff person to replace the wonderful David Keener.

Tyler and I appreciate your support and patience. Our customers have been our best marketers, and we desperately want to continue delivering a product you love that allows you to spend more time with kids and less time pounding keyboards. Thank you for being a TroopTrack customer.

Sincerely,

Dave Christiansen

Founder

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My two cents…
I would have no issue with targeted advertising and might even welcome ads from places such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, LL Bean, Alps Mountaineering, etc.

I would also have no issue with a modest base price increase. TroopTrack is currently less than 1% of our annual operating budget and it is mission critical to the management of our troop.

If considering a per-user model, I suggest a per-managed-youth fee. We have a ton of parents who are users who rarely if ever log in to Troop Track. A per-youth fee is probably more fair for small units than a base price increase. It could be tiered to give price breaks as the number of users increase. This is very common practice for software subscriptions.

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But you should make some fanfare. I love TT, but sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, bugs are going unfixed, enhancements die on the vine. And then I notice a new option or feature, and wonder what it does, and how long it has been there?

Please, Dave, throw us a bone and let us know what is happening. I realize it’ll take away from development time, but from a customer perspective, it’ll be so worth it. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it does need to be regular.

Thank you for TT. I’ve been using it for years and it’s so much better than both the system we were using and the current BSA software.

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You are totally right. I will try to do a better job of this going forward.

Dave

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I totally understand the issues TroopTrack is facing, as these are many of the same issues our troops come up against.

However I want to be the first to say as a general rule, I HATE advertising. I am now seeing ads on the headers of emails I send to my troop and that is not a good look for my communications. I am already paying a subscription fee to use this software and I do not want ads pushed out to my users in emails. I don’t even want them on the website either, but emailed ads are unacceptable to me.

Given the financial crunch we are all in, I still want to continue to use TroopTrack and would be okay with a increase in the subscription price, OR the ability to purchase an ad-free subscription for the year instead. At the very least, put the ads below the body of email messages.

I hope you understand that each unit is unique and what could be no big deal for some is a huge deal for others. Please give me the option to not have ads sent to my users!

@dave, did mention in another thread that he was testing the ads to see how it worked and what feedback he would get and is turning them off today. I like the idea of a tiered subscription model for ads and no ads, not sure how feasible that would be immediately but an interesting idea to give groups the option. I personally am ok with ads that are curated, which Dave said in the other thread they would be, to keep the price of subscription down.

I did receive a few of these ads in recent emails and it was something I initially was not aware was going to be tested.

I would like to know what information is collected that generates these targeted ads and makes them work.

I also would rather consider having an options of an ad supported version of TT or a slightly raised platform price. As someone who did not vote to move to TT I am in the tolerate but not love it camp with the software. It’s alright but it’s just not supporting what I hope it would for pack management.