How do software companies, such as *****, continue to stay in business?
Their software is almost good but from my experience unreliable and
troublesome. Their support service is almost non existent and their Web Site is
a circular nightmare. I finally got an immediate response from them when I
wrote this evening to cancel any renewal of my license to *****. My experience
with them makes me very reluctant to deal with anyone I haven’t dealt with
I wonder the same thing sometimes about many companies, to be honest.
I think the bottom line is actually very simple: understand why those
companies are in business. Understand a little about how the market works, and
it starts to become clear.
It also gives some direction on what, admittedly little, control we as
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I’m not an economics expert, but in this case that seems to me what this is
all about: economics, not technology.
Companies are in business to make money. I know it sounds crass, but think
about it: companies have to pay employees, pay investors and make a return for
their shareholders. Almost everything a company does has to do with ensuring
it’s long term financial success. Or, in the case of some companies,
their short term financial success before a planned exit.
So, how can a company that puts out a sub-par product stay in business?
Simple: either they won’t be for long as they use up what money they do
have, or they’re actually making money with that sub-par product for long
enough to meet their needs.
OK, how can a sub-par product make money?
As long as the money made by that product is more than the expenses used to
create, support and distribute that product, guess what … it’s making money!
The internet makes distribution almost costless, and as you’ve seen one place a
lot of companies are constantly skimping on is support. Creation costs
are a kind of wild card that’s also very easy to skimp on,
particularly when your goal for quality isn’t all that high to begin with.
How can a crappy product still have revenue coming in? Don’t people know
No, they don’t. And therein lies the dirty underbelly of so much software
you see for sale on the internet. People rarely take the time to
really investigate whether a particular manufacturer’s product is any good. And
if they do the research, the information that you’ll find out on the internet
is often in total conflict; person A will think that product X is the best
thing since sliced bread, and person B will claim he’s never seen anything
Making an informed decision is difficult. So many people don’t. They
purchase what sounds like it will solve their problem based on well timed sales
literature, and perhaps even a little of a “what have I got to lose?”
And then, of course, enough people purchase the software – no matter how
good or bad it might be – and the company makes money.
So, what can we do?
Legwork. Research. And take action when things don’t meet your need.
Find a couple of trusted resources for product reviews and recommendations.
Obviously I feel that Ask Leo! is a reasonable
resource, but honestly it doesn’t have to be me. Pick a couple of folks or
resources that appear to be well trusted in the industry, that you can
understand, and that as best you can determine, have a set of values that match
yours. (I’ll throw out PC
Secrets, Michael Horowitz’s sites Computer Gripes and his blog Defensive
Computing and another good resource, c|net. These are just a few; there are many, many more. I
don’t even always agree with them all, but I respect what they have to
Google, but Google with a grain of salt. Particularly look for discussion
groups where people are discussing the product you’re evaluating. Look not only
for product problems, but especially support and customer service problems, and
problems with any product guarantees. Don’t expect 100% agreement – this is the
internet, no one agrees on everything. But you will get a sense for products
which, by and large, make more people happier (or unhappier) than others.
If you can, find people you know that have tried the product and get their
Pick products that include a guarantee, if you can. It’s not at all
unreasonable these days for much software to come with a 100% satisfaction
Finally, if after purchasing a product you’re not satisfied with the it,
use that guarantee or even without such a guarantee return the
product and insist on a refund.
What I see happening frequently is that people will purchase software to
solve a problem, have it fail, and then complain online or to friends without
actually taking action. If we go all the way back to the original question,
even though the product failed, the company still made money! Returning the
product or otherwise insisting on satisfaction is really the only way to
actually impact that companies bottom line, even if just a little bit.
Unfortunately the pragmatic in me doesn’t believe that enough people will
actually take that kind of action, and that shady sub-par software will
continue to exist and those companies will continue to take people’s money.
Sad, but I believe, inevitable.
As a consumer, wether you want to consider it “right” or not, the
responsibility falls back on you to do your homework and make the most educated
purchasing decisions you possibly can, and then back it up with appropriate
action if a product failed to live up to its claims.