Linked by David Adams on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 17:59 UTC
Editorial This article looks at user reactions to common problems with user interfaces and corporate policies, and how these reactions can make some common business decisions counterproductive. When it comes to inconveniencing your customers, and sometimes even offending them, are some sales tactics worth it in the long run?
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issue for me
by APW on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 18:25 UTC

This is an issue for me. I own a small software business.

As a customer I hate anything that gets in my way of using software. I have QuickBooks per my accountants request (so we can share data). I, like all users of QB, had to call to activate the product. Not just an activation code, not just a register online - no, I also had to call. Very annoying - when it comes time to upgrade I will look for an open source alternative to QB.

I dislike activation codes and online registrations. And no, I don't steal products, I usually just find an open source solution. I just didn't want to get into it with my accountant.

Another example, I recently bought a notebook computer online - it was advertised with a $100 rebate. Then I get the notebook and try to register the rebate online. First off it says I have the wrong model number - and then with a second rebate offer I find out I still have to mail in my invoice and my UPC.

You know what would be a lot cheaper? Do have rebates, don't have a rebate center. Take the money saved and lower your prices. It's not that I wanted a rebate - I just thought it was overpriced to start with, but justified it with the idea of getting a rebate.

I do think companies should offer a mailing list option. But I do not think they should try to force people to register software or themselves. The whole idea of software piracy is a 'phantom' threat - it is very wrong minded to assume that people would pay if they couldn't steal. It's very wrong minded to assume your customers are theivies.

In fact, this way of thinking assumes you are a monopoly. If it did not then the question would be - do you want people using your software and building you mindshare or do you want them using your competitor's software? I'd rather have the mindshare (and of course most customer will pay as well) then have the mindshare and, subsequently the paying base move to the competiton. Any business that doesn't accept that some potential revenue will slip through the cracks (i.e. be stolen) clearly thinks they are in control of the whole world - it just doesn't work that way. All aspects of retail seeing loses to theft. Its just part of doing business with humans - get over it and move on to productive customer relations with those who DO PAY - like me.

I'm not saying we should make it illegal for a business to be jerks - let big business do their annoying things and they will make themselves obsolete. Many customers, such as myself, will find respectful and service oriented. And, as a business owner, I plan to be respectful and service oriented.

oops - thats 'don't have rebates'
by APW on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 18:27 UTC


by mattb on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 18:34 UTC

the real question is that do these insane schemes really stop piracy? of course they dont, at most they just slow it down. so by treating your clientel like criminals, you effectively piss off your user base without much in the way of substancial gains.

for such things, i like to use oracle as an example. they dont have these protection schemes, and most of their products are available for download. if you havnt purchased a liscence and they catch you though, they will sue the crap out of you. everyone knows it, and thats why things like oracle books are damn near impossible to find online. compare that with the famous microsoft WPA. windows xp and office have got to be two of the EASIEST products to get illicit copies of.

so why do it in the first place? my guess is because they can get away with it. how many games have come out with "protection schemes" that make the game incompatible with a particular model of cdrom, without a crack of some sort. when going the illegal route gives you MORE functionality and a better experience then the legal route, you know there is something horribly wrong.

by mattb on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 18:35 UTC

that started out as a reply to apw, but turned into more a general response to the article.

RE: issue for me
by Anonymous on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 19:08 UTC

"I dislike activation codes and online registrations. And no, I don't steal products, I usually just find an open source solution. I just didn't want to get into it with my accountant. "

I cant stand this whole activation crap. In my opinion it just causes problems for the legitimate owners of the product. I will only purchase programs that require activation if there is a successful way to get around it. I am really into flight simming and there are many add on planes that I would love to buy, but they all require activation to use, so in the end the company has lost a sale. Someone I know owns 3D Studio Max which has a fairly complex licensing system. He has to resort to using a cracked "warez" version since he has so many problems getting his legal version to work.

by Anonymous on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 19:40 UTC

Everyone always cries about this, but we're all too stupid to ever actually do anything more. Articles like this are almost as annoying as what they complain about.

Gotta love activations that don't work
by phoenix on Wed 23rd Mar 2005 19:59 UTC

Recently, I purchased TaxWiz (great little tax program). Since they were purchased by Intuit last year, you have to do an online or over-the-phone activation using the code that's on a sticker inside the case. Not too big a problem. So I install the software, reboot (gotta love Windows), and fire up the activation wizard. Put in the number, hit submit, and get an error: "All your activations have been used. Please call to purchase more activations." Yeah, that's useful.

Took me three days, and three phone calls, before I could finally reach someone who would give me a new activation code for my copy. Stupid Intuit. Didn't have to activate the product the past three years, but they in their wisdom must know something the rest of us don't.

Weird day this was... marketing all over, from wakeup till bedtime. Very unusual for me, but very interesting too.

Did some computer repair/'modding' work as a hobby in the past, tried my luck some time ago with a worldwide, well known firm that uses network marketing (mouth-to-mouth) exclusively(!) to sell its products, and currently working as a tele-/direct marketer at a callcenter.

The secret to be succesful in selling your products (long-term) is really simple: put your customers' interests first. And with customers I mean ANYbody, even people outside your normal target audience. They may be your customers tomorrow, or know people that might be.

The best business relation is focussed not on one-time sales, but on maintaining a long-term relation, involving mutual trust and respect, from which both parties profit. Treat (potential) customers with care, as if they are close friends. Give them what they need. Not what they want, but what they need. Like you might treat a good friend at times in ways they didn't ask for, but thank you later about.

Ofcourse to do this best, you need to know your audience well, and that's where the long-term, trusting relation comes in. Get to know them, do what's good for them, and they'll always come back to you, or recommend you to their friends.

And last, you DO need a good product. Something people can use, and that solves their problems.

But isn't all this plain common sense? Brand perception is all about making, and keeping customers happy.

The well written article touches all this nicely. Good find! But on a side note David, what is this doing on OSNews? Expanding our horizons, are we? Anyway, good read... gotta get some sleep now ;-))

RE: issue for me
by Jordax on Thu 24th Mar 2005 02:10 UTC

The rebate system is more complex than it appears. It all hinges on the fact that, given a rebate system that requires the customer to take action and post some paper somewhere, a large percentage of customers (maybe even as much as 50%) won't bother sending for the rebate, despite how much it encourages them to buy.

If I sell 10 copies of X at $400 a throw, that's $4000 to me. But if I sell 10 copies at $500 with a $100 rebate, at worst I'll probably get 50% of rebates claimed, or 5x$100, giving me an income of $5000 - $500 = $4500.

Sadly, rebates are an effective way of encouraging sales without paying the full cost of the discount.

by Vesselin Peev on Thu 24th Mar 2005 09:01 UTC

Crucial issues for everyone. More articles like this one, please ;) .

Customer relations
by The flying boolaboola on Thu 24th Mar 2005 09:25 UTC

You would think companies would see the logic in that, wouldn't you? Think again, loved ones. Some companies see nothing more than this quarter, their time horizon is a most three months long.
Of course: if they could prove they were thrustworthy and actively looked out for the interests of their customers, in the long run there would be a huge return on that investment. But they have to make the revenue NOW. Damn all what happens next year.

I'm very happy to buy in places where I know I'll be treated well. I don't go looking for the cheapest of the cheap all the time. Cheap can be your most expensive option sometimes. Over time I'll be spending more money in a certain place because I know I can rely on them.
Places where they pull a fast one on me have the opportunity one time.
I think there is a huge potential for improving company policies in the years to come. The internet allows for instantaneous peer reviews of experiences with companies. When companies learn that their practices have an immediate, long term effect on their reputation will adopt new policies. And if they don't, they will only be hurting themselves.
We're going back to the old days where people's willingness to deal with you was based on your reputation and standing. Voting with your money is a more effective way of dealing with companies than just complaining to them. In the end it's your decision who you give your money to.

Oh, and product activation is a hate crime. I will not buy a product that has to be activated. A product registration key, sure, no problem. Activation: never happen. I buy my software because:
- it entitles me to support
- what good are 5 million free apps on my hard drive that I'm never going to even have time to use anyway
- it supports the engineers who made it
- it helps pay for development of more and better products
- it supports the economy and helps create jobs, one of which I may need in the future

If an app is too expensive, I'm not buying it. If I need it for my job, it's tax deductible. If it's worth using every day, it's worth paying for. You don't have to twist my arm to pay for an application that I think will help me work better.

For all that, I don't accept software activation. I know what it's like, it is absolutely horific and I'm not having it.