I am new to the world of software and I am noticing that you do things differently here.
Some of it is great – I don’t mind that I have had to put my entire wardrobe of business suits into storage and go out and buy a load of jeans and trainers, I’m not missing the endless, pointless meetings I used to sit in, and I’m getting used to the idea that no-one is going to ball me out if I turn up at 10 in the morning, so long as I put in a full day’s work.
But some things are proving more difficult to understand. So for the next couple of weeks I thought I would share some of my “new girl” thoughts and perhaps pick up some insider knowledge from you along the way.
So first up – guarantees.
So, I went off to spy on the competition, to see how they did things and hopefully get some good ideas.
Only to find that most of our direct competitors offer no guarantees at all.
The first company I looked in to are quite explicit about this on their website
“we do not provide refunds. The key reason is that we make available a fully-functional trial version of the product for download . . . “
Well, most motor dealers will let me test drive a car, but just because a car goes like a dream on the test drive doesn’t give me any guarantee that the wheels aren’t going to fall off three weeks after I buy it.
And it’s the same with software, you may download and install your free trial version, and have a good play with it. But it’s very unlikely that you are going to test every eventuality in a trial. In our market especially (we provide web parts for SharePoint), you are probably going to trial the software in a contained environment, within maybe one department – who knows what you will encounter when you buy the full version and roll it out to the whole business.
From another company I got:
“our company’s refund policy is: A request for a refund will only be granted if it is received BEFORE the license code has been sent.”
Hmmmm, great, I can get a refund as long as I decide I want it before I even buy the product.
And from another:
At the moment due to licensing issues we are not able to get license back is case of money refunding.
And then finally the company which does offer:
A full 5 day money back guarantee
(what happens to the software on day 6 I wonder?)
I have heard the argument that this is a business to business sale, not a consumer sale. A business buying software should carry out thorough testing and due diligence before making the purchase, so there should be no need for refunds. Well, maybe this is the case for enterprise level $50k plus software, but in our market where price tags run at under $10k the purchase decision may be a little more spontaneous.
This argument in any case ignores the fact that all purchase decisions, whether business or consumer, are ultimately made by a “human”, who will bring emotional responses to the table.
As a customer – (and a “human”), if a company tells me they don’t offer refunds it provokes two emotional responses in me:
- they are not confident that I will be satisfied with their product/service
- they are not interested in building a long term customer relationship with me, just interested in making a quick buck.
Is this really the message these companies want to be giving out?
Clearly its not all software companies who adopt this approach. For example, Fog Creek, offer this:
“If you’re not satisfied, for any reason, within 90 days you get a full refund, period, no questions asked. We don’t want your money if you’re not amazingly happy.”
Now that’s my kind of a guarantee! Confident, trusting and no messing around.
But those taking the Fog Creek approach seem to be heavily outnumbered by those with the “we’ve got your money and we’re keeping it, come hell or high water!” attitude.
This all leaves me with two questions.
Firstly – why do customers accept this?
Secondly – why would companies choose to do it? A software license holder doesn’t actually “consume” anything, it’s not as though there is a finite amount of your software program and each license you issue means there is a little bit less left of it for you to sell to other people.
There is little or no cost to a software company in providing a refund – so why would you choose not to?
Answers on a postcard please?