“It’s arrogant to assume that you’ve made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.” — Seth Godin
As developers we like to think that we can appeal to everybody. But focusing on being awesome means missing a lot of customers. And that is okay.
But we have a problem when you believe your product works for everyone and then trap people into staying. Users do not like being stuck with something that does work for them. You have to leave a way out for them, or they will feel betrayed and defensive, and then they will likely go on the offense to discourage others from using your product.
Over the past two weeks I have been evaluating my choice of WordPress theme. I found one that seemed exceptionally promising. It was also exceptionally expensive, but there was a lot of hype about it. I did a lot of research. I even emailed support and asked them for a demo, but they said that they would not provide one. They would answer questions, but I could not use the software until I purchased it. So I bought it.
I struggled trying to make it work for a week and a half. In the end I was literally going to have to disable various plugins on this site, some that I find essential to my setup. It just was not going to work. So I asked for a refund. I exchanged 11 emails with support before being forwarded to another department, who told me that they do not do refunds.
I was shocked; I totally felt taken advantage of. It was a large sum of money. I feel like I put a lot of effort into research before purchase. I worked with support for more then a week after the purchase to try to make it work with my setup. But in the end it wasn’t a match.
The whole situation really made me put a lot of thought into business/consumer relationships. I looked back to see if I could have avoided this whole mess. What did I miss?
To be fair this company’s refund policy does state that they only do refunds unless the software is broken. But their site advertises that the software “works on any WordPress setup.” Broken is apparently a very relative term. Several other things on the homepage also were not found in the software.
Moral of the story is, never buy something if you can’t look at it first unless they offer a money back guarantee. If you are not willing to loose the money then run away. (And there are times when I am willing to the risk the money; I do it on the App Store all the time, but the quantity is a lot smaller.)
Business owner, you need to help your customers know what they are paying for. If your product is truly awesome, then you are going to have a lot of average people that it will not be a good fit for.
Stand behind your product. Put some trust in your users. If you are afraid that you might be taken advantage of then work to mitigate it, but not at the expense of delighting your users including the ones that aren’t going to stick around.
Even an average user who finds your product does not work for them has the potential to sing your praises to others. They still have something to say about your product and your brand. The customer you lost could be your salesman. So make sure to leave the relationship on a good note.
Businesses need to take this relationship seriously. Instances such as my own do so much harm to their brand. Truth be told, they have some good software and their support personal were great. But now I encourage others to avoid it unless they have already used it and are absolutely, 100% sure that it would do what they want. If they offered a refund or had worked to understand my situation, I would adamantly have encouraged everyone to give it a try.
I feel that there is generally a high level of trust in the tech community. I love that! So if you are a developer, do not betray that trust. It hurts you and it hurts the community.
Can you think of a time when you were delighted by a company after finding that their product did not work out for you?