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With so much bad software on the market its amazing that the companies stay in business. It's not about technology, it's all about economics.

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 before.

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 individuals have.

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.

"How can a crappy product still have revenue coming in?"

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 it's crap?

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 worse.

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?" mentality.

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. Specifically:

  • 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 Magazine, Windows 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 say.)

  • 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 reactions.

  • 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 guarantee.

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.

Article C3310 - March 5, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
James Hanley
March 6, 2008 10:55 PM

Dear Leo
Many thanks for your answer. I totally agree with your comments that consumers need to take positive action and, believe me, I've tried. This particular mob have set up their Web Site in such a way that it is virtually impossible for an overseas customer to even get information through to them. There is a site on the net where disenchanted customers of this company tell their stories. One Englishman was being billed for a product he had not even ordered or received and could get no satisfaction. I must admit that I find this particular yarn a little far fetched. Unfortunately, I only discovered this site by chance after I had made my purchase. Still, I've learnt from the experience and will be more careful in future. It's great being able to write to you when all else has failed or for advice in advance of making a bad purchase.

Yours sincerely
James Hanley

Dieter
July 28, 2010 5:25 AM

Below is a good example how they do it, worst part is they ask for access to my PC. I can look back on one bad experience.
Advice: Let the vendor send you an email with all important details e.g. compatibility, warranty, terms. If they can't, don't order.

Good luck and happy computing

[Name Removed]

""" Dear Dieter,

Thank you for taking the time to write us.

Please accept my apology for any inconvenience.

In order to solve the problem you got with [Name Removed] we need to connect to your computer and see what we can do.

As you don't want us to do this we cannot give you money back.

Let us call you, please provide us with the telephone number and time (between 3p.m. and 9 p.m. local time).

Kind regards,

[Name Removed] ? Customer Support ? [Name Removed]

__________________________________________

Learn how to use [Name Removed]: Windows cid:image001.jpg@01CB1225.D2AA30D0 Mac cid:image002.jpg@01CB1225.D2AA30D0

[phone numbers removed]

Description: Logo_rgb_small.jpg

From: DFWH [email removed]
Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 3:34 PM
To: support4
Subject: Re: [Name Removed]

Dear Maria,

As I have been advised during the ordering process, there is a 30 day money back warranty.

As [Name Removed] doesn't work with my environment XP/Firefox/Openoffice which I am using now for many years, I ask again for cancellation of my order.
I am not prepared to solve constant issues because of incompatibilities. Having problems right at the beginning, as I mentioned in my first email,doesn't bot well for the future.

Again, please organize cancellation of my order # 1954074 and return the money. [Name Removed] has been completely deleted as I am rebuilding my PC which
had been stable for the past 2 years, which is pretty good for an XP installation, till I installed [Name Removed].

Yours faithfully

[Name Removed]

On 07/27/2010 02:46 AM, support4 wrote:

Dear Dieter,

Thank you for taking the time to write us.
In order to solve this issue we can connect to your computer.

Please provide us with your telephone number and time we can call you (between 3 PM to 9 PM local time).

If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to write to me again.


Best Regards

[Name Removed] ? Customer Support ? [Name Removed]

__________________________________________

Learn how to use [Name Removed]: Windows cid:image001.jpg@01CB1225.D2AA30D0 Mac cid:image002.jpg@01CB1225.D2AA30D0

[phone numbers removed]

Description: Logo_rgb_small.jpg

From: [email removed]
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2010 2:44 PM
To: [Name Removed] Team
Subject: Other


Message:

Please note, as of today the 26/07/2010
I cancel my order "Bestellung #1954074".
Reason: Installation went ok, but no online connection to access Dictionaries or downloading them works.
I have tried now for a week (I am working in IT) to no avail. Any software giving me that kind of problems is not fit for use. Especially I have now to re-install the operating system.
I will send you the CD back as soon I receive it.
Yours faithfully,

[Name Removed]

Jacques
October 7, 2011 2:26 AM

Hi Leo,

I just found this article and although it seems to be quite old the point is still relevant and I'm wondering if it's more relevant today than two years ago.

Our company is heavily involved with web development and frequently have to make use of 3rd party software, because if we don't our clients will end up having to pay for everything to be built from the ground up. In one such case very recently we bought products from a company called {company name removed} who made all sorts of promises about their product. To cut a long story short, we're speculating that they actually don't do any testing at all and instead rely on their customers to report problems. If I could rate them as a company I would give them 2 out of 10 and for their products I would say 3 out 10. 3 is for the fact that it's feature packed, but that's only a small part of the equation, the rest is all missing.

It's concerning and the fact that we're starting to dabble with our own products now makes me more concerned about how we're going to handle quality control.

Regards,
Jacques
Managing Director
{company name removed}
{url removed}

Chris
November 28, 2011 10:53 AM

You correctly stated in your article that “companies are in business to make money”. Permit me to share with you my own experience with an unscrupulous company that we hired on Guru.com. Espirt Softwares (ESPL,) (Guru ID: 706850) delivered to us a broken site and for the past 1.5 months adamantly refused to fix their error ridden software. Below (#3) are their Work Terms posted publicly on Guru. Hopefully, this Guru Freelancer’s unethical conduct is the exception. I am sure there are excellent software developers in India, however Espirt Softwares is clearly not one of them. Therefore, I am informing all employers to stay away from this Indian company. I also wish to point out that Espirt Softwares (www.esplindia.com) additionally pressured us to provide them with positive reviews assuring us that they would not only fix bug issues as was expected (again, please see #3 below) but also be available for additional minor issues as well. Unfortunately, we trusted them and left them good reviews on Guru.com. Not only has Espirt Softwares 100% misled us and delivered us an error ridden software, but they have also refused to fix the issues. This India-based company cannot be trusted. They are extremely unprofessional and unethical. I do not want another individual to suffer as we did. While some companies make guarantees and keep them, others don’t. Consumer beware.

1. Escrow required after hiring.
2. Release of payment once work is done.
3. Three months free support for bug fixing.
4. TAT through any mode of communication: Max12 hrs 1. Escrow required after hiring.
2. Release of payment once work is done.
3. Three months free support for bug fixing.
4. TAT through any mode of communication: Max12 hrs

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