I thought you might be entertained by the following exchange I had with a company called CodeWeavers. They produce a product called Crossover which lets you run some Windows apps on a Mac. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Crossover for Mac sucks, but I wouldn’t put it in the same category as other non-free applications that I whole-heartedly endorse (Love you CSSEdit!). Anyway, Crossover let’s you run IE6 and IE7 on a Mac without desecrating your machine by installing Windows on it. And that is what I occasionally used it for. The conversation below picks up after, to my surprise, they were going to charge me for a minor update to my copy of Crossover. Let the fireworks begin…
I was disappointed to learn that I will be charged for an upgrade from version 8.01 to 8.03 of crossover. If this had been a major new release, I could understand charging for an upgrade, but as far as I can tell the latest update is addressing compatibility and stability issues, not introducing new features. Charging for extending a license just to get minor updates is a bad business model. Before I become a very vocal and visible anti-crossover customer, I thought I would give you a chance to remedy the situation. Thanks in advance for giving me access to your product upgrade.
Interesting e-mail. Its a bit early for threats, isn’t it? Before you chastise our business model, I’d ask if you know our business model? Here’s the deal. When you buy CrossOver, you are really purchasing support. With Pro and Games, you get 12 months of support. With Standard, you get six months of support. Support includes all software updates, software upgrades, and help desk support. When your time runs out, you have the option (YOUR OPTION) to renew your support. We don’t charge for any one particular update. We don’t charge for any one particular upgrade. We don’t charge for creating a help desk ticket. We package all of that into your support that expires on a specified date. When your support expires, you need to renew support regardless if the next update is major or minor. That’s our business model, and our customer tend to appreciate the way we do business.
So let me review your situation and clarify a couple of points…
1.) YOU NEVER PAID FOR CROSSOVER. You got a free subscription to CrossOver during our Lame Duck Challenge. You took advantage of our promotion, and you received one year of support. You upgraded your software accordingly from 7.2 to 8.0 so that you would have the ability to run on Snow Leopard. So to clarify, you haven’t paid for anything to date and gotten 15 months of joy from the software. And we fulfilled all our obligations as stated in this free promotion.
2.) HOW BAD OF BUSINESS CAN IT BE TO GIVE AWAY YOUR SOFTWARE? If you do decide to be very vocal and visible anti-CrossOver, I’d ask that you at least tell people that you got the software for free. That you received two minor updates and one major upgrade over the course of 15 months. Then, you threatened the company that gave you the free software and free support with bad PR when you were told it was time to pay for future support. After all, fair is fair.
3.) YOU KNEW THIS DAY WAS COMING. Everyone that took part in the Lame Duck Challenge received e-mail (most would say too much e-mail) with notices, special pricing, deal codes in regards to renewing their support. At some point (well before you tussle with Jack), you were notified that your support had expired or was about to expire. The timing of your support expiring had nothing to do with a minor upgrade to 8.0.3 and was going to happen at some point. It just so happens that your support expired on November 9, 2009.
4.) YOU NEED TO RENEW YOUR SUPPORT. The only way for you to acquire 8.0.3 (and the major 9.0 release) is to renew your support. Threatening me with being very vocal and visibly anti-CrossOver will do you no good. Actually, I find your comments to be quite incredulous considering you received the software and support for free (even more so when I go out to your website and see how you interact with your customers). Being that you have an illness that prevents you from being happy unless you are creating something, I hope that you can appreciate that for my developers to keep their hands busy and create new updates to our software they need to get paid. This is how our software improves which hopefully creates a better experience for our customers.
5.) STILL A CHANCE TO SAVE MONEY. If you wish to renew your support of CrossOver and support our business model, I’d ask you to use SPECIAL DEAL CODE: DEADDUCK this will save you 50 percent on your purchase of CrossOver Mac. That’s roughly the cost (actually a few pennies less) then what we ask people to pay to renew their annual support. For $35.00 (USD) per year or less then $3.00 (USD) per month or less the $.75 (USD) per week, you can continue to receive our software updates, software upgrades, and help desk support. And with CrossOver 9.0 scheduled to be released by March 1, 2010, you will receive one of the better software upgrades as part of this support (no additional costs to upgrade to a major release). Just enter the SPECIAL DEAL CODE in the Special Deal Box in the cart screen (has to be the cart screen) of the order process. You’ll see the discount applied before you complete your transaction.
That’s the best deal that I can provide to you. If you don’t like the deal or feel that we’re still being unreasonable, I guess I’ll read about it on your many blogs (I’d just ask for you to spell my name right… its R-A-M-E-Y (pronounced RAY-me, not RAM-ee). Thank you again for your e-mail and interesting comments. My very best regards to you (and your father and son both named Adrian).
James B. Ramey
Vice President, Sales
[edit: contact info removed]
Dear Mr. Ramee,
Thanks for the email and personal attention. My email wasn’t meant as a threat as much as an attempt to show you the mistake you were making. You may not be aware that happy customers spread the word about great products. Disappointed customers complain and promote alternatives. That’s why most companies actually care about customer satisfaction. Word of mouth has the power to sell (or slow the sale of) products.
When I first emailed you I was on the fence about CrossOver and looking for a reason to get behind it. That’s why I tried your software in the first place. And yes, I tried it for free thanks to your promotion. (Actually, a friend referred me to you because he was a impressed with the concept of CrossOver – an example of word of mouth marketing in action!) Had it not been free I wouldn’t have tried it at all. So since it was free, I tried your software. And honestly, it is okay. I use it occasionally when I need to test a website on IE and I don’t have access to a PC. If you guys work out the kinks I would probably pay for the next major release. If you can get IE8 to run I definitely will. However, I will NEVER pay for support. Most people, like me, expect software to work – without needing technical assistance. Call me crazy.
The really funny thing about your business model is that it is almost the opposite of the traditional “free trial” concept. Instead of offering an enticing sample for free that persuades potential customers to part with their money, you guys are just giving your goods away and charging people for support – banking on what I assume is your inside knowledge that most people won’t be able to get CrossOver working. Why would a company base their pricing on support as their main product? Could it be that the software is so buggy that there is more money in helping people get it working? That is the only logical conclusion I can come to.
You can run your business however you would like, but here is some free advice. I owe you after all, for the 15 months of support that I didn’t use…
1. Don’t pull the plug on legitimate customers and hold them hostage with something as minor as basic performance upgrade.
2. Dont’ charge for customer service. That’s really what your support package is (and your thorough review of my billing records will show that I used exactly zero of it!) If you are losing money because you are spending too much time helping your customers, then take the product offline and put it in beta.
3. Sell software. Your products are your most valuable product, so sell it! If people need support, sell that separately.
4. Make it easy to upgrade. The majority of your users are Mac users after all, and they are used to user-friendly software experiences.
5. And most importantly… Oops, your subscription just expired. If you would like more free advice you will have to pay me for it.
P.S. You probably didn’t spend enough time on my website to realize that I am not selling anything there. I contribute freely to several open source projects. I alone handle all support issues for Font Burner, a free service that asks nothing in return of my users. I actually feel guilty when I am unable to serve people as well as I should – even though I owe them nothing. I would never insult my users with the type of email you sent me.
Sorry to lose you as a customer. Best wishes to you in all your endeavors. Thanks for the advice. My best regards.
James B. Ramey