This is the second in a series of articles discussing the reinvention of the award-winning calculator, PowerOne. Read the entire series here.
There has been a steady stream of companies moving from a one-time payment model to a subscription model. And in pretty much every one of these cases it is clear that, even though the company says it is doing this for the customer, they are not. In almost every case they screw their existing customers.
Whoa, you say, that’s harsh. Doesn’t the company have a right to make money?
Of course it does – that’s what a company does – but not at the expense of breaking the promise it made to its customers.
The promise we developers make to our customer is that in exchange for their money (or in the case of a free app, their time) we provide an app or service for them to use.
The app stores have added a second clause to this implied contract as well, the one that gets too many developers in trouble as they don’t consider it when building their wares: the developer will continue to ensure that the app runs on future versions of the operating system.
This is what the customer signed up for and all too often this is the promise that developers break.
But if the company is no longer making enough money to continue supporting the product then how can customers hold the developer to this deal? Don’t companies have the right to change the deal?
Absolutely not. The contract with existing customers has only one out clause: go out of business. The contract with new customers, however, has not been written yet. With them we can create a completely different deal.
Developers: we knew the terms going in. In fact, we wrote the contract. We don’t get to change the terms later.
When we set out to rethink PowerOne we knew that screwing our customers wasn’t an option. I set the terms of the contract and millions accepted those terms over 20 years.
I felt I had two choices. We could either:
- Change the terms for new customers while maintaining the products for our old customers.
- Make the new product free for (almost) all of the functionality we had before.
We chose the latter. After our first week, I am thankful we did.
Customers are thankful too! I’ve had this argument with some other developers, I’m afraid. If you give me something significantly new and different, of course I’ll consider paying for it, whether in a one off or subscription. But it will be a rational decision based on value and need and (continuing) cost. Charge me again for something I already have, even if you are changing the look and feel a bit, and it is no longer a rational discussion, it becomes emotional for me, and that’s never where you want your customer to be.