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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Software Trials and Customer Goodwill

My recently purchased MacBook came with a trial version of Microsoft Office and pages. Each trial was valid for 30 days. I started with Pages, having never used it before and then switched over to Office.

The experience was gave me an entirely new perspective on testing software and building consumer loyalty and goodwill.

First and foremost, Microsoft Word had a giant watermark across any document I created proclaiming “OFFICE TEST DRIVE.” This made it useless as I couldn’t send off any documents to clients.

Furthermore, the test version prevented you from printing any documents, which added to my frustration as I encountered road block after roadblock. Office wasn’t winning any points with me, that’s for sure. I finally caved and hit the purchase button only to be directed to Microsoft where I would have to purchase the software online and have it shipped to me. There was no online code option to plug into an existing version!

This got me thinking: I know Microsoft wants you to use its software but I felt that they was going about theƂ strategy the wrong way.

How to create a pleasant test trial environment:

1) Unlock all features! I recently downloaded a trial copy of Scrivener, one of the best (if not the best) software for writers. I played around it freely for 30days and it had become so embedded into my daily routine that purchasing it was non-negotiable. I had to have it. By being exposed to the full functionality of the software, I was able to make it work for me in a way that became invaluable.

2) Simplify purchase processing. Once the online trial is over, make it extra simple for your consumers to download and access your product. This means, the ability to download and install the software effortlessly. If you frustrate the consumer at this stage, you are liable to lose them completely.

3) Keep your website up to date. I went looking for Microsoft Office 2008 and saw a promotion on there for small business owners or home edition. I was excited, until I clicked on it and discovered it had expired three weeks ago. More bad vibes for me to associate with my Microsoft experience.

4) Meet the consumer half way. I would have loved to see Microsoft install a complementary viewer with their trials so that if you were sent a word, excel, or powerpoint file you could still open it up and see the contents. This small act of good will, would have gone a long way with me, especially since I had to go in person to find the software or wait for the shipment to arrive.

In short, the people that are trying to scam the system will ALWAYS scam the system. If a consumer is not going to be for software, you can be sure that they will download pirated copies and go to extreme lengths to avoid paying for this feature. I for one, have no problem paying for software that makes my life easier, but after this experience, I went looking (and found) alternatives including OpenOffice .

The best thing you can do is make the experience as pleasant and hassle free for those consumers who are willing to shell out a few bucks instead of alienating them by making the software a pain to use.

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