by Owen Wengerd
Let me tell you a story about loyalty. For many years, I've used a popular and highly regarded tax form preparation software from a well-known company. As a small business owner in the United States, I have to fill out the dreaded Schedule C form.
In the early years I used "interview" mode to guide me through. I'm a hands-on kind of person, so once I gained some experience, I liked that the software gave me the option of filling out the forms manually by entering numbers right on the tax form. Meanwhile, it kept related forms synchronized and reviewed all of them for inconsistencies. I also liked that I could keep everything local, with both application and data stored on my desktop only.
I started getting nervous, however, a few years ago when this company began pressuring me to move to its tax preparation on the cloud. I resisted. I had to dig through near-hidden links on their Web site to find and then purchase the desktop version of their software.
But I persevered. I made sure to decline to participate in their cloud, even though it was getting more difficult -- and more irritating -- to do so, year after year. I remained loyal, reminding myself that they had a nice thing going with me buying the program every year, and they surely wouldn't just leave me out in the cold.
This year, like every year before, I hit the Internet to purchase my usual tax preparation software. Except this year, I found that the heat had been turned up a notch. Not only was it a struggle to find the desktop version of the software, but I discovered that they were going to force me to pay for a more expensive flavor of the software that had features I didn't need or want.
The new twist was the straw that broke the camel's back. I promptly searched for and found a competitor product, discovered that it worked exactly the way I liked, and cost only one fifth as much. I use the new software quite happily, and wonder why I waited so long to switch.
Loyalty, of course.
But this story is not over yet. In early February, I received an email from the first tax software firm with the subject, "Our apologies. We're fixing things." I suspect some of you got the same email, and maybe some of you decided to give them another chance.
"We heard you. It's time we make it right." But it's too late now for us. Our relationship has ended. I've moved on and found someone else. Sorry. You should have listened to me while I was still loyal to you.
This story is about loyalty to tax form preparation software, but the savvy among you might recognize that this story is really about CAD software. You, my dear reader, are headed for a showdown: you are being pushed by large CAD companies to conform with their needs, instead of them conforming to ours. When the time comes, will a mea culpa email be enough to retain our loyalty?