There tends to be a lot of consternation when buying enterprise software — mainly due to the feeling of permanency once you make the purchase. It’s not like buying a sweater at Macy’s, which you can always return it if it doesn’t fit or if it doesn’t match your pants. However with software, it is just assumed that if you buy it, you own it.
Why? Software is not even tangible like the sweater — there’s certainly no restocking issue. But, try asking a software vendor for your money back sometime. Go ahead. Tell them the application suite you’ve purchased is just not what you need and that you’d like your money back — and then watch their reaction. Frankly, returns are not considered an option with enterprise software. But why not?
If you’re investing in enterprise software, which really is an investment in the future of your company and your critical business processes, shouldn’t you have a right to be satisfied with what you’ve purchased? Software companies do a wonderful job in developing case studies that show happy customers overcoming real-world business problems with their software — and that’s great. And yet it’s also worth asking what that company does for those customers whose real world business problems are not, in fact, solved by the software.
There are really two questions here, and they’re both important:
1) Should you be expected to accept a solution that doesn’t solve the challenges you face?
The software vendor might say, “That’s what a pilot is for; You trial the software and if it does not work, you walk away.” Let’s assume you did your due diligence. You ran a pilot. You arrived at a point at which you had reason to believe that the software would deliver a certain business solution and then you moved forward. What if, even after all that, you discovered that the software could not deliver the results you expected? Should you still be obliged to shell out tens of thousands of dollars — or much much more?
2) Is your enterprise software vendor really as committed to you and your company’s needs as they’ve led you to believe?
Every enterprise software company will say they’re committed to providing support and ensuring that your company can make the most of their software. But what if their software is more of a problem than a solution?
That’s where a company with a true customer focus really stands apart. A company that put your satisfaction first would say, “Sorry it’s not working for you. We’ll cancel the licenses and send you your money back.” Sure that would create some bookkeeping work in the software vendor’s offices, but you would not find yourself wondering whether your satisfaction was less important than their bookkeeper’s headaches. If the vendor were a publicly traded company, it may create some accounting complexities that would be less than welcomed by the auditors and shareholders.
But does that have anything to do with you? If a vendor’s software is so incapable of solving a customer’s real problems that large numbers of them ask for their money back, that company shouldn’t be in the software business to begin with. They’re in the magic business at that point, maintaining an illusion that they’ve created a product that works.
The software company that offers an unconditional money-back guarantee is probably the very one that you as a buyer of enterprise software — perhaps even you as an investor — should seek out. If that vendor offers a money-back guarantee and they’re still in business after five or ten years, then you can be pretty sure that their software is capable of satisfying your needs. If it weren’t, they’d be out of business.
And, you can rest assured that their customers really are their main concern.
So go ahead. Ask for your money back. See what happens. I think you’ll learn a lot about your vendor and its real concerns.