In our digital age, returning purchased software and getting a refund should be quick and painless. Unfortunately, it often is just the opposite.
Why Customers Want to Return Software
Last week I purchased Norton Internet Security 2008. This security suite for my computer promised “improved performance” and offered the anti-virus and firewall I needed. User reviews for this software were mixed but several online and magazine reviews I had read were very positive and even awarded it the “Editor’s Choice” in some cases.
Nevertheless, after I installed the software and my computer rebooted, every thing slowed to a crawl. Once my applications started loading: poof! My screen went black and my computer froze up. I had to hard reboot my computer by using the power button and then try to quickly uninstall Norton Internet Security before the computer crashed again.
Luckily, I was successful and my computer returned to its normal, happy performance. Did I try to reinstall it again? No way! I was lucky to get it uninstalled before I ended up in a never ending cycle of reboots and crashes.
Lesson learned: Your product must work the first time because that may be the only chance you get with a customer.
After I uninstalled Norton, I downloaded and installed Zone Alarm’s security suite without any trouble.
Lesson learned: If a customer’s first impression of you is a bad one, your competition is right around the corner.
Returning Software for a Refund is Painful
I had recovered from the disastrous software installation but I still had the opened box of Norton Internet Security software that I couldn’t return to the store. Why? Stores almost always refuse to accept returns of opened software. So what am I to do?
Symantec (the makers of Norton) require that I print out a form and mail both it and the software CD back to them. They’ll then take 6-8 weeks to process my refund. This process is too manual, takes too long, and is too painful.
The Better Way
Norton Internet Security already asks for an activation code during the installation. The software thus has the ability to disable and activate itself already built in. The return process should leverage this feature to make customers’ lives easier.
How about this?
Step 1: Give me an option in the software or via the website to return the product. This triggers the software to deactivate itself or even start the uninstall process.
Step 2: Once the software is uninstalled or deactivated, this fact is communicated via the internet to the vendor confirming the end user can no longer use the software.
Step 3: A credit is issued to the customer or a check is processed and sent in the mail.
The customer can keep the CD, throw it away, return it to the store, or mail it back. Any option they choose, the software is deactivated and the vendor can rest assured no one is pirating a copy.