Quicken Failure Shows How Software is Changing

I’ve been a Quicken user since, well, forever, and I was an early adopter of Quicken’s online bill paying service. I stopped writing physical checks more than a decade ago. So last week when one of my online checks didn’t get paid by Quicken (a rarity), I followed the online icons inside Quicken, and sent an e-mail to customer support to get it resolved.

But when I hit send, I got an error message: “Your e-mail wasn’t sent, would you like to send it now?” So I did this process again, over and over. I then restarted Quicken a few times. Same result. I tried to delete the message and start over, but there is no way to delete the message.

So I resorted to the live online chat support. The customer service manager was very willing to listen to my problem and help me resolve things. But when it seemed like we were making progress, here’s what transpired:

Amjad: Eugene, I would like to inform you that there is a change in the support system. There is a $9.99 fee for support if you are using Quicken 2011 or Quicken 2010. We offer free live support for our latest Quicken products.

If you would like to purchase support and remain in your current version of Quicken…

I call this a bait and switch policy. The idea that their system has an error, and I have to pay to upgrade to the next version to get it resolved is simply galling. Needless to say, not only did I not pay the money, I’m actively looking to move away from Quicken after all these years.

Compare this to the cloud computing approach where there is no such thing as “upgrading to the next version.” In cloud computing, you typically pay an annual or monthly fee, and with it you get all the upgrades and bug fixes. Upgrades happen quickly and seamlessly. A recent article in The New York Times about cloud computing elaborates on this:

“In the Wintel world, new versions of Microsoft Windows came out every few years, with major software projects tied to desktops and laptops. By contrast, in less than five years Apple has announced six versions of its mobile operating system. Google’s operating system for cloud-connected laptops, called Chrome, is updated every six weeks.”

So, here’s a quick bit of advice: If you’re looking at new software systems for your organization and you are hearing about “Version 10″ or “Version 11” or “the latest version of our software,” that’s a clue that you’re looking at yesterday’s technology.

In this cloud computing world, there are no versions. There is one continuous stream of product improvements. The question you should be asking the companies you interview is “How frequently do you release updates and new features, and are there any costs for these upgrades?”

Quicken has been the market leader for years, but it’s clear what they are doing is trying to eek out every last dollar from their existing customers. That may be good in the short-run, but I believe this approach will ultimately fail for them and other companies that do the same thing.

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