Now and then big companies completely lose sight of their relationship with customers, apparently forgetting that without them they wouldn’t be in business at all. Here are two recent examples.
Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, decided that for the 2014 “Deluxe” version of their product, on which many loyal users had depended for years, they would remove some of the key features and IRS forms from the program without advertising the fact, indeed making it very hard to determine what had changed. Then, partway through the tax preparation process, up would pop a demand for additional payment for upgrades for the forms needed to complete the tax return (see article). At first Intuit used clever-speak to try to justify their actions; then wiser heads came to realize what a major breach of faith they’d created and started to eat big helpings of humble pie. But usually companies only get one shot before permanently tarnishing their reputation, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Intuit will have far fewer customers next year.
Now it’s Lenovo’s turn—the company that in 2005 purchased IBM’s personal computer business (including the vaunted ThinkPad brand) and has since grown to be the largest manufacturers of PCs in the world. Their foul?—preloading the Superfish software on some recent computers that not only inserted ads into website browsers, but also created a major potential security breach inside the system that was very difficult to remove (see articles here, here, and here.) This has already led at least one person to advise against purchasing any Lenovo product in the future…period. It’s hard to say how much this will affect Lenovo’s bottom line going forward, but one possible silver lining is the spotlight this has put on bloatware installed on new machines in general; hopefully, manufacturers will really get the message and reduce (if not outright eliminate) the shoddy practice.
It’s harder and harder to find companies these days that treat customers as though they’d actually like them to develop some loyalty toward their products; many seem to have forgotten that loyalty only occurs when it’s earned in both directions. Some are learning (or relearning) that thoughtless actions for short-term gain can lead to some very nasty outcomes.