Launching an “Improved” Service? Make Sure It Doesn’t Suck

Sometimes I have to just shake my head at the moves organizations make. I’ve been part of big time decision-making processes, so I do know that no one sets out to make terrible decisions. And, no one sets out to take a perfectly useful tool and make it awful. And yet, these kind of things happen a lot more often than common sense would indicate that they should.

The question is why?

Case in point, the formerly very user-friendly YouSendIt.com recently reinvented itself and became Hightail.com. Huzzah for you Hightail – congratulations on your metamorphosis. There’s just one thing though… your new service is awful for the casual user. Now, maybe this is your plan. For far too long have causal users, like me, been using your service without really contributing to your bottom line. Fair enough. You certainly gave me many, many opportunities to upgrade to your paid service back in your YouSendIt days (the email frequency of their campaign should be a separate post!). I never chose to upgrade to Pro because, for me, the value just wasn’t there.

But, I really appreciated having a quality method for sending or receiving the occasional large file or folder to and from a client. Let’s face it, using a service like this is much easier for the average person than using an FTP client directly!

So why am I bothering to write a post about this? Well, the new service, at least for the casual user, in a word – sucks. I just spent way more time that it should have taken to download files one by one for a client’s site. Should I just pony up and pay for the subscription so I can stop the pain? I use this type of service so infrequently, it doesn’t seem worth the (admittedly small) expense for me. That is what the whole “freemium” model is about – offer a quality free service and a small percentage of power users will pay for more and therefore carry all of the free users on their backs.

I get that companies want to make money. Believe me, we do too! My point in doing this post is multifold:

  1. If you are going to allegedly improve your service, you better make sure you actually improve it. Not just from your internal perspective, but from your customers’ perspective. After all, they are the ones that really matter in this equation. Just ask Facebook how most of their “improvements” go over!
  2. You don’t have to be a clone of other services to have a sound business model and be profitable. In fact, having a unique service that is easy to use and reliable is a fantastic business model. It is curious how tech companies try to turn themselves into clones of each other or at least absorb other companies’ best features (I’m looking at you Facebook adding hashtags, LinkedIn’s update feed redesign that looks suspiciously like a Facebook newsfeed, etc.).
  3. Finally, unless you are prepared for a major loss in total customer base, don’t try to be clever and make your free version deliberately cumbersome with the faulty idea that the majority of your customers will pay to have the better version. They largely won’t. If you’ve run the numbers and this kind of attrition won’t hurt you, then go for it. If not, you’re on the wrong track.

Will my decision to stop using the Hightail service impact them? In and of itself, I doubt it. But, I will no longer be exposing other potential paying customers to the service and I will not be considering becoming a paid user. Hightail, it seems, fancies itself as a Dropbox or Evernote type of service. I already use Evernote, so your additional services aren’t satisfying an unmet need, at least not for me. I loved you for what you did well and since you don’t do that any more… I’m going to have to let you go.

It’s been real Hightail. Best of luck to you!

What about you – have any of your favorite services “improved” themselves right out of favor with you? Which ones and why?

 

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