Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Real Bad News

One of my ongoing complaints with the consumer software industry is its utter contempt for customers. From installers that litter your PC with shortcuts and icons to take you to sales pitches (Quicken, anybody?) to partnerships that that mean that installing one piece of software leaves you with extra stuff you didn't want on your computer, the whole experience of downloading or buying software leaves you feeling like you're dealing with someone who wants to take control of your computer. Because obviously, you couldn't know on your own what software you want or what should be on your desktop or anything like that.

And one of the worst offenders, in my experience, is Real Networks. Today, for the first time in ages, I downloaded Real's free player. I have been avoiding it, because my past experiences with Real were so awful - software that demands to know who you are then installs all kinds of extraneous crap on your PC when you just wanted to watch a video clip. (I remember one fun feature: if you didn't notice you had to scroll down in one of the install boxes, you wound up "opting in" to all kinds of email and extra software.)

But today there was something I wanted to see, you had to have Real Player to see it, and so I relented.

I downloaded it, ran the installer, and then carefully unchecked all the little boxes so that it wouldn't install twenty-seven different shortcuts all over my machine, add it to the quick start bar, and tattoo a Real logo on my ass.

And so it began installing. And then it stopped installing. For ten minutes, it's hung at "99% done" - and told me it was installing the Google Toolbar.

What?

I didn't ask for the Google Toolbar. I didn't check a box to get the Google toolbar. Nothing anywhere mentioned the Google Toolbar.

I don't want the Google Toolbar. (And whether the Google Toolbar is good or bad is irrelevant - it's my PC and I didn't ask for it.)

Why do software companies do this? I'm sure somewhere along the way somebody from Google and somebody from Real got together and thought it would be just lovely if people downloading a video player got a new toolbar for their browser. And if the way it worked was to offer it, with an easy way to say no, that would have been fine. But no.

I canceled out of the Google Toolbar installation, and Real finished, and went on to demand all kinds of information, try to make itself my default media player, and so on. The usual sociopathic Real behavior.

The experience left me with this thought about Real and their products: I hate them and will probably uninstall it as soon as I've watched the content I wanted to see. Anything connected to their name will make me run the other direction.

That's probably not what they were after. And sadly, this isn't unique to them; they're just particularly ham-handed about it.

We are told that customer interactions are a great place for cross-selling, and it's true. But it needs to be done in a way that respects the customer.

Imagine if you went to Best Buy and bought a DVD player, and instead of being asked if you wanted the extended service plan and finding a Netflix coupon in the box, someone was out in the parking lot putting some extra products in your trunk, there was a Netflix coupon plastered across your windshield so you couldn't go home till you'd done something with it, and when you turned on the car radio you heard a sales pitch for the service plan. Then when you got home, the living room was rearranged and the DVD player now controlled your iPod and your coffee maker.

You'd never go back, would you?

1 comment:

Mark Cahill said...

Ah...a shared hatred...Real Player.

I too have gotten the Google Toolbar, and have the "realplayer.exe" that is perpetually loaded at start up (the same ask Quick Time does with QTTask.exe) which makes their bloated program load a little bit faster at the expense of your entire system.

When I develop sites, I'm often asked "what format should we use for our video." From our shared experience, guess which format I steadfastly refuse to use...

As with malware and adware, if your marketing plan has to rely on deception to get your customer to follow the call to action, there is something inherently wrong with your business model.