How Software Companies Can Gain (And Keep) Customer Trust

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For companies that deal in offering software — whether as an aggregator, a third-party seller of software products or the creators of the software itself — customer trust is crucial to establishing a successful and stable foundation. In an age where every successful product draws dozens of imitators in a matter of days or weeks, loss in customer trust can spell death for a software company, as consumers will simply migrate to a competitor product or even free open-source options.

Many companies also make the mistake of building a successful product and a loyal base only to have a single misstep ruin it all. Here are four principles software providers must follow to gain and retain the trust of the customers:

1. Be Wary Of Malware

This is an obvious one, but in this age of frequent and evermore sophisticated cyberattacks, software providers need to be constantly vigilant that their offerings are devoid of malware from hackers and other cybercriminals looking to sneak it in there. Problems with malware plague companies large and small, with Cisco revealing last September that its popular free CCleaner had been infiltrated by hackers. Customers who downloaded the product were exposed to a backdoor entrance inserted by hackers that compromised millions of personal computers.

There is no easier and more immediate way to cause a mass exodus away from your product than by inadvertently exposing your customers and their sensitive data to hacking and theft. Frequent research and analysis of your product, whether by a third-party investigator or by an in-house team, is crucial, as is patching any vulnerabilities the moment they are discovered. In addition, keep tight control of the supply chain of your software, and make sure opportunities for compromise are limited.

2. Stay Away From Bloatware

Software companies achieve success by providing a product that solves a problem or addressing a pain point for consumers — not by creating new ones. Anyone who has purchased a new laptop is all too familiar with the suite of pre-installed programs that come with it. These are add-ons that on the benign side are merely a nuisance and on the darker side can even be construed as malware itself. Bloatware has never been popular with users, and successful companies have long since renounced the practice. While the practice can serve as a significant source of revenue for many companies, consider that without customers, no amount of bloatware will keep your company afloat.

3. Choose Opt-In Rather Than Opt-Out

If your company truly believes that an assortment of complementary software can prove to be beneficial to users or you have strong customer feedback that they customers would welcome such options, then go for an opt-in option rather than an opt-out one. Opt-in means that instead of assuming your customers want all the extra features installed on their systems, you give customers a clear idea of what the additional software options are and let me actively pick which ones they want to install. This provides a much more transparent and honest process for consumers and returns the agency back to them.

Unlike the opt-out model, whereby all software and other “bonuses” are installed together unless customers actively click to not install them (an option usually hidden somewhere in advanced installation menus and buried under a dense wall of options), you’ll be minimizing unpleasant surprises and inevitable backlash from customers.

4. Own Your Mistakes, And Fix Them

Even with the best of intentions and the most vigilant of engineering teams, things happen. Whether you’ve lost trust due to a malware incident or received negative user feedback, the key to recovering from reputation issues is to actually address customer complaints and resolve them. Decide consciously what your value proposition is and how your previous actions failed to live up to that proposition. Next, make changes in policy and practice to rectify the issues. Be transparent with your customers and don’t try to hide your mistakes. Don’t delay announcing potential malware until absolutely necessary, don’t delete negative comments and certainly don’t proceed with business as normal.

Building and regaining the trust of your customers requires lots of time addressing issues and how your company has worked to fix them and continually reinforcing the new message (as well as putting it into action). If customers see an obvious effort and a willingness to admit your mistakes, they are much more likely to give you a first, second or even third chance.

For software companies, reputation is the difference between consumers clicking “install” or skipping to the next category offering. With so much information available to consumers through an easy search, it’s crucial that companies do what they can to build and maintain consumer trust. It will help your company stand out from the pack and ensure the continued success of your software product.

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