TextExpander Expands into Subscription Pricing while Consumers Shrink with Sadness

Text…what?

Ok – I couldn’t help write a title that plays off TextExpander’s name and functionality.

So what is TextExpander? TextExpander is a program that is the equivalent of keyboard shortcuts but for words/phrases/paragraphs. For example, I have a snippet (i.e. whatever you want to expand to) that expands ;thx to Thanks for your help!. So thx is the trigger that expands into the snippet of Thanks for your help!

The brilliance of TextExpander is in its integration with iOS. The TextExpander that runs on my Mac can save my snippets to a folder on Dropbox, which TextExpander Touch (iOS) version can use. Then I can use this text expansion on my phone in 2 ways:

  • The first use is through iOS apps that support TextExpander expansion (like Day One and ByWord).
  • The second is through the TextExpander keyboard for iOS apps that don’t support TextExpander (i.e. most apps)

It is my eventual loss of this integration that makes me sad about Smile Software‘s (the maker of TextExpander) to change their pricing model to a somewhat steep subscription model ($45/year).

Text...what?

Pricing up to now

Up to now Smile Software charged for upgrades. Typically the price was around $20 for such upgrades. For instance, the (Mac) TextExpander version that I have is version 4.3.7. When Smile went to version 5, I didn’t upgrade. Why? Well – 4.3.7 had all the functionality that I needed so I didn’t see the point.

In fact, I think this is the core issue with the change to subscription pricing for TextExpander. As a consumer, I only need updates to the application when Apple makes operating system changes that break the old version of the app. TextExpander for me is in the same class as text editors (like the previously mentioned ByWord). For example, I don’t need ByWord, but it’s nice, and it makes me more productive with its built-in features.

Subscription what?

Smile Software Announcement – 1

On 4/5/16 Smile Software announced subscription pricing.

As a consumer, I don’t share my snippets. They’re my own quirky snippets – why would I need to share them?

Smile Software Announcement - 1

Smile Software Announcement – 2

Continuing with information from the announcement:

Why do I need a web application? Up to now Dropbox acted as the synchronization tool since I just need the Mac application to sync up with TextExpander on my iPhone/iPad.

Also, why mention the technology stack? This is a product announcement – so why mention Meteor and Galaxy (and why have links to them)? Maybe I’m reading too much into this but seeing the pricing for Galaxy (which is a service that provides hosting for Meteor) does not persuade me to TextExpander’s subscription model. After all – if I don’t need the web application, then I don’t need Meteor nor Galaxy. Dropbox synchronization has been more than sufficient.

Smile Software Announcement - 2

Smile Software Announcement – 3

The subscription pricing explanation talks about “regular costs to provide an online service”. But if Smile used Dropbox (like it has up to now), then there are is no “online service” and “regular costs”? Exciting times indeed.

Smile Software Announcement - 3

Is this subscription pricing worth for me?

I’m a consumer of TextExpander, not a “life hacker”. I’m not a business, and I’m certainly not an “enterprise user”. So I speak from this perspective.

I can’t justify TextExpander’s subscription pricing. As mentioned before, I can justify needed upgrades due to application breakage from operating system upgrades. Maybe I’m frugal (I’m still sporting an iPhone 5S and am patiently waiting for the iPhone 7S plus), but $50 per year for a text editing class application is very hard for me to justify.

I’ve let Smile Software know this through the contact link mentioned in their announcement. If you feel the same – you should let them know too or through Twitter (@smilesoftware and @textexpander).

Is this subscription pricing worth for me?

TJ Luoma explains this pricing issue very well

TJ Luoma explains this pricing issue well in his http://rhymeswithdiploma.com/post/142315992434/textexpander-6-or-how-not-to-launch-your-saas post (found through John Gruber’s excellent Daring Fireball site). It’s a post well worth reading. He talks about SaaS and contrasts TextExpander’s subscription model with 1Password for Families (another subscription product).

Where to go from here?

Smile Software published a follow up to their pricing change blog post. The folks at Smile Software are friendly and intelligent people. The concluding part of their follow-up post clarifies that TextExpander was a product that was either declining or staying flat sales-wise. Their choice to go to subscription pricing is a choice to pursue a different set of customers (i.e. business/enterprise/”life hackers”). I bear no grudge towards Smile Software and I wish them well with this approach.

Personally, I’m going to stick to 4.3.7 and potentially upgrade to 5.0 as the “final” TextExpander upgrade. My hope is the iOS integration will work for a while though iOS 10 is coming up fairly quickly. After TextExpander’s Mac/iOS integrations stops working I’ll pursue another solution like TypeIt4Me.

Where to go from here?

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Thanks Hover!

You’re back Hover!

Dear Hover,

Back on 2/12/16 I wrote you an open letter (https://eli4d.com/2016/02/12/dear-hover-please-fix-your-renewal-emails-2/ or http://eli.bz/DearHoverPlsFix) about some problems with your renwal emails. I really appreciate your same day response via Twitter.

This week I got a renewal email that didn’t make me feel uncertain or unclear about costs and pricing. Now I know that you were working on email revision before my open letter (based on the emails that you sent me in regards to this issue). Nevertheless, I really appreciate these changes and I know that they will help all of your customers.

You’re back in terms of your legendary service and responsiveness! I’m really glad that I can wholeheartedly recommend you again and use ‘Hover’ as a term that refers to great customer service.

Thank you!

Eli

PS: Below are the ‘before’ and ‘after’ emails for those that don’t want to read my previous post.

The renewal email before the change

From my http://eli.bz/DearHoverPlsFix post – here is the email that I used to get (with my suggested changes in red).

The renewal email before the change

After the change

Obviously – this is a one domain renewal email. I have not received the multi-domain renewal emails but I assume the price breakdown is the same.

Awesomeness achieved:

(1) The renewal price is clearly shown.

(2) A reminder that once a renewal is processed – there’s no refund and a clear explanation as to why this is the case

After the change

Dear Hover – Please Fix Your Renewal Emails

2016-02-24 Update: Renewal emails have been fixed. Hover is back to being awesome – I created a new post describing the change: https://eli4d.com/2016/02/24/thanks-hover/ or http://eli.bz/ThanksHover

2016-02-12 Update: I got a very quick and helpful response from Hover via Twitter (https://twitter.com/hover/status/698228715612958720) and a detailed email. In the email their representative indicated that:

Hover prides itself on having honesty, empathy and helpfulness among our guiding principles, and it’s clear that we haven’t lived up to that in this case. We’ve prioritized adding a cost breakdown into the renewal notices, which should be rolled out within the next few weeks. As a side note, we currently have a much bigger email overhaul project underway, so instances like this will hopefully soon become a thing of the past.

I look forward to see these changes in the next few weeks. I will update this post when these changes are in place. I also got a response back from the support rep (John) that dropped the ball on my original question regarding this. He admitted to this and was ready to answer any additional questions that I had.

So far – this is the ‘old great’ Hover that I’ve come to admire and appreciate.

Dear Hover…

Dear Hover,

You are my favorite^100 domain registrar. I’ve been your customer for years and you have delivered on your legendary customer service (up to now). In fact, I’ve used ‘Hover’ as a substitute for great customer service in talking to others – as in “well they’re certainly no Hover…even after you go through the 10 levels of voicemail hell, you still end up leaving a voicemail message” or “OMG – that registrar is the opposite of Hover”.

However, recently, I’ve realized that your “you have upcoming domains that will renew” billing related renewal emails are really bad in that:

  1. They don’t inform me of my upcoming cost.
  2. Even after you charge me for a bunch of domains, you give me an email with a total dollar cost without giving me a breakdown within that very email.
  3. Your legendary customer support has fallen on its face in answering my question about this issue nor in remediating this in any way.

In this letter/post – I will explain the problem and the best way to remedy the issue. I hope you live up to the great service that you have provided so far. I know there are plenty of registrars out there but so far there has been only one Hover. I hope that you choose to fix this issue.

The Problem

In this section I cover the problem with your renewal emails and how through omission of domain pricing they inherently mis-inform the customer.

It begins with purchasing a domain

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a domain hoarder, and you don’t make it easy to avoid purchases through your somewhat awesome introductory pricing. Now there’s nothing wrong with this sort of pricing – that’s totally fine. It’s definitely the thing that pushes me over the edge to buy a domain that I’m hesitant about.

It begins with purchasing a domain

A year passes, the earth turns, and it is soon time to renew those domains

Then I get a renewal email. At this point I think “oh yeah – that’s going to be around $15 per domain so $30 since that’s what I bought the domains for – that should fine.”

Now you might counter that my assumption is totally on me and that’s true…I’m human. This is why I need your technological assistance in making the renewal emails better.

A year passes, the earth turns, and it is soon time to renew those domains

After the domains renew – I get the billing email

Wait – how did I end up with a $55.78 bill? Where’s the per-domain breakdown? The renewal email didn’t have any pricing. Heck – even this receipt email has no breakdown of per-domain pricing.

The next day I get the billing email

I know that I can’t cancel a domain after renewal

I’ve asked before about domain cancellation after another billing surprise and I got the following response. OK – I get it – you can’t cancel a domain after it has been renewed – fair enough. So how about letting me know the renewal pricing before I renew the domain. How about letting me know the renewal pricing through the domain renewal emails?

I know that I can't cancel a domain after renewal

So I write you an email about these renewal emails.

I’ll admit it – I was really ticked off when I wrote this email – I’m sorry about that.

So I write you an email about these renewal emails.

The response I get

I get a response from John (not his real name of course).

Say what? So I need to go to https://www.hover.com/domain_pricing to figure out the pricing that you already know when you send me the renewal emails?

Also, first purchase promotional pricing is vastly different than renewal pricing.

The response I get

Why don’t we take a look at https://www.hover.com/domain_pricing ?

So I need to remember the amount of domains that I have to account for any discounts (1). Then I need to search for the tld (2) and write this down, and then search for the TLD of my next domain and write that renwal price. Then I continue onto the next domain and do the same thing. And finally I need to add the total for my upcoming cost. Really?

Now granted – for my 2 domain example this is not that big of a deal. But what about a renewal email for 5 domains or 10?

Why don't we take a look at https://www.hover.com/domain_pricing ?

The Solution

The solution is simple. The whole solution is explained in the following image. I suggest that you include the price of the renewal next to each domain that you list. I’ve used the previously shown renewal email as an example. If you want to be even more awesome – include the approximate total too.

This is a clear honest way to represent the upcoming renewal price for each domain, as well as the overall total.

The Solution

I responded to your support’s email but I got nothing

I responded to the customer support email but so far I’ve heard nothing. You’ve been very very silent Hover – why is that? Why has that legendary customer support faltered?

As your loyal customer – I’m here to help. This is why I took the time in writing this letter and included a solution specification (seriously).

I responded to support's email but I got nothing

Your turn

The solution is simple if not a bit obvious. Will it cost you some revenue because your customers wont let a renewal occur based on blind price assumption – maybe. But you’ve chosen to be a Hover – you’ve chosen to be better than other registrars in dealing honestly with your customers and in providing great customer service. I hope you can approach this renewal email issue in the same way and fix this problem.

Sincerely,

Eli

PS: I’m more than happy to update this post with a response from you regarding this issue.