Newsagents should beware of high software support fees

Some newsagents have reported being ripped off in what at first glance looks somewhat like a scam around software support fees.  The concerned newsagents have discovered that they are paying more than $3,000 a year for the same service from the same company that a nearby newsagent is paying under $2,000 for.  Yesterday, we saw a written quote from the same software company offering annual software support for the full suite of software for $600.

Newsagents should compare software support invoices among themselves.  Discovering that a neighbour is paying close to 20% of what they pay will anger some newsagents.  It may also explain why the same people always talk up software.

Tower Systems charges the same to all newsagents based on the software installed.  Our support prices have been published for all to see for many years.  We’d be happy for a comparison of our support invoices.  Such transparency is an important part of the mutual trust between our company and our customers.

What others charge for software support matters to us because sometimes software companies get blamed for the sins of their colleagues.

Legal threats from a competitor

I was surprised to hear that a competitior who has lost business to us has called at least one of their lost customers recently and threatened legal action for no justification.  This is an unfortunate turn of events.  If the software company had paid this much attention to the business when they were a customer they may not have lost them.

A nasty phone call with heavy-handed legal threats is not the way to build good word of mouth.

Beware of FREE POS Software

We are seeing more software companies selling software with an annual licence fee.  This is hidden in the fine print of an offer which proclaims FREE POS and Magazine Management Software.  The claim is misleading since the software is not free.  After the first year of installation there is an annual licence fee.  If you don’t pay the licence fee, the software stops working.  This is usually when we get to change the system over to us.

At Tower Systems we charge for software once, up front.  If our customers don;t want supportin the future they can continue using the software as long as they wish.  There are no additional mandatory fees.

We do not lock our customers out from accessing their data.

Beware of  the offer of FREE POS Software as it is probably not free.

Some sales people say anything to try and get a sale

We won a sale recently against the Director of a competitor who claimed to have been a priest in order to impress the prospect.  There was no mistaking the claim made during the pitch.  He was never a priest.  his credibility was shot.

Any small business owner buying POS or other software for their business should ask for all claims to be proven.  Honest representatives will gladly arrange this.  Dishonest representatives will present you with all sorts of excuses.

Most business owners have inbuilt BS meters which detect lies like the priest claim.  Unfortunately, some do not and these folk can end up with a bad decision.

Software should be bought because it is proven to be right for the job and not because of wild claims.

POS software blocks access by retailers

pos_solutions_newsagent_software.jpgTower Systems refuses to block users from accessing their software or business data should they choose to not continue with support coverage.  Not all software companies are the same.  Click on the image for a larger version of a photo of a screen which appeared on a computer in one newsagency earlier this year.  Contact with the company left them with no doubt that they would be blocked from accessing their software and their business data if they did not pay the support fee.

As I said at the start of this post, Tower Systems does not block access.  Our view is that once a business buys our computer software, they have a licence to use the software for as long as they like and without any requirement to pay annual support fees.

While the majority of our users do pay a support fee, it is their choice and not done as a result of blackmail to give them access to their own business data.

Can you trust the recommendation?

One of our Account Managers visited a prospect this week and before the meeting started, the prospect asked why our software could not scan a particular type of product.  The sales prospect had been told this a few days earlier by a newsagent who had heard we were visiting the prospect and was keen to stop us winning the business.

We can and do scan the type of product mentioned and have done since we first released point of sale software.

I was surprised to hear the story because it is easy to prove that the claim against the ability of our software is wrong.   Thinking about this later, it made me wonder whether there are others who would make a claim about our software which is wrong and is made solely to stop us winning business.  While I would expect this behavior from one or two competitors, I would not expect it from a retailer.

No matter what games people play, the truth is stronger than the lie.

We will gladly put our software up next to any other software and let sales prospects evaluate, function for function, for themselves.

How much should you pay for your point of sale sofwtare?

The price of point of sale software is set by market forces.  In our case, we publish our POS software, hardware and services prices here and rely on these as our offer.  We feel that by publishing our prices – individual item prices as well as package deals we run from time to time – we demonstrate transparency and consistency – crucial attributes in a software company.  We also demonstrate that we see all customers as equal.

While we are not the cheapest in the market, we offer a level of service and commitment to on-going training which delivers more value over the long term than a one-off discount.  This is why it is important to consider what you pay for POS software – what you pay today and for years to come.  Support can be expensive.  Lack of knowledge can also be expensive.

Our advice is to cost out a system over three to five years.  Doing this will show that a good deal today may not be a good deal after all.  It may also show that free software is not free at all.

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When not to hire

I was approached yesterday by someone working for a competitor to consider them for a role in my company.  Their pitch was that they were more valuable given the nature of their knowledge of the competitor system.  I said thanks but no thanks without hesitation.

This is a challenged marketplace – as evidenced by the number of unsolicited I and other employers receive.  While people need to take steps to ensure their personal situation, there is a question of ethics around this behaviour of effectively offering access to what they consider is secret information.

We have considered employees of competitors before but they had left their last company.

In a business like ours we need to be especially careful.  We expect security over our intellectual property and look for this in everyone we consider for employment.

Tax break submission from Tower Systems acknowledged

Our submission to Treasury on the small business tax break has been acknowledged by the publication at the Treasury website of a list of submissions received.

This publication by Treasury is evidence of the difference between software companies which make noise and those which act. We are pleased to have this evidence on the public record as it makes a difference to small business retailers when evaluating software.

No, not all software companies are the same.

Beware the software “licence” trap

access_pos_newsagency_software.jpgThis is the message which appeared on the computer screen of a newsagent when his software support fell due. What was once an optional fee was now mandatory for this business owner. We do not use tactics like this to force our users to may a support or “licence” fee.   Our Tower Systems software for newsagents continues to work regardless of whether you pay for support.

By forcing users to pay a support fee to access the software suggests that users will not find value in the support service.

POS software theft

We found a business using an illegal copy our POS retail management software a few weeks ago.  The receipts listed details for a different business in a different location.  Unless a customer questioned the receipt details they would be none the wiser.

While we have protection built into the software to prevent theft, if someone takes a computer from one location to another and makes no changes to hardware or business trading details they can get away with it – as happened in this instance.

We have been patiently trying to resolve this matter.  Our lack of success is likely to leave us with no option but bring in the police to consider the evidence.

WORLD FIRST: Tower Systems software makes coffee

The latest release of Tower Systems software makes coffee! Latte, short black, cappuccino. You name it, the software will make it for you. A perfect cup every time. There is a button on the point of sale screen.  Click this, select your coffee and the software will do the rest for you.

We are pleased to have delivered this facility free in the latest update to our software and thereby added greater value to the businesses using Tower Systems’ software. This is another way Tower Systems is innovating for our customers and another reason business owners are making the switch to us.

My plan was to leave this joke blog post up and see how one of our competitors reacts. A check between this blog and their shows the considerable influence we are having on their business, well their announcements at least. So, I figured I’d make a joke announcement and see if they copy that too.

A couple of days ago I wrote about point of sale speed. They followed. On March 13 we launched Software Ideas, the most transparent and innovative approach to having users control over the direction of software. They followed, tried to at least. We announced our involvement in Sales Based Replenishment. They followed. We announced our compliance program for newsagents. They followed, sort of.  We wrote that DOS is dead.  They, well they took a different approaach and said DOS is alive an well.

While all this following is flattering, it confuses some prospects. Not many any more thankfully. This is where blogs help. We can use them to demonstrate leadership and following.

Maybe I should have left the joke blog post up and waited for their announcement that their software was about to deliver a coffee making facility.

Helping newsagents navigate the News Ltd Alpha mess

News Ltd late Friday afternoon announced major changes to the distribution of Alpha, Australia’s top selling men’s monthly magazine.  News cut newsagent margin by 40% and is taking over home delivery sales won by newsagents over the last three years.

Tower Systems is committed to helping newsagents make the right business decisions through this.  Our newsagency POS software helps is in the form of guidance:

  • Our Title Detail Report shows the breadth of commercial activity for Alpha.
  • The 10×10 Report shows what sells with Alpha.
  • The Magazine Sell Through Rates Report shows the sell through performance of Alpha.
  • The Magazine Cashflow Report shows the cashflow impact of Alpha on the business.

While we have other reports in our software, those listed will be the most useful for newsagents wanting to assess the impact of this move by News Ltd.

We will help Tower Newsagents produce reports from their data.  We will assess these reports and help newsagents develop a view of the economic cost of the decision by News.

We consider the move by News Ltd to be unjust and unfair against hardworking small businesses, businesses which have played a key role in making Alpha what it is today.

We are affected by this decision as we own newsagencies too.

Access POS continues to dupe newsagents

access_pos.JPGAccess POS, the NSW software company serving newsagents, continues to pay Google to come up in searches when people type in Tower Systems.  Their ad has Tower Systems in the headline yet has nothing to do with Tower Systems.  This would be laughable if they were not paying money to pass themselves off as Tower Systems.  Google, unfortunately, refuses to act.  Access has lost more than 40 of their users in recent times to Tower Systems.

Why blog about this?  Well, by blogging it gets indexed by Google and hopefully goes some way toward mitigating the damage done by the Access paid ads.

Comparing the price of receipt printer

t88iv.jpgThe Epson TM-T88IV is a good workhorse receipt printer, ideal for our high volume customers.  We use it in our own retail businesses and recommend it as do many other POS software companies.  Our price for the Epson TM-T88IV is $525 including GST.  This has been our price for a year despite the fall in the Australian dollar.  I mention it today because our price excellent.  It is evidence of our commitment to keep hardware prices low and help our customers save money when upgrading hardware.

It would be reasonable to ask what this has to do with software.  Our relationship with our customers is more than just for our software.  We are often a hardware supplier, general IT consultant and business advisor.  The commitment we make on price is important to us, even for a receipt printer.

Blogging helps word of mouth about our software

A newsagent has selected our software because of the difference demonstrated through this blog and my newsagency blog compared to the blog operated by a competitor. What is interesting is that a friend did the research for them and emailed through links to several blog posts from each software company to graphically illustrate why they recommended going with us.

What we publish here provides a view deep into our business, our values our mission.  While we slip a marketing hat on from time to time, we try keep spin to a minimum.  This blog and the newsagency blog certainly make us accountable.

Navigating the mud, how do we handle misleading blog posts?

We have a robust debate going on within Tower Systems at the moment about whether we should respond to a competitor who publishes untrue statements about us and our software.

My view is that we need to correct the record when this happens and provide commentary about why they might be doing this.

Some of our sales team, Tim, Nathan and Luke, want us to ignore the comments. Their view is that small business owners don’t like to see competitors at each other’s throats in public.

Our Marketing Manager, Andrew, says we should ignore them based on their market share.

While I think they are right, my concern is that silence gives these claims credence.

We are trying to find common ground inside Tower Systems on this. Even though I own the business, I see everyone on the team as a stakeholder and therefore holding an opinion which needs to be considered.

This is why we have not responded as we might have to the attacks over recent days.

While we are not done with this debate yet, the lack of tit for tat blog posts from us shows that the team is likely to win.

I’d be interested in what others think. Should a company respond to untruthful comments published about them? Or, should we, as they say in cricket, let these comments go through to the keeper. In this analogy, the keeper is our customers and others who stop by this and other blogs.