Two lessons about customer care learned from OS/2

Published on Monday, December 5, 2011 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing


Over the last decade we’ve presented a bit of a mixed message regarding customer care. 

On the one hand, we have broad customer-friendly policies such as very liberal refunds, long-term software support and post-purchase support.

We learned the above lesson from OS/2: Treat your customers as gods because customer loyalty really matters.  I’ve written the details of why we do this here. But the short version is that customer loyalty can make the difference between business survival and death.

…But on the other hand…

I am often very vocal about telling individual customers to go away. And this lesson was learned from OS/2 as well.

You can never appease a zealot. Do not try. Once you discover someone is a zealot, there is no way to win them over and the energy and time you spend trying to win them over is time you could be spending helping more reasonable people. Our policy since we left the OS/2 market is to identify zealots and try to gently (or not so gently) guide them out the door once they have decided that we haven’t lived up to some impossible bar of integrity they have imagined for us.

The OS/2 market had a lot of zealots and when the market started to disintegrate in the late nineties, it became pretty clear that a lot of those zealots expected us to go down with the ship. Because Stardock’s culture formed around the concept of treating people better (i.e. we’ll treat people “right”) , we continued to invest scarce resources in OS/2 software all the way into 1999 largely just to appease these people. We never did. We were “traitors” for making Windows software too.

It took us a long time to understand that these people weren’t buying our products or services because they thought we made good stuff but because we were part of their own “cause” they were fighting in their head and once we had failed in their mind, only a damaging, but purely symbolic, sacrifice on our part would appease them.

And so we try to do right by doing good. That is, make good stuff, price it reasonably and keep our customers happy. And we’ve done pretty well at that over the years.  At the same time, there will always be individuals who will never be appeased and the best path is to cut to the chase and give them their options: Accept things as they are or vote with your wallet and go elsewhere.  It’s a delicate balance but one that I think has, in the bigger scheme of things, has served us well.