We try to do as much as we can to help customers and simplify our software. CNC is already too complex, and we try to make it simpler. That’s hard to do if we can’t constantly be making our software simpler and more usable. So, there’s a set of basic technologies and operational policies we’ve put into effect towards that end that I want to go over. We don’t talk about them an awful lot, but they are areas where question do come up from time to time. Basically, it boils down to how we think about Upgrades, Internet Connections, and our Subscription policies.
I will explain each one briefly here.
Let’s start with Upgrades, as in Software Upgrades. We believe in upgrading early and often. We are continuously adding new functionality to all of our products and responding to user suggestions and feedback. We provide a lot of ways for our audience to give us this feedback. We think feedback is important, and we think our large customer base gives us a significant competitive advantage because we get access to more feedback than many other CNC software companies.
Every now and again, someone wants to know why we upgrade so often. Seems they don’t want so much change. My answer is that I became firmly convinced of the need for frequent upgrades to maintain the highest possible quality for software. If you change too much before doing a release, say the way software used to work when years might go by, you get too far removed from the Customer–too far from getting that feedback. Plus, your opportunity to respond to feedback comes along a lot less often. That’s a bad thing. The longer code goes without being used a lot, the more bugs it accumulates. I actually quantified this at one point in my career. I had the opportunity to survey a bunch of Customer Service organizations, and I asked them a simple question:
How many of the open bugs in your Customer Service ticketing system are fixed by the most current release of the software?
I was astounded at the answer–they reported, without blinking, that it ranged from 40-70% depending on the company. What that means is that for companies that turnaround fixes as soon as they hear of problems AND that get the releases out fast and get customers to upgrade, the typical customer will see 40-70% fewer bugs in the software. That’s huge! There is no way I want to miss a chance to save all of you from dealing with 40-70% of the bugs. I can’t imagine why you’d want to either.
Now upgrades can be a pain, so we have worked hard over time to make ours as painless as possible. There are two kinds of updates–mandatory and optional. We used to do mandatory updates fairly frequently, and people hated. So I have backed way off. We only do them once every 4-6 months. The other kind is optional, but we’ve worked to make those easy too. Whenever there is an optional update and you run our software, it will silently download the update. When you exit, it will offer to install. That’s a convenient time–after all, you’re done with G-Wizard and exiting. Just click “Yes” and go on about your business and it’ll get the upgrade done. Or click “No” if you prefer. The thing is, if you click “Yes” most of the time, you’ll almost never have to do a mandatory update. BTW, I never specify the current release as a mandatory. I wait until it has been tested over time to make sure it is good and stable.
One more thing–you can almost always get the prior release if you don’t like the one you’re on for some reason. The links are on our installation Troubleshooting Guide, if you need them.
We require all our software to connect to the Internet once every 28 days. Most people think this is some kind of anti-piracy protection, but that’s not the case at all. We do it so G-Wizard can check for updates and also so we can serve up information that adds value. For example, we recently introduced a Login Helper for G-Wizard. It uses web pages to make it easy to keep it open while you fiddle with G-Wizard, and that’s okay. If you’re trying to Login, you need to be connected so G-Wizard can complete the login. Once you’re on, you can disconnect and go about your business.
Another recent addition that requires a connection is a set of Tours to help you get jump started with the software. The first one is up and is all about setting up the Machine Profile (Click the link to check it out). There’ll be more tours added over time and of course we also have the G-Wizard University Videos that you can access from the Help Page.
Click the photo to try the tour…
Personally, I can’t be in the shop without an Internet connection. There’s just so much great reference material that I want and need access to in order to save myself time. But sometimes, there just isn’t a connection to be had, even if you wanted one. In this day and age, there are good alternatives. I can create a WiFi Hotspot most anywhere with my phone, for example. Or, I have a number of customers who put the software on a cheap laptop–a $100 Craigslist special is fine for G-Wizard and many have something like that sitting unused anyway. They can take it to connect every so often and have it in the shop otherwise. Even if you don’t want to connect much, we’ve got you covered. As I mentioned, the software only needs to connect once every 28 days.
Sometimes I get notes from people saying they can’t use our software because they don’t want to rent their software. That’s fine, I understand totally. That’s why we also offer “Lifetime Subscriptions.” No rental, pay for it once, use it forever. We’ll even throw in all the updates and customer service for free–no maintenance or upgrade fees, ever. When I get these kinds of notes, I think maybe I just am not doing a good enough job getting the word out that you have that option. But then I respond, tell them about what the Lifetime Subscription is, and they get excited and often buy the product. This happens even more often when I tell them about G-Wizard Lite, which gives hobbyists lifetime support for lower levels of spindle power (common to their machines) without their needing to buy a lifetime edition.
Why offer the subscriptions at all, then?
Well, because some people want a more extended trial. Or they may have no idea whether they’ll still need the software in a year. Or they may just want a bargain today even if it costs more tomorrow. There’s also the idea of pay as you go rather than pay it all up front and we’ll ask for more later too. A lot of conventional software is extremely expensive when you add up the cost of new versions and maintenance. We think our way is better–let you customers make your choice.
No worries on that either. Customers will happily choose–most customers buy the subscriptions with about 1/3 opting for the Lifetime Purchase. I am happy to offer the choice and wonder why more companies won’t let you have it either way.
Tending the Software Garden
This stuff is all nuts and bolts and tending our CNCCookbook Software Garden, rather than talking about sexy new features. I don’t talk about it much for that reason, but I think it does matter to the overall customer experience that we do these things. We’re trying hard to nurture our customers so they can get the most value out of our software. Going forward, we have a lot of new ideas you’ll see us rolling out along these lines. But don’t worry, we’ll continue to crank out those sexy features too!
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.