Tuesday Push – BookMeetingRoom.com

Another Tuesday Push

BookMeetingRoom.com is a Software as a Service web application made by the guys over at Active Online.

From their site they describe it as so:

With BookMeetingRoom.com, it’s easy to keep track of room bookings for your organisation all in one place. You can view availability and make booking reservations effortlessly, share reservations across your organisation and track usage.

It looks like a great tool, and something that would be very useful for medium to large offices and shared office space facilities, but I can only guess that from the promotional site’s blurb and the nice screenshots of the application that accompany it. The reason I’m only guessing is because I didn’t sign up for a test account.

No Non-Expiring Trial Account

One thing that really surprised me about this web application is that there’s no non-expiring trial account. Instead, there’s an offer of a 30 day trial. On the face of it, this looks quite acceptable, just another way of letting a prospective customer check out the nooks and crannies of the software before they decide to put their hand in their pocket. But when I looked a little closer I realised I had to provide my credit card details to sign up for this 30-day trial just in case I wanted to extend my usage of the application beyond the 30 days.

I’m surprised the the guys behind bookmeetingroom.com decided to use this approach for account sign-ups. My first impression was that they’re trying to trick me into entering my credit card details so they can charge my card on the off chance that I forget to cancel the account at the end of the trial (assuming that I decide not to use it). It felt as if they were asking me for a little too much too soon.

As a general rule of thumb, whether I’m buying online or in a bricks and mortar shop, I won’t hand over the cash unless I know what I’m buying. So, when I’m asked for my credit card details before I’ve even seen the product (even if I’m not going to be charged immediately) little tiny alarm bells go off in my head. I begin to wonder whether my card will get charged anyway, or if I’ll have a similar experience to the one I had with the eFax guys when I tried to cancel my free trial with them.

The High Quality Users

Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong though. Perhaps the reason there’s no free non-expiring trial is because it’s just not commercially viable to maintain free accounts, even if they are only small restricted ones. What this approach certainly guarantees is that there aren’t any accounts in the system older then 30 days that aren’t fully paying customers. The result of this means that the user base is extremely high quality and there aren’t hundreds (or thousands) of old abandoned accounts taking up valuable space in the database.

The Best Approach

I can’t decide what I think the best approach is. On one hand I still have a bad taste in my mouth from when I tried to close my eFax account (who use the same sign-up strategy), but on the other I can sympathise with the desire to have a high proportion of paying customers on the books.

Either way, bookmeetingroom.com really does like a great product and the fact that it’s Irish owned just amplifies my good will towards it. The best of luck with the product guys, but maybe you’d consider changing your sign-up strategy?

UPDATE – Since writing this post, Jeremiah Ryan from ActiveOnline, the company behind BookMeetingRoom.com, contacted me and enquired further about the issues I had with the service. Soon afterwards he announced (see comments below) that they would be lifting the mandatory requirement to include your credit card details as part of the sign up process for a trial account.

Comments

7 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Jeremiah Ryan says:

    Thank you most kindly for your review which was fair and balanced.

    We wanted to avoid free accounts for all the reasons you mentioned including reducing on code writing to get the project online as quickly as possible.

    There were two other influencing reasons at the time:-

    (a) we felt that there was no sensible ‘lower’ configurable option that we could offer for free that would not be helpful to an evaluator, so we thought it better to let users see both service level in full for free for 30 days.

    (b) We took a view that the concerns you expressed as an individual (and I as a suspicious person would similarly take) would not be as big a factor for a potential business customer, provided the potential usefulness was apparent.

    We also try very hard to offset any concerns on the public website by taking every opportunity to communicate our honest intentions by stressing that there will be absolutely no charges within the first 30 days of use and that account cancellation is really simple (and make it obvious within the account area).

    As you say we were unsure which approach was the best, but chose to go with what we have for practical reasons at the outset. Time will tell..!!

    Again thank you for your review which is much appreciated.

    Jeremiah Ryan
    Activeonline.ie & bookmeetingroom.com

    Oct 31, 2008
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Hey Jeremiah, thanks for the response.

    Did you consider allowing a free account to manage just a single meeting room? Might be a workable option for a non-expiring trial account.

    I’m glad to hear it’s easy to close a trial account before the billing kicks in, that was really my main concern. If it’s just a matter of a couple of clicks then I guess you’ve probably done the right thing if a free account offering wasn’t feasible.

    Otherwise it looks like a great app, well done. It’s great to see high quality SaaS web applications being launched by Irish companies. It reflects well on all of us!

    Oct 31, 2008
  3. Jeremiah Ryan says:

    Iarfhlaith, you may be pleased to learn to learn that we will be removing the requirement for credit card information for users to sign-up for a 30 day free trial. This change will be implemented next week.

    Thanks again for the valuable feedback.

    Jeremiah.
    http://WWW.BOOKMEETINGROOM.COM

    Nov 14, 2008
  4. Iarfhlaith says:

    Jeremiah, I’m delighted to hear you’ve made those adjustments to your site. I think it’ll greatly increase the number of people who see and use your web app, which should in time lead to an increase in paying customers and enhanced revenues.

    I admire companies that listen to the feedback on their products and then act on it. It shows that they’re willing to include their customers and the greater community in the future development of the products they use. It makes the company look more customer focused and shows that they’re willing to reach out to their customers, which is what every company should be reaching for.

    Nov 19, 2008
  5. Conor says:

    this is good stuff lads – well done iarla et al

    Nov 23, 2008
  6. Jeremiah Ryan says:

    POSTSCRIPT:-

    We are getting a lot more trail accounts being set-up which is great. We are also getting suspected ‘messers’ too, i.e. multiple trail accounts set-up by the same ip address within a few minutes from India, Pakistan, China, Hong-Kong etc.

    ..was to be expected… needs to be managed.

    Jeremiah Ryan

    Nov 24, 2008
  7. Iarfhlaith says:

    Hey Jeremiah, great to hear you’ve gotten more sign ups.

    As for the ‘messers’, why not introduce a captcha verification on the second and subsequent signups from the same IP address within the same hour? This is a security measure that Google have adopted. I think it’s a great idea because it means genuine users don’t get burdened with the captcha code when they sign up but if a bot tries to blast your server, they’ll fall flat after the first auto sign up.

    Thanks for the update, and the best of luck with the business.

    Nov 24, 2008

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