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Thursday, July 07, 2005

My Quick Pay Pro Experience

As many of you know, I recently threw everything into a whirl when I attempted to move my newsletter, Increase Your Reach, to another service, Quick Pay Pro. I also simultaneously launched my first info product, Shades of Success, was on the radio twice and then went on a long weekend vacation - the same week. In the midst of all this madness, there were some big problems - and I promised to explain my erratic actions at a later date, in response to those who asked why I moved from Constant Contact to Quick Pay Pro - and back again!

I had one major goal in all this. I was launching the info product and had others in the works and wanted to be able to sell digital downloads online, set up auto responders to automatically email people who signed up for info, maintain a broadcast mailing list (like the newsletter), and also have an affiliate program. I *really* wanted all the services in one place, and narrowed it down to two products: Quick Pay Pro and 1ShoppingCart.com. Both claimed to "do it all" - 1SC has a VERY broad base of customers, raving reviews, and QPP seemed on the surface to do much of the same - but I couldn't find any reviews, really - good or bad. The clincher was the price - 1SC was $79/mos if I wanted to have digital downloads, and QPP was $49.95/mos. Since I was in the mode of launching new products, and didn't have a cash flow (YET) to support that cost, and wanted profit, not loss, QPP was attractive.

So, I started out experimenting with the service - I was going to test it and play with it. It seemed to be good - and I began gradually moving things over there. Then, the radio opportunity happened very suddenly and I found myself with a huge potential audience and my newsletter list in disarray. So - with NO time to test, I set up the new subscription list on QPP and captured a good chunk of a wonderful new audience.

Not long after, I started having problems. Now, let me say this - QPP is impressive in what they DO manage to do! I'm very hesitant to write a negative review - better to say nothing - but when I have as many problems as I did here, and am trusted to give advice to people, I have to say something. That said, where QPP falls apart is in the interface and usability of the service. I guess I'm more of a bug than most people because its what I do for a living - but things like having to go from place to place to gather the information I need to accomplish one simple task, or having instructions on a page that are not even relevant to the page, or navigation elements that are confusing, make me CRAZY. So, I asked for help and discovered there is no help to call (except for a $47/half hour fee), they do it with a form you fill out - and then they get back to you when they get around to it. And sometimes that is a day or two later, if you're lucky.

But, the buggy and discombulating interface was the least of my concerns. Around that time, still not knowing what a mess I was going to have, I asked my subcribers to resubscribe to the new list because I couldn't automatically move them. I began to realize that the double opt in system, which required someone to get a confirmation, click it and THEN they'd be on the list, was causing problems because the confirmation emails were getting blocked in spam filters. And there was nothing I could do as an administrator to 'release' them from that "pending" to "active" status - even though I knew they'd opted in once already! I do not like to make my audience jump through unnecessary hoops so I complained - and they turned off the double opt in - which lead to a whole slew of new problems. I got the sense that whenever something changed on one thing, there was a ripple effect elsewhere and it was baffling that the support people didn't seem to know or see what was going on.

For about a month, I went in circles with this system - at least a week lost just trying to get them to fix the subscription process alone. I set up the info product and found it was effortless to get my merchant account connected (finally, something worked flawlessly!). My first sales were happy moments, indeed.

Next, I had to send out my newsletter with the new service and I was instantly turned off by it. For one thing - compared to Constant Contact, from a design standpoint it is about as confusing and useless as you can get. Text email was hard enough - but HTML - oh, good grief! Then, after the first mailing, when I realized how very slim the reporting was (for example, no more seeing who opened a newsletter or what links had been popular), I knew I'd made a terrible mistake and would need to go back to Constant Contact for the newsletter, at the very least. I understand that QPP is not an email program - but I was startled at how much worse it was than the standard I had set for my audience. Thankfully, I was able to seamlessly export my subscribers data and put it back into Constant Contact without bugging my subscribers any more after that.

Since I had paid a non refundable fee, I still wanted to consider using QPP for the combination digital sales/ autoresponder/ affiliate program. So I went ahead and set up two info products that way. The interface and help system, once again, couldn't have been any more confusing but eventually (I think) I got it working. Throughout the entire process, I kept finding problems, reporting them to that support system, waiting for a response... I couldn't help but feel like the entire system was still in "beta" mode (the stage when the bugs haven't been worked out and they're still feeling their way around back in programmer-land). It has all been a bizarre experience - I wondered at least a dozen times how they'd managed to stay afloat as a company when it seemed like the common response was "we're working on that" or "we don't know why that is happening." I know I was a royal pain in their rear (but I paid for this to do certain things that were promised, darn it and I won't apologize!) and mostly they were pleasant when they replied. One customer service person got very irate with me when I found something new that was wrong a while later - and suggested I go elsewhere. Gee!! Isn't that a kick!? But you know, I sure have thought about it! But, here is the thing: I've spent over a month fighting my way through making this work, spent money to do it, would have to spend $30 more per month to rip it all apart and start over in another unknown arena. I simply don't have the time or the profit YET to do that, but trust me, I haven't ruled it out.

In the end, I still keep finding problems - ie., one of my lists mysteriously stopped functioning after three weeks running fine, untouched. To my dismay, I only found out when someone was kind enough to tell me. QPP said it was something wrong in my code - but since it worked fine for some time, I can't quite see how that would be possible. They did give me a free month and claim I'm the only person who has had all these problems. I find that difficult to absorb - there was so many oroblems that it seems impossible I was the lucky one. But since I couldn't find reviews of their service online, maybe its true? Who knows. All I know is that my support posts have not been answered since then so maybe they are done with me - I did get an email from the sales department letting me know I was paid til December and it was non refundable so I'm still trying to make this work for me.

In closing, I can't in good conscience recommend this application unless your eyes are wide open and you are willing to fight your way through it - since the cost savings is fairly significant. But, I think if I had a chance to have not done this at all, I'd have banked on 1shopping cart with its raving fans, and simply assumed that without all the bugs and odd behavior, I would have lost fewer potential sales, aggravated fewer potential customers and figured out a way to pay for it eventually.

I wish my review could be more positive - I wish my experience had mirrored the marketing hype of their web site. I wish, as an interface designer and usability expert, that companies weren't still releasing products like this into the wild :) But at least, now, there is at least one review online if anyone else is looking!