In the mid to late 1990s, Visioneer PaperPort was one of the first portable scanning solutions that included OCR (optical character recognition) to magically make your scanned documents searchable. By 2002, there was an increasing demand for an Apple Mac compatible solution, and Visioneer was committed to only supporting Windows. So, many people chose Neat Receipts as a solution when it was first introduced. As the Neat solution improved over the years, and cloud synchronization was added with mobile app support, Neat became the perfect document imaging product. PaperPort later became a product of Nuance.
Neat Captures The Market
Currently, the 4.5 version for Mac (5.7 for Windows) of the Neat software represents the pinnacle of excellence in terms of speed, reliability, and convenience.
With the ability to have separate locally stored libraries, the software could allow the user to maintain a long-term solution for document imaging. The software was fully compatible with the Apple OS X experience allowing Time Machine backup functionality and Spotlight searching capabilities.
After 14 years, given that the company has captured the market with a best-in-class solution, and demonstrated an upward climb with continuous improvement practices, one might ask: “What could go wrong?”
Neat Starting Over
After 14 years of building a loyal customer base, and refining an excellent scanning and document imaging solution, the leadership at Neat decided this might be a good time to scrap everything and start over. This has resulted in problems at every level in their company. (source)
Neat is abandoning the customer base and software that took 14 years to develop. The company has announced:
“As of March 1st, 2016, we will no longer be developing software updates for the retired software versions. Agent-assisted support for the retired software will end after April 30th, 2016. The installation files for retired versions of Neat will no longer be publicly available on our website.” (source)
The old software was so exceptional, they had to remove it from their site because it would compete with the new software. Perhaps some embedded patents or leased technology became cost prohibitive or licenses ran out. It’s unclear.
Customers who have been with Neat for more than a decade will barely recognize the new software or the new company. The leadership has changed. The employees have changed. The focus has changed from hardware (with free software) to a subscription-based software product. The software has changed significantly. It’s not a new version of the old software. It’s completely rewritten on an entirely different platform. It’s basically a new company. Only the name and color scheme of their brand remains.
The software is now up to version 1.4.2p4.2 as available on their website. This could be considered a beta version. Response times are very slow, and at least with the Mac version, the CPU will be heavily taxed when the program runs.
So, essentially, the company took an award winning hardware and software solution, and in a very short time have run it into the ground. This has resulted in thousands of disgruntled customers, and hundreds of 1-star ratings on ConsumerAffairs.com — a site that Neat pays to belong to.
Had the owners and employees of Neat simply taken a year off and done nothing, they would have been immensely better off than they are now. Instead, they are presently going through an internal meltdown and implosion, hemorrhaging employees and customers.
Instead of spending time and money on their problematic software, or unreliable iOS App, they seem to be investing in upgrading the appearance of their website and spending money on fake news coverage through sites like PRWeb where companies can pay people to write positive reviews about their products. To address the problems with their software, they are increasing their customer service call center staffing.
All of this, instead of just fixing the problems with their software that would have garnered them 5-star reviews and plenty of free word-of-mouth advertising. With thousands of upset customers, they are risking a class-action lawsuit.
This episode in Neat’s history is an exceptional textbook example of what companies should desperately avoid doing. Their example will be a useful learning tool for others.
The point of providing the above history and review, is not necessarily to criticize Neat, but to emphasize this example for other companies as something to avoid. We plan to continue with Neat through the coming difficult months, providing product feedback, and hopefully seeing their resurgence on the other side of what promises to be a challenging time of transition.