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Is Xero getting as arrogant and greedy as Sage?

Please can Xero Accounting Partners help stop a good product/approach being damaged by greed...

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An 'update' from Xero just landed in my inbox - If I am reading it correctly it appears that they intend to force users to have to go through the effort of 'opting out' of a price increase in January '22 rather than hope that users value the additional functionality enough to opt-in and pay the circa 20% surcharge for it.

Accounting Partners of Xero have much more clout than us mere users - if enough of you provide feedback perhaps the 'powers that be' will realise the damage this sort of behaviour is doing to the brand and stop the rot before it gets too bad.

Xero accounting partners might also want to diarise reminding your customers in January to opt out if the functionality isn't of value to them.

I find myself irrationally angry about the arrogance of Xero making the customers do work to avoid paying for functionality (most of them) didn't ask for - it is as if Xero learnt nothing from the expenses debacle a couple of years ago when Xero removed functionality that worked and was included in the subscription and replaced it with something different that cost the organisation extra every month for every user. The outcry then was so great that Xero reversed course and restored the 'free' functionality.

The functionality (analytics) just released might well be worth the extra subscription, I don't know yet, but I worry that Xero is devoting developer time to 'bells and whistles' when core functionality that is there in other products (and which, unfortunately, I didn't think to check existed before signing up) is, after more than 8 years, still not available.

What is some of the core functionality that Xero is missing?

  • Being able to send purchase orders to one email address and remittance advices to another rather than everyone getting every document (or having to manually edit 'automatic' emails).
  • Being able to sell the same product code to different customers at different prices - we aren't talking sophisitcated inventory control here, just pricing. 
  • Generating a payments file that separates sort code and account number. As an aside, having the demo company work the same as the 'real' company would be nice - if you enter the suppliers bank details as "sortcode comma accountno" (e.g. 12-34-56,12345678) in the demo company and export the payment file as a csv it includes the comma in the output (which would make it easy to send to the bank) - try that in the 'real' company and the comma is stripped out (useless - and a waste of an hour when I updated all of our suppliers only to find out it didn't work!)
  • Reports that run in chronological order by default (oldest month on the left, most recent on the right)

My business is fortunate in having relatively few customers and services to invoice so have workarounds for problem 2 and scripts to deal with problem 3. It shouldn't be necessary and is far from ideal but we can live with the pain. Problem 1 has been live for over 8 years now with Xero refusing all requests from customers for confirmation that xero intends (or doesn't) to provide the functionality (let alone an indication of delivery timescale). 

I assume that it was partly Xero's embarassment about their failure to provide updates on reasonable customer requests that led them to remove the posting dates from the Xero forums - forcing users to have to put the date in their posts. - this lack of transparancy also damages trust.

I like Xero but I am becoming increasingly worried that they are going down the same road that Sage did with their small business customers - taking them for granted and extracting as much money as possible while the sun shines. Xero was the beneficiary of Sage's behaviour. If Xero doesn't 'wake up and smell the coffee' who will be the beneficiary of Xero's behaviour?

Perhaps accounting partners of Xero could try and get definitive answers from Xero on the basic functionality questions and encourage Xero to think differently about the impact of decsions such as opt-out rather than opt-in on trust and brand value.

Of course, I might be doing Xero a disservice - they _might_ be planning on making it really, really easy for users to opt out when the time comes...

/rant, feeling better. Off for a lie down...


Replies (15)

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By CMP Accountant
16th Jul 2021 16:40

Hi philrob,

The wording on the email I had is as follows;

"add on Analytics Plus – at no additional cost until 31 January 2022. After this date, the standard pricing of £5 for Analytics Plus will automatically be added to your existing monthly subscription fee."

Slightly ambiguous, but I am reading this to mean that you can optionally add 'Analytics Plus' to your account, which will be free until January 2022 - thereafter you are charged.

I have just gone in to a client to look at the 'Business Snapshot' page, and can see at the top right it has a button 'Upgrade to Analytics Plus'.

I believe it is not being forced on anyone, and is actually opt-in.

I do take your point about Xero becoming arrogant in their approach though, I have felt that more & more over the past couple of years.

Thanks (1)
Replying to CMP Accountant:
By philrob
19th Jul 2021 15:14

Thanks @CMPAccountant

Hopefully, just a poorly worded marketing communication and it will be 'opt in' - we will see. :-)

Thanks (1)
By Slim
16th Jul 2021 23:34

they've a misplaced sense of self importance for sure

Thanks (1)
By Samantha20
17th Jul 2021 08:58

There is a workaround to your 3rd issue:

Export the batch file
CSV & open
Right click, show in folder
Right click, open with Notepad
Enter the commas between the sort code and account number
Open the file in Excel and custom format the sort code as General 000000
Custom format the account number as General 00000000
Shorten the payee name if necessary

I hope this helps. If you need anything clarified, let me know.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Samantha20:
By Elena @ ESA. Ltd
17th Jul 2021 11:29

"...and scripts to deal with problem 3", which means it was automated already.

Your suggestion is, unfortunately, manual and time consuming.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Elena @ ESA. Ltd:
By Samantha20
17th Jul 2021 12:11

What do you mean by "and scripts to deal with problem 3"?

Yes, my suggestion is manual, but it is the only workaround I know. It isn't time-consuming. Yes, it takes longer than it used to, but Xero won't re-intstate the old system.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Samantha20:
By paulwakefield1
19th Jul 2021 09:22

It sounds to me as if that could all be automated in Excel either by the use of formulae or using Power Query. The manual way will be prone to error and a right pain if you have long payment runs.

Thanks (1)
Replying to paulwakefield1:
By philrob
19th Jul 2021 15:08

For those interested in the scripts used to split the sort code and the account number in csv exports.

Anything that requires hand editing a file is out - that way lies disaster.

I use an Apple Mac and so have access to a lot of the unix/linux command-line tools that can then be triggered, courtesy of automator, by right mouse clicking and selecting the appropriate script from the context menu.

The script itself uses the 'AWK' command to split the csv at the right place and insert the comma.

Xero's CSV output doesn't strip out 'banned' characters like &%=*/#$£!^~ (though I think the BACS export does) so the script also replaces any of the banned characters with a space - it uses the 'SED' command for the search and replace.

A new file is generated with the suffix - processed that I can then upload to the bank. It isn't as nice as simply generating a working file in xero and uploading that to the bank would be but it is an acceptable workaround.

Windows users could probably do something similar with powershell.

Thanks (1)
By FirstTab
18th Jul 2021 22:33

Vote with your ££ and move to Quick Books. They are still at the growth stage.

Losing subs is the only language Xero understands.

Probably in a few years QB, will be not any different from Xero.

Thanks (1)
Replying to FirstTab:
By Slim
19th Jul 2021 09:53

QB is the same now. I personally can't get on with QBO and it seems most clients that use it f it up.

Thanks (2)
A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
19th Jul 2021 10:26

In the old days, either in collaboration with, or independently, there were things called User Groups. They helped the vendors improve their products, but could also yield a fair amount of clout. Xero etc. try to control their users by insisting that they vote for changes on "community" pages. Is Xero at the point where an organised User Group could apply pressure, perhaps by being voiciferous on social media? Would that have any effect? A while back someone suggested that if all the UK accountants crowdfunded an alternative it would save millions on subscriptions and have the functionality they and their clients need.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Arthur Putey:
By philrob
19th Jul 2021 15:30

Thanks for the suggestion re usergroups - I suspect that workarounds to many of the issues I don't know I have are available there.

There seems to be a Facebook group with 12k members and Reddit with 800 or so.

I dislike Facebook because of the data harvesting but it may the the only/best option

Does anyone know of any good Forums - Xero's own are pretty poor

Thanks (1)
By yelsnew
20th Jul 2021 14:56

Anybody else in the Xero newsletter pilot?
Same sentiments here with regards to all the recent changes.

Thanks (0)
A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
20th Jul 2021 16:15

In the days when Xero was courting KPMG or vice versa they invited some of their Gold partners to be part of some forum or other but beyond feature request votes they weren't interested in feedback from us mere plebs. I do think an accountant's lobby group might carry some weight though (if anyone could be arsed to form one).

Thanks (1)
By Catherine-Xero
23rd Jul 2021 21:55

Thanks for surfacing your thoughts and experience. We're constantly evaluating Xero’s product offering and enhancing the experience based on the changing needs of our customers, which we do hear from you. Our approach is to balance solving problems for today with building products and features that will allow our broad customer base to benefit well into the future.

We don't suggest the ideas on our forum and 'force you' to vote - these are many product requests and changes that reflect the needs of many different business types, sizes and industries who use Xero. Community feedback is and always has been important to the Xero team, and those requests are reviewed carefully by our product teams and do play an important role in our development strategies. The age of an idea was incorrectly assumed as the key priority so that is the only reason we removed dates from the features area of the Xero Community - votes help us better determine the demand for an idea across all of our customers - as you know, Xero is one product and with changes being universal.

We have been ramping up our investment in our technology infrastructure to enable us to deliver new features faster to our customers. We think UK customers will be pleased to see updates to areas like bank reconciliation, invoicing and reporting, which will be delivered in the near future. To be transparent, while some of these feature updates seem simple, they sometimes are reliant on major architectural changes that must be completed before updates are possible and means they can take time.

As always, we’re continuing to listen closely to all of our partners about what you’d like to see in Xero, and how we can improve, to make sure we are building the most trusted and insightful platform for small businesses today and in the future. As much as you can be specific in your feedback we want to hear it! I can assure you this thread, and any others like it are being read and discussed by our product team. Thanks.

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