Making Life Difficult for Customers

Companies seem to think technology is an excuse to provide bad service. Or maybe they don’t need any excuse at all to do so, based on how often they provide bad service. My latest experience with lame pointy haired boss technology came while looking to watch a football game online. Years ago you could listen to any Wisconsin Badger game over the internet – very simple, no special software (just the simple free Real Audio plugin). In subsequent years (just to play a simple audio stream that had worked in previous years they kept requiring upgrades and their ever more complex required software would fail very often). Then the option of listen to online radio broadcasts disappeared altogether (for schools that chose to prevent this anyway).

Now sites that provide video seem incapable of making it a simple process. They chose not to use standard open software solutions. Instead they require you follow their desires to use this or that and then the whole operation fails quite often. Google, no surprise, is an exception (yes it worked prior to Google, they were just smart enough to buy it and not break it). YouTube just works. Can others copy this, idea? Some can, but many phbs decide that really everyone that uses their web sites should be happy to try and download special software and make configuration changes… to get their site working on their personal computers.

The idea that playing video online is solved problem and just making it more and more complex is not a good idea for users no matter if they want to add some bullet points to their boss on why they should get a larger raise this year because they got the engineers to add on some additional new feature that no-one actually wants. Granted This solved problem is a bit lame now, so I am all for improving it. But this should be a process that goes for simpler solutions, not more complex ones. And certainly any timed to the operating system of the end user is too idiotic to consider.

In my latest attempt, I tried using to watch a Wisconsin Badger football game. What happens? First, I get a message that we are so lame we require you to use only certain operating system for you to use our site (or words to that effect). Well I don’t use those operating systems. And since it is the internet after all a sensible solution is not to require any specific operating system on the users computer.

But I have an old computer that does have that operating system so I turn that on (they are not the only site that refuses to move into the internet age and leave behind old operating system requirements). I update the software they request. I download the new software they request. I am not surprised when after all that I get a wonderful screen that says espn360.c0m with a loading icon on it than never actually loads the page. When then chose to foist tons of unnecessary complexity onto the customer it is no surprise it fails. Engineering principles predict this. And experience shows those organizations run by phb, without technological savvy (of course), constantly foist overly complex, unreliable solutions on customers and so they fail often.

I am looking forward to the day when managers making decisions about technological solutions actually know about technology and how to provide reliable service (though I am not holding my breath). There has been little movement toward large companies learning about providing simple workable technology solutions instead of overly complex solutions that provide poor user experiences.

In my estimation, it is rarely the engineers that design complex, bad, unreliable solutions. Instead someone that doesn’t know about engineering or management (but has some diploma that says he in an MBA) makes idiotic decisions that foist lousy service on customers.

Related: Usability FailuresMarch MadnessDell Providing Computers Without BloatwareIf Tech Companies Made SudokuSimple Cell PhoneBest Buy Asks Man To Change NameDavidson Students Get Free Sweet Sixteen TripSimple Solutions That Work

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5 Responses to Making Life Difficult for Customers

  1. Dan says:

    John, there is nothing that gets my goat more than if I have to download things to play movies or see a special presentation as part of a website. There are so many examples of sites that make this kind of stuff work, that there really is no excuse to make a mess of your technology on the web! There is too much red tape in big organisations and these big organisations are not skimping on their website budget either… I like your vision that one day people will make decisions about technology who actually understand it! Let’s hope this happens before big companies make one too many poor choices and collapse.

  2. shaun sayers says:

    Getting the customer interface right is a major challenge. Many companies just have no perception of the cost/benefit equation attached to it. Some can go ridiculously over the top and add all kinds of features that the customer just doesn’t appreciate, and sometimes, as your article illustrates, the company inexcusably finds it impossible to put themselves in the customers’ shoes, which I believe is real pre-school stuff

    I’ve mused about similar things in this article

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