I’m not talking about a diet soda or even a newly re-formulated soft drink, but rather those customer stories where you just can’t but help to feel bad for the customer and if you happen to be the company responsible, feeling bad as an employee or stock holder. Loren recounts one such story, where everything from being infected with viruses, a dial-up connection, authentication problems, etc… happen to an older gentleman who just wanted to get some very basic things done. I’d love to say that this was a unique situation, but you know what I’ve heard lots of these stories and probably experience quite a few personally myself. Believe me if you will in that I have a lot of empathy for this customer and even sent off some mail internally forwarding this particular story around to people whom I know are responsible for tracking the user experience that was related to at least a few of the problems that were highlighted. In my time in the industry, I’ve sat and listened in to product support phone calls, read the daily logs, the aggregate views of the data, etc, but to me it’s always the personal stories that illustrate the point – the complexity of the system is overwhelming.
The funny thing is that most people reading this are pre-selected already and probably have whole days filled with all kinds of minor issues, that they just brush aside and don’t even think about or create a work around that they’re not even aware of. For example, the “z” key on my laptop doesn’t have the same travel distance that the other keys have so when I need to use it, I don’t get the same level of feedback. Does it bother me? Some, but not enough that I’ll fix it anytime soon or complain about it to anyone (oh, wait I just did!). Sometimes it can be a small thing; sometime it’s relatively large, maybe how you manage your backups or carrying around lots of stuff in your bag to always be prepared. The more “knowledge-able” we seem the less we seem to have the day to day insights of the fact that the overall complexity is out of hand. We keep using the system anyway and trudge along our merry way. Stories like the one that Loren recounted are great as they help to remind us all about that first experience that we can’t really experience any more for ourselves.