"Stop Designing Products"

My regular trawling of blogs turned up this gem from Peter Merholz of Interaction Gurus, Adaptive Path. It has a huge degree of resonance for me as it deals with customer experience outside the traditional ‘sell a product and then support the service of that product’ interaction and inspires us to consider the total experience creation that Apple recently demonstrated is so successful with the iPod + iTunes + iTunes ‘Holy Trinity’. Peter cites Kodak in an inspired slide (page 6) which shows just how thinking about improving an experience results in a pioneering product. Hiding away the complexity from the end-user, sound familiar?

This is system design, looking at what the end-user finds difficult in interacting with disparate processes, technologies and so on and producing either a sealed ‘closed’ system (Apple’s integration or the Kodak roll-film camera) or an open, adaptable application (Flickr, Firefox). This leads on to examples where the integration and experience-orientated design spreads across channels. So, for example, the same interaction experience happens offline (in stores, on the phone) as it does on the web. To some extent it’s all about empowerment in both cases, you interact, we do the rest.

Some very basic online examples:

:: your online bank invites you to ‘consolidate your finances’. You click a button and the bank calculates where your money should be best organised, it suggests an amount is moved to savings, your current account is maintained at a given level and you set-up a direct debit into an ISA … you then click to confirm and it arranges it for you. Job done.

:: your train company allows you to log-in to their site via a mobile device and click ‘I’m delayed’, you tell it what train you’re on and where you want to go to and it suggests the fastest alternative route … “get off at Ipswich and continue to Norwich via Peterborough

There’s nothing worse than design that hints at this level of seamless integration and falls at the final hurdle. I recently moved house and was told about ‘
iammoving.com’. The premise was that we tell them once and my address change is taken care of by populating my information throughout my banks, credit cards, loyalty cards, the DVLA, council tax TV licensing etc. etc. The reality was considerably different. Of the 40 or so suppliers I identified I had a relationship with, only three had electronic notification set-up, so I had to manually go through adding additional information, generating a PDF, printing and posting that and invariably partaking in more correspondence once they sent me additional forms. The whole thing became a huge pain in the arse frankly and I wished I’d just used our re-direct with Royal Mail to respond to anyone who subsequently mailed us.

Contrast this with Virgin Atlantic, their adverts currently convey a
fully realised sense of experience. You don’t just buy an airline ticket, you buy a chauffeured trip to a pre-flight lounge, a simplified check-in process, a quality seat and in-flight service … they take care of you. I presume of course, I’ve not had the opportunity to try it out!

And it can be done in service industries I’m sure, I just haven’t really seen it yet. Hopefully someone reading this is responsible for customer experience in an organisation that can really benefit from this approach.

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