We are surrounded by amazing technology that permeates almost every facet of life and business. Fifty-plus years into the information age, our world is fundamentally different from the mid-20th century.
The way we communicate, learn, travel, and plan is aided by a wide variety of technologies. Our entertainment, commerce, and daily lives are filled with technology — some visible and some behind the scenes.
Our dependency on technology cannot be overstated. Computing hardware, software, and communications have become incredibly sophisticated and supposedly reliable. But how reliable are they, really? And how does the quality of technology affect the customer experience, which has become paramount?
At this juncture, we face a dilemma. On one hand, the Six Sigma movement, improved hardware and software development and testing approaches, and new design and development tools enable the production of extraordinarily high quality, highly reliability products.
The capability is there to build products that virtually never fail … and when they do, backup systems ensure that they don’t miss a beat. For truly mission critical situations, this is great. But for the rest, new products and new features are being pushed out so fast and in such high volumes that the quality and reliability is often overlooked. And in an age when everyone is trying to improve the customer experience, the Achilles heel may be the technologies that businesses have little control over.
Think I’m exaggerating? Reflect on your personal experiences with your smartphone, email, document creation tools, laptop, web browsers, etc. How many times have you been on the phone with a customer service rep who is handicapped because their system is down or slow?
Practically everyone I know has horror stories about lost data, lost time, and lost productivity. Add to this new versions of software that don’t really add new functionality, but just change up the way things work — often requiring us to spend time learning how to use the new tools or hunting for the old ones that have been put somewhere else or are now called something different.
The quest for improved customer experiences is a worthy one, and one that is central to the success of businesses. This quest needs to continue in earnest, but designers need to factor in the implications of the low bar that has been set for consumer tech.
Businesses and industries also need to make more demands on the makers of these products and technologies to apply the same techniques and approaches that enable the development of high quality, high reliability mission critical systems, rather than focus so much on the next set of new bells and whistles. Product reliability is a very important part of the customer experience equation. Because no matter how nicely a customer service rep tells me that my data is gone forever, or how many channels are available to me to voice my disappointment, if the product is inferior, I am never going to buy from that brand again.
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