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www.getdesign.in - My periodic blog exploring the world of business, experience design and interaction, with a smattering of gadgetry and social media. A world where business, people and technology meet.

Let's Fix Things: For over two decades I've been consulting in Communications Design: Everything from business strategy and processes, through to technology, interaction and customer experience. The thoughts here are my own, not necessarily that of my employer.

I have a penchant for spotting patterns and fixing broken user and customer experiences. Even my Bumblebee project hasn't escaped - I've been using Six Sigma techniques to study and predict their behaviour patterns. ☺

Why so many people are sticking to Windows 7 

Who upgraded to Windows 8 from Windows 7 and wished they hadn't bothered? If you put your hand up, you share the same point of view with 90 percent of the population of Microsoft customers. Unfortunately change isn't always a good thing and while I would never suggest the new operating system is as bad as Vista, which had a lot of odd functions and stability issues, there are still complications with the implementation of the entire thing. In short: the system isn't simple like Windows 7. 

I suspect certain people would find it easier to navigate a website like castlejackpot.com, which allows customers to play casino games like Blackjack and Roulette, than Windows 8. Because at least the folks who designed the games on that website had ease of use for the customer in mind. Microsoft sometimes forget that novice computer users still exist. What are the problems which have caused many to revert back to Windows 7? 

The desktop

People still using desktop computers can't boot their system's straight to the desktop. Instead the operating system forces you to start from the metro screen in the same way as a tablet. While that's fine for a touch screen device, it's far simpler for a desktop user to work from the desktop menu. Microsoft have made sure they can't do this though, which makes their experience on the computer time consuming and irritating. 

Searching 

If you want to search for a program or file in Windows 7, you can scan the whole system with a quick query in the search bar which will bring up similar results to the word you searched. Microsoft has added an additional step in Windows 8 though. It searches your installed applications by default. Only afterwards can you click Settings or Files if you want to look for something else. 

Start menu

The Start menu is not as it was. Since its start in the 1990s the Start menu has been a handy tool for every user, and its uses grew and grew. The most sophisticated Start menu of the lot is on Windows 7, with more functions, short-cuts and accessibility than ever before. Microsoft have since removed the Start menu from Windows 8, and users can now only use a cut-down version called “Simplified Start”. 

Interfaces 

The two interfaces of {Windows 8} don't gel well. It's like you're on two separate computers on the same piece of technology. For example, there are two versions of Internet Explorer, and when you create a Favourite in the Desktop version, it won't appear in the Metro version. It's sloppy planning. 

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that Microsoft should have only released Windows 8 for tablets and any other mobile devices. It just doesn't work well on a desktop. At least with a tablet you can swipe your finger across and tap at the screen to get where you want. On a desktop you're still using a mouse and keyboard, so the whole endeavour just gets irritating and clunky. 

 

Using Variable Rewards to drive Behaviour Change

This is an interesting one - how do you motivate with rewards? Is it better to have a nice predictable, understandable reward system, or is something a bit more random better? The research actually suggests the latter. 

Here's an interesting article which discusses that very topic.

Here's an excerpt:

The human species possesses a disposition towards novelty - and tens of thousands of years ago, that drove us to explore new lands, try new foods and see what happened when we struck two rocks together.
But just as our craving for sweets, salts and fats were valuable in the Paleolithic era, when such foods were scarce, but are now warped in the age of carmel-drizzled kettle corn, our novelty-seeking tendencies can lead us astray.
Variable rewards are a particularly powerful “hook” for the brain. Casinos and many games use frequent but hard-to-predict rewards to keep their players coming back for more.
In this post, I want to talk about how variable rewards work and how we can use them to drive positive behavior change for ourselves.

Follow the source link for more...

The curse of targets

Throughout my consulting career I've seen some themes over and over, usually as a result of different viewpoints, which underlines the importance of seeing the big picture from every stakeholders view before deciding on anything.

Here's a common one: The Customer Service department is banging on the IT door, because their metrics have plateaued. The IT department, in response, believe they can improve efficiency and customer service metrics by allowing front-line employees to share their work using a fancy phone system to forward and route calls between available staff.

What they haven't factored in, is that the sales organisation targets employees on these very calls and they generate the best commission for the individual. Consequently there is conflict:  there is no incentive to share this work, no matter how poor the customer service metrics.

If the fancy phone system is deployed, it will simply go under-used. 

Red light area

I watch too many police "pursuit" TV programmes I think. I'm not sure quite why I find them so intriguing, but I do - maybe it's the sense of natural justice. Maybe it's just about being informed about what goes on "out there". Maybe I just like the cars. ☺

Either way, there is a common theme - almost all pursuits come to an end, usually with a bit of a thump. More often than not it will take one of two endings. Either the roads are empty and mr. getaway ploughs his car into a field on a tight corner, or it's busy traffic and some unsuspecting motorist gets belted at an intersection.

So, a simple thought occured to me: what if the emergency services could set all traffic lights in the area to flashing red if a pursuit (or indeed any emergency situation) was underway? That would (could) keep intersections clear and help prevent innocent motorists getting caught up in one of those unfortunate endings.

Why flashing red and not red? Well, motorists would know that special circumstances are in force and not simply that the lights were faulty - I've seen people jump a red light when they think they are "stuck on red". Flashing red is used, for example, at railyway level crossings to indicate impending danger.

As a user interface concept, this seems pretty simple and effective. Rettrofitting it to the nation's roads is another matter. ☺

Lean Six Sigma for Contact Centre Optimisation

Here's a nice introduction by Openspan to the use of Lean Six Sigma in the contact centre environment. Of course, they've put it together to make a selling case for their tools and expertise, but that doesn't detract from the great introduction to the topic.

Lean Six Sigma is all about reducing waste (Lean) and reducing variation/errors (Six Sigma) - combined they offer powerful techniques for identifying issues and optimising contact centre performance and efficiency. All of the principles that were originally applied to manufacturing can just as readily be applied to customer service and contact centre and in this webcast it is explained how.

Direct link to the page if the embed didn't work for you.

 

The prejudice of Questionnaires

I make no secret of the fact I loathe filling in Questionnaires for feedback/research, even though I usually take up the offer to do so.

Typically they are poorly designed and riddled with the questioner's own perceptions and slant - they have a particular set of things they want to measure, the questionnaire asks about those things in a way guarantees those end measures. Thus, the questions become a self-fulfilling prophecy as far as the meaning in the data is concerned.

Here's today's example which has irked me sufficiently to abandon the questionnaire part way through. It's from a retail website where I was looking to buy an iPad2 in time for Christmas. A few things about the experience were not great, though this organisation has some helpful people on twitter that gave me good suggestions; so I was keen to give balanced feedback.

But here's the question:

Again thinking about the main thing you were looking to buy, which one of these would you say was the most important in deciding which product you wanted to buy?

 

Perhaps for most products this question makes sense - purchase choices are made predominently on the basis of one or two of the above characteristics. However, not so with the iPad, or pretty much any Apple product for that matter. The unique selling point of Apple, it's very "value proposition" if you like, is that it beautifully combines all three of the above elements. I am shopping for an iPad because it marvellously scores in look and feel, technical specs and functionality in a way that most (all?) of its competitors do not.

As such I can't answer the question meaningfully - I'd be telling the researcher something they are expecting to hear, not something they haven't allowed for and that I want to say.

They could have chosen a different format for this question "which aspects most influenced your decision?" with multiple selections available. They would still get a distribution of answers that would allow the most significant result to be drawn out. But by forcing a decision of one answer, this is actually skewing the results and applying the researcher's pre-conceptions and prejudice about what data needs to be reported into the actual questions.

This is bad design and leads to misinformed statistics.

 

 

Can't get no satisfaction? Here's why

I was prompted to pen these thoughts by a question on a linked in discussion board. It asked what did organisations have in place to achieve good customer satisfaction. And was it the "little things", the "extra mile" that made all the difference.?How do you handle ever rising expectations? Here are my thoughts:

There's often talk of consumer "expectations" growing, but what is really meant by that? If you respond to a customer within 15 seconds in a call centre, are we saying next week they will want a response in 14?

I think the core principles of customers' expectations actually remain pretty constant: responsiveness/timeliness; courtesy/respect; a perception of value (both in the product/service delivered and also of the customer themselves); the ability to help creatively when something has gone wrong. And you can make their day by making the experience very personal and engaging.

I do not believe that people keep simply turning up the "pass" level of these things; what I do believe is that they are constantly let down on them in their multitude of daily experiences and so for those organisation that are failing customers, it always seems those customers are wanting more. Not really; customers just want organisations to achieve the right standard. And of course, the right standard is totally dependent on every individual circumstance (e.g. the business you are operating AND the individual customer).

However, what does constantly change is that perception of value - because as organisaitons try to differentiate and then competitors follow suit, the bar keeps being reset. This is self-inflicted by organisations constantly chasing each other, rather than chasing the customer. A lesson in focus there.

What I have found from direct personal experience with customers buying products (for example) is the biggest thing that has an impact on satisfaction is the response to problems. There is absolutely no question that this is a moment of truth - with the potential to completely turn a customer round into a loyal supporter who, despite encountering an initial 'probelm', is actually *grateful* for having chosen to do business with *you*.

Siri, Why Should Google and Microsoft Fear You?

Funny, I had an article entitled "what happened to speech recognition?" in the works, which I started before the launch of the iPhone 4S.

I've been involved in speech recognition technologies for the greater part of the last 20 years - and despite the never-ending slew of technological advances, while speech remains the fundamental means of communicating with each other as humans, it still hasn't taken off as the means of communicating with machines.

It's quite hard to put a finger on exactly why, in the sense that there's no single obvious reason; mainly it's a complex recipe of issues involving over-expectation and under-performance, not to mention the relevance of the alternatives.

Could that be set to change? It looks disctinctly possible - It won't happen overnight, but Apple has a track record of generating the momentum for technology adoption, even where the technology is not necessarily entirely new (mp3 players and tablets immediately spring to mind). Here are some interesting views on the topic...

 

As I watched The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital Asia interview with Android’s Andy Rubin, I was highly intrigued by his comments about Apple’s Siri. Rubin told Walt Mossberg, "I don't believe your phone should be an assistant." He said, "Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."

Furthermore, when questioned about Siri, Microsoft’s Andy Lees said it "isn't super useful." At the same time, he noted that Windows Phone 7 has a degree of voice interactivity in the way it connects to Bing. Thus, it harnesses "the full power of the internet, rather than a certain subset."

What are these two guys smoking? They both seem to ignore the fact that Apple has just introduced voice as a major user interface. Its use of voice, coupled with AI on a consumer product like the Apple iPhone, is going to change the way consumers think about man-machine interfaces in the future.

But I think their responses were rooted in jealously and the fact that, based on what it will soon become, Siri will ultimately threaten their businesses.

 

[continue reading]

Think Different

Of course, as everyone raced to type their reviews of the iPhone 4S on Tuesday 4th October (myself included), little did they know that Steve Jobs was on his deathbed. And that Tim Cook, the new CEO, was having to deliver his annoucements almost certainly knowing that was the case.

I feel a great sense of loss of such a wonderful role model; many would say in the field of business, marketing, user experience - and clearly Jobs had so many talents in so many areas. But for me, all that rolls up into a genius for insight, innovationsimplicity and change. It is absolutely immeasureable the influence Steve Jobs had on so many lives in the digital age. He may not have solved World hunger, but you can bet your bottom dollar that his legacy in bringing digital information to the masses marks a turning point in history.

So much has been said about Steve Jobs over the 48 hours following (over 4000 tweets per second) and will no doubt continue to do so, that it's hard to add a fitting tribute.

So, I'm going to play back some of Apple's own words, words that have Steve Jobs' DNA all over them. Words that, to me, are poetry.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Rest In Peace Steve

Bad Apple - The chink in the Armour (How the iPhone 4S failed)

Apple launched a great product on 4th October 2011 - a new iPhone, the 4s, faster processor, hugely improved camera, better battery life, better global inter-operability, new iOS (previously announced), more memory - and so the list goes on.

And yet the overwhelming feeling I've seen (and have myself) is one of great underwhelm-ment. How so? Isn't this a great device?

Yes, it is. But you have to remember how high Apple traditionally sets the bar. Rumours abounded about a new iPhone 5 with lush new looks and a bigger screen. In light of this, surveys were suggesting that almost 70% of existing iPhone users were looking to upgrade - an astonshing figure representing pent-up demand. If Apple could have translated this into action, it would have blown the sales figures sky high. 

Will Apple translate this into conversions? I doubt it.

So what went wrong?

Two things.

First, they broke one of Steve Jobs' cardinal rules. He's quoted as saying "We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them". That's right, designs so good you want to lick them.

Apple failed spectacularly here by launching a phone with identical looks and form factor to the iPhone 4. Sure, it was good enough to lick when it was first launched 16 months earlier, but expectations have moved on. A whole generation of iPhone and non-iPhone new users want to proudly display and caress their new swish (and expensive) pocket companion. Think I'm exaggerating? People actually seem to love their smartphones.

Apple totally let them down. It's almost inconceivable how they managed to. Design is everything at Apple, and yet what Apple did yesterday was play with features. Features. Features, in fact, that users are not even sure they need, want or know how to use: like the Siri speech recognition. Who was aching for this? (I was aching for features that simplified clumsy workflows, such as rotating and cropping photos - totally basic stuff that was missing onboard - thankfully they delivered on that).

Second, they didn't fully tap into the user ownership experience. This needs careful definition. The user experience of the iPhone is wonderful. World class, world leading. From an interface point of view it is the slickest out there. And clearly Apple hoped to slap a bit more slickery onto it with the speech recognition, improvements in iOS 5 (such as the message centre) and so on. All good. All very good.

But what it didn't do was tap into the emotional part of how that experience manifests for users - what it feels like to own one. Their joy, passion, advocacy for the product that comes from using and adoring it. In recent years Apple has been the leading technology company that's melded all the aspects of good design, good service, good marketing, good experience into one happy melting pot of customer enjoyment of, and enthusiasm for, the products and the Apple experience. It's a tough feat to pull off, but Apple had licked it. (Licking is a recurring theme. )

It failed on this yesterday by calling the iPhone 4S the iPhone 4S. The hopes and aspirations of would-be iPhone 5 users were dashed. Something as simple as the chosen name communicated to the world: we didn't do so much this time; we're not being revolutionary any more. Apple, not being revolutionary? That used to be pretty much Steve Jobs' mantra.

The choice of name communicated so much more than any feature list could ever hope to do.

So, what we have here, is a world class product that failed to connect with its users. For me, that suddenly shines a light on a chink in Apple's armour.