Even though I’ve spent much of my career in and around technology, I’m still frequently amazed at the things we are able to do now. Intuitive user experiences, expansive tools for creating insights and effortless transactional capabilities are all part of the modern experience.
Which makes it seem all the more startling when technology offerings go so horribly wrong. This also created a sort of “what were they thinking?” reaction to a recent release by a top US-based technology company. With some fanfare, I got the release yesterday on a new (and exciting) video conferencing capability. The marketing was engaging; now I’m curious.
This is a business app of course. When I fire it up on my corporate laptop it dutifully engages Internet Explorer after which … nothing happens. I do eventually get a message saying “sorry, we don’t support your browser yet”. Next to arrive is a message offering to install Chrome for me so I can see their new tool. Which, of course, I can’t since this is a locked down corporate machine. All the marketing messages go in the trash, I shake my head over the wasted time … and note to avoid that vendor in the future. What were they thinking?
Of course, that’s the problem. They weren’t thinking. Just because they have a cool technology doesn’t mean they should blindly launch it on the hope that it makes sense to the recipient. The context in which something will be used is critical to understand if the impact a company has on its customers is remotely close to the desired one.
This is, of course, not something unique to technology vendors. Insurance companies need to think long and hard about this as well. It requires that carriers do something that frequently is incredibly difficult: think from the outside in, rather than the inside out.
The “customer” may be either the producing agent, the premium paying customer, or both. Regardless of who it is, understanding how techno guy and messaging will be received in their contextual experience will be key. Some things may be obvious such as the lack of understanding for internal organizational structures and acronyms. Others might be less so, like an appreciation for the nature of the physical equipment they use. Irrespective of these elements, carriers looking to maximize the returns on their investments should make the effort to understand these things before they launch an effort.
Some years ago, while I worked as the CIO for a bank, we “discovered” that many of our customers were suddenly unable to use their bill payment functionality, a pretty critical component in a banking relationship. We quickly traced the problem to the vendor we used for bill pay. They had decided to use some “cool new tech” to enable an upgrade, and then tested it only on their corporate desktops. It apparently worked just fine on versions of IE that were no longer being sold by Microsoft. They never tested it in Firefox, Safari, or current releases of IE which created an impressively painful rollback experience. It also taught us that we needed to really understand end user environments … and that we needed our vendors to do exactly the same thing. We rewrote contracts to assure ourselves that the appropriate testing was going to be done by vendors, including building in provisions the required support for browsers and versions that achieved market share thresholds. In effect, we need for both our own internal IT teams and strategic vendor partners to view the company from that outsider perspective so that we would know precisely what the customer experience would be. Guessing and estimating are not options when you have so few opportunities to make initial impressions and where a prospect or customer can so easily move from one company to another.
This issue is now exacerbated by mobile capabilities that bring with them different form factors, operating systems and interface nuances. Getting it right there is now so important that some companies have moved to a “mobile first” deployment paradigm that would have been hard to imagine until very recently.
Just because a company can do something doesn’t mean they actually should! Thinking through the experiences, as well as the consequences, should be critical to developing a go to market strategy for technology solutions.