14 June 2007

Customer service

Why is there such an abject lack of design sense in the computing and electronics industry? I'm currently on hold with Thames Water (who have screwed up my bill for the third time). Their hold system plays muzak in the background, which is periodically interrupted by a voice apologising for keeping me on hold. They have layered on top of this a much louder periodic interruption to thank me for waiting and encourage me to do my business on their website. This results in one apology being gratingly interrupted by the other apology with a frequency that is making my jaw clench tighter and tighter.

When people set these things up, or design consumer electronics, do they even spend five minutes thinking about the user experience?

On my mobile phone, for instance, if I want to send a text message I type it in (that interface is a whole other story of horrendous design), then I have to go through four option selections to get to my address book. Greater than 99% of the texts I send are to someone in my address book. Shouldn't the interface go there straightaway? Did the person who wrote the software even try it?

This is one of the reasons I love Apple so much. As much as people (I'm looking at you, Jules) gripe about certain aspects of it, watching Jobber demo it just made me giddy at the thought of a handset that had been so clearly designed with ease-of-use in mind. As has been observed before, iPod wasn't the first portable MP3 player and iTunes wasn't the first music store, but both have tenaciously grabbed their respective markets in large part (in my opinion) through good design and appreciation of the user experience.

For what it's worth, I just got off the phone with TW and the woman who helped me was perfectly nice and efficient.

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