The Hidden Downside of a Great User Experience

It constantly surprises me when entire industries fail to adapt to change or don’t see that their current technologies are ancient. Worse, some of the same measures these companies are taking (by venturing into secondary platforms/channels) only point out the geriatric primary platforms on which the companies mainly exist. Today we’ll talk about how a multi-channel user experience needs to excel in all channels, and look at a couple of bad examples.

Let’s talk about the good things first, and focus on our primary case study: cable companies. Cable companies have pretty much all embraced the web and, more importantly, tablets like the iPad. In fact, the best way to find what’s on TV and change channels at this point is arguably via an iPad. There have been many times when we’ve been at home trying to find out what station a certain program is on. The solution is often to use the iPad application (on Comcast, for instance) to find the program, select the channel, and program the DVR. This is a much simpler thing to do than sifting through the arcane menuing systems from the cable box.

But, this terrific new user experience channel (the tablet) does as much to point out the cable box’s own flaws as it does to make our lives easier. For 12 years I’ve stuck to the mantra that your brand is the sum of the user experiences across all channels. This point is really laid bare when it comes to the cable boxes. While no one has ever liked the user experience of their cable box, that’s all we had. But now that we see what a better user experience could be, we are left collectively staring at the cable box and wondering what morons and red tape are in place that prevent that user experience from getting better. Add to that the new boxes like Apple TV, Roku, and even Google TV, and the wonderment deepens.

This is an epidemic today. User experience has improved so much in some sectors of our lives that when we see an archaic one, we are bewildered at how it could happen. I’m convinced, for example, that PC manufacturers are somehow unable to design a beautiful laptop, unless they are aping the MacBook Air. Cars are finally starting to embrace better design as well. But these are separate industries with single channels. It’s more noticeable when the same company has fluctuating levels of user experiences under one roof, such as the cable example.

As a parting final example, I love that ATMs across the major banks no longer require envelopes or deposit slips. Why, then, does the bank teller still require you to fill out a deposit slip? Sadly, she does not have access to the same technologies available in the ATM. Once again, we have a singular brand (the bank of your choice) that has spent a lot of money upgrading the technologies in its ATMs and its remote-access software (Chase’s iPhone app can deposit a scanned check for you), but it has left its oldest channel (the teller) alone to wither and die from lack of attention.

The lesson is that your brand is the sum of the user experiences across all your channels. It’s awesome you are building an amazing tablet experience. But that experience will serve to point out the bad user experience in your store, on your website, or within your cable box.

Thoughts, comments? Leave them below.

Until next time…
Jack

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