About a month ago, a clueless UX wannabe posted a Tweet that suggested that “so-called UX gurus don’t do anything but post stupid complaints about minor problems. That’s how they make a name for themselves.” This is a paraphrase so you can’t Google the actual tweet.
The truth is, most of the problems UX professionals bitch about are systemic problems that have a far greater reach. For example, if someone complains about hard mattresses at a hotel, this is actually a problem from the purchasing department. What were the variables that persuaded a purchasing department to buy these mattresses? Probably price rather than comfort.
I see these price-based decisions made all the time – in almost all organizations from hotels to hospitals.
Many years ago, I was tasked with explaining to purchasing departments in hospitals why my client’s cardiac electrodes were a better, more economical choice even though the unit prices were higher. I showed that the unique design and special, hypoallergenic adhesives meant that there were fewer leads that came unattached, there were fewer electrodes that fell off, and fewer monitoring errors in general. Having interviewed nurses in ICUs and cardiology units in several hospitals, I could show that time wasted on the issues I just mentioned added up to many weeks each year – more than enough to offset the minimal extra cost of buying a superior product.
But purchasing departments didn’t really care – improving the efficiency of their staff was not their responsibility. This kind of siloed thinking is perhaps the biggest challenge for UX designers these days.
And as to the mattresses? My wife and I just returned from a short vacation at a wonderful hotel. The staff was incredibly service-minded, the location was outstanding. But will we be back? No. Cheap pillows and rock-hard mattresses gave me neckaches each night.
A lot of UX folks complain about service on airlines; when you are outside your comfort zone, such as when you travel, you tend to notice anomalies. When it comes to air travel, the problem is often one of companies not investing enough in service training. Airlines like to think that “flying on time” is a key service parameter. But any airline that brags about “flying on time” is missing the point; we have connections to make, people who will be meeting us at our destination, and much more. “Flying on time” should be a given – that’s why there are schedules. There are many other areas they need to be considering if they really want to compete on service.
Alas, many products and services resemble each other these days. And that makes “service” (as opposed to “services”) a key differentiator in a crowded marketplace.
So, some of us bitch.
Please consider that when you see someone complain about something, think in broader terms. The comment will often suggest ways in which your own organization could make improvements. A complaint is truly a gift.