People are always talking about “smart” systems. These are automated systems that are meant to make a company more efficient, drive sales, and provide a great customer experience. Often, and unfortunately, the implementation of these systems goes hand in hand with cutting back on the role of real people in the process. Time and again, these “smart” systems prove incredibly stupid.
This whole issue is particularly important to us right now, because we’re working on some “smart” systems of our own. Where are they a good thing and where are they a pain? How do you use them in a way that really does make life better rather than more complicated? Read on for my thoughts and a chance to voice your own opinion!
So here is an example of a “smart” system gone horribly wrong. A friend of mine ordered some flowers from an online flower shop. After that he started getting their personalized emails (“Hey Joe! Time to buy some roses!”) advertising all sorts of great opportunities to buy flowers. He tried the remove button but it didn’t work.
Then, this week, he gets an email reading:
“Joe, send Mary Valentine’s Roses and Save 20%!”
The problem here is that the reason Joe bought flowers originally was to buy flowers for his niece Mary’s funeral. Will Joe ever buy flowers from this company again? Certainly not. The smart system designed to drive sales has just guaranteed that this customer will never buy from them again. In fact, he’ll probably go around telling other people not to buy from them.
On the other hand, take your average Voicemail system. I LOVE voicemail. Many years ago, when I worked in Real Estate before Voicemail became common place, I used to have endless problems trying to get messages to people, and more importantly, get them to the person accurately. With Voicemail they always here exactly what I want them to hear. It’s direct, efficient, and effective.
OK, so what does all this mean to Ilium Software? Well we’re working on a way that will let people who are requesting unlock codes (“I lost my codes but need to reinstall. Can you send them?”) get them automatically, rather than waiting for us to process the request manually. It seems like a great idea, but even this sort of automated system can get really frustrating.
Take this example. Bob buys eWallet for Pocket PC with one email address and eWallet for desktop with another. He fills out the form, asking for his eWallet for Pocket PC codes, but he uses the desktop purchase email address. We write back:
“Sorry. We can’t find your purchase.”
To which Bob replies “What do you mean I didn’t buy it? Of course I bought it!” and now everyone is frustrated.
So I guess the question is this…as long as there is a way to still talk to a real person, does the advantage of instant code responses that are right most of the time outweigh those occasions where the “smart system” does something stupid? I mean we’re still there to help in person (call us, email us, we’re there) if the smart system botches the job. Or is there no amount of speed that can outweigh those moments of smart system stupidity?
We want to make sure because the goal here is to get you guys the information you need faster, but not at the expense of good service.