Fixing Critical Errors for Product Managers

Nothing works.

In today’s highly technical, highly overcomplicated, highly automated world, it may be too much to ask that things actually work the way you expect them to. We have to admit, every once and a while, when our Internet connection slows to a crawl, or our “smart” phone freezes up, or one of those annoying automated attendants disconnects our calls for no good reason, we take a deep breath and try to consider ourselves among the lucky few who have the good fortune to live in this era where such inconveniences can even be possible.

But, most of the time, we take whatever offending gadget seems to be giving us the most trouble, and think about throwing it across the room; content in the illusion that perhaps, we’ve  gotten at least one small piece of revenge on this increasingly frustrating state of affairs!

So do we really have it better than we have ever had it before?

That is the question that we hope to answer.

Let’s start with an example:

Back in the day, some of us read a rolled up mass of ink and tree pulp delivered daily to our front door. We lovingly referred to it as a newspaper, which, by today’s standards, might be considered ironic since it actually contained news. Sure, we had to wrangle awkwardly oversized folds of paper into place as we tried to follow the day’s headlines from page to non-sequential page. But we knew what we were getting. The directions were clear, the outcome was predictable, the ads were all where we knew they would be, and in the end, we all realized that the newspaper delivered on its promise.

Compare that experience to how we read the news today – usually on some mobile device. Yes, there are far more stories available to us, and all of them are right at our fingertips. But, now, we click on an article and where we might have otherwise expected to get a full page of text, we get a slow-loading collection of ads and banners that appear unexpectedly before our eyes as the layout of the story struggles to work itself out.

Just as this maddening puzzle starts to come together, we touch the screen to scroll down to where we think the story is supposed to begin and, all of a sudden we’re taken to another insanely slow-loading page that is completely unrelated to what we might want to look at in the first place.

Upon realizing that we inadvertently touch an ad that is still in the middle of loading, we further learn that any attempt to reverse our “mistake” will likely result in the entire process repeating itself all over again.

Once we’re lucky enough to make our way through all this nonsense and read something that we could actually be interested in, we usually find that what has been promoted to us as “news” was, in fact, written by someone who’s not really a journalist and may have just secured the content from some other newsfeed or unverified source.

And all of this happens before we even begin our day!

Admittedly, these are first world problems – but there are literally hundreds of frighteningly similar examples that can be observed over the course of any one of our average days. And as much as we might try to rationalize away these inconveniences as being relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of all that we have available to us, that sentiment doesn’t make actually dealing with these things any less frustrating.

When something doesn’t deliver on a promise, the result is disappointment – no matter how ambitious the promise was, to begin with. In fact, the more ambitious the promise, the harder it will be to keep, and the greater our disappointment is likely to be. Which is why, in today’s modern world, it may seem as though nothing really works as intended.

That said, like most good corporate citizens, we have been well trained in the art of providing solutions, not problems.  What we’re worried about is the fact that many companies, despite their good intentions, don’t really pay attention to how customers feel, or what customers are trying to do – no matter how much they convince themselves that they do.

Here’s a solution to consider:

As consumers, we need to demand better: Better service, better support, better quality, and better performance. And the only way we can ever hope to allow ourselves to do that is if we learn how to curb our collective appetites for quick convenience in favor of quality experiences.

  • If you want journalism that serves to educate rather than entertain, then seek it out, pay for it, and continue to accept nothing less.
  • If your latest gadget is built like crap, return it from wherever it was spawned and see if maybe, just maybe, you can somehow learn to live without it until something is developed that actually works properly.
  • If you are put on endless hold or taken through 10 different automated phone menus without any regard for your time or frustration level, cancel your service with that company and really dig deep to ask yourself if it is a service that you ever really needed in the first place.

In short, demand quality over quantity, and pay for the difference by eliminating all the subpar things you probably could do without anyway.

Yes – companies do need to change the way they do things. But the only way this will ever really happen is if we, as consumers, demand it of them – not through our mouths, but through our wallets. In the end, it all comes right back down to supply and demand. Nothing works because we keep consuming things that don’t work. And, in so doing, everything actually works exactly to the level that we have become willing to accept.

Said differently, the more we accept mediocrity, the more mediocre our experiences will ultimately become.  But on the other end of the spectrum, we as product people cannot deliver mediocrity.

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