Nothing Works (And How To Fix It)
I guess I’m just going to have to be the one to say it…
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. I have to admit, every once and a while, when my Internet connection slows to a crawl, or my “smart” phone freezes up, or one of those annoying automated attendants disconnects my call for no good reason, I take a deep breath and try to consider myself 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, I take whatever offending gadget seems to be giving me the most trouble, and I fling it across the room; content in the illusion that I’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 I hope to answer, at least for myself, during today’s rant.
Now, before I proceed, I have to tell you that this topic is one that I have already attempted to cover with my good friend and colleague, James Luizzi, on several episodes of our web series Beyond The Beef. However, since this seems to be a fairly gigantic and, unfortunately, ever-increasing problem, I thought I would write a blog about it as well – if only to get a few more things off my chest.
Let’s start with an example:
Back in the day, I read a rolled up mass of ink and tree pulp delivered daily to my door. We lovingly referred to it as a newspaper, which, by today’s standards, might be considered ironic since it actually contained news. Sure, I had to wrangle awkwardly oversized folds of paper into place as I tried to follow the day’s headlines from page to non-sequential page. But I knew what I was getting. The directions were clear, the outcome was predictable, the ads were all where I knew they would be, and, at least to my recollection, I never met a newspaper that failed to meet my expectations. Not then anyway.
Compare that experience to how I read the news today – on my tablet. Yes, there are far more stories available to me, and all of them are right at my fingertips. But, now, I click on an article and where I might have otherwise expected to get a full page of text, I get a slow-loading collection of ads and banners that appear unexpectedly before my eyes as the layout of the story struggles to work itself out. Just as this maddening puzzle starts to come together, I touch the screen to scroll down to where I think the story is supposed to begin and, all of a sudden I’m taken to another insanely slow-loading page that is completely unrelated to what I wanted to look at in the first place. Upon realizing that I had inadvertently touched an ad that was still in the middle of loading, I further learn that any attempt to reverse my “mistake” will likely result in the entire process repeating itself all over again. Once I’m lucky enough to make my way through all this nonsense and read something that I could actually be interested in, I usually find that what has been promoted to me as “news” was, in fact, written by a frighteningly under-informed blogger who got his or her story off of someone else’s totally unverified Twitter feed.
And all of this happens before I even begin my 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, I have been well trained in the art of providing solutions, not problems. So, in the spirit of not simply following up my first rant with a second one about how not nearly concerned enough companies should try to be a whole lot more concerned about the way their customers actually feel; I will instead take a path that I feel can have a far greater impact – partly because it is a solution that is completely within our own personal spans of control.
So the solution that I offer is this:
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’re tired of pop-up ads, stop visiting those sites and, instead, go visit a library.
- 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.
So we need to change it.
And if my little plan succeeds, then all of the product managers out there need to get ready to make some changes. Because when your companies get hit in their collective wallets, guess who they’re going to call on to make it all right again?
And that, my friends, will be your chance as product managers to truly change the world.
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