Editorial Response by David Dick and Shelby Rosiak
Reprinted from Usability Interface, Vol 7, No. 2, October 2000
By David Dick, Editor, Usability Interface
Time-to-market pressure can diminish product testing time and quality. The results are product recalls, shoddy merchandise, and apologies by CEOs about poor quality. The consequence is the loss of consumer confidence. Don’t these companies realise that there’s no compromise on quality? I’m sure that these companies are ISO 9000 certified or have a Total Quality Management (TQM) program, so what is the problem? Perhaps the problem is not with ISO 9000 or TQM but with the way it is used. For example:
- Documenting procedures, as ISO 9000 requires, does not improve quality. It also requires that staff be trained on how to accomplish their tasks, strategies for evaluating quality and improving product design, and an environment that streamlines processes and stresses best practice. How often do you see it happen?
- Collecting metrics, as TQM requires, does not improve customer satisfaction unless the organization uses the data to improve the product and service. If used properly, TQM will result in improving product design, customer satisfaction, and reduce costs without compromising quality. How often do you see it happen?
What’s the solution? You must become an educated consumer and user. Don’t buy a product that is not durable, safe, reliable, easy to use, easy to maintain, and easy to learn. If you don’t feel you got value for your money, return the product and ask for an exchange or refund.
Customer service should be helpful and friendly. If you’re not satisfied, write a letter to the President or CEO of the company with your grievances.
Be a volunteer usability tester: if you are aware of poor product design, speak up and let your concerns be known.
By Shelby Rosiak, Editor, DocQment
Customer satisfaction is a major focus for organizations. Quality tools such as ISO 9000 certification and Total Quality Management programs are an excellent way for companies to collect quantitative information on processes and customers. But these tools are not enough to ensure customer satisfaction. For this reason, companies are reaching out to consumers in unprecedented ways to gain direct customer feedback. Take some examples that I’ve encountered recently:
- While checking me out of a hotel, the desk employee asked if I’d filled out a comment card and encouraged me to provide my input.
- I noticed a toll-free number on a candy bar wrapper with the following words: “[Our company] values your questions or comments. Satisfaction guaranteed or we will replace this product.”
- After I completed an online purchase, a pop-up screen invited me to rate my buying experience at a third-party web site.
- After renting a car, I received a call from a customer service representative in the corporate office to see how my renting experience had been.
- Our on-site cafeteria has an Intranet site with a web-based comment form.
But perhaps the most surprising incident was one I had with my telephone company. I called the telephone company at 3:00 in the afternoon to report static over my home phone line. The telephone company promptly committed to having my phone fixed by 9:00 that night, or I would receive a credit on my next bill.
I was still skeptical when I arrived home and found a note on my door stating that the repair had been completed at 5:15 p.m. Later that evening I received a call back from the telephone company asking if the repair had been completed to my satisfaction. It had—the static was gone.
Companies are improving customer satisfaction. We must remember that we are usability testers for virtually every product or service that we use, and our input directly impacts quality. The next time you are satisfied or dissatisfied with a product, pick up the phone, write a letter, or send an email to the company and give them your feedback. But be quick—they may call you first!