Digital Efficiency Expected “Users not Customers”

February 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

I began reading Users Not Customers by Aaron Shapiro this week. For anyone in any industry relating to success of a business, I’d recommend it.

So far, it’s enlightening—really putting reason to why modern businesses are successful. Shapiro mentions that people in their early twenties right now simply expect an easy digital platform. They expect everything to work intuitively—from self led assistance to fantastic human-customer-service when the time comes. As one of those early-twenty-somethings, this notion is strange to me because it’s hard to imagine people who don’t mind poor user-experience.

I never think about the convenience of digital. It’s not exciting when breaks down my bill online or when I can go to and file a report, without ever talking to someone. But when I can’t do these things, I get upset. If I have to call a customer service representative to find out if a local store has my product in stock, not only will it be an inconvenience—9 times out of 10, I just leave. While reading Users Not Customers, I was thinking about why I leave—why I get so turned off by not having an easy solution—I think it’s related to independence.

When I’m used to doing everything myself—Depositing checks at an atm, looking at tech support in a FAQ or chat, ordering pizza online—relying on someone else makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. My vision of humans working is a last resort, so if step one involves making a phone call where a real person will answer—that means I missed something along the way and wasn’t able to complete a task independently—I had to ask for help.

Shapiro discusses an internal software platform for users to interact with a business. These users include employees, customers, and anyone who digitally interacts with a brand. If this platform works smoothly, everyone gets what they need efficiently. When a twenty-something calls customer service for help, they know that the person on the other end of the phone is sitting at a computer using some kind of platform to complete your task. To me, this is a huge inefficiency. It’s one extra step. Me to Employee to Computer. When I could just as well sit at that same platform (with fewer permissions and just the parts I need) and fill out the same form that the employee is filling out when we’re on the phone. Me to Computer. Sure, maybe an employee would do some back end work once I hit submit, but I never have to know that.

This is what my peers expect—efficiency. When a company is obviously missing something, we notice. We lose some trust for that brand. “If they can’t figure out this simple task that so many other companies have, what else can’t they figure out?”

Some may think we are lazy, but we’re not. My generation knows what technology exists and recognizes when companies don’t utilize what they need. You can ignore us now, but we are just getting older and richer. One day soon, twenty-somethings will be forty. We will own user-based, rapidly evolving businesses, and you will understand that users are your boss.

Now go watch the Super Bowl and see what brands are looking to interact with their users, not just broadcast a message.


§ 2 Responses to Digital Efficiency Expected “Users not Customers”

  • Tom Kuhn says:

    Good write up. As an “older” tech user, it has been so refreshing to see technology evolve to the point where the work for us as consumers easier. Over time things have definitely improved. But sometimes I also miss the human contact. I’m not just talking about wanting to talk with a real operator because the automatic phone prompting system sucks (which still happens all too often). I’m talking about relationships and even community with those with whom we do business. I don’t know what the right balance is, and I imagine each of us has a different balance point on this, but I think it is something to consider.

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