head in hand
PHOTO: Tim Gouw

Attention companies: We can tell when you don't have a qualified customer experience (CX) or user experience (UX) practitioner working there.

When the Solution Is as Bad as the Problem

The example below is from a company that allows you to create live polls that can be given during presentations or workshops. Each poll has a number that attendees can type into the website. If you reuse the same polls often, have referenced a poll in printed materials or a book, or just love consistency, there are benefits to keeping the same code.

digit code screenshot

However, the system is not set up to retain your number. If you don’t log in and work on that poll every few days, the system reuses the poll number for someone else's poll. This led some people to log in every few days and make fake changes to their poll just to keep their number. Even paying customers had to do this to keep the poll code. The company imagined the QR code or jumbled hexadecimal code was just as good as a nice short code like “18 74 48,” but none of those are end-user-friendly solutions. Some smartphone users still have no idea how to scan QR codes.

After receiving some complaints, the company’s “solution” was to give people up to 14 days to log in to keep their code from changing. This sounds like something a developer would quickly whip up in the hopes it placates some customers — but it isn’t a real solution. Instead of logging in every few days and making fake changes, you’re logging in every 10 to 12 days to click the button (as seen in the image above) to future-proof your code ... for the next 14 days.

Is this a good use of the customer’s time? What if the customer goes on vacation or misses a log in? They would lose their number and the fault would fall on them. When customers create workarounds, those are normally band-aids to try to ease something frustrating. When the company is creating something that feels like a workaround and not a real solution, customers can tell no CX or UX experts were involved in the design.

They may not know that’s what these workers are called. However, they do know this is frustration piled on top of frustration without a good solution. They might complain and tell you the system is “broken” or flawed” because it doesn’t match their needs. They can sense that “no expert” was involved in designing this product or feature.

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Same Company, New Problem

This same polling company went on to update its PowerPoint plugin to limit how many polls you could embed into a PowerPoint deck. It was previously unlimited, but now — surprise — paying customers can only drop in five polls per deck. The company claims it’s a limit from Microsoft, but suspiciously, none of the polling company’s competitors appear to be facing the same limitation. Multiple poll websites claim you can embed unlimited poll questions into your PowerPoint deck.

The company’s workaround suggestion was that the presenter could switch from the PowerPoint presentation to their web browser, pull up the right poll, and show that to the audience in a browser. This is functional but certainly not elegant. Rather than just moving to the next slide, keynote speakers and workshop leaders will have to walk back to their computers and start messing around to get the poll on the screen. It breaks momentum and makes the presenter look like they couldn’t get their systems organized.

Once again, it appears nobody at this company is conducting research with customers. People coming up with these so-called solutions aren't truly customer-focused. Which paying customer of your system would want to be surprised that an unlimited system was now limited to five instances per PowerPoint deck? If Microsoft is some or all of this problem, why wouldn’t the polling provider fight back with good data from customers about their needs and usage of the polling system? Perhaps it's because they don’t have that data.

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Time for Customer Research

These complaints should be a signal to the company that it’s time for customer research. It has clearly fallen out of touch with what its customers want and how they use the product. The workarounds and band-aids aren’t enough, they aren’t solutions and they aren't really helping. If there's no research to guide internal decisions or battle external partners, let this be a wake-up call that it’s time to hire that first CX pro.

If your company is so new to hiring CX pros that you won’t know how to assess if someone’s resume or portfolio shows talent, bring in a recruiter or a consultant. You wouldn’t hire a developer without knowing how to assess if that person is a strong developer. The same is true for your first CX research or design staff.

Pretty much everybody sees the naked emperor. They might not know it's because you hired unqualified CX people, zero CX people, or you overrule your CX people. Customers will get angry at business decisions like this, and it will drive them away. If marketing and/or sales don't understand why people are jumping ship, your company is likely out of touch with customers.

It’s time to research and deeply understand your potential and current customers. Who are they? How do they use your system or ones like it? What are their needs, motivations, fears and habits? Strategize a product that meets or exceeds these expectations, and the revenue will be there.