What it is: The user experience is how customers feel about the process of buying a product or service.
Here’s where most companies go wrong, which ultimately leads to their downfall. They focus on making money first. That means when sales start to dip, the first thing to go are anything that costs money. In the computer world, that means outsourcing technical support to Third World countries regardless of the experience this gives customers. (Not surprisingly, this creates a frustrating experience for customers.)
Companies that focus on the bottom line eliminate anything that doesn’t directly make money for the company, which includes technical support, product quality, worker compensation, and customer service. When the only goal is to make money, costs keep getting cut to save money, which results in a lousy product or service delivered by unhappy workers. That creates a vicious cycle of no return as sales continue dropping and companies keep cutting costs to protect their profit margins by worsening the user experience.
Apple once fell prey to this boneheaded thinking when they introduced HyperCard and discovered that people were buying Macintosh computers specifically so they could use HyperCard. Then Apple’s executives decided that giving away HyperCard didn’t make any profits, so they crippled HyperCard and ultimately killed it to save money.
That resulted in stripping away the major reason most people were buying Macintosh computers. Instead of investing in HyperCard and getting increased sales and profits from more Macintosh computers, Apple chose to save money by killing HyperCard and losing sales of Macintosh computers.
Apple has seemed to learn their lesson now by giving away their iWork (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers) office suite away for free along with other programs like Photos for managing pictures and GarageBand for recording music.
PC manufacturers don’t understand the importance of user experience so they foul it up as often as possible. First, they offer low prices for PCs by infecting the PC with bloatware, which are programs that other companies pay for them to pre-install such as anti-virus programs. These third-party companies know that if they can get their software pre-installed on PCs, a certain percentage of people will buy it regardless of how this pre-installed software hogs up disk space and ruins the user experience with the product.
Then PC manufacturers use the cheapest materials such as plastic with trackpads that barely work and keyboards that are okay but nothing special. When customers are used to mediocrity, they don’t know there could be anything better. Most keyboards that come with PCs are cheap plastic with a mushy typing experience. If you want a better keyboard, such as one called Das Keyboard, that makes typing easier, you’ll have to pay more for it.
Finally, PC manufacturers outsource their technical support because answering questions costs them money so they really hope you won’t bother them at all. This is the same reason why so many Android device manufacturers don’t bother updating Android for their older devices because that requires testing and delivering the update, and that costs money.
These companies would rather sell you an Android device and hope you go away. Then if you want the latest version of Android, they want you to buy a new device because selling devices is the only way they can make money, so their incentive is not to update the operating system.
A prime example of horrible user experience is car dealers. Car salesmen immediately try to rip you off and confuse you while wasting your time asking their manager to approve a deal. In the meantime, you’re wasting time and feeling like you’re getting ripped off (because you are). By the time you leave, you’re happy just to get away.
Is it any wonder why car companies are against Tesla’s business model of selling directly to the consumer? When car companies have to get state governments to pass laws to protect their archaic sales model, that’s when you know they’re desperate. Rather than improve the user experience buying a car, car companies simply want to continue business as usual because it’s profitable to rip customers off.
If you want to look at the next corporate failure, look at the companies who profit from making their customers miserable, frustrated, and upset. (Think of airlines, car dealers, lawyers, etc.) Where inefficiency and needless complexity appears, that’s the area of greatest opportunity.
In the old days, the only way people could get their album or book to the consumer was by going through a middleman record label or publisher. Today, you can go straight to the consumer through iTunes or Amazon. When you eliminate the middleman, you increase efficiency for both the content creator and the consumer. When you protect the middleman, you hurt both the content creator and the consumer.
The user experience defines the future. People will only put up with mediocrity when they think it’s the only option they have (Windows PCs, cable TV, car dealers, taxi cabs, etc.). As soon as someone offers them a more satisfying alternative, that’s when the complex, frustrating, and inefficient middleman will disappear.
The future lies with efficiency and shortening the time between the customer and the provider. When you see companies like Apple, Tesla, and Amazon succeeding, it’s because they’ve found a way to eliminate the middleman. If you want to succeed in the future, find a way to eliminate the middleman. If you’re currently profiting by being a middleman and gobbling up profits for doing relatively little, good luck. Your future is over starting today.