It is said that a successful product is a reflection of who we are. Usually, our unique perspective is what leads to the initial discovery. As the product acquires feedback, our keen desire to respond is what drives further innovation.
We can have better UI and UX experiences using web chat and augmented conversations.
Time and time again I see technology products starting on the right footing only to deteriorate as companies push them to scale.
The internet now is quite mature, so this is becoming to stop using emojis finally experience. Few companies can repeat the process of innovation discovered initially has been with their successful flagship products — never mind the improvement on existing ones.
Today, in the technology world I see two significant trends:
1) As product companies scale, the distance between product developers and their clients’ increases.
2) As consulting companies scale, the time between engagement and a kickoff conversation with a technical expert increases.
Whatever the process — sales, engagement management, and business development — typically companies put very empathetic people at the frontline of client communication. As a byproduct, technical people, who are most likely to help, are moved further afar. The picture is further complicated since most mature business-facing products require consultants as well as vendors.
Technology puts me in mind of the (true) physics formula contained in:
time * velocity = distance
Equal increase in time and total distance => constant velocity => zero acceleration => decrease in the rate of innovation => eventual stagnation.
This complex physics formula seems to be our technology conundrum.
But what if there was a way to build a company that had put the whole process upside down? What if people who ultimately come up with solutions are at the front of the customer journey?
On the question of “time.”
As a seasoned individual contributor, I have come full circle. I used to handle many of the escalated support requests using written communication with my sense of situational awareness. It was stressful, and not something I would share as best practices. Over time, however, I’ve learned to rely on a set of products in the form of a machine helper.
This machine thinker and helper :
- Watches my communication.
- Detects problems that I, as a writer, may not be fully aware.
- Produces personalized insights on how to improve.
In a way, I have learned to supplement my low Emotional IQ with an electronic version of a coach that in private counsels me on all matters relating to my communication. As a byproduct, I have avoided several failed pitches and significant misunderstandings with customers.
What all this means is that rather than focusing on building a business that isolates technical people into a bubble, we can finally build an organization that gives them full ownership of the customer journey just by providing better insights into how they (we) communicate.
On the question of “distance.”
Fundamentally, I am advocating for a change to bring communication back to people, away from meaningless tools and bad user experiences. From the beginning of the internet, we’ve been developing user experiences made up of input forms and check boxes.
As the functionality of the web increased, web designers learned to create “smart user flows,” such that check boxes and options are not seen on one page. Though nothing is displayed, the process works to some extent, but it is a weak solution to a communication problem.
Somewhere there is a solution, and whether it is a functional webpage or an actual person, these “smart user flows” are adding distance.
Wouldn’t a “Chat Box” better serve its public if the customer could explain their question, and ultimately receive a solution? Wanting to be able to define a problem and receive an answer or solution is not a novel idea. Live customer support is fully ingrained into our web.
And yet, there is only a handful of firms that can program their chatbots well:
* American Express
* maybe, a few others
Almost everywhere else, customer support via chat is a massive-scale problem. It evokes in me the same feeling I have when I call AT&T.
The reason why my experience with the above companies is different is not something easily transferable. For whatever reason, these companies can staff their customer support with very technical and empathetic people. This accomplishment from companies is remarkable given their scale.
What are the solutions:
Augmented Emotional Intelligence
When companies build Artificial Intelligence (Natural Language Understanding) into their online communication experiences, there is a potential to finally stop using emojis. Not using emojis is precisely what companies such as Upwork (eLance+oDesk) and Guy Gamzu’s Fiverr do today.
There is no need to look for complexity about the future. Our language already has all the richness in it to express emotion and empathy within our written communication. So it all boils down to: how can software help people — especially technical people — convey that richness effectively.
The 19th century saw the invention of Employee Stock Ownership Plan, and it allowed us to build vast empires and corporations. If only we can get this AI piece right, the 20th century will see greater individual ownership of a client relationship. It will be a century of smaller and more effective companies that truly own the outcomes of their work.