Daylight Savings Time Emphasizes The Daily Battle of Complexity

 

It is Sunday, March 11, 2007.  Do you know the correct time?

One of the top issues at the SSPA is how increased technological complexity is impacting today’s consumer and enterprise support organizations, with our benchmark metrics showing service levels dropping as complexity ratchets up.  Much of my research targets how innovative service and support technology can help battle this increased complexity, but today, I’d like to look at complexity from the customer’s perspective.

There have been 2 events in the last week that really drove home to me how ridiculous the implications of complexity are to the masses.  (As I write this, I’m attending one of the SSPA Chief Service Executive Summits in beautiful Miami, and one of the attending executives just said it perfectly, “Technology evolution has outpaced consumers.”)

The first event, as I alluded to already, was the early start to Daylight Savings Time, a seemingly arbitrary decision made by Congress that has been referred to as “The Next Y2K” in the press.  How consumers deal with time changes is a perfect example of how complexity impacts our lives.  Consider these three stages:

·         Agrarian.  In the old days when American was largely an agrarian society (which frankly was the last time Daylight Savings Time made sense), the rooster crowed at dawn waking the household, regardless of the time.

·         Analog.  When digital clocks became the norm, DST started making a bigger impact.  Only homes with teenagers were able to change the VCR timer, as an example.  My mother’s VCR has been flashing 12:00:00 since the mid-80s.

·         Digital.  DST now takes an hour of adjustments in the home, to clocks, watches, various timers and other equipment not smart enough to change the time automatically.  (It is surprising how many items now have an embedded clock, including most of the appliances on my kitchen counter.)

This past week was a busy one for IT shops all over the country, installing patches and updating programs to make sure the time changed correctly at 1:00am today with no impact to systems, processes or employees. The bottom line on this one to me:  we need to walk before we can run.  Manufacturers should stop adding new bells and whistles to products if they can’t do the basics—like update time—painlessly.  And, consumers need to stop demanding more bells and whistles without the infrastructure to make products easier to operate and maintain.

Which brings me to the 2nd event that proved to me this week that we are in over our heads with technology.  I just bought a new house, and my old DSL provider doesn’t offer coverage in my new neighborhood.  I spent 4 hours yesterday trying to set up my new DSL modem, and when I finally gave up and called support, it turned out that A) the modem they sent me doesn’t support Microsoft Vista, and B) the carrier does not support IE 7.0 at all.  There is no process in place to ask what operating system a customer is using before sending out a modem, and the agent told me this is a very common problem.  And a completely avoidable one.

MS Vista was hardly a secret.  Microsoft has been providing detailed updates on their progress with the release and technical requirements for 18 months to all partners, including internet service providers. Why my new carrier doesn’t embrace Vista is unknown to me, and it is unfortunate that this limitation did not come up at some point during the month-long registration and waiting period for the modem to first arrive.

The more customers are frustrated with technology issues beyond their control, the more demanding they are with support, the lower their brand loyalty is, and the more distrustful they become about incremental purchases.

I don’t have a solution to this one, but clearly education and communication is a key.  Don’t surprise customers with limitations on supported operating systems or application versions, for example.  If you have any examples of how complexity is impacting your life, or your support organization, please add a comment or drop me an email.

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, Technology

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