What Usability Says About Your Organization

For many reasons, not the least of which was extremely bad customer service, constantly rising prices, and what I now know is an inferior product, the Rochester household is… wait for it… canceling cable.

I will not go into great detail, because Mr. R did a mighty fine job over on the family blog (and with far fewer sputterings and angry diatribes than I would have managed, I might add). The fact that we canceled cable is not the only story. Secondary to our ousting of Comcast as our cable and DVR provider (we are still paying them for Internet, alas), is the fact that we now own a TiVo.

After four years of renting a DVR from Comcast (you are neither allowed to buy it outright or buy your own. if you did how could they fleece you for $15 a month?), I was not expecting TiVo to do anything other than record my shows in a reasonable way with reasonable reliability. After years of dubious service from Comcast, I was setting my expectations understandably low. How much different could one DVR be from another?

TiVo is to the Comcast DVR what a ripe bing cherry is to that imitation red stuff they call cherry flavoring. There is no comparison.

Why is TiVo so wonderful? Usability.

It is obvious the moment you open the box that TiVo expects real people to use their product. The set up is simple: connect it to your TV and turn it on. TiVo them walks you through the set up. There is no large instruction book. Just some simple instructions on the screen.

Once you have the initial set up complete, there is a set of tutorials pre-loaded onto your TiVo that teach you how to use some of the basic and more advanced functions of the TiVo. The menus are easy to read. The options are easy to understand. TiVo groups my programs by title and type (what a concept!). It is easy to find new programs. Adding new programs on the old DVR was excruciating when searching by name or channel. With TiVo, it is so easy, even a sleep deprived, barely functioning mom can handle it.

I have been won over with my TiVo. Couple that with the fact that the over the air HD channels look worlds better then the HD I was shelling out over $80 a month for and I am a happy, Comcast free lady.

This tale of two DVRs tell a larger picture. With my first DVR, it was clunky and, though it got the job done, it was obvious that Comcast neither designed or cared about my satisfaction with the product. And why should they? If I wanted to use a DVR with their service, I had to use theirs. While it is possible to use a TiVo with cable (lots of people do and now I know why), I would still have to pay for the TiVo service on top of my huge cable bill.  I was given one option with Comcast;  they had no incentive to offer me a better product.

The inferior product I was given by Comcast and allowed to “rent” reflects what they thought about their customers. I associate the terrible usability with the terrible customer service. Not only was the usability of the DVR bad, but their website left a bit to be desired as well. During Hurricane Ike, we were without Internet or cable for almost a month and there was no information on Comcast’s site about the outage. All the other utility companies were very forthcoming with information, but getting information from Comcast required a huge amount of effort and energy on the part of the consumer. Usability, they have little. Customer service, they have very little of that too.

I have never spoken to anyone at TiVo, but I have used their website and now their product. Everything I have seen from them is simple and well explained. There are multiple options that, not only fit my budget when purchasing, but that fit my recording needs. I can hook TiVo up to the Rochester house wireless network and watch YouTube videos or recordings I have downloaded in shared folders on the network. It is a beautiful thing.

The usability of the product and the customer service make me believe that TiVo cares about me, as a person and as a customer. It does not matter if they actually do care; it only matters that I think they care and thus I am willing to give them my money and shout their praises.

For any organization, that is what you want. You want customers who are not only loyal, but are willing to sing of you from the rooftops. Positive word of mouth is better than thousands of dollars in advertisements and it is definitely better than one person with a bad experience spreading word of your failure as an organization.

Next time you are considering the usability of your organization’s website, catalog (OPAC), product, or building, ask yourself what these things will say to your customers and users. What message are you sending them with the products you are giving them? Do they leave frustrated or happy? Do they feel like you care about them? Are you offering an inferior product for a need they can get filled elsewhere in a better, more comfortable, hassle-free fashion?

–Jane, likes being a customer with whom great care is taken