Involve the users

In the very first paid job I did, as a fresh-faced 18 year old, I was on the receiving end of some new technology. It was an interesting experience.

The technology in question was a complex piece of machinery which automated the process of splitting up multiple carbon copies of orders for distribution to different sections (shows how long ago it was…). This had previously been done by hand. The order packs came in batches of 48 at a time, and needed to be threaded through this machine before the process could be run. This was rather fiddly.

Now, once it was installed, we had lots of senior visitors who came from the top floor to see this wonderful machine and marvel at how much time was saved. Except, it didn’t really save that much time, if any, because the total time taken was pretty much the same as before for a set of 48 packs, and actually rather longer if there was less than 48 – this happened quite often because urgent orders had to be printed off as soon as they were entered.

The clerical people that actually did the job knew all this, but nobody had asked them… I managed to put my foot in it by saying this to one of the more senior people and was told “You’re not paid to think”. Ouch!

This is especially critical in a contact centre/CRM environment where usability is so critical to the success of an application. On one occasion I commented about the lack of involvement from users in design, and was told it was OK as the Director of Customer Service was involved. But they’re not going to use the system on a call with a customer, are they?

Make sure the real grass roots/coal face/sharp end users are involved in design. They will be the harshest critics of anything that isn’t quite right – and what seems like an acceptable compromise in a design workshop may be the end of the world in a busy contact centre.


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