what?

This is a rant and it is directed at all the companies providing telephonic grievance addresal to its customers. This is also directed at the people who ‘listen’ to their customers (a.k.a BPO personnels).

Why? Because clearly they are filled with the noise of all the templated corporate jargon that they are not ‘listening’ and I have not a single piece of evidence for this but I will elucidate only this 1 instance, of which I was a victim, to bring to light, this problem of ‘not being able to listen’.

Here’s what happens:

The phone rings. The customer care executive picks up. The conversation starts. There is a robotic human sitting at the other end, speaking in a monotonous voice which almost sounds like ‘Alex’ from the screen readers which we use on our PCs (no offence, Alex). Names are exchanged as identities. Problems noted. Systems updated. But wait? Are they really listening? I don’t think so. Here’s what happened with me.

I use the services of an upcoming internet services providing company in New Delhi. Recently, I put in a request to cancel my connection after the current month, as I had already pre-paid for this month. I mentioned this clearly to the service personnel. (I’m sure they’ve recorded the conversation). I think I repeated this about 3 times that: this has to be cancelled next month, but, probably the man was on a Facebook chat or Whatsapp conversation with someone and this (my) call had to be just gotten-through and, as a result: my connection was cancelled immediately. Wow!

When I discovered that my connection had been cancelled, I called up the helpline, only to learn that the ‘billing’ department is the one who would take care of this issue. I asked the man to connect me with the billing department. He said that that isn’t possible, but he will put in a mail to them to get back to me within the next 24 hours. Upon repeated requests, he agreed to write to them saying that this ‘problem’ needs a response in the next half an hour. Alas! But, no, nothing happened. It’s been about 24 hours now since I made the last call and no one has gotten back to me. The system has gone to sleep after collecting money from the customers.

Not only is this problem present over the phone, but also in our physical interactions with service providers. Take for example Pizza joints. You sit on the table. Our man comes and bows down with a plastic smile, which he’s been trained to adorn. Takes the order, and says “Sir, your order will be ready in 17 minutes”. Really?? Is that information important for me? What do I do with it? Can you please provide me with a stopwatch to enjoy your gimmick?

Dear Mr. Customer Service Personnel, when you are asking me the question: ‘Is there anything else I can help you with, sir’, I must ask you to stop for a moment and see if you’ve clearly understood the current problem, because THIS is the problem that really needs to be solved. This is the problem that will answer your appraisal itself, not some obligatory feedback squeezed out of a quickly-handled customer. Please ‘listen’ carefully to THIS problem and then think about other things, if you may?

I’m asking just one question: Can we ‘listen’ to each other without this self / system-imposted mind-chatter? If yes, then we can go ahead and build an ecosystem where real ‘service’ is being provided to customers, otherwise it is all just a weekend money making charade.

My humble opinion.

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An old debate about ‘What comes first, the form or function?’ sparked this thought about: instead of understanding the order of occurrence of form and function (which is actually pointless, because each product and (use) finds its own path in our lives, so the debate is very subjective/contextual), I tried to look at the way form and function, are related, when it comes to the emotional relationship of an object with us.

The diagram below shows an ‘object’ and the user. The function is not ‘engaging’ the user. It is maintaining a natural distance between the object and the user.
form

Form creates emotional engagement. It adds a layer of ‘engagement’ to the function to prolong the ‘use’.
function

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Any application is composed of several mini-tasks and it’s always useful to break up the interface and look at all the features/tasks seperately and see if they’re completing their respective circuits in their communication with the user.

I like to see 3 components of this interface dialogue with the user: Inform, Input and Output.

Here’s a small infographic I prepared that might help in viewing from a bird’s eye, the tasks that you perform in a user interface.

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So we’re shifting to our new office here and this is the greeting that we sent to all. Of course Mario’s reached Hauz Khas Village but there’s no princess waiting there (sigh).

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We all need information on new systems to find our way through. Be it physical products or even non-physical, vis-a-vis web/mobile-based products. Most information providing booklets/pamphlets/brochure perish after their job has been done, as wiping papers are crumpled sheets on the road. What’s worse, most don’t even get a complete scan by the people they’re supposed to be properly read by, even though they contain some very important information.

The problem that we were trying to solve was very similar and in a way, a little tough because the general literacy and awareness levels of this section are low and convincing them to retain a piece of information, specially something that has no real utility after being read, is very tough. The specific problem was to help understand job seekers how babajob can help them find jobs and make them keep this piece of information. So we came up with this solution.

The solution is simple. This card helps the job seekers use it in 3 ways:

1. Reading and understanding how babajob works for them.

2. Using this as a debit card/pan card holder.

3. Using it as a calendar.

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Xtencil - The easy way to sketch UI

Ok here it is! Your own free to use web stencil, and this is first of many, which means stencils for iPad, iPhone etc are on the way. Also in store is some more cool stuff to help you create neat and fast UI sketches and wireframes. Download this file, print it and start sketching your UI easily using the grid!

Get the web stencils!

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The windows phone 7 is an example of great craftsmanship, not only when it comes to the technology but also looking at it as a piece of well designed software. When I say well-designed, I’m talking about not only the user interface, which is smartly and entirely set in Segoe WP, but also something else that makes it stands miles above many other phones/applications that have been seen in the recent times – It’s animations and transitions.

I could go on talking about why it takes an edge above the iPhone and Nokia, having used it for a considerably long time now but this post is limited to discussing only (and only) the animations of this wonderful phone. Let’s take a look.

Making a strong statement about the beauty of animations in a device (or for that matter, even a movie) would be a little vague and unsubstantiated without talking about it in the reference of the principles of traditional animation, laid out as (almost) rules by Disney in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.

The book and its principles have become generally adopted, and have been referred to as the “Bible of the industry.” In 1999 the book was voted number one of the “best animation books of all time” in an online poll. Though originally intended to apply to traditional, hand-drawn animation, the principles still have great relevance for today’s more prevalent computer animation. [Thank you, wikipedia]

I’ll describe here, what I saw in the WP7, as examples of a brilliant use of most of these principles:

1. Squash & Stretch

2. Exaggeration

3. Arcs

4. Anticipation

5. Secondary Action

6. Follow through & Overlapping action

7. Solid Drawing

8. Slow in & Slow out

9. Staging

10. Timing

In general, notice how the menus and items move around, appear and disappear in the WP7 interface. This is calculated timing for the perfect viewing experience.

11. Straight Ahead vs Pose to Pose

I couldn’t notice any examples of this principle. Could you?

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