Tuesday 25 November 2014
It’s a shame that help and support from big businesses remains opaque. From sorting out mobile phone contracts to getting your XBOX fixed the larger the company your dealing with, the less personal the response and generally less helpful the support teams. Logistically it makes sense to have complicated switchboards and outsourced call centres for businesses with thousands and thousands of support calls a day, but it doesn’t justify the depersonalisation that has become the forefront of modern corporate-consumer interaction.
Businesses counter this with the new focus on social media. By pointing at a few of us ‘ordinary folk’ the illusion of somebody listening through retweets and Facebook posts does help alleviate the issue of depersonalisation. In actuality it remains a façade though – the social media department of Microsoft, for example, will hardly have an impact on wide-ranging software and hardware support, or bug fixing, or usability testing. It’s a trade off with going with the big names – you get the benchmark product from which everything else is compared to, but you become one of the millions of customers all begging to have a voice. And with Microsoft, it seems with releases like Windows 8 that the corporate seem to be willing to strip features away for future releases (streamlining is one word for it), whilst making the core objective be looking flashy and having the buzzword of the day – touchscreen functionality or tablets and the like.
In the end when you have close to a monopoly on something the issues of the users become less of a problem – if there is no alternative they’ll buy your products regardless of whether they are the best they can be. Smartphones are among the biggest culprits – every year the camera gets slightly better, the phone slightly thinner, the processer slightly faster, yet if we look at the levels of technology and innovation we are actually capable of the new iPhone probably should have come out five years ago. See landing a probe on a comet and compare the billion dollars that mission cost to the profit margins of Apple. If we release the perfect product how will we meet our ridiculously high turnover targets for the next year? How will we pay our thousands upon thousands of stakeholders and ensure the CEO gets his dividend? Thus the slight improvements, how every year the new iPhone is the ‘best yet’, despite being obviously outclassed by next year’s model.
There is no doubt it is alienating when the new products don’t match up to the old ones. Take Windows XP for example! Slap touchscreen functionality and the alternative Windows 8 start screen as an option onto it and bang – we have the perfect OS suitable for all devices. But we’ll have to wait till Windows thirty-two or the like before we have an OS as user friendly as XP. And of course it’s cunningly being decommissioned, forcing us back down the ‘new’ line of products with bells and whistles but only three wheels.
Small business doesn’t have these constraints. Our expectations are modest and our competitors huge, so our edge is striving for perfection with every release, rather than striving for better but not the best. Because we don’t have millions of customers we don’t have to resort to outsourced support and complicated web help. We can talk to you when you need help, send people round or share screens with the support staff, have functionality custom-coded to your specifications on the fly, and become more than a name and brand – a company of people working to make the best product they can. There is the idea that nobody gets fired for buying from IBM. With increased competition and focus on big data and analytics, we might be reaching the day when somebody does. Instead of being tired at lack of support and functionality that doesn’t meet your needs, why not discover something fresher and newer? In a fast moving world where split-second decisions can make all the difference a new approach could be the difference between being one of the crowd and being the leader of it.
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