poor service

Uncompromising algorithms + inconsiderate humans = poor service

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IT S&M Pain or Pleasure - Major incident management

To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s waxing or waning. But I’m regularly confronted with poor service. People not performing as promised. Devices with incomprehensible interfaces. People who can’t even fake that they enjoy dealing with customers. Websites that seem to be built to hide what you want. It used to annoy me. No more. It fascinates me. It’s such an interesting topic, from an analytical perspective. And I’ve been thinking…

I’ve come to the conclusion that it usually boils down to two things: uncompromising algorithms and inconsiderate humans. By the way, ‘conclusion’ is poorly chosen. I could have corrected the word but I’m taking the opportunity to explain something that would otherwise have passed unnoticed. From ‘conclusion’ you could easily infer that an eternal state of truth has been reached. Wrong. I no longer think in these terms. I’ve liberated myself from the shackles of certainty. I’m happy to live with ephemeral approximations. Time after time I’ve imagined that I’ve come up with a fundamental insight. Only to see it deteriorate into a neglected notion. As time passed, I realized that while it seemed to be a breakthrough at the time, it was a mere mirage. Illusory enlightenment. To be superseded by something less imperfect. Increasingly, to quote Richard Feynman, “I can live with doubt.”

Forgive my detour. I’ll make my point. Uncompromising algorithms and inconsiderate humans are my current approximations of why we get poor service. Firstly, consider people. Some people simply aren’t aware of their customer’s expectations in particular and the human condition in general. In a word, inconsiderate. And when you’re not dealing with people but with dreaded ‘systems’, it’s up to the predetermined behaviour patterns whether your peg is going to fit into their hole. Phrased from a more holistic and customer-centric perspective: their peg should fit into your whole. But from a pragmatic point of view, their hole is going to beat your whole. No contest. No compromising.

Of course these uncompromising algorithms have been thought up by inconsiderate humans in the first place, so it’s either the human in front of the system, or the one behind it. No hope of artificial intelligence as long as we’ve got so much human ignorance. We’re having enough trouble with mastering artificial stupidity: the automated execution of predetermined actions.

So what can we do about this sorry state of affairs? Back to basics. Consider kindness when interviewing somebody for a vacant position. Do you feel at ease in their presence? If not, please don’t let them loose on your customers. Or anybody else for that matter.

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Mark Smalley, also known as The IT Paradigmologist, thinks, writes and speaks extensively about IT 'paradigms' – in other words our changing perspectives on IT. His current interests are the digital enterprise, IT operating models, value of IT, business-IT relationships, co-creation of value, multidisciplinary collaboration, working with complexity, and as the overarching theme, management of information systems in general. Mark is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and Ambassador at the ASL BiSL Foundation. Mark has spoken at 100+ events in 20+ countries.