When Bad UX Led to Serendipitous Customer Experience

The best of the brains in the industry are spending too much resources on persuasive technologies and too little on appropriate technologies. Why?

It was yet another day at work, burrowed inside slides and excel sheets, quietly nibbling away my body’s energy and my laptop’s virtual memory. It took me a second longer to notice my wife calling from home.
“Can you please book an Ola Cab for me?” “There is no electricity at home and Ola App isn’t opening properly in 3G. I need to go to my Yoga Class.”.

“I am in office”, I mildly protested. “I know. Can you help? I am getting late”?

I breathed deep enough to make the necessary context switch from consulting work to home errands. I opened my Ola Cabs app in my Nexus 4. I turned on the battery guzzling Location-icon.

Despite all the glorious tech press they’ve garnered, drooling over their torrential investments, I’ve found Ola’s app tedious to address my needs. Their UX sucks when it comes to identifying change of location. It is always late to detect when my location changes from X to Y ( especially when I had booked a cab in Location X). Despite these misgivings, I have to carry on, as they are the only player who has earned minimum viable trust (Uber is a strict NO) and bandwidth to address my frequent commuting needs.

I turned on the App. I noticed how, like every other time, the location was stuck at the previous location where I had booked the cab earlier. Now, wait! My eyes glinted with smile. Oh Yes! I want the location to exactly remain my previous home address where my wife is waiting for the taxi to pick her up. What once stuck out as an UX sore thumb suddenly turned into a serendipitous customer experience moment!

This isn’t an one-off scenario. Operating in India, Ola should know (I earnestly hope they do) that when relatives or friends visit you from far away places, it becomes an act of cordiality, especially for older guests who aren’t comfortable with technology, to arrange for their transportation. I am surprised Ola hasn’t thought about this.(Read this insightful post from Ripul Kumar if you are interested in exploring few other scenarios taxi app players aren’t thinking about)

Today, in this digital age, it is natural to assume that great UX always translates into great customer experience. This is not true. Delivering great customer experience requires appropriate UX that provides just the right amount of technological plumbing needed to deliver superior customer experience.

In order to appreciate what appropriate means, I think it is significant to re-think the way we understand the relationship of technology with human behavior. It would require some rewiring, unhooking the connection that makes you think that technologies have to be designed to persuade people to do what we want them to do, and reconnecting that wire to whatever terminal lets you see technology to be designed based on user’s context — taking into account both biophysical context — involving user’s physical and mental well-being and climate of usage, and psycho-social context — involving politics, culture and personal/spiritual needs of individuals.

Currently, the best of the brains in the industry are spending too much resources on persuasive technologies and too little on appropriate technologies. The ethical implications are huge. It is now implicitly assumed that great technologies have to be addictive to thrive and succeed.It isn’t enough to pass the responsibility of safe use to the users. Designers have a much larger role to play.Is it possible to design with a sense of humility that users and not designers themselves know what’s in their best interest?

I leave you with this powerful quote that captures how we are becoming victims to our own toys of persuasion.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.