Tales from Marketing: It’s All About the User
Greetings one and all! I have been on a wee blog hiatus as Terence and I are on the downhill (just one more chapter to go) part of our book and every spare minute that we’ve got has been devoted to getting it finished and preparing our new destination web site that will showcase our technology, streaming analytics, big data mashups, and be a lot of fun to boot. (Those of you at Founders Showcase might be able to guess, but the rest of you will have to wait.).
I must say that the entire experience writing the book has been illuminating—although we write about data privacy (and its cousin, data security) quite often, we tend to focus on one specific issue which invariably has been spurred on by an egregious privacy breach. The book has allowed us to stand back and consider the entire privacy landscape, how differently we (as in country, society, and worldview) define it as well as the state of privacy in the digital age. I have to say that during the course of writing this book, some of my views on “what should be done” have changed but I’ll save that for my post-book blog entry!
Now, when you are writing and thinking about privacy 24/7 it is easy to descend into a quasi-state of paranoia and view everything that is going on around you as potential privacy breaches which leads me to this post’s topic (you’ll see what I mean in a bit).
Late last week, I received an email from Yahoo informing me that I had changed my password for this user account (Ma*******). There was only own problem: I did not have a Yahoo account. I immediately decided that I had been phished (this is the quasi-state of paranoia I was talking about earlier) and took steps to close the account. (By the way, have you ever tried to close an account tied to your email address when you don’t know the user name or password? It’s not easy.) An hour in and about two keystrokes away from shutting down the account, I took a closer look at the partial user name sent to me by Yahoo. Funny, but the letters and number of remaining spaces corresponded to my sister’s Yahoo email account. Could this be her account? But why would I be getting an email alert about it? So before shutting down the account, I talked to my sister. Guess what? She just changed her password because Yahoo sent her an email suggesting that she do so for security purposes. This still doesn’t explain why I got an email alert about this until (wait for it) I discover that she listed my email address as her alternate address. Yep, she thought this was sort of like an in case of emergency call so-and-so but instead of a phone number, Yahoo needed an email address.
This reminded me of a long ago (when I was much younger) incident. Back then, as part of my marketing duties I was asked to sign off on software releases. If I did not sign, the release could not go out. This was usually a very easy process until one day when I was playing around with the software and discovered that the Help menu was no longer the last drop-down menu on the far right of the screen. You see, the product team had decided that “it makes more sense for the menu to be second from the left.” There was just one problem: pretty much every software solution in the known universe featured the Help menu on the far right. I refused to sign off on the release until they moved the Help menu to its proper place and a battle ensued. The product team refused to move it and I refused to sign off because (and I am directly quoting myself here) “the customer will be epically pissed that the Help menu is not where it’s supposed to be.” The product team proceeded to rain down upon my head all kinds of write ups that supported their point of view. I still refused to sign whereupon we all ended up at an executive staff meeting to resolve the issue. After hearing us out, the CEO had this to say: “Our customer is always right. They expect the menu on the far right and they are getting it on the far right. Fix it.”
Now my sister is very smart and she has been around computers for a very long time but it never occurred to her that people would have more than one email address which is why she entered mine as her ICE (in case of emergency). Part of our job (I am speaking for the entire high tech industry here) is to walk in our customer’s shoes, to make their user experience seamless, so that they can easily accomplish any task, from entering information on a form to running a report to performing complex calculations. At the end of every release, the PatternBuilders’ team goes through what we like to call a “friends and family” beta. The participants range from the very sophisticated user to folks who use their computers only to surf and perhaps, make a few online purchases. We do this to make sure that items like Alternate Email Address are clearly explained and Help menus (and everything else) are where they are supposed to be and do what they are supposed to do. Because in our view, the customer is always right!