Focus your CHI

Inspiring user focused thinking in everyday interactions

On Demand? Well…

We recently moved our family. It isn’t far from the previous house, but it is closer to work and proved to cut a half an hour off my commute time each direction. So that’s the good part of moving. The bad part is, well, pretty much everything else. But, the worst thing was moving our services, especially our TV, Internet and phone.

We had AT&T U-Verse at our previous residence and it was highly recommendable. The installation was long, but the technician was great. So, much to our dismay, we relocated to a U-Verse red area which means U-Verse was not available. Therefore, we had to choose another TV option; we decided on DirecTV.

Now, the installation of our new services was a bloody nightmare that took more than a month to resolve completely, but thats a subject for a different day and and forum. The DirecTV install wasn’t the worst of it. In fact, we thought it went rather smoothly… Perhaps too smoothly.

It was two weeks after the installation, Monday night, the family all sitting on the couch, waiting to watch a movie “on demand”. I picked up the remote control and looked quickly for the on demand button. On first attempt I couldn’t locate it. Quickly I started from the top and scanned all the way down the buttons again… Nada. I look to Melissa and said “we did get on demand with the system right?” She said “I think so it was in the welcome packet”. She handed me the brochure. “Page 8″, I said and quickly turned to that section.

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As you can see from the image the page is more marketing than operational, but I did see that I needed to go to channel 1000. I dialed in the channel and vois-la!

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It wasn’t really the selection of movies I was expecting to see. In fact, there was only one movie called “Welcome to DirecTV Cinema”. At any rate, I figured I must’ve done something wrong. So I started over again. I opened the brochure to page 8, sure enough it said turn to channel 1000. I dialed in 1000 and it took me back the same place and still… one movie.

“The answer is in the movie”, I thought to myself. So I clicked on the movie and we began to watch. What ensued was not an instructional video, but a promotional video telling us basically all of the same things that were on page 8 of the brochure but in full cinematic production.

Here’s a link to a really lousy video of what we saw if your at all interested…
click here
And yes you heard it right. It sends you to channel 1100 which is where the pay per view movies are located.

By that point Melissa had lost interest and wandered upstairs to find her phone so she could text her friends. I sat in disbelief, reading the brochure and looking for answers on mobile web. Long story short, after a lot of searching on their website I figured that I was shorted a DTV Internet router. But, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps that couldn’t have been communicated on that cheesy informational video. After all it is a standard upgrade option.

The next day I got on the phone with the DirecTV operator and ordered my missing direct TV router. I was rather p*ssed that they didn’t install it and I mentioned it to the operator. He told me that he understood and that he would send a “complimentary router”. A “complementary router!” I screamed. He explains that it is complementary because they typically charge a $99 fee for this upgrade. I remind him that I ordered it and that they failed to install it. But he tells me that because they failed to install it they would send the router and waive the $99 fee; and that that was all that they could do for me. Apparently their best excluded offering a sincere apology and recognition of their mistake (not a great customer satisfaction moment for DirecTV). Anyway, to their credit it was “overnighted” to my residence, so three days later I installed the router.

The router installation was straightforward enough once I figured out which cable to use. So, a couple days later I’m on the couch getting ready to watch “on demand”. Again I turn to channel 1000 and tadah… A bunch of movies and shows. “I’ve done it!”, I thought to myself. I browse the movie selections, found one that I wanted to watch. I clicked on it. It took me to the page to preview all of the information about the movie. I look to the left column to find the play command… it doesn’t exist. There’s no play command!

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Instead as you can see there’s a command for record, watch trailer, cast and crew, you might like, parental info, and done. Clearly the term “on demand” eludes the folks at DirecTV. Oh, and by the way, if you choose to record a movie to watch “on demand” it is deposited for a limited time in your box, but only after it is recorded during regular airtime. Which means you could be waiting a while to see your “on demand” selection. So don’t cozy up to the DirecTV for on demand movie just yet. It could be a long night.

Airport Scareport

It’s been eleven days since the last time I was at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. My wife, four young children, car seats, and baggage for a month long vacation in tow. As we walked from the parking garage, our oldest boy, Dylan who is 8 years old, leaned into me and sadly mumbled, “I’m going to miss you dad…” “Thanks, buddy! I’ll miss you too”, I said. “But, I’ll be along in a few days.” he seemed to take some comfort in that.

Every summer my wife gets eager to take the month long exodus to Utah to see our extended family. It’s an unfortunate fact that I have not had enough vacation accrual to join them for the last few years, but this year I will be joining them for a week in the middle of their trip.

Now, my wife is typically over prepared for everything. She’s the kind of gal that has plans for her plans and by damned, don’t you dare interrupt or change the plans without consulting her first!

On that eventful day we walked into the airport. She has the kids each marching with their assigned bags and her pushing the youngest in a stroller with a car seat strapped to it, just as she had been rehearsing in her mind for the last month. It is such a sight that I was sorry I wouldn’t be able to go the whole way with her.

She is extremely computer literate and plays apps/social media on her new iPhone like the great Zamfir. In her hand she has her boarding instructions and the children’s and her IDs. It is a picture of efficiency. The woman is there to board the plane and nothing is going to stop her.

Hartsfield-Jackson has a pretty great layout, I think. I’ve never felt lost there. We walk through the doors and straight ahead is to the United Airlines check in.

There must be 6 or so check in kiosks and employees at every one. The crowd seems small, maybe 20 people tops. There is a dizzying maze of ropes set out to guide people in some fashion toward the check in. We take a few steps closer and realize that there is no entrance into the maze. Its like the twilight zone.

We lift the rope and climb under to get in “line”. Now, what at first I thought was an organized line waiting to be assisted, instead is actually a mass of confusion and frustration. People are mumbling under their breath and looking at each other for queues about how they might navigate this mess.

We found our way to the back of a group of people waiting for a couple kiosks that appeared to be open. One by one people would disappear from the front of the group. We were moving forward!

We must have waited 20 mins, but finally we were at the front of the line. Melissa sees the two open kiosks and pounces on one of them. Employee standing there looking at us… Not a word out of her mouth. Melissa working away on it… She looks at me an then says out loud to the employee, “I can’t get this to work for me.” the employee says, “that’s cause you can’t use those. They’re for first class only.” then she walks away.

I think to myself “oh crap, we missed the sign”. I quickly begin doing what I always do in these types of situations, I start examining everything to see what went wrong.

Frustrated we muddle our way back through the remainder of people standing behind us (Most immediately moved to the other “line” upon hearing the employee’s revelation to us).

Another 15 mins we wait. During which time I am preparing my thoughts for this post. I watch the first class kiosks closely. They look identical and nobody is using them. People in that line are now being diverted to other kiosks. There are no signs designating “first class” anywhere! In fact, what signs there were all read “Economy”. What a mess.

We finally made it through the check in process… we thought. At the security counter we realize that they failed to give me a gate pass and in the confusion I failed to check the bundle of papers they handed us… Back to the check in counter (good grief).

Finally, we made it to the terminal. While we’re waiting, I have the attendants at the counter schedule a cart for Melissa and the kids at their transition point in Dallas, which I learned later, as you might have guessed by now, never picked them up.

Ten days later it’s the day before my flight to enjoin the family. I’m in my office. I get a notice on my iPhone via push notice from the Delta app that I can check in to my flight for tomorrow.

I follow the prompt to a very well designed app and get to the place where it inquires about my baggage. I select that I have one bag and a special item (my guitar). The app tells me that I can’t complete the check in via mobile and that I will need to finish in person. I’m beginning to get concerned.

Hoping that they haven’t change their carry on policies in the last few days, I call the customer service number, where they are unable to confirm or deny whether I will have to check the guitar. Irately, I chew the operators up and escalate through the line of authority. No resolution. Furiously, I go to the site again and check the policies… It still says that guitars are allowed in coach as a special item.

Its there that I see it… the twitter ID “@DeltaAssist”. I engage them aggressively. “If you have the balls to use this avenue to attend to customer service, then let’s see what you can do!” I mutter under my breath. Then I begin typing: “@DeltaAssist check ur baggage check policies! Online, personal item include guitars free, not $35 as 2nd check in. Shameful!”

It wasn’t 15 minutes later, which is still a little slow, nonetheless to their credit, responsive. “@mikeyeves Yes, they are free, are you at the gate right now? Please Follow/DM me your confirmation # & I will put that in there. Thx. ^AK”. I was beginning to get goosebumps. Not only did they respond, they were prepared to engage and handle the situation in a customer centric manner.

Armed with this new confidence I change my method of check in via the website without the baggage claim step (great thinking Delta). It sends me a confirmation via email and text; both containing URLs to link to my virtual ticket which includes a scannable qr code… flipping awesome!

The next day I get to the airport walk in the Delta section and see several well organized lines leading to the counter. The smallest is labeled “online check in completion”. I mean, man, I was in and out of that line in like 5 minutes. So, flipping smooth!

Needless to say, the flights went smoothly, they let me take the guitar on board and even let me put it in the on board closet. Oh and the qr code scanner at the gate made me feel like a total VIP. Nicely done, Delta.

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I’m an ATT employee… let me in!

So, leave it to ATT to provide the content for the first official post of computer human interaction epic misses…

As the title suggests, I have worked for ATT for the last year and a half. I usually work at the Lenox park facility in Atlanta. All-in-all, ATT is a pleasant place to work. Despite all of ATT’s size, the atmosphere is clean and people are very nice and seemed generally concerned and friendly with one another. I have a great cube space that overlooks Lenox park. It is a beautiful view and I enjoy watching the dogs frolic while their people pick up poo.

One of our insane management tasks at ATT is labeled contingency planning. It is when full-time, permanent managers are asked to prepare to cover the positions of labor union employees in case of a strike. Don’t ask why this is the preferred method for handling the situation I really don’t have a good answer and could dedicate an entire blog to why it shouldn’t be done. So, leave it alone. My contingency planning assignment this year is to be a Uverse call center retention representative (Spanish speaking). You read it right… Spanish speaking. Hablando Espanol.

Before you freak out, I do have some familiarity with Spanish, so I am not as intimidated as others who got the assignment. Like the lady I met today in training who is from Taiwan. English is just barely her second language. Now she will be deployed to take retention calls in Mandarin. Ella no habla Mandarin… Nada. She was really funny about it though. She said to me today, “Hopefully next time they give me assignment speak Taiwanese”. “That’s the spirit”, I thought to myself “hopefully next time I won’t get an assignment.” :)

Anyway… To complete the Herculean task of cross training the permanent management employees to handle these positions we’re asked to complete 80+ grueling hours of online training courses on top of our regular work loads. We are given a few months to finish, but of course it is a difficult task no matter the time allowance. At the end of the online training we are sent to an in-class training to work with a leader who will also be deployed to the assignment.

So, today was my day to go to my “leader-led training”. Thankfully I wasn’t sent to a different city. My course is just a few blocks from where I usually work and that’s what makes this all so interesting. I pulled up to the property at about 15 minutes before class would start. I quickly scan the area and locate the parking structures. I pull into the first one, labeled with a big sign reading “Employees Only”. I pull in and there is a gate with one of those swipe boxes.

I swipe my card… the light blinks a couple times… honk! Gate remains closed. I swipe my card again (traffic building behind me), the light blinks a couple times… honk! Gate yet remains closed. I just saw a guy pull in right before me… I know it works. Once more, I swipe my card… the light blinks a couple times… honk! Gate remains closed.

I now am beginning to realize that I am wedged in a gate structure with concrete curbs and barriers on either side of me that was only planned for one outcome: to let cars through when gate opens. Now I find myself led into this trap by the sign that indicates that this parking is for employees, which I clearly am, cars behind me and no way out, no intercom to contact anyone and no contact number to call! LAME!

It was about this time that I started to think about what alteration I might make to this experience to make it more reasonable for exceptions to the “employee only” construct. Clearly my swipe card wasn’t working at this garage, but that is really not all that surprising. But what really hit me was that I had follow all the signs and met the criteria and yet failed the system.

I had no recourse but to hope those behind me would back up and give me some space to turn in embarrassment, tuck my tail and drive away. I can only imagine how many other employees find themselves in that same bind on a regular basis… pinned in the concrete gate with no way forward and cars behind them. Apparently it happens a lot, because as I was thinking on it all of 10 seconds, the cars behind me were already making space for my escape. I asked those in my training and several of them did it too.

So, here is the challenge. What alteration do you think would be wise for remedying this failure (beside putting someone else behind the steering wheel of my car)? How could the parking garage gate scenario provide better usability?

It’s time to change focus

I have tried and tried and TRIED to become a blogger in the past. But, for some reason it always seemed such a daunting task to commit to writing down my thoughts on a regular basis. Mostly because, well you know, I chose topics like “prose and poems” that didn’t seem to lend to my anxious and sometimes agitated disposition.

So I took a hiatus.. a self imposed “time-out”. In reality, I gave up any hope that I would ever provide something of value to the blogging community…at all… ever. Until a couple weeks ago. ;)

I was reading a post by a certain web analytics blogger who was aptly laying out a case and method for measuring yourself as a contributor in the industry. As I read through his points I couldn’t help but wonder if by his standards I was of any macro-consequence to anyone but my own ego. One of his measures for greater contribution included being an active blogger. To keep a long story, well somewhat bearable anyway, I fared well in what he might categorize as an active professional, but little more. The appraisal disappointed me… it stuck in my craw.

So I began raking the the depths of my soul once again to determine if there was some unique talent I possess, something of interest that I do that might be worthy of regular review in a public forum. Well, here’s what I came up with…

As my wife, children, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to my door on Saturday mornings (and I do talk to the for hours sometimes), can attest, I am pretty hard on people. Its not that I am mean, well sometimes I can be pretty mean, but I don’t intend to be mean. Its more that I am sensitive to BS (I might have a tendency/disorder to over-analyze). I find that I have a low tolerance for group-think, ignorance-hiding, stubbornness, brainwashing, anecdotal answers, etc. Its a dizzying standard and I do my best to live up to it. In a word I am “critical”.

I thought perhaps I could use this skill for something positive and constructive. If for nothing else to avenge my ego and to validate the judgement of my wife on the day she said “I Do”.

You see I have, what I am coming to understand, is a pretty unique perspective which I have earned from my scholastic endeavors and years of varied occupations. I’ll spare you the visions of grandeur as it pertains to my perspective, as I am sure that we all feel that our perspective is unique and important… not my point. My scholastic training is in graphic arts and communication, business admin, and HCI. So I tend to approach every problem I face with these lenses in tow.

I am a right and left brain critical thinker. Many times I find that I get so agitated on both side of my brain at once that I can’t even tell which side is talking (consider yourself forewarned). I like to see purpose in products, value in services and ease of use in interfaces. I like to understand how businesses bring value to consumers. Without value I strain to understand the reason why I should be compelled to use it and that sets me off.

Focus Your CHI is a blog dedicated to document consumer experiences that bug me (or please me) most from the lens of an analyst, business manager, user experience professional and creative professional. My hope is 3 fold:
1. As I document these experiences I will hopefully be able to spare those most dear to me from having to hear a blistering critique of my everyday life.
2. That the followers and readers of this blog will enjoy helping me solve the consumer worlds’ problems one poor experience at a time, through vibrant and constructive discussion.
3. That the businesses that get critiqued will get it together and change their focus to adopting poignant user centric thinking.

I look forward to interacting with you.

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