Ron and I have been spending a lovely holiday in England, treating ourselves to very high end accommodations in London and the Cotswolds, and now on the south coast of Cornwall. We’ve been having a wonderful time, including visits with friends, lots of theater in London, and endless explorations of quiet Cotswold and Cornish villages. Our next stop is Salcombe, on the south Devon coast, where we have tickets for various theatrical performances as part of the International Agatha Christie Festival.
But this post isn’t a travelogue. Instead, I wanted to highlight the similarities between the expected user experience of enterprise grade, integrated HRMS/TM software and the expected user experience of staying in very high end accommodations, for both of which you pay dearly. You might not have thought about this before, and I certainly didn’t before this trip, but in both cases the user experience is expected to be flawless — all the time and every time.
Years ago, when budget required and back allowed for far less luxurious accommodations (e.g. we spent our honeymoon camping across the USA in a 6′ by 6′ tent), our modest expectations were much more in line with what we’ve come to expect of consumer applications. If our accommodations, including campgrounds, worked out well most of the time with only the occasional unpleasant surprise balanced by the occasional pleasant one, we were delighted. It was the travel budget that mattered when it came to accommodations and meals, and it is the usefulness at essentially no cost that matters with today’s consumer software. Oh, we might complain a little when the budget accommodation had lumpy beds and a little mold around the tub’s grout, but what could you expect at those prices? And I’m the first to complain loudly when Twitter goes down at an inopportune moment, e.g. when covering an industry event, but it’s quickly forgotten because we never get a bill. But that’s not what happens with either enterprise HRMS/TM or luxury accommodations.
On this trip, we’ve been paying top dollar (or should I say top pound?) for truly wonderful accommodations/locations/catering/service/etc. So when the kitchen at our current location appears to be staffed by the team at “Faulty Towers,” when the wifi at our last country house hotel and again at this glorious spot on the coast is purely episodic and/or dial-up slow, and when the beds in the Cotswolds and here in Cornwall are squishy, those big invoices in plump Great British Pounds add insult to injury. And that’s exactly how enterprise software customers and users feel when their pricey, top of the line, HRMS/TM doesn’t behave exactly as expected — stunningly simple/fast/effective/useful/etc.
But to me the most interesting aspect of this comparison is that disappointed customers/users behave exactly the same way whether we’re talking enterprise software or luxury accommodations. In the past, we’d have told our friends and, perhaps, mentioned our concerns to vendor management. Today, we tweet/blog/post reviews and generally shout our displeasure via the rooftops of social tech. And that’s exactly what I’m doing, having already, as a courtesy, put the management of our Cotswold and Cornwall hotels on notice about the problems we’ve experienced. There’s been a ton to love about both places, and a less discerning client might not have noticed the lapses (or a less online client might not have spoken out so forcefully — which may explain the continued shortcomings since the average client age in both these wonderful country house hotels has been way past ours), but then I wouldn’t be Naomi.
Of course all of this is predicated on properly matching customer expectations to vendor offerings, be they software or country house hotels, before you commit. I did go down my use case checklist with each hotel but, mea culpa, I delegated that review to our AMEX travel advisor, and I know now that I must make that use case list far more detailed and explicit if I’m to delegate its use in the future. Squishy beds and bolloxed up catering aside, not having reliable and reasonably swift wifi has made me crazy. Just getting this post up has taken hours because of spotty service, and inserting a picture has been a nightmare. Also, please note that I haven’t mentioned any names here, and quite deliberately so, both of enterprise software that disappoints and of the two offending hotels on this trip. If you need those hotel names, please contact me directly.