How Not to Give Customer Service at a Doctor's Office
- Physician's Assistant (on phone): Hi, I got your message regarding renewing your prescriptions. It's procedure for us to call back and ask the reason for renewing.
- Patient: Your phone recording didn't ask me to state that - also I've got a chronic disease and have taken these meds every day since I started coming to this clinic and for many, many years prior. My doctor should know all this. This is just routine.
- PA: Oh, ok. We just like to make sure that you aren't actually having symptoms right now, in which case we'd rather have you come in first.
- Patient: So... the policy is to make it take longer for me to get my medications in case I really need them right now? Are you people insane?
Sometimes You Have to Make Things Harder
With terms like “usability” and “user experience” running amok in the UX field, it’s easy to think that the focus of the discipline is to make things easier to do. To get things out of your way so you can accomplish your goals. In fact, I believe a great many practitioners do believe that. Hell, most of Jakob Nielsen’s famous usability heuristics have this idea embedded in them. That’s because most of the time it’s true; you’re making a product, you want people to use it, and if it’s easy, intuitive, and pleasant, they’re going to want to use it, too.
But sometimes the problem is that things are already too easy. Take the predominant method of getting around: the car. It’s the easiest and most convenient way to do most daily things (and there are about a bajillion contextual variables that make it seem like having a car is a great user experience even when this isn’t true). Did you ever stop to think about why that is? The world didn’t come into being as a paradise for car owners - we built it that way. We designed our transportation infrastructure so that it’s easy to do things with a car and we’re now seemingly stuck in a neverending story of path dependence where the fact that everyone has cars causes us to keep building cities and towns for cars whether or not people think its a good idea.
Whatever the solution is, it clearly involves making driving a car a lot harder to do and somehow we have to get drivers to buy into this because, well, it’s public land and they vote and they’re the majority. You can shove something down people’s throats, but they’ll likely just vote you out and find a guy who can do the Heimlich.
It’s a wicked design problem to be sure. A was thinking about this UX dilemma in the context of market-rate parking, perhaps one of the better tools for reducing car use and I put together a quick storyboard. One of the policy points that Donald Shoup mentions for making market-rate parking palatable is to give most (or all) of the proceeds to the street that the meter is on for local projects. This makes businesses there want the increased fares and it basically gives people a chance to make this place they like so much that the drove to it even better… but that last part only works if people know what’s going on. I did a quick back-of-the-napkin list of requirements/goals and a storyboard. Here’s what I’ve got:
- People need to know that the rates change throughout the day.
- People need to know that the meter money helps a project.
- People need to feel good about helping that project… maybe let them choose one?
I basically ended up with a parking-meter funded Kickstarter for local public works projects, which I think is actually a pretty cool idea that someone should go and build.
Did I miss something? Think you can do better? Please do.But don’t waste time telling me about it - draw out your own sketch on the back of a parking ticket and take it to your leaders and get more people to do the same until they build it.
The Library Lane parking structure opened in Ann Arbor sometime last year. It cost roughly $50M to build or roughly $66K/parking space. The 2013 operating budget for the Ann Arbor Transit Authority is ~$32.7M (how much of this is operating expenses isn’t clear).
I know that the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority sees the garage as a long-term investment to make a better, more livable downtown. But, in the long term, a better, more livable downtown is also one with more transit and fewer cars.
Currently, we’re still providing a much, MUCH better user experience for drivers than we are for transit users. It’s important to remember that this was a choice. And that we could have made a different one.
Edit: It’s also worth pointing out that, at the rates the Ann Arbor DDA is charging ($1.10/hr or $145/mo), it’ll take a minimum of 38-40 years for each space (and therefore the entire garage) to pay for itself, and that’s assuming full utilization. Would you take out a 38-year lease on your car?