Good News And Bad News

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When Customers Become Better Educated, But Also More Demanding

If you are in the business of designing Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs) for touchpanel controllers as part of your systems integration business, there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is the increasing popularity of iPhones, iPod Touches and other small devices that offer very intuitive user interfaces. It means the customer is becoming much more educated as to what the possibilities are, and this is helping to facilitate the conversation between the customer and the dealer. In the past, the customer didn’t know what the user interface was. Now they’re

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much more comfortable and, fortunately, in the case of the Apple products, they’re being educated in a good way about something that really works.

Because customers are now confident and really experienced, we as a manufacturer are experiencing an increase in sales. The question “why would I want that touchpanel there?” doesn’t come up any more because, thanks to PDAs and phones, people are so much more comfortable with the whole user-interface experience. Our technology is no longer something that is cool to some people. It’s gone from being an option to a must-have. People have a comfort level before they even begin, and if the customer is comfortable, it becomes much easier to have a conversation with them.

What this means is that the dealer now has a greater responsibility to listen. In a modern commercial AV environment, you might have 50 different things that could happen on a touchpanel. But the CEO of a company generally has a pretty good idea of what they have to do in a typical day or week. And it is not for the dealer to presume what those priorities are. So we have to listen more, ask more questions, and find out what the customer really needs to see.

The challenge now is that as technology advances, as the possibilities of integrating different technologies are brought together, we have more choices we have to make. Things are not increasingly difficult, but they are increasingly complex. Take the distribution of video, for example. There are lots of different standards. Do you do it over Cat-5? Do you use RGB? And so on. There are lots of different ways of getting to the same place, so we have to study our customer and understand what

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The iPhone has been an intriguing aid in facilitating the conversation between the customer and the dealer their motivation is, before can be confident of providing the solution.

There is something of a doubleedged sword at work here. We want our customers to have a user interface that is simple and easy to use. But we also don’t want them to think that the work we do behind the scenes is simple. (Not least because it isn’t.) In an ideal world, our CEO customer would walk into an equipment room and gasp at the amount of technology in there. That would be a positive result— a sign that we have achieved our goal. But if the customer never walks into that equipment room, and if we truly do our job well, then there’s a risk that they may not understand why the project has taken so long to come to fruition, and why it’s cost so much!

Putting those risks to one side, the main issue now is that we have to be able to offer navigation models that are based on the task. This is the difference between control and automation. Control is ‘I push a button and something happens’; automation is ‘I push a button and five things happen, all in a synchronized effort to produce a whole event’.

The way you satisfy the end user is to focus on tasks and events. A company CEO doesn’t want to know that your system is sending a pulse to a matrix switcher. They just want something that’s intuitive.

Or, to put it another way: we need to spend less time advising, and more time listening.

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