Buggy Customer Experiences

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In the early 80’s I was a marketing director for a small west Texas oil field service company. It was electrifying to be on location when a wildcatter hit oil. If investors happen to on-site during the discovery they would literally break out the champagne bottles. If the driller hit water and the well started pumping mud the show was over. The only thing that can be done at that point is to plug the well, tear down the drilling rig, and move to the next location. It seems fitting that during that early 80’s oil boom the developers at Texas Instruments would borrow oil field jargon to describe one of their error messages:

“SHUT ‘ER DOWN, CLANCY, SHE’S PUMPING MUD”

Of course when a phrase of that nature is associated with code instead of oil the reaction – and results, can be devastating. High-risk is a given when it comes to oil exploration. In fact, only about 40% of wells recently drilled find commercial hydrocarbons. When it comes to software though, customers expect the applications they buy to work 100 percent of the time. Software defects can cause serious business consequences that have the power to ruin a company’s reputation, and possibly shut’er down forever.

Zero defects sounds unachievable, particularly during a time when products are so complex. After all, aren’t software bugs just part of the feature set? In truth, research shows that given the choice of higher cost, longer delivery time or poorer quality, customers will choose to protect quality. That means development and QA organizations need to think like customers, and put aggressive quality programs in place to remain true to their customer-focused objectives. A sustainable competitive advantage emerges when quality-centric business practices are put into place. A focused discipline on service, quality, and reliability has proven to be a timeless strategy that both engages the customer, and builds loyalty.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Alan

    There is a trade-off between delaying a software application to catch hidden bugs and missing the market window. Different application types require different development & testing approaches. Mission-critical applications like flight control software are formally tested and have infrequent releases. In contrast, free web services are still tested but often have non-stop Beta releases. The $64,000 question is how much quality is good enough. Software Verification Economics provides the tools to make this trade-off for software.

    Quality is in the eye of the beholder. The trick is usually providing enough of what beholders think of as quality, and not in providing costly quality for its own sake. Customers won’t pay for it. And that applies to the customer experience just as much as it does to software.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Readability Index: 13

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