Wireless Systems Design

Ease Of Use Is Not Just Lip Service

I had an interesting experience today. My task was a basic one: I needed to locate the address of a well-known company's headquarters for publication with an article. This task should have been easy. Unfortunately, as you will soon find out, locating this address was anything but easy.

Like any good Web surfer, I first went to the company's Web site. Alas, the address was nowhere to be found. Next, I tracked down a recent company press release. It listed a public-relations person as the contact. I promptly called that person and asked for the company's address. His response was, "You know, I don't seem to have it here. But try this number." As it turns out, he gave me the number of a technical-support line. When I asked them for the address, I was told, "We don't provide that type of information." They then gave me another 800 number to contact.

In desperation, I called this new number. Again, I was told that the information that I requested was unavailable. Being near my breaking point, I earnestly explained why I needed the address and what I had been through to try to obtain it. Luckily for me, the operator was sympathetic to my plight. After one trip to a company Web site, three phone calls, and the loss of about 45 min. of my time, I finally had the information that I needed.

Okay, right about now you're wondering why you should care about my somewhat amusing escapade. Let me explain. I've worked as an engineer— albeit some years ago. I know the frustration of dealing with a seemingly easy problem that ends up having a completely unattainable solution.

Suppose, for example, that an engineer needed a specific component in keeping with a system's requirements. The solution might involve checking out vendors' Web sites, searching databooks, or speaking to a technical representative. If the engineer is lucky, he or she might find the needed part with little to no effort. In the worst case, though, the engineer ends up with no solution and lots of unnecessary frustration.

Trust me, I've had my share of these experiences. But what concerns me is that many of you still go through this same thing today. If securing a company's address is so difficult, how hard is it to get an answer to a tough technical question? With so many layoffs these days, I imagine that the answer to that question is "very hard!"

I hope that the industry has not followed this downward trend. A company needs good technical customer service and ease of use to secure and retain business. For all of the engineers out there, let's hope that the electronic companies never forget that message!

Feel free to send me your thoughts or horror stories. I'm at cajluni@penton.com.

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