IntroductionWelcome back everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday (I know I did). As some of you may know, Blizzconn (a convention for Blizzard’s video games) took place a few weeks ago, and I was hoping to hear news about a Diablo 2 Remaster. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, Diablo 2 was a popular game in the early 2000’s and one of my personal favorites. I was slightly disappointed when I realized that Blizzard was really working on making their new Diablo game for mobile phones, but was appalled with the way they handled the outrage from their core user base. As I pondered the situation further, I realized that this is hardly an isolated incident, and many tech giants have made mistakes in maintaining relationships with their customers. So today, I would like to spend a few minutes with you discussing some mistakes I have seen from these titans and how we can learn from them.
Actively Engaging With Your CustomersIf you have not had a chance to watch the Q&A for Diablo Immortal, please take a minute to view its most notable highlight below. Let’s examine the response to the booing for a moment. The presenter saying “Do you guys not have phones” exposes a couple mistakes. First, Blizzard assumed what its core fanbase wanted when they should have engaged with them to create a product. This does not mean that the company should have refrained from developing a mobile Diablo game, as there are many users of that platform out there who would likely enjoy it. However, the crowd they were presenting to mostly consisted of gamers who prefer the PC platform, a much different target audience. The question also suggests that Blizzard blamed them for not liking the product, which no business in their right mind would do to their customers. So what does thing have anything to do with being in IT? As tech professionals, we are expected to listen to our users so that we can provide them with the best solutions possible for their problems. However, it is all too easy for us to experience a disconnect because we think we know what is best. Take Windows 8’s user interface as another example. Can you imagine how frustrating it must have been for enterprise Windows users to go from doing 15 years of this… To this? Being tech savvy, most of us just saw a change to the user interface, and were not bothered by it considering the OS logic acted the same as it had for the last decade and a half. But for most end-users, this flipped the world upside down. In an effort to make their UI friendlier to the mobile computing crowd, Microsoft made it more complex for the target audience they enjoyed since the mid-90’s. A little one-on-one with those users would likely have driven them to keep the original menu, or allow users to alternate between the original UI and its replacement. The company was able to make up for this by offering free upgrades to Windows 10 (which brought back the classic start menu), but I personally believe that everyone should have saw complaints about the UI coming miles away. Actively engaging with the end users to make a technical solution for their problems seems like a no-brainer, but instances like these show that even the best of us are capable of forgetting to do so. If we actively involve them in the process of developing requirements, we significantly reduce the chances of us releasing a product that they will dislike.
Declining Requests…PolitelySometimes our users have a set of requirements they want met and ask us to provide technical solutions that do not make sense. Take the video below as an example. In a separate Blizzard event, a fan asks if the company would stand up servers for an online game (World of Warcraft) that ran on legacy versions, and was met with a very condescending response from the production director (J Allen Brack). I am sure we can all agree that Brack makes excellent points on why the request would be problematic. Being tech professionals, we understand that the problems from previous versions of the game would still be there and that such environments would be a nightmare to support. But was his response the best way to communicate these concerns? In my opinion, he came off as callous and made the audience member feel dumb for asking such a question, which you should never do when interacting with your users. I think this could have been handled much more constructively. Maybe something like… “We take pride in providing the best service possible to our players, which is why we cannot stand up these servers at this time. The reason for this is that the bugs that existed in these versions would still be present, which would have a negative impact on our customers.” See? We have successfully provided the same explanation without being snarky, which allows us to preserve the image that we are helpful while politely telling the user “No”. Being respectful goes a long way, because it helps build trust between us and our users. If we act disrespectful to them, they may chose not to work with us and seek out their own technical solutions, which can include (but are not limited to) the following issues:
- The “solution” is not vetted by IT and could contain malware.
- When the “solution” does not work, IT will be expected to support a product that they have no knowledge of.
- Since the “solution” is technical in nature, the cost for it could be taken out of IT’s budget.