Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Customer service in the shower

So Clark Quinn was taking a shower in his hotel room (I know this because he said so on Facebook), and he couldn't tell the difference between the shower gel and the shampoo. Why? Because they come in identical little bottles. Sure, they're labelled to tell you which is which, but that doesn't help Clark who can't read without his glasses and can't wear his glasses in the shower.

Those bottles are so cute, aren't they? We love to pop them in our bags to take home and clutter up our bathrooms. Mind you, they're great for decanting various lotions and potions into when you have to take a trip of a few days' duration. But Clark has identified a major flaw in their oh-so-cute design.

This puts me in mind of one of my all time favourite books, The Design of Everyday Things. Just the cover illustration cracks me up: it's a picture of a teapot with the spout and the handle on the same side.

Products should be designed primarily with the needs of the user in mind - it's one of those below-the-line customer service activities.

One of the products that I think of whenever I think product design is hearing aids. My mother-in-law wears one. It's a tiny little thing that disappears inside her ear. Very nice. Very discreet.

The thing is, she has to adjust it from time to time and, on a thing small enough to disappear inside your lughole, the control buttons are practically microscopic. When you're over 80, your eyesight is often about as bad as your hearing, and your hands can be none too dextrous, either.

So here's what I recommend (are you listening, all you inventor types? You can have this one for nothing!)

Someone should invent a remote control device for in-ear hearing aids. Something about the size of a mobile phone or a pocket calculator, which a decent sized screen and large text on the both the buttons and the screen.

All those in favour?


John Zurovchak said...


How about tying the hearing aid controls to a webservice that you can access with your cell phone. Use IVR or mobile web or both.

Just thought I'd run with it too...


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Clark's farsighted? One of the benefits of being nearsighted is that, without my glasses, my focal distance is about three inches, which means I can read VERY tiny print.

The upsycho said...

@john I'm trying to picture my 80-something year old m-i-l using mobile web... hmm! She reads my blog and she keeps up with emails, but that's about it.

@dave I suspect presbyopia - something I (like so many others) have developed in my 40s

Wendy said...

I'm staying at the same hotel in the conference. Yes - all of the bottles look the same and the print is very tiny. Thankfully, the formula for the shampoo and the formula for the shower gel is about the same.

Stephen Downes said...

I am basically blind in the shower so I have learned to plan ahead.

In hotels, I put the little bottles on the side of the bathtub, lids already removes, lined up in the order I will use them. Ditto for soap and towels.

The upsycho said...

@wendy - I wondered about that. For my family's sports kitbags, I always buy one of those shampoo-cum-shower-gel products - perhaps hotels should (do?) provide the same.

Mind you, I am somewhat fussy about what I use on my skin, so I usually carry my own, and I insist that my husband (who has a rather sensitive skin) does the same.

@downes Interesting insight into your coping mechanism. I guess we all have them. Is this sort of meticulous planning innate in your character, or is a learned technique for situations such as this? Your general demeanour suggests the latter, but your craftsmanship with wood suggests the former.