Friday, December 4, 2009

Intelligent Operational System

I just received an automated "telemarketing" SMS on my cell phone. Big deal and who cares, right? Well it isn't a big deal, and its doubtful anyone cares. But it did bring to mind an interesting reminder about the Intelligent Operational system when designing a customer experience.

The SMS was an automated SMS from Crossword. Those who do not know about Crossword, Crossword is a big book store chain in India. They didn't SMS me to sell anything. Instead, they were sending SMS to help me, which ultimately helps them.

The SMS was from the Crossword "Book Rewards" program. If you are not familiar with the Book Rewards Program, it is Crossword's customer loyalty program, where you scan a card at the point of sale and a percentage of your purchase counts towards an in-store credit or a gift voucher. Crossword mails you a gift voucher for the credit, and the credit can be used in the store.

The SMS was to alert me that my gift voucher, which I had forgotten about, would expire soon. It provided me with the details of my gift voucher, such as how much it was, and when it would expire. The information was provided a month ahead of the expiration date, which would allow me time to get a replacement voucher if I didn't receive the original, or provide me with ample time to schedule a trip or research a purchase. I wasn't thinking about going to Crossword in the near future, but I was considering buying a new book from Oxford Book Store which is located near our office. Now that I've been reminded that I have credit at Crossword, I'll buy it there.

It reminds us that we need to think about the "systems" in which our customers reside. These "systems" include technology, work, and social context components, and the interaction of these components provide opportunities, or limitations which we may not have considered. The automated SMS from Crossword provides a good example of the application of intelligent operational system, since it leveraged the capabilities of automated computer and telephony systems to reach into my "system" and gently provide a socially acceptable message indicating that "we miss your business, so please shop with us soon."

While designing applications, seriously consider the user's system, and the opportunities and limitations provided by the system. By applying these considerations to our designs, we can make applications which will ultimately be more helpful for our customers, as well as easier to use.

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