heart stoppingly bad user experience

It was a busy day today, so at about 3pm I grabbed my bag and my phone and headed out to grab some lunch. Just as I got out the door, my phone rang. It was an unknown number.

I answered the phone, and a woman said she was from the Police.

She asked me to identify my husband.

Now… perhaps I watch too many episodes of CSI, but when some one says ‘can you identify this person’ it makes me kind of nervous. Particularly when they’re talking about a loved one.

With my past, present and future life flashing before my eyes, I tried as best I could to identify my husband. I asked the woman why she needed me to do this. She said the police were dealing with it and she’d get back to me. She asked me a few more details – was he a white male? What colour was his hair?

Then she put me on hold.

Now… perhaps I was over reacting, but at this stage I was physically shaking and imagining all kinds of horrible things I wouldn’t wish on anyone else.

Eventually (and, there was no hold music, just silence) she came back on the line and told me that my husband was using my debit card to pay for a few pounds worth of fuel. He’d lost his wallet on the tube a few days before so I’d loaned him my debit card… and because it said ‘Mrs’ (which, incidentally, I’d never asked for it to say) they’d assumed it was stolen and called the police.

So, for a few minutes, I thought that something dreadful had happened to someone I loved, because of the way that they handled that customer experience.

Now – hours later – I still feel powerful effects of that conversation.

Surely, people who work for the London Police don’t do that to people all day, every day. If so, it’s a miracle any of us are sane.

Surely, if someone had considered personas and user scenarios – there is no way that a call like that would ever have been made.

I whinge a lot on this blog about user experiences that piss me off. But this one has shaken me in an incredibly powerful way.

I’m not writing this so you say ‘oh, poor you’. I’m posting this so you think about how what you do might impact on peoples lives.

User experience is way more than not making my day frustrating. User experience might be not making me confront mortality when I just want to go get a sandwich.

Is that too much to ask?

Look out Berlin!

Yay! I just found out I’m going to Euro IA this weekend! The line up looks great, and I’ve not been to Berlin before, so there is much excitement at the moment. (It will help me come to terms with missing the OZ IA Retreat, at any rate). Hoorah!
Now, who else is going to be there that I need to keep an eye out for?

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