I just downloaded the Oracle client tools for a job I’m working on. It was an interesting experience.Strike One:
I had to download 3 different zip files named “Disk1”, “Disk2” and “Disk3”. Huh? I thought multiple floppies went out with the advent of DSL. Strike Two:
Once I downloaded and unzipped the three disk images into my “My Documents” folder I double-clicked the setup application in the Disk1 folder. An hourglass popped up, then went away. Huh? Nothing happened. Tried again. Nothing. So I rebooted. Went to the Disk1 folder and tried again. Nothing. Opened Task Manager. Didn’t appear that setup was even running. <sigh> On a whim decided to move the 3 disk image folders to the C: root. Opened the first image directory, double-clicked the setup again... walla! Oh come on. You’ve got to be kidding. Long file names and directory paths with spaces in them became common place with Windows 95.
As I was talking about in my Feeling Clean
post, it is that last 5% of the effort that can make all the difference. Do you know how hard it is to make an application accept spaces in the application path? One line of code. One simple line of code to be sure you customer experience is pleasant and uneventful. Instead, I lost the current state of every application I was running as well as the web pages I had open for consultation on the setup I’m trying to do. All because a Windows application running in 2007 doesn’t support spaces in the file path. This is the type of behavior you might expect in a high school homework project or even in some shareware application, but is not what I would expect from a technology powerhouse that has aspirations of knocking Microsoft off the top of the hill.
Not a big deal you say? Well, let’s think about this. There’s an old saying you’ve all no doubt heard: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Your installer application is the first impression any customer has of your company. If I had not tried to move these 3 folders to the C: root, I would have likely spent several hours, maybe even days trying to find the answer to how to get this application installed. That would cost me money. If I had contacted one or more of the guys I work with to get their help that would have cost even more money. The more help, the more money. Finally, if I had picked up the phone and called Oracle I’m quite certain it would have cost a whole lot more money; either my own for the support fee or Oracle if they have “free” or shall I say complementary support. Either way, this small and reasonably simple oversight on both the part of the developer and the testing team has almost certainly cost many people, many hours of frustration and in turn many dollars in lost time.
There were almost certainly thousands and thousands of straws on the back of that proverbial camel before it finally broke. Large established companies have lots of details to fret. Nonetheless, there is always a point where one too many mistakes were made. One too many dissatisfied customers simply walked away. One too many small details were overlooked.Here’s the lesson:
You are never too big and you are never too small to sweat the details. It is the small stuff that counts. It is the details that set you apart from everyone else. It is the little things that will keep your customers coming back and telling their friends about your products. What you do, or don’t do, says a lot about who you are and what your company is like. When you don’t care enough to insure my installation is carefree, how can I be sure you’ll care enough to support me when I’m depending on your product to run my business and take care of my own customers?
Take this opportunity to look at the products and services that you offer. Ask yourself if there are any holes in your offering that may cause your customers to have a bad experience; better yet, ask your customers. Create an ongoing list of rough spots in your product offering; then fix them. It may very likely mean the difference between surviving and thriving.