Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good experience with poor performance ???

Yesterday evening, I was rushing to catch a shuttle to campus.  I knew the bus was ALWAYS on time and I had 15 minutes to get there.  I was 17 minutes away.  If I hurried I could make it, but if I was even one minute late I would have to wait an hour for the next one.  Of course, an hour is plenty of time to grab a craft beer at a local pub.  But it got me thinking.

This bus is pretty rare, running so exactly on its schedule.  But I was thinking of the following reactions for someone in my situation:

The 5:00 bus arrives at 5:00
  • If I arrive before 5, I am satisfied that I don't have to wait extra for the bus. 
  • If I arrive at 5:03, I am really frustrated.  JUST MISSED IT!!!  DOH!! Now I have to wait an HOUR!
  • So net-net, the customer experience is negative.
The 5:00 bus arrives at 5:03:

  • If I arrive before 5 and the bus was late, I would have to wait 3 extra minutes.  A little sad, but 3 minutes is no big deal and better than most buses.
  • If I arrive at 5:03, I would have expected to miss the bus.  Imagine how happy I would be if it was running 3 minutes late and I made it. Whew!!!  On the other hand, I would have only myself to blame if I missed it, since I was late.
  • So net-net, the customer experience is positive.
Of course, this depends on the ratio of people who are on time v late.  But my point is that it may make sense, for different populations of riders, to intentionally have a bus run just a little bit late.  Not enough to annoy the people who are on time, but enough to make the people who rushed and rushed but were a little bit slow to make it.

Human factors strikes in amusing places !

A was reading an article (the specific article is actually not relevant but it was in Businessweek) that was about the big British health products company Reckitt Benckiser Group.  They have decided to take their worldwide market share-leading condom and compete with US market share-leading Trojan in its home territory.   This is a good demonstration of why a dominant market share when you are the only large player in a large market and the only competition is limited to pure play niches is not safe.  Most markets have two majors, so a single major market is ripe for an entrant from somewhere else. 

As much fun as talking about condoms is, my blog today is about something else. The very next page of the magazine was a set of “Business Briefs.”  Of course, that has a pretty standard meaning that everyone would get on their first look.  Except right after reading the article on condoms, my first thought when I saw “Briefs” was men’s underwear.   Just for a second.  But it is a good human factors example of the effects of residual activation on top down processing. I tried to talk enough in my introduction to get you to experience it a little bit too.  Anyone?  Anyone? 

I don’t have time today to go into detail about what residual activation or top down processing is.  If you have taken a cognitive psychology of human factors course you probably already know.  Quite a few of the “Isn’t this amazing” illusions that get sent around by email take advantage of this phenomenon. 

This happened to be a funny one, so I thought I would share.