Monday, June 20, 2016

Unfriendly human-machine interfaces

A few days ago, my wife got a text message from an app-based cab company. It told her she had not used their cabs for some time and offered her an incentive. It gave her some code like MYCAB and indicated that if she used it at the time of making her “next” booking she could get Rs 50 off from the bill. This incentive was offered for the next two rides.
I wondered what was wrong. The designer of this scheme must have gone to some extradinary design school! Anyone else would have implemented a mechanism to give her Rs 50 off for the next two rides without a code.
There is a possible reason. Their software provides for special codes to be recognized for giving discounts, but does not provide for marking a set of customers as qualifying for a specified discount for a specified number of times. If this true, we have to blame the software designers and not the company that uses the software.
I should, however, say that the design of the software did some good to the company. My wife did not remember the text message and the code it mentioned, when she booked a cab. Further she discovered that when she did another booking later on, the system did not accept the code. Remember, the message had said your “next” two rides! I don’t know what had happened.  I suspect that the system had invalidated the code on the grounds that she had booked a cab without using the code! So, the later booking did not qualify as the “next” booking! Surely a very smart and endearing practice to enforce using your software!

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