Innovation in Anonymity

From Innovations, a website published by Ziff-Davis Enterprise from mid-2006 to mid-2009. Reprinted by permission.

I recently had two MRI scans on my back. Magnetic resonance imaging is a wonderful technology that enables doctors to see inside the body with depth and precision that conventional x-rays can’t match.

But MRIs are also mysterious and even frightening procedures for patients. A person is drawn inside a small cylinder and subjected to a series of loud noises for as much as 45 minutes. The attending radiologist told me that about 80% of patients experience some kind of claustrophobic stress, forcing technicians to frequently paused the procedure to calm them down.

I should have known about all this because my MRI provider’s website features a wonderful interactive experience that describes the benefits of MRI in a collage of high-resolution images and video tutorials. It also has a multimedia tour of the MRI experience that even includes samples of the odd sounds patients hear. This information would have been immensely useful to me if I’d known it existed, but I didn’t learn of the feature until weeks after the procedures, when I stumbled upon it in the context of a different discussion.

In fact, at no time during my interactions with people at the MRI center did anyone inform me that this resource existed. It wasn’t listed on the company’s letterhead or the preparatory documents sent to patients. A software project that had no doubt cost the company thousands of dollars was barely even referenced on the provider’s homepage.

Failure to Promote

This situation is all too common in businesses. Technology innovators dream up clever new ways to serve their customers and then don’t tell anyone about it. Customer service reps and automated voice response systems routinely refer visitors to generic homepages with meaningless statements like, “more information is available on our website.” But who has the time to go and find it?

Somewhere inside these companies a disconnect has occurred between the technologists and the people who interact with customers. Businesses assume it’s okay to hire service reps who haven’t a shred of technical expertise because those skills aren’t required to interact with the public. IT people are taught to do their jobs and then go home. Cooperating with others to promote the tools they build isn’t part of the job description.

But it should be. Today’s customers are too busy to spend time searching for resources they don’t know exist. The people who commission customer-facing projects may move on to other jobs or companies, leaving their creations without a sponsor.

IT people need to step up to the plate and promote the fruits of their labors because no one else is going to do it. Here are some steps my MRI provider could have taken:

If you are a as if it is a Promote the resource in printed documents – Health-care providers produce lots of paper, yet none of the informational documents I received even mentioned the website experience.

Post signs — A poster in the lobby or window could have alerted me to the existence of this great application.

Train customer service personnel — In my multiple phone calls with the clerical staff, no one recommended that I even visit the website.

Set up a lobby demo — PCs are cheap; why not make it easy for customers in the waiting room to learn what the company has offer?

This adds up to an opportunity missed for some innovative IT person whose creativity and hard work won’t receive the recognition it deserves. Don’t let your good work go to waste because you forgot to tell anyone about it.