A few years ago the British Government discovered that people who had tried their eGov websites were beginning to migrate back to the phone. My take was that the problem with most websites is that the user is the person least qualified to use them. We are ignorant bunnies when we are looking for critical information from anyone, that's why we need the help in the first place.
At least the phone centre (when I finally get through to them) can start by asking me what the problem is. If i fail to explain something clearly enough they can ask a follow-up question to get the story right, then they can give me the answers I need. At lest there is one expert in the conversation.
This doesn't mean they all do it, just that they could.
Looks like the travel industry is hitting the wall as well, Flyers Lose Patience with Do-it-Yourself Web Bookings
A report to be released Tuesday by Forrester Research has found that far from embracing the do-it-yourself era, many Americans are "fed up" with the complicated process of planning and booking travel.
"What we've seen is growing frustration," said Henry H. Harteveldt, a Forrester travel analyst. "Consumers see other Web sites becoming easier to use -- retail Web sites, banking Web sites, media Web sites. But travel is treading water as a category."
"There are very few travel companies that are really looking to improve the planning and booking process," he added.
Customers are required to educate themselves about destinations, flights and hotels; figure out extra fees; wade through fine print; and understand industry jargon like the difference between deluxe and standard rooms, Mr. Harteveldt said.
"Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent," he said. "The question I always ask these guys is, 'Could your mother-in-law use your Web site without having to call you for help?' The answer is always no."
In fact, Mr. Harteveldt said, a growing number of consumers appear to be interested in using traditional travel agencies, if they can find one.
I've never used travel sites unless the request is "get me the cheapest flight to X and return, starting on this day and returning on this day at about these times".
For everything else i go to a travel agent.
The airlines got into this game to increase their profits by outsourcing the booking to the customers not the agencies who, bizarrely, wanted a commission for doing the work.
By being unable to simplify anything but the simplest booking, they are shooting their business model in the foot. It may well be that the cost and complexity of being able to simplify the process enough for you and me is just too high and there is too much of their process not under their control; other airlines' policies, government regulations especially. But all that means is that the profitability of an industry already under serious threat, is further compromised.
For the rest of us it means that we need to understand what really happens in our own processes and to look hard at how they actually interconnect. We also need to remember that when it comes to complexity, Reeds law applies.
Every time we add a factor, the number of possible interactions within our system doubles - and the cost of creating a flawless system to manage all those possible combinations squares.
And, sadly for the accountants, the only system that can deal with all that complexity will turn out to be people.